Begala Shoots the Bull
By Paul Begala

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the Bush delegate, Bush donor, Bush surrogate, Bush co-chair who has said she is "passionately interested" in a job from Bush, stunned the political world last night when she certified the Florida election results for Al Gore.  "Any honest analysis of the intent of the voters shows that Gore won fair and square," Harris told a shocked crowd in the Florida Cabinet Room in the Statehouse in Tallahassee.  "Gore was cheated out of more than 20,000 votes because of an illegal 'Butterfly Ballot' in Palm Beach County.  He has been denied a full recount in Dade County, resulting in 10,750 votes being ignored.  And he has been the victim of political shenanigans ranging from allegations of Republican favoritism on 4,700 absentee ballots in Seminole County to the outright ignoring of 52 Gore votes in the recount of Nassau County."

"Yes, I'm a partisan Republican," Harris said.  "But my duty to country comes first.  Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide.  He was clearly the choice of most Floridians on November 7.  He is the President-elect.  All I'm doing is recognizing the obvious."

Governor George W. Bush was magnanimous in defeat.  "When I said I trust the people it was not just political rhetoric.  I trust people more than machines.  And now that people have reviewed the mistakes made by the machines, I accept that."  Bush went on to say, "And when I said I am a uniter, not a divider, that too was a matter of principle, not just empty rhetoric.  I concede the election and pledge my unqualified support to President-elect Gore and Vice President-elect Lieberman."

Speaking without a TelePrompTer and without a prepared text, Bush recalled what Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican Party, said upon losing an election:  "It hurts too much to laugh, and I'm too old to cry."  Bush concluded by reciting some of his favorite lines from Aeschylus - in the original Greek.

Hey: a fella can dream, can't he?

Unfortunately, I awoke to a nightmare.  The high-handed Secretary of State refused to certify the Palm Beach recount, even though the Supreme Court had clearly given her the authority to do so until 9 a.m. today.  The feckless, spineless canvassing board of Miami-Dade County gave in to mob intimidation and refused to count 10,750 ballots it was obligated to count.  And Bush, who Don Imus said looked like he was about to sentence himself to lethal injection, gave another hostage-tape performance, simultaneously demonstrating his arrogance and his utterly vapid, vacuous brain.

At moments like this it's useful to pull the lens back.  Al Gore did in fact win the popular vote nationwide.  Fifty million Americans want him to be our President.  And we know to a moral certainty that most Floridians who voted on Election Day were Gore supporters. The exit polls were right.  But a combination of mechanical difficulties, confusing, illegal ballots and GOP thug tactics have prevented all of Gore's votes from being counted.

That's where we stand. Thanks to Bush last night's certification ceremony was pointless - his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court took the air out of Katherine Harris' balloon.  So now we move from the "protest" phase to the "contest" phase.  And there are pros and cons to each.

For me the worst moment was when an angry mob turned violent in Miami, intimidating local officials who were trying to count votes.  The New York Times has reported that people were kicked and punched and trampled.  ABC News has reported that the melee was orchestrated and organized by the Bush campaign and the Republican Party.  And today the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a liberal rag) reports that some of the key organizers of the Miami demonstrations work for - you won't believe this - Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, the leader of the ultra-right-wing kooks on Capitol Hill.

In the bad old days, the Left had a slogan that was ruthless and vicious: "By Any Means Necessary."  It typified a do-anything, means-justifies-the-ends mentality that countenanced blowing up ROTC buildings and spitting on veterans.  It was a shameful period in our history.  And now we've come full-circle.  Now it is the Right that pursues its ends by any means necessary.  It is the Banana Republicans who had a secret plan to delegitimize a Gore electoral victory, and who are now putting that plan into action.  If it means smearing decent Americans who spent their holidays recounting ballots, fine.  If it means resorting to violence to stop the lawful counting of votes, fine.  If it means asking the Reagan-Bush Supreme Court to take over a state election, fine.  Bush wants to be President in the worst way.  Maybe that's the best reason why he should not be.

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