- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

The attempted grand larceny continued yesterday in Florida, for which we give no thanks.

A lot of the reporters and other observers took the day off, to stuff themselves with turkey and chad dressing (more filling but harder to digest than the cornbread stuffing), leaving the Democrats in Broward County to count in seclusion and privacy at last.

The Broward canvassers have finished the main counting, and now they're rifling through 2,000 "contested" ballots in search of the votes Al Gore needs to cut George W. down to size. This morning the canvassers in Palm Beach County will start on 10,000 "contested" ballots to see whether they can find enough dimples to put a smile on Al's face.

All they need, decreed one of those paralegal dropouts from mail-order law schools who seem to occupy nearly every judicial bench in Florida, is to divine the "intent" of the helpless voter who couldn't manage to punch a hole in a piece of paper. This would ordinarily be exceedingly hard to do, since the canvassers can't even know who the voter was, the ballot being secret, and you might think it would be particularly difficult to divine the intent of someone you've never met. But it's not so difficult in Palm Beach County. The next step, if Al still comes up short, will be to call in a panel of psychiatrists to imagine what these voters meant to do even if they had not done it, as a Democratic congressman from Florida actually suggested a few days ago.

Ron Klain, a member of the Democratic National Committee, expressed breezy confidence late yesterday that his man could count on enough extra votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties to make it, even without Miami-Dade.

"I believe that if we have a full and fair, accurate count in Broward and Palm Beach counties, those two counties will be enough to put us over the top," he said. Translation: "Now that we know exactly how many votes we need, and we've got the Republican observers out of the way, we'll find the chads we need even if we have to punch 'em out ourselves."

But maybe not. If they don't, he said, and Florida certifies George W. the winner at 5 o'clock Sunday afternoon the Democrats don't have any intention of making a graceful exit from this incredible mess of Al's making. The trench war will go on.

Alice never saw anything quite as wondrous as South Florida in her adventures with the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts ("off with their chads!"), the March Hare (who never made a 5 o'clock deadline), and the Mock Turtle, who explained to Alice that he attended school at the bottom of the sea (no doubt off the Florida coast), studying not the usual "reeling and writhing" but the four branches of arithmetic: "Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision."

The Democrats of Florida have given "take a number" an entirely new and expanded meaning in Wonderland. Al and his hacks, who have indeed taken a number, will get by with it unless George W. and the Republicans forget dignity, decorum and tea-party manners and reach deep for reserves of courage, stamina and appetite for the knees and sharp elbows ahead. Bill Clinton has infected the country well with his virus of perversion and decadence: Anything goes, and anything you can lift you're entitled to take. Richard Daley, who stole Illinois for John F. Kennedy four decades ago, never dreamed his son, Bill, would turn out to be such a chad off the old block. Bill and his men are betting that when the moment arrives the Republicans will back down, as they always have.

We can already see the faint, dim outline of the way the Democrats and their acolytes in the media will attempt to lull the Republicans and others who voted for George W. into sweet oblivion. They, and the rest of us, will be told over and over that since the vote is so close it won't matter much who the winner is because gridlock will freeze everything in place, anyway. Not only that, the winner now will be the loser four years hence, so it's really better not to win because if you win you lose. Alice and her pals in Wonderland would recognize the logic.

In the real world this is bunk, but a lot of people will believe it. Bitterness will survive the inauguration, of course, but it wouldn't be long before we would be told how Al has "grown" in office, how he has mellowed, and become downright lovable, considerate of his critics and well on his way to becoming the leader that breeding and destiny had prepared him for.

History does not disclose its alternatives, nor the future its surprises. Four years on and the Florida election disaster will be ancient history, buried in the memory hole by the outrages and opportunities that followed in its wake. The time to protect a hard-won victory is now.

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