- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

Some months ago here in this city of fantasy and bilge Professor Harry Jaffa, the eminent Lincoln scholar, spoke at a conference on American history. What he said flew in the face of those who esteem Bill Clinton as "one of our greatest presidents," to lift a line from Honest Al. Mr. Jaffa said: "The degradation of the presidency is the most significant event of the last eight years." Republicans thought Professor Jaffa was speaking ill of the present inhabitant of the White House. Democrats, doubtless, thought otherwise.

Democrats think differently from Republicans. They most likely thought Professor Jaffa was referring to the degradation heaped on their big lovable lug of a president by Ken Starr and Henry Hyde. No independent counsel or congressional leader ever degraded, say, President Eisenhower or President Truman the way these scoundrels degraded poor Bill. After all, as every Democrat will tell you, "They all did it." That is to say, all previous presidents have suffered an ineffable stirring in the central heating system whenever they caught a nubile cutie upwind. Yet, in times past no one degraded the presidency as Mr. Starr and Mr. Hyde did. All that might have saved our youthful president from their debasement might have been marital fidelity or a refusal to lie under oath which is asking a lot from a successor to Eisenhower or Truman.

As I say, Democrats think differently from Republicans. In Florida, they see deadlines for certifying elections as "hypertechnical reliance upon statutory provision." That is how the Democrat-appointed Florida Supreme Court interpreted adherence to a provision in Florida law for certifying the presidential vote count on Nov. 14. This week the Florida high court announced that the hand counting of presidential ballots in three Florida counties can continue until 5 p.m. on Nov. 26. Is there anything "hypertechnical" about that deadline? It is probably too early to say.

It will depend on whether the Democrats on the Florida Supreme Court decide that "an accurate vote count" is in by then. After all, as they have solemnly pronounced, "An accurate vote count is one of the essential foundations of our democracy."

The berobed Democrats have not yet decided whether an "accurate vote count" can be achieved if the vote does not include all the drunks of their aggrieved three counties or all the non-voters of the counties, or all the unfortunates whose alarm clocks did not wake them up in time to vote. Nor have the venerable judges pronounced on what condition a voter's ballot has to be in to count. Presumably, county authorities will make that decision.

That brings us to the wondrous "dimpled chads." These are perforated ballot spaces that were not punched out signifying a vote, but were rather "dimpled" or indented. According to Florida Democrats, dimpled chads have meaning, but it is too early to say precisely what that meaning might be. As they manually count their ballots in Broward and Palm Beach counties (Miami-Dade has decided to quit), inching ever closer toward Gov. George W. Bush's statewide lead, they are setting the dimpled chads aside for further consideration. Florida Democrats are consumed now with the duty of recounting the ballots already counted and recounted by the now discredited ballot machines. Many years ago liberals and other good-government reformers advocated these machines as a progressive innovation that would prevent vote fraud.

Now, however, with Democrats dominating the recount in these counties, vote fraud is unthinkable. Discerning the "will of the voters" is what matters. And so they will continue to devote themselves to discerning a voter's will when he handed in a ballot whose chad hung from one corner or two corners of the ballot. Possibly a chad was punctured by the voter so a little light can be seen through it when a ballot is held up to the sun or a hot light bulb or infrared light. Intuiting the intent of the anonymous voter who marked his vote unorthodoxly is all the county officials have time for now.

They have to get all these ballots counted before Nov. 26. Meanwhile, thousands of dimpled chads are piling up uncounted. Now I would like to know if these remain uncounted by Nov. 26, should they be counted? If the officials say no, will the Democrat judges perceive this as "hypertechnical reliance" and set another date? Or will the judges take the dimpled chad in hand and count them for themselves? When is a dimple a vote? When is it a refusal to vote? How does a judge find meaning in a dimple? If a Florida Supreme Court judge can divine meaning in a dimpled chad, imagine the wonders he could perform in reading something as complicated and pungent as a chicken's entrails.

As the degradation that Professor Jaffa perceives in the presidency continues, it is only a matter of time before the nation's Democrats in high office heave aside the Constitution and laws and govern us by sorcery. In Florida, they are almost there.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator

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