- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

Who's being "fair"? Both presidential candidates invoked the calming concept of dispassionate objectivity in their statements Wednesday night, with Al Gore mentioning the word once, and George W. Bush repeating it eight or nine times. "Fair and final," said Mr. Gore about his plan to resolve the election deadlock in Florida; "fair, accurate, and final," Mr. Bush added subsequently. Who could disagree with either one?

But just as only one of these men will become the next president of the United States, only one of them is now being fair. Consider what they actually said. Mr. Bush spoke of an outcome "determined by the votes and by the law." By such rational and objective criteria, he is the candidate with the lead in Florida as the state awaits the tally of its absentee ballots.

Mr. Gore, on the other hand, invoked the unabashedly emotional need "to honor the true will of the people." As uplifting as this sounds, it has little to do with counting actual votes. And note that Mr. Gore is discussing not just the plain "will" of the people, but their "true" will, which just might leave the impression that those certified Florida results giving Mr. Bush his slim lead are not quite legit, not quite savory. Mr. Gore's implicit disapproval, of course, is based on the ruthless efforts of his rapidly deployed forces in Florida who, in a barrage of disinformation, have successfully planted division and doubt across the nation about everything in that state's election from the legality of the infamous "butterfly ballot" they're legal, all right, designed and approved by state Democrats to the ignominious scenario of "Holocaust survivors" being duped into voting for Pat Buchanan. (It is interesting to note what Democratic strategist and straight-shooter Pat Caddell pointed out to MSNBC's Chris Matthews: that the bulk of those Buchanan votes showed up not in Jewish neighborhoods, but in predominantly black ones.)

But back to the "true" will of the people. According to the vice president, in order to "honor" that "true" will, "we should complete hand counts already begun in Palm Beach County, Dade County and Broward County to determine the true intentions [of the voters] based on an objective evaluation of their ballots." Mr. Gore, magnanimous thing, even offered to accept hand-count tallies from every one of Florida's 67 counties.

"True intentions," "objective evaluation" and a statewide hand-count what could possibly be more fair not to mention, true, objective and statewide? Problem is, the Gore campaign would have to draft a legion of angels to do the actual counting or, rather, the "objective evaluation" that the vice president admits is necessary to divine the voters' "true intentions" as dubiously expressed in varyingly indeterminate pricks and scratches (currently making their mark on the American lexicon as hanging chads, swinging chads, pregnant chads and dimpled chads).

But face it: The Carol Robertses of the real world just don't cut it when it comes to "objective evaluation." Ms. Roberts, of course, is the Democratic Palm Beach county commissioner who famously cried out before a crowd of Democratic demonstrators this week that she would gladly go to jail for the hand-count cause. At last count, she has had five affidavits filed against her in federal court by local Republicans calling her, yes, fairness into question. (They charge, for example, that she has "twisted … and poked her finger directly in sections of, and aggressively handled, the ballots." Affidavits aside, the fact remains that during Palm Beach County's Saturday hand-count, Ms. Roberts' commission changed its ballot-assessing standards not once, but twice, during the night. The chaos of Palm Beach alone makes one wonder what planet Mr. Gore roams or where thinks the rest of us are living when he called on Wednesday for "a careful check by real people" of the already tallied and re-tallied machine count.

Mr. Bush put the fairness concern this way: "As Americans have watched on television, they have seen for themselves that manual counting, with individuals making subjective decisions about voter intent, introduces human error and politics into the vote-counting process." He could certainly say that again. One thing we don't need in the vote-counting process is human error or politics, particularly in the political war zone that is Florida.

Mr. Bush went on to make another significant point. "Continuing with selective hand recounts that are neither fair not accurate, or compounding the error by extending a flawed process statewide," would mean that "every vote in Florida would be evaluated differently, by different individuals using different judgment and perhaps different local standards, or perhaps no standards at all."

And what would be fair about that?

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