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Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 2000 / 2 Kislev 5761

Philip Terzian

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By any means necessary -- LET US ASSUME, for the sake of argument, that Al Gore is destined not to be the next president of the United States. On that basis, you can understand his desperation.

While it is true that Gore has been grooming himself for the presidency since birth, his biographers make it clear that his ambition has been matched by more than a little ambivalence.

At almost every turn in his life, Gore has sought to strike out on his own -- only to be pulled back into politics by a sense of filial piety. His mother Pauline, a sort of Nashville Agrippina, vetoed music lessons for young Albert on the grounds that "future presidents don't play the violin." And at age 87, she still sits in critical judgment of her 52-year-old son.

No wonder he botched his 1988 presidential campaign so badly, and this year snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Bill Clinton was exactly right when he said recently that Al Gore would have been happier in an academic career.

But he finds himself, today, in excruciating circumstances: By the narrowest of margins, he has lost the presidency to George W. Bush, in a year when any Democrat should have sailed into the White House. His failure is not just a personal disappointment, but a public humiliation, in the presence of his mother, his zealous partisans and friends, in the media and out. It will not be easy to return to a private life he has never known, or to live with the knowledge that the electorate declined to ratify his parents' aspiration.

That's the only explanation, really, for his post-election campaign to steal the presidency. Ever since the polls closed, and Florida gave George W. Bush its narrow mandate, Gore and his minions have consistently lied about the facts as they are known, the intent of lorida law, and the tactics they employ to distort our democracy.

The votes have been counted not once, but twice, and sometimes three times, in the state, by hand and machine -- and still Gore failed to overtake Bush's lead. Given the prospect of certification by the secretary of state, Gore and his allies resorted to one useful tactic they learned from Bill Clinton: Personal destruction. Katherine Harris, discharging her duties under the law, has been subject to abuse which, if directed against a Democrat, would have agitated feminists who rally around Gore.

Most disturbing, in the long run, is the face of the Gore campaign. It is not the Vice President himself, who nervously directs the troops from the bowels of his Washington residence, or the lugubrious Joseph Lieberman, who will speak any epithet when prompted by his master. It is the army of lawyers that has spread across Florida to disrupt, discredit and distort the election. They do not wish for a "complete count of all the votes cast in Florida," as Al Gore has declared. They have prevented the counting of untold overseas military ballots.

And they have unleashed a flurry of lawsuits and injunctions to selectively count and recount -- to divine voter intent in the absence of evidence -- until they have conjured up the numbers they desire.

They do not want every vote counted; only certain votes in certain places they have chosen. It is no coincidence that the Gore campaign has settled on three heavily Democratic counties in which to go hunting: Broward, where Democratic officials conjured up Gore votes with the same speed they discarded Bush ballots; Palm Beach, where voters were "confused" by a ballot designed by Democrats; and Miami-Dade, where Cuban exile precincts are excluded from any recount, and Gore's hope lies in ballots where no presidential votes were cast.

It is important to note that, when Gore and his lawyers talk about "uncounted" or "undercounted" ballots in Miami-Dade, they are not alking about ballots that have not been counted; they are talking about ballots where citizens voted for offices other than president.

Remember those undecided voters who showed up in the polls? They probably left their presidential ballots deliberately blank -- or split their tickets, as voters have been known to do -- but Al Gore is determined to award them to himself.

That is the substance of this whole peculiar episode: Al Gore and his lawyers have chosen heavily Democratic precincts in which to gather numbers where votes don't exist. They have altered the rules after the polls were closed. They have lied about the laws governing dubious ballots. And they have awarded themselves time and credibility they don't deserve. Worst of all, perhaps, is the media complicity: Instead of examining the unfolding scandal, the press has been happy to treat it as a dog race, excited when Al Gore buys himself more time, counting up the numbers of imaginary votes.

Fair? Well, if Al Gore succeeds in stealing the election, at least he can look his mother in the face.

JWR contributor Philip Terzian is associate editor of The Providence Journal. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2000, The Providence Journal