- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

This election fiasco has degenerated to the point where rhetoric is best discounted not by reason or intellect but with the mute button. Using that technique, I watched Al Gore's national appeal Monday night. I learned he has lots of flags at his disposal and that he is perfectly prepared to stand in front of. Lots of them.

Mysteriously, he invited a horde of still photographers into the room. Considering that the event was carried live on all the networks, it seemed an odd choice. It's not like a single pool photographer wouldn't have sufficed.

Clearly someone thought it was a good idea for Gore to have a dozen flashbulbs pop off every couple seconds as he talked. Perhaps this was because Gore thinks a little McCain magic would help right now, and the only way he can fake that is by blinking constantly in response to the camera-flashes like a POW during a Vietnam war photo-op.

In fact, undistracted by the volume, I could distinctly make out a word, blinked out in Morse code. Al Gore signaled to the nation, "F-R-O-G-B-U-R-P" Alas, I didn't find this too edifying, so I decided to turn up the volume.

As I suspected, that didn't prove much more rewarding. Gore said nothing new. In fact, Gore has said nothing new for two weeks. All joking aside, Gore is a prisoner of a war he created. By investing the integrity of American Democracy and wagering his own historical reputation, Gore has no place to go but forward.

He cannot concede because he is on record saying the current situation amounts to tyranny and to accept it would be tantamount to treason, according to his own terms. How can he give up the fight when he says he's fighting for the future of freedom itself?

Gore may not be committing treason but as time goes by, he risks undermining the legitimacy of the system he claims to be fighting for. In order to convince weary Americans to indulge his quest for the presidency through the courts, Gore is finding it necessary to increase the rhetorical stakes.

Few Americans want to drag this election out for the sake of unborn votes in first-trimester pregnant chads. But if Gore can convince them that it's not chads but the fate of the republic that hangs in the balance, they might be willing to wait another week.

That could explain all of the lies and fudges coming not just from his lawyers but from him. For example, on Monday night Gore repeated his now-tired assertion that "many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all, not once." This is simply not true. All ballots have been counted. Many have been counted by hand more than once.

Gore says "votes" haven't been counted because he believes all ballots that have no chad-hole for a presidential candidate should be counted as votes in his column. The reality is that the only ballots not counted - "not once" - are the overseas ballots that Gore's lawyers disqualified. Indeed, for a man committed to "counting every vote," his lawyers have been working awfully hard to discard votes cast by military overseas. And if Gore wants a "full and accurate count," why is he willing to accept just a hand recount of 10,000 ballots in Miami-Dade County.

Speaking of Dade, the vice president also wailed about how "organized intimidation" prevented a county from continuing its recount. This has become a mantra for Democrats, furious that Republicans actually used Democratic tactics to draw attention to an injustice.

Republican observers - many shipped in from Capitol Hill - erupted into protest when canvassing officials in Miami-Dade County tried to "count" essentially blank ballots in secret. This "mob," as many including Sen. Joseph Lieberman called it, perpetrated no real violence and nobody was arrested, even though cops witnessed the whole thing.

And yet New York Congressman Jerold Nadler warned that "the whiff of fascism is in the air." It should be pointed out that David Leahy the Democrat who decided to cancel the Miami-Dade recount said, "I was not intimidated" by these penny-loafered, not jackbooted, thugs.

And then of course there was Gore's most annoying assertion. "There are some who would have us bring this election to the fastest conclusion possible. I believe our constitution is more important than convenience."

This is a convenient argument for a man who has long argued that every generation should "find new meaning" in the Constitution. In this case, Gore seeks only a single meaning: "I must be president." How he can find this in the constitution is a mystery.

Then again, any man who can blink the word "frogburp" in front of the nation five minutes before Monday Night Football is capable of anything.

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