Begala Shoots the Bull
By Paul Begala

Just when the Fat Lady was two-thirds through her aria, the Florida
Supreme Court has stuffed a big-ol' sock in her mouth.  The Court has
ordered, finally, that the disputed ballots from Miami-Dade County --
and any other undervotes from any other county -- be counted.

This is only fair.  And fairness should count for something.
I spoke to a high school civics class this morning, and had a hard time
trying to explain why, since I believe any fair and full counting will show
that Gore won Florida and with it the White House, The System may not
give us that full and fair counting.  The best I could come up with is to
remind the students of what President Kennedy said, "Life is not fair."

JFK had been, as he memorably said of his generation, "tested in war,
(and) tempered by a hard and bitter peace."  He had seen his brother
killed in combat, his sister killed in a plane crash, his boat shot out from
under him in the Pacific.  And yet he knew others who'd emerged from
the war unscathed -- and others still who were never called to serve at all.
His conclusion: life is not fair.

For someone like me who has, thank God, never been asked to serve in
combat, I lack JFK's tough, but accurate, perspective.  And, Lord knows,
an election is not a war.  No one will die.  No one will be injured.  No one
will have their lives shattered.  So, while this is definitely the biggest political
story of my lifetime, Kennedy's lesson has helped me put it into perspective.

Still, I am thrilled that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered a careful count
of the disputed ballots.  It would be even more fair to have, as Gore has
suggested, a full recount of the entire state of Florida.  But absent that,
counting the disputed ballots may yield a victory for Gore -- or it may yield
a victory for Bush.  But more fundamentally, the count will confer legitimacy.
After all, when 6,000,000 votes are cast but only 537 separate the winner
from the loser, and tens of thousands of ballots have never been
accurately read, it seems only fair to give those ballots a look-see.

I know The System is not always fair.  But it ought to be unfair to both parties
in the same way.  That is, if the GOP is going to tell hundreds of voters in
Palm Beach County that their votes don't count because their local canvassing
board submitted the paperwork 127 minutes late (when the Supreme Court had
said the Secretary of State could receive them the next morning); if we're going
to tell 20,000 citizens whose votes were invalidated by a flawed ballot, and
thousands more whose votes were never counted because of flawed machines,
and untold more whose votes were excluded because of a lack of translators
for Haitian immigrants or because the needlessly complicated ballot confused
a lot of first-time voters -- if the Republicans' answer to all of those people is,
"Life is unfair," why do they appeal to fundamental fairness to include
thousands of ballots whose applications were tampered with by party operatives?

The twin-killing of the Seminole and Martin County cases makes sense
when you consider the radical -- and unfair -- nature of the remedy.
Nobody wants to throw out the votes of thousands of citizens who did
nothing wrong.  Nobody but the Republicans, if those votes happen to
be for Al Gore.  By the same token, the Florida Supreme Court ruling
makes sense.  If every vote counts in Seminole and Martin Counties,
they ought to count in the state's other counties as well.

Watch for the Banana Republicans to attack the Court, just as Bush lawyer
(and the man who ran the Wilie Horton campaign for Poppy) James Baker
called the last Supreme Court ruling with which he disagreed, "unacceptable."
The Bushies will resort to the US Supreme Court, the Florida Legislature,
Tom DeLay and the right-wingers who run the GOP Congress.
All Al Gore has on his side are the people, the votes and the law.
It's going to be one helluva fight.
 
 

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