One indisputable result of the unconcluded presidential race is the confirmation that Al Gore is Bill Clinton's authentic heir. In his eight years as president, Clinton divided the nation, sullied the White House and diminished the authority of the Oval Office. And now, in an ill-advised and reckless post-election coup, Clinton's would-be successor has done comparable damage to the electoral process itself.
By refusing to concede an election he had lost, and by dispatching -- within hours -- a small army of political operatives to four Florida counties to subvert the results, Gore has thrown the nation into electoral chaos and unleashed an unprecedented campaign to delegitimize the process by which Americans elect their president.
Starting with a series of inflammatory protests over alleged voter "disenfranchisement," and ending with a series of legal sophistries, after-the-fact rule changes and dimpled ballot pirouettes, an armada of the vice president's operatives invaded heavily controlled Democratic enclaves to make a mockery of the American system. In doing so, they have turned the fate of an entire nation over to the chicaneries of a Chicago-style political ward.
It is indicative of the sheer arrogance of this campaign that Democrats supplied both the pretext -- the infamous "butterfly ballots" -- and the protest that gave initial traction to their efforts to reduce what began as a national referendum to a small patch in the electoral forest where Democrats would effectively be the counters and the counted. The Miami Herald estimates that in the post-election fiasco more than 1,000 military votes have been disqualified by mainly Democratic Florida officials, but 2,000 felons - some recruited by Democrat trolling operations of the county jails -- have had their illegal ballots counted just the same.
It was only two years ago, in Miami's Dade County - the largest trolling pool for the elusive votes in this disgraceful endeavor - authorities removed an elected Democratic mayor because the county's Democratic machine had elected him with the votes of the dead. But rigging a mayoral election is nowhere near as cynical as trying to change the outcome of votes for the leader of the free world.
As a result of Gore's political fragmentation bomb, whatever happens, whoever wins, whatever vote counts under whatever rules -- the next presidency will be fundamentally diminished. Its legitimacy and authority has already been profoundly subverted by the reckless decisions of one unprincipled individual. The electoral morass is now on display for America and the world to see. How will public reverence for the elections process -- or even respect for that process -- be restored? What Al Gore has accomplished in a few short weeks is the impeachment not only of the integrity of local precincts, but of the entire machinery of American elections. Not just for now, but into the foreseeable future.
To fully appreciate the sewer of cynicism into which Al Gore has plunged a stupefied nation, one has only to look to the systematic effort by his legal mob to deprive overseas military personnel of their votes. These were not rogue raids into the enemy camp, but a calculated effort by the campaign itself. Gore lawyers fanned out across the Florida counties and descended on the precincts where the votes were being taken. Armed with a campaign legal memo, they set about browbeating ordinary citizens attempting to count the incoming votes into believing - falsely -- that the law disallowed military ballots without postmarks. Here were men and women who had put themselves in harm's way to defend every citizen's right to vote, disqualified by an action of their own government (which failed to postmark the ballots it delivered).
To add hypocrisy to the insult, the entire Gore effort was predicated on the idea of defending the "will of the people" and guaranteeing that "every citizen's vote would count." But not, apparently, if the people intended to cast a Republican vote. In a victory for the Gore campaign, a Florida circuit judge gives the county canvassing boards permission to accept them.
By the time the dust partially settled, the Gore team had managed to get 1,527 of 3,733 overseas absentee ballots thrown into the trash. However, in the handful of Democrat-controlled counties, which Gore had targeted for his plans to overturn the national election, the percentage was astronomical. In Democrat-run Broward County - where the Gore team began its subversive effort by making a federal case out of "butterfly ballots" that allegedly disenfranchised minority voters -- the same Gore crew was able to get 304 overseas ballots rejected out of a total of 396 cast. (To make a percentage comparison: the 19,000 votes thrown out in Palm Beach County out of 450,000 cast, comprised less than 5 percent of the total, as opposed to the roughly 75 percent of the military votes that Gore's minions were able to throw out.)
Confronted with a potential public relations nightmare, should the people discover what they had done, Democrats like Sen. Joe Lieberman attempted to sidestep their responsibility, invoking Gore's own signature alibi of "no controlling legal authority." Interviewing Lieberman on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, Tim Russert confronted the would-be vice president with the following question: "Will you today, as a representative of the Gore campaign, ask every county to re-look at those ballots that came from armed services people and waive any so-called irregularities or technicalities which would disqualify them?" Lieberman, whose boss had dispatched the team that organized this result, replied: "I don't know that I have that authority. I don't believe I do legally or in any other way."
Meanwhile, Democrats like Sen. Bob Kerrey, a military hero trotted out by Gore to defend the indefensible, explained that, of course, Democrats did not approve of the disenfranchising of military personnel. When it was pointed out by MSNBC's Chris Matthews that they had done just that, Kerrey replied: "I haven't accused Republicans of being anti-Semitic or anti-African American," because African-American and Jewish votes were disqualified in Broward and Palm Beach counties. But of course it was Democratic election workers and judges who threw out those ballots, not Republicans.
Kerrey's comment was either a back-handed way of accusing Republicans of being anti-Semitic and anti-black or a Freudian slip amounting to the same thing. Racial McCarthyism, it could be said, was the most potent theme of Al Gore's Florida electoral success story. During the campaign, millions of dollars worth of Democratic ads painted George W. Bush as a supporter of racial lynch mobs -- personally responsible for a series of legal lynchings of convicted black prisoners. It was reminiscent of Willie Horton -- only in reverse.
The success of this reprehensible campaign could be measured by the 50 percent increase in the black vote in Florida over the previous presidential election, with an otherwise inexplicable 93 percent of that vote going to Gore. It was a fitting climax to a campaign that had begun with Gore's embrace of Al Sharpton and his insinuation that left-leaning former Sen. Bill Bradley was a closet racist.
But that still wasn't quite enough. Then Gore had to deploy the nation's most-tolerated racial arsonist, Jesse Jackson. Let loose on Palm Beach and Broward counties, Jackson proclaimed: "Once again, sons and daughters of slavery and Holocaust survivors are bound together with a shared agenda, bound by their hopes and their fears about national public policy." Get it? Bush Republicans are crypto-slave drivers and Nazis. The election must be won, by any means necessary.
Al Gore, the man responsible for these serial atrocities against American democracy, appeared before the television cameras hours after a handpicked, all-Democratic Supreme Court voted 7-0, to give the scorched-earth party another five days to rig the election. The man who had divided the races, the genders, the parties and the nation during his campaign for the White House -- now convinced that victory was in his grasp -- stepped up to the microphones and said: "I once again urge that Gov. Bush and I meet to demonstrate the essential unity that keeps America strong and free ... Our guiding principle must be what is good for our country." The devil himself couldn't have said it better.