- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

There is one thing that keeps Al Gore from admitting defeat. It is not the battalion of lawyers carrying out his legalistic assault on Florida's election results. It is not Bob Beckel, the Democratic operative waging a distinctly odoriferous campaign to convince Bush electors to abstain when the Electoral College meets Dec. 18. It has nothing to do with butterfly ballots, dimples, county canvassing boards, the clusters of American flags Mr. Gore has taken to appearing before, or even and do feel free to genuflect the vice president's infinitely elastic interpretation of "the will of the people."

Mr. Gore's knack to cling, Ceaucescu-like, to an office he did not win depends on the support of the Democratic Party. So long as party elders remain committed to his unprecedented efforts to overturn a free and fair election, Mr. Gore will press on, as he has reportedly put it, to "fight this thing to the last breath." So far, the party is with him, from President Clinton and former President Carter, to Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, all the way down the party hierarchy. If when Mr. Gore topples, one has to wonder what of his party will remain standing, let alone standing tall.

Searching for historical guideposts through this post-election labyrinth, Americans have revisited the 1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, after which Nixon famously decided not to contest election results that were likely rife with fraud not voter error or indifference. In his memoir "RN," Nixon explained his two concerns: the country's well-being ("The effect could be devastating to America's foreign relations," he wrote), and his political future ("Charges of 'sore loser' would follow me through history …"). Mr. Gore, of course, ignored Nixon's patriotically wise and personally shrewd example.

Now, however, Nixon's monumental career presents another lesson, this time for the Democratic Party itself, in the role Republicans played in Nixon's 1974 decision to resign on the brink of impeachment. In 1974, it was the withdrawal of Republican support formally conveyed to Nixon in a White House visit by then-Sens. Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott, the Senate Republican leader, and then-Rep. John Rhodes, the House Republican leader that led directly to the end of that particular "national nightmare." Among others supporting resignation were both Ronald Reagan and then-RNC chairman George Bush, the father. Imagine the gratitude the nation would feel toward a similarly forthright Democratic delegation comprising Messrs. Carter, Daschle and Gephardt, echoed by, say, California Gov. Gray Davis and DNC chairman Ed Rendell.

Dream on? No doubt. But the fact remains the country would be well served if Mr. Gore could be persuaded not to grasp at a victory beyond his reach, but to summon the dignity required to step aside. Obviously, the man needs help. Democrats?

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