- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Something extraordinary happened when the Democratic Party voted to approve Bill and Hillary Clinton's hand-picked choice as chairman. In selecting Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton's big pal and major moolah-man, Democrats officially embraced a leader determined to win elections by any means necessary: by lying, by smearing, by inflaming, by undermining and, very possibly, by upending the foundations of the republic.

This is no secret plot hatched in a Chappaqua living room. Mr. McAuliffe made his dishonorable mission public in an official acceptance speech last weekend that crossed and burned the boundary between pulse-quickening campaign rhetoric and the most mendacious kind of propaganda. "If," he said, "Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, Jim Baker and the Supreme Court hadn't tampered with the results, Al Gore would be president, George Bush would be back in Austin and John Ashcroft would be home reading Southern Partisan."

Such slander may be beneath contempt, but it would be a grave mistake to consider it beneath consideration. The man at the helm of the party that forced the nation through the muck and chaos of Florida is now engaged in a grievous assault on the institutions that arbitrated the contested election results according to the Constitution, and the legitimacy of the results themselves namely, the presidency of George W. Bush.

This is a dangerous development. Mr. McAuliffe's declaration of war on the new administration depends on an ever-festering sense of grievance and racial entitlement that Democrats can only perpetuate by distorting the events of the recent past. "Profiling on the highway has now moved to the voting booth!" Mr. McAuliffe had the crust to roar (more applause), making an incendiary, baseless accusation seemingly calculated to blur the fact that black turnout in Florida was dramatically higher than in the 1996 election. "George Bush says he's for election reform," he went on. "Reform this! I say, park the state police cars, take down the roadblocks, stop asking people of color for multiple forms of ID, print readable ballots, open the polling places, count all the votes and start practicing democracy in America again."

This is pure, combustible racial demagoguery. It's worth noting that The Washington Post, for one, saw fit to balance Mr. McAuliffe's litany by noting that the DNC chairman was "[endorsing] complaints many of them sharply disputed or otherwise unsubstantiated about alleged voter intimidation in Florida and elsewhere." (The newspaper even went so far as to remind readers that the notorious Palm Beach County butterfly ballot had been approved by Democratic officials in the first place.) An instance of responsible reporting, however, is little match for widely disseminated (and usually unquestioned) speechifying.

Mr. McAuliffe appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" to tell Tim Russert that he wants "to use the anger and resentment that will come out of the 2000 election" that is, if he has any say-so "to energize the Democratic base." Any chance of neutralizing Mr. McAuliffe's aggressive propaganda machine will depend less upon sometimes-diligent reporting than upon Republicans speaking the truth loud, clear and often.

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