Joe Conason's Journal

"Put a nail in his tire" -- and more advice on how to suppress the Election Day vote. Plus: Safire's latest spin.


Salon Staff
November 1, 2002 7:01PM (UTC)

As the crow flies
William Safire has outdone himself again. Now he's puffing himself as a prognosticator, with a misleading citation of a New York Times report about the vaunted "Iraqi connection" of Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. By way of introduction, he mused about why columnists should be willing to "play a hunch," recalling that "I had a hunch Clinton would be impeached (right) and his wife would be indicted (wrong)." That was a disingenuous description of what he then suggested was not merely a "hunch," but inside information about Hillary Clinton's imminent indictment from the Office of Independent Counsel. But Thursday he went much further, intentionally twisting a Times story about Czech president Vaclav Havel's debunking of the Atta tale. The New Republic administers corrective punishment here (registration required).

Getting even
Back in Minnesota, Jesse Ventura hasn't backed off his threat to use his appointment power to assuage his hurt feelings. Friday's Pioneer Press reports that he now wants to appoint an "average citizen," presumably meaning a WWF fan, as Minnesota's interim senator. And he spoke plainly about his petty motivation. "I felt very used and abused at that thing," he said of the Wellstone memorial service, where he was briefly booed. "I'll return the favor now. Always remember, we SEALs, we don't get mad -- we get even." Indeed, he's been getting even with the people who elected him for years now.

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Mickey making sense
Rarely do I agree with Mickey Kaus, the neoliberal who devotes so much of his considerable energy to advancing the same causes as Andrew Sullivan, Lucianne Goldberg and the Free Republic. But he can't bring himself to join the conservative chorus condemning the Wellstone memorial. His explanation is well-intentioned, well-written and worth reading.
[9 a.m. PST, Nov. 2, 2002]

How to keep them home
"If you find someone who is not going to vote for us, put a nail in his tire. Don't let him out of the driveway." Those were the instructions given by Gov. Mike Huckabee to the Republican faithful at the NRA rally yesterday in Springdale, Ark. (link doesn't include quote, but I've listened to a tape). Ole Huck was just kidding -- just like when he told the gun guys and gals to go back and vote for him a couple of times in those same remarks. But truth, as the poet taught us, is often spoken in jest. And the truth this year is that Republicans, lacking the vote-motivating machinery of the Democrats, are into vote suppression. (They refer to this activity as policing voter fraud, a very worthy concern that can easily be perverted and often is. It is telling that Republicans worry much more about "fraud," while Democrats worry more about "voting rights.")

Today's analysis by Dan Balz and David Broder lays out the national situation faced by the Republicans. While they enjoy an enormous financial advantage, the GOP leadership has learned that TV advertising isn't as effective as phone-banking, and phone-banking isn't as effective as door-to-door mobilization. Compared with the sophisticated national volunteer operations constructed by the AFL-CIO, the Republicans don't have much, especially since the Christian Coalition machine began to fall apart.

That leaves two alternatives: risk losing the House and the Senate or try to discourage Democrats (in particular, vulnerable minorities) from voting. John Judis reveals the two strategies pursued by the GOP in a brilliant survey for the New Republic. Use racial radio propaganda to stir black voter resentment of "white Democrats," so that those voters will stay home on Election Day -- and if that doesn't work, use "ballot security" operations to intimidate black voters, especially those going to the polls for the first time. Judis also debunks the accusations of Democratic election-stealing in Missouri.

The safest and most efficient way to steal votes, of course, is to take them away before voters can cast them. It's called disenfranchisement, and two years later, Florida officials are still doing it -- as Greg Palast reports in today's Salon. I hope this important story will become widely available to readers who haven't had the good sense to subscribe yet. (Incidentally, Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" will soon be available in paperback. My introduction to the hardcover edition noted, among other things, that "those who think they can no longer be shocked" by the story of Florida 2000 will be shocked again if they read what he reveals.)

There did appear to be a bona fide Democratic vote fraud scheme in South Dakota -- until Josh Marshall got on the case. I have been meaning to link to his path-breaking series on this bogus "scandal" for a few weeks now. Today Josh explains why Mark Barnett, the Republican attorney general of South Dakota, has "smothered discussion of widespread voting irregularities." It turns out that the fraud investigation involves one woman, an independent contractor hired to work on a Democratic Party voting drive. "So far I have not found that she had any ballots that have been illegally voted," Barnett told a local newspaper.
[9:58 a.m. PST, Nov. 1, 2002]

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