- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Another Florida?

Here we go again. We have the plain meaning of the law: "In the event of a vacancy, howsoever caused, among candidates nominated at primaries, which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election." And we have the desire of one party to get around the plain meaning of the law, by appealing to the courts. The slender reed whereby New Jersey's Supreme Court got to put Frank Lautenberg's name on the ballot is Catania vs. Haberle (1990), where the court ruled that "providing the public with a choice between candidates is one of the most important objectives of our election laws." The small print: "[t]he general rule applied to the interpretation of our election laws is that absent some public interest sufficiently strong to permit the conclusion that the legislature intended strict enforcement, statutes providing requirements for a candidate's name to appear on the ballot will not be construed so as to deprive the voters of the opportunity to make a choice." On these grounds, the court ruled that if voters went into a polling station and found Bob Torricelli's name still on the ballot, and no other Democrat's, they would have no reasonable choice.

There are two obvious problems with this. The first is the reason for Mr. Torricelli's absence. He didn't withdraw because he was sick, or because he had a change of heart, or because of family reasons. He withdrew entirely because he couldn't win. More accurately, he withdrew because his loss would ensure his party nationally might not win. So this absence on the ballot was deliberately contrived by one of the parties for reasons that have little to do with New Jersey as such. By acceding to it, the court has invited any number of possible future abuses by either party: If you're losing, withdraw and get a new candidate. Imagine if during every election cycle, the national parties get to yank one or two candidates from around the country at the last minute if they think it will give them an edge. The result would be many opportunities for chicanery, chaos and confusion.

My second objection is equally obvious: There is still a choice without the Torch. There are other minor party candidates for whom non-Forrester supporters could vote. And there's a write-in possibility that could be used by the Democrats. The court ruling seems to me to assume that the only valid choice is between Democrats and Republicans as printed on a ballot, a preposterous idea that insults other parties, other views and the voters' intelligence. At the same time, I'm not sure it's wise for the GOP to take this legal battle further. The decay of judicial reasoning that this ruling shows cannot be rectified by going to the Supreme Court, which has been damaged enough by being dragged into partisan disputes. Mr. Forrester should instead make this a part of his election message an end to the abuse of judicial authority, and the ruthlessness of the Democrats in trying to keep power even if it means bending the law. I trust the voters of New Jersey to see what the game is here. They should vote for Forrester, if that's what they want, for the same reason now as before to punish those who break or twist the law for the pursuit of power. That should be the principled Republican position: Take it to the voters. And let the court's expansive reasoning discredit itself.

Paging Dr. Freud

"When the prime minister spoke yesterday I thought to myself, I hope I'll be able to give a speech like that when I grow up"

Bill Clinton, at the Labor Party conference yesterday.

Whose side is she on?

"But W., who was always the Roman candle and hatchet man in the family, has turned his father's good manners upside down consulting sparingly, leaving poor Tony Blair to make the case against his foes for him, and treating policy disagreements as personal slights."

Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

National Review's Jay Nordlinger noticed this astonishing slip. For Miss Dowd, Saddam is not a threat to us or his own people. He's not our foe, he's the president's foe. She has so forgotten, if she ever absorbed, the gravity of this crisis that the only thing she can see is petty personal vendettas. Memo to MoDo: Stop projecting.

Whose poll?

It's gotten to the point now that I always check the actual poll when reading the New York Times version. A story on the Times Web site earlier this week was bylined to the Associated Press, so I'm not sure where the bias lies. But the Times headline is a complete distortion of the poll numbers. The Times story reads: "Poll: Support For Iraq Action Drops." The poll itself shows that on the generic question of supporting military action against Iraq, those supporting it numbered 59 percent in June and 64 percent today. Those opposing it dropped from 34 percent to 21 percent. Up is down; down is up. But the spin is forever.

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