Gore Gets Gonged

gore address nov. 27
AP
It is both ironic and educative that Vice President Al Gore’s address to the nation Monday night was laced with half-truths.

It is tempting not to take words very seriously right now, since there is so much indigestible verbiage spewing from the candidates, their surrogates and their lawyers (not to mention pundits). But it is instructive to take rhetoric seriously. So let’s decipher Gore’s plea for patience Monday night (which he repeated nearly verbatim on Tuesday, in the sunlight).

"All we have asked since Election Day [is] a complete count of all the votes cast in Florida," Gore said. "Not recount after recount as some have charged, but a single, full and accurate count."

That is just silly. He must really think we’re chumps.

There was, immediately after Election Day, a recount of the votes mandated by Florida law and endorsed by Gore. It was a recount of all the votes, in all the counties. Then, at the request of the Gore campaign and local canvassing boards controlled by Democrats, there were manual recounts in selected Florida counts. Gore wants some of those recounts amended.

So how can he assert that he has not advocated multiple recounts but just one "full and accurate count"? Simple: by defining "full and accurate" as "Gore wins."

This part of a bigger charade where Gore and Lieberman pretend that the goal of targeted recounts in counties where Democrats control the canvassing boards is not to acquire more votes than Bush’s margin of victory.

Salon.com
Salon.comThe Agony of Al Gore

If only he could have said a single unrehearsed, spontaneous, convincing thing.
If Gore’s goal were really a "single, full, and accurate count" he would have demanded manual recounts in all 67 Florida counties. And his forces would not have tried to suppress the heavily Republican overseas absentee vote. And they would nohave fought so desperately to make select Democratic counties use select methods for counting ambiguous ballots with "indented chads."

Gore would be better served by giving up the pretense that he wants recounts as part of a national civics lesson. It’s almost as offensive as when Bush pretends he wants to block recounts for reasons of high principle.

"Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself," Gore intoned solemnly.

Except when the ignored votes happen to be, say, overseas absentee ballots.

Gore is trying to have us believe that since there are votes that machines could not count (the so-called "undervotes"), there still hasn’t been a "full and accurate count." And in arguing that he seeks a "full" count not a "recount," Gore is using the same flim-flam semantics he made famous with his "no controlling legal authority" locution.

Gore, of course, does not want all of the "undervotes" in Florida to be counted, just those in three Democratic counties.

Gore and his forces also do not want to acknowledge "undervotes" are a fact of life in modern elections that use vote-counting machines. In Cook County, Illinois alone, the machines were unable to count 120,503 ballots. By ignoring those votes, according to Gore’s logic, we are "ignoring democracy itself."

And what about the 30,602 uncountable presidential ballots in Washington State? The 101,740 in Georgia? The 175,938 in California? The 92,378 in Ohio? Across America, voters who failed to fully impregnate their chads are disenfranchised, unheard voices. Horror of horrors!

"In one county [Miami-Dade], election officials brought the count to a premature end in the face of organized intimidation," claimed Gore.

Never mind that the Democratic canvassing board in Miami-Dade says they stopped they recount because they couldn’t meet the deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court, not because protestors intimidated them on November 22.

Never mind that the canvassing board was unconvinced a recount was needed in the first place. On November 14, Miami-Dade officials completed a sample recount of three precincts and decided a countywide recount was unnecessary. Under pressure from Democrats, the board again changed its position three days later.

"A vote is not just a piece of paper, a vote is a human voice, a statement of human principle, and we must not let those voices be silenced," the vice president declared.

With soaring rhetoric and fuzzy logic, Gore has equated an "undervote" – a botched ballot uncountable by machines and uncounted by hand – with a disenfranchised voter, with a citizen denied rights. Voters do get disenfranchised. Ballot boxes do get dumped into Louisiana bayous and citizens of cemeteries vote in Chicago sometimes twice. But the fact that some ballots can’t be counted by machine or by hand because votes made mistakes is not an unjust "silencing of voices."

Compounding this fallacy, Gore goes on to use a kind of scorched-earth demagoguery:

"And if we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any other American have confidence your vote will not be ignored in a future election?"

Aren’t we being a tad melodramatic?

And doesn’t it now seem that the vice president is willing to risk doing some permanent damage to the legitimacy of the elections process that he claims he is trying to rebuild by "fighting" for a "full and accurate count" in Florida? (I know, consistency is for the small-minded.)

A common observation about this post-election campaign is that the "winner is the loser," meaning the candidate who doesn’t become president will go on to a better political career and a more generous place in history. Given how phony both Bush and Gore have been since the election, it’s an understandable sentiment.

But at this point, it sure seems like if Gore ultimately loses, he’ll really be the loser.

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