Hail to the thief? I don’t think so

Originally printed in The Charleston Gazette on December 15, 2000

NOW that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the final nail in Vice President Al Gore’s coffin, some people are insisting it’s time to put all the divisiveness of the past month or so behind us and rally around the new president. Well, I say to hell with that.

Yes, I will accept that George W. Bush will be the 43rd president of the United States (unless three Republican electors decide to do the right thing). But there should forever be an asterisk next to his name in the history books.

This election was stolen, and it won’t be too long before the recount aborted by the Supreme Court will be completed under the auspices of the Miami Herald. Then the world will know that Al Gore not only won the popular vote, but he won the vote in Florida that should have given him the Electoral College victory he clearly earned.

Call me a sore loser man if you will, but the evidence is overwhelming that more Floridians voted for Gore than for Bush.

It took the combined pressure of Florida’s Republican establishment (personified by the most partisan secretary of state in the nation, Katherine Harris) and a blatantly partisan U.S. Supreme Court to ensure Bush’s tainted victory.

Let’s count the irregularities that allowed Bush to claim Florida’s electoral votes.

– The infamous “butterfly ballot.” Clearly confusing to a significant number of Palm Beach County voters, this ballot led to a statistically astounding number of votes for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.

One statistician estimated that Gore would have gotten close to 2,000 additional votes if Palm Beach County’s ballots had been laid out like every other ballot in the state of Florida.

– Chad, chad, chad, chad. As Bush’s own expert testified, the punch-card voting machines used in many Florida counties are subject to many problems that can cause the infamous hanging chad and dimpled chad that can confound the machine counters, preventing legally cast votes from being tallied. The only way to determine an accurate count in an election this close, the expert testified, is manually. That’s what Gore asked for from the beginning. That’s what Bush opposed from the start. That’s what the U.S. Supreme Court made sure would never happen, at least officially.

– Disenfranchised voters. Reports are rampant of black and Hispanic voters being turned away from the polls for a variety of reasons. Many had registered through Florida’s motor voter law, but for some reason the precincts had no record of their registrations.

Others were knocked off the rolls because they were felons, even though they were not. Some of this has been traced to the company, ChoicePoint, that came up with the “scrub list” of felons, dead people and other ineligible voters. In one county, voting officials determined that 15 percent of the “felons” were actually eligible to vote. In many counties, though, voting officials did nothing to verify the list, potentially disenfranchising thousands of voters.

ChoicePoint even identified a local judge as a felon. Coincidentally or not, the ChoicePoint board is packed with Republican partisans and fund-raisers. Before his death, ChoicePoint’s founder Rick Rozar donated $100,000 to the Republican Party.

– Conflict of interest. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia both had substantial conflicts of interest in this case, and probably should have recused themselves. Thomas’ wife works for the conservative Heritage Foundation vetting applicants for a Bushadministration. Two of Scalia’s sons are attorneys with firms that represented Bush. Without even one of those two votes, the election-deciding stay of the recount would not have been issued, and the ultimate decision would have gone Gore’s way, as well.

So why exactly am I supposed to “rally around” this alleged victor? I tell you what: I’ll rally around him just like conservatives rallied around President Clinton, who at least got more votes than both the Republicans he ran against.

Why don’t we assign a special prosecutor to examine how Bush turned a $600,000 investment in the Texas Rangers into a $14.9 million payoff?

Then, of course, we have to expand the special prosecutor’s mandate to examine just about every aspect of Bush’s public and personal life.

Price, as Kenneth Starr proved, is not an object.

At the moment, I cannot think of a single thing George W. Bush stands for that I agree with. Not only that, but I think it’s absolutely pitiful that our nation’s president will win applause if he simply gets through a major speech without mangling too many words.

So, no. I won’t be rallying around this tainted president. I wouldn’t have rallied around him had he won a clear-cut victory, and you can be sure that Republicans wouldn’t have rallied around Gore if, as he should have, he had won.

I do respect the office of the presidency. In fact, I respect it too much to allow its virtual hijacking to go unprotested.

Radmacher is the Gazette’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 348-5150 or by e-mail at danrad@wvgazette.com.