This is no time for appeasement.
BY PEGGY NOONAN
We must fight. And we all know it. And it's fine.
We like to complain, those of us of a certain age, that history has never given us the gaudy challenges it gave our parents and grandparents. But we've had our traumas, and from the time we were children: assassinations, riots, Vietnam, Watergate, the ayatollah, a stuck economy, the fall of the wall. We've had our moments.
And now we face a great trial.
And we're up to it.
So let's go.
There was a national election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The presidential race was close, and would be decided by the state of Florida. The state's votes were counted. At the end it was close, but George W. Bush won. A statewide recount was immediately and appropriately called. At the end it was close, but Mr. Bush won.
But the higher reaches of the Democratic Party had a game plan for what to do in case of a close vote in a key state, and their machine went into motion while Republicans slept. Even before the recount was over the outcome was contested.
On the afternoon of Election Day a Texas telemarketing firm is hired to call Democratic voters in Palm Beach County and gin up a protest. They had been disenfranchised. By Wednesday there are charges that a "butterfly" ballot, designed and approved by Democrats and published to no protest in the press, was confusing and thus unfair.
Jesse Jackson is dispatched to Florida, where he charges that Holocaust survivors have been denied a voice. Elderly widows announce they never meant to vote for anyone but Al Gore. An army of Democratic lawyers, political operatives and union members is dispatched; they land in Florida and fan out, immediately assisting in demands for a hand count. Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile announces blacks were kept from the polls with racial harassment and, when that wasn't enough, dogs.
Three Democratic counties in Florida announce they will hand-count. But the rules of the hand count change and change again.
The Florida secretary of state, a Republican elected official, calls a halt. She notes that hand counts are called only when there have been charges of broken machines or vote fraud. Fraud and breakdown were not charged, and did not in fact occur. She says she will certify the election's outcome based on the original vote count and the recount that followed, plus overseas absentee ballots. Mr. Bush will be the victor.
She is immediately smeared by Democratic operatives and in the press. She is a political "hack," a "Stalinist," a "commissar"; she is a vamp, a lackey. The Washington Post, a great newspaper, publishes this description of Mrs. Harris: "Her lips were overdrawn with berry-red lipstick--the creamy sort that smears all over a coffee cup and leaves smudges on a shirt collar. Her skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of pre-war walls in need of a skim coat. And her eyes, rimmed in liner and frosted with blue shadow, bore the telltale homogeneous spikes of false eyelashes. Caterpillars seemed to rise and fall with every bat of her eyelid, with every downward glance to double check--before reading--her latest 'determination.' " Her mouth is "set in a jagged line." She has "applied her makeup with a trowel." "One wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to . . . make sound decisions."
At the same time the Democratic operative Paul Begala writes his now-famous essay suggesting Republican candidates draw their political strength from murderers, sadists, racists and the killers of innocent children.
The mainstream press, watching, thinking and facing deadlines, issues its conclusion: Conservatives are guilty of inflammatory rhetoric. Those columnists, writers and public figures who have come forward to oppose what they see as an attempt by Clinton-Gore operatives to steal the 2000 presidential election are denounced as hotheaded and extreme, dismissed as partisan.
The hand counting continues. From the first it is completely open to mischief. In walks mischief. Ballots for Mr. Bush are put in Gore piles. Scads of chads on the floor. Vote counters can count a partly removed chad, and then an almost-removed chad, and then a mark, a dimple, an indentation, a "pregnancy." Standards are announced, altered, announced and altered again. Questionable ballots are decided by Democratic-dominated canvassing boards.
Sworn statements under oath begin to emerge: Ballots are found
with taped chads; ballots are sabotaged, used as fans, found
bearing Post-It Notes, dropped, misplaced. Eyewitnesses say there
is clear and compelling evidence of distorting, reinventing,
miscounting votes. The vote counters--many exhausted and elderly,
some state workers dragged off lawnmowers, work 7 a.m. to 10
p.m. shifts in badly lit rooms. A woman from Broward County whose
husband is helping the recount writes, "He said it's also
frustrating because what we are seeing on the news is quite a
bit different from what is actually going on, little chads everywhere
and they have no idea where
From the Associated Press, Nov. 18, datelined Palm Beach: "On Saturday [one vote counter] whispered in a pool reporter's ear as she was leaving [the hand-counting room], "I've had it. I'm not coming back. There are some real games going on in here."
And not only in there. From the Miami Herald, Nov. 18: "At least 39 felons--mostly Democrats--illegally cast absentee ballots in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. . . . Their convictions range from murder and rape to drunk driving. One is in the state's registry of sexual offenders."
In the first two weeks there is not a single charge of Republican mischief in the counting rooms. Not a single person comes forward to charge that a Republican has done a single thing that is dubious, untoward or wrong.
How could this be? With hundreds of people making thousands of decisions, is it possible no Democrat would even make up a charge that some Republican had done something wrong? One can't help but infer that Democratic discipline is, as usual, operative. If they add to the charges of corruption, a fair-minded judge might say: Then we must protect both sides and stop the hand counting. But if they stop the hand counting, Democrats will not be able to find 930 votes for Al Gore. And 930 is what he needs.
So no Democratic charges of corruption are leveled or dreamed up.
There is no evidence that the absentee ballots of felons have been challenged. But the absentee ballots of members of the military were challenged. Many were thrown out.
In the most shameful and painful act of the hand counts, the Democrats on the ground, and their operators from the Democratic National Committee and the state organization and the Gore campaign, deliberately and systematically scrutinized for challenge every military absentee ballot, and knocked out as many as they could on whatever technicality they could find or even invent.
Reports begin to filter out. The Democratic army of lawyers and operatives marches into the counting room armed with a five-page memo from a Democratic lawyer, instructing them on how to disenfranchise military voters. The lawyers and operatives unspool reams of computer printouts bearing the names and party affiliation of military voters. Those who are Republicans are subject to particular and seemingly relentless scrutiny. Right down to signatures on ballots being compared with signatures on registration cards. A ballot bearing a domestic postmark because a soldier had voted, sent his ballot home to his parents and asked them to mail it in on time, is thrown out. A ballot that comes with a note from an officer explaining his ship was not able to postmark his ballot, but that he had voted on time--and indeed it had arrived in time--is thrown out, because it has no postmark.
The Democratic operatives are ruthless, focused. As one witness says, "They had a clear agenda."
Received late Wednesday, an e-mail forwarded from a Republican who witnessed the counting of the Brevard County overseas absentee ballots.
It is 11:30 PM (Tuesday) and I have just returned from the
count of absentee ballots, that started at 4PM. Gore had five
attorneys there, the sole objective was to disenfranchise the
military absentee voter. . . . They challenged each and every
vote. Their sole intent was to disqualify each and every absentee
voter. They constantly challenged military votes that were clearly
legitimate, but they were able to disqualify them on a technicality.
I have never been so frustrated in all my life as I was to see
these people fight to prevent our active duty Military from voting.
They succeeded in a number of cases denying the vote to these
fine Men and Women. This was a deliberate all out assault on
the Armed Forces solely to sustain the Draft Dodger and his flunky.
These people must have a hard time looking at themselves in a
mirror. . . . They denied a number of votes postmarked Queens
NY, ballots that were clearly ordered from overseas, clearly
This is what you can expect from a Gore administration a further trampling on the Military and more trampling on your rights. . . .
The attorneys there treated it all as a joke, and when my wife protested their actions she was told she didn't understand.
Television both reports the story of what is happening in the vote-counting rooms and doesn't report it. There are comic pieces and sidebars: "Amazing as it seems, Bernie, there's actually a charge that one of the Democratic counters has eaten a chad!" But 16 days into the drama there has not been a single serious, extended and deeply reported piece on network television investigating the charges comprehensively. No "60 Minutes," no "Dateline," no "20/20." No extended look at charges of vote tampering, no first-person interviews with eyewitnesses who saw the Democratic operatives go after and throw out the military ballots.
Television does, however, report "extraordinary anger among Republicans." Ed Rollins says "partisan Republicans" are very angry about this. Bill Schneider on CNN says he's never seen Republicans in Washington "so angry." They muse about "the big question": Will these Republicans ever accept the legitimacy of a Mr. Gore if he becomes president?
Oddly enough Republicans do not think that's the big question.
Can the Democrats steal this election is the question.
Why is mainstream television (not the talk shows, not Sean and Alan, not "Crossfire," but the mainstream news shows) missing this story, underreporting it?
It would be taking sides.
It would be partisan.
It would be extreme.
But there is more. We have all noticed the ideological evolution of media in our time. Television is liberal, establishment-oriented, and does what it does: It entertains. Shut out of television and eager for news, conservatives have turned in the past 20 years to radio. And so now radio is conservative, and full of uproar. The Internet too is conservative, and full of information, of samizdat.
But television, the elite media, the great broadsheet newspapers, and the clever people who talk loudly on television--that is, the powers that be, the forces that are--day by day appear through action and inaction, through an inability to see and a refusal to see, to be (a) allowing the stealing of an election in Florida, and (b) subtly taking out the critics of this hijacking.
What are we to do? In 1939, during parliamentary debate on the coming war in Europe, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain finished another of his hopeful, frightened speeches about making peace with Hitler. The Labour member of Parliament Arthur Greenwood rose to speak in opposition. As he did, the voice of a Tory parliamentarian pierced the chamber. "Speak for England, Arthur!" he called. At that the chamber exploded, and Chamberlain realized that further appeasement was intolerable.
We are all of us, one way or another, in the Greenwood position. And we must speak not as members of a party but as members of a nation--the great and fabled one that has been, through our lives, the hope of the world.
The Florida Supreme Court, known for its liberal activism, consisting of six Democrats, one independent and no Republicans, ruled that Mrs. Harris must include in the certified Florida results the final tallies from the corrupted hand counts. Gov. Bush will fight in the courts and perhaps in the state Legislature. "Make no mistake," he said Wednesday in responding to the justices in Tallahassee, "the court rewrote the law. It changed the rules, and it did so after the election was over."
And we must fight, too.
We must first of all know this will not be over soon. We must be in it for the long haul and must fight in any peaceful and legal way open to us.
Yesterday we rested and thought and spent time with our families and thanked God for all he has given us. Today we must return to the trenches, refreshed and ready.
Ideas, all modest and obvious, and yours will be better:
Every Republican senator and congressman, every governor and state legislator should starting now come forward and pledge his opposition to the Gore attempt to steal the election. They should be all over the local airwaves back home, making the case against the dishonesty that is occurring. They might point out that most thieves have enough respect to rob a house when it is empty, but in this case the thieves are stealing while the country is home, and watching.
Every writer, scribbler, Internet Paul Revere, talker, pundit, thinker, essayist, voice: Come forward and speak the truth. Howl it.
We must point out what needs be pointed out again and again and not ducked or hidden: The Clinton-Gore operatives are trying to steal the election--and it is wrong. The Democrats in their hunger for power will throw the men and women who protect us with their lives over the side--and it is wrong.
We must keep our arguments sharp. The other night Alan Colmes challenged Newt Gingrich: Do you really think it fair to charge the Democratic Party with trying to suppress military votes? Mr. Gingrich replied that you can see the Democratic plan in this: They issued a five-page memo on how to knock out military votes, which they assume lean Republican. There was no five-page memo on how to throw out the absentee ballots from Israel, which they assume lean Democratic.
Ever since this exchange I haven't heard anyone ask if the Democrats really mean to be doing what they're doing.
We must accept that the venue of the fight will change and change again. This all may be decided by the Florida Legislature. Or the U.S. Supreme Court. Or in Congress. When venues change you must be nimble.
We must be prepared, and learn all we can, and know all we can, and spread the word.
We must accept too that in spite of being spoofed and put down and accused of being extreme, it is not wrong to fight in this case, it is right. It is not irresponsible--it is the only way of being responsible.
It is wrong to yell "Fire!" for the fun of upsetting your neighbors. It is right to yell "Fire!" when your neighbor's house is in flames.
We must through e-mail and telephone calls and call-ins to radio and television report all of the data we are receiving, all of the evidence that the theft of an election is taking place day by day in Florida. Those on the ground in Florida, in the counting rooms, must even more become part of this. The one thing history needs more of--and the courts need, too--is first-person testimony.
Some have suggested a march. I don't know if that's a good idea, but it should be discussed, and soon. Perhaps a march on Washington, perhaps millions, perhaps dressed in black--in mourning for an attempt to subvert democracy. I suppose it would look like a huge New York dinner party, but it would also look like a people resisting. Perhaps they should march silently, past symbols of democracy that are more eloquent in their silence than we with our sound. Perhaps there should be placards with the names of men and women from military bases whose attempt to vote for their commander in chief has been denied.
Lawn signs. E-mail chains spreading word of what is happening in the counting and the deliberating. Calls to political leaders, to local newspapers, to radio and television, registering our dismay and resistance.
It must of course remain peaceful--peaceful protest, passive resistance, voices strong, clear and modulated. We don't support breaking laws--we support upholding the law.
And of course, in some part of our minds we must look to the future. To legislation that will normalize and regularize our voting procedures, make clear and just its rules and regulations, see to it that a Florida will never happen again.
A new modesty seems in order. We Americans like to brag about how this oldest and greatest democracy can always teach the other, little countries how to perform. We've been braying and sending our vote counters to less secure republics for years. The cocktail parties of the world are now having fun at our expense. They should. A modest bow from us seems in order.
And this idea, from a conservative activist. In January President Bush, as his first act in office, should announce that he will give a complete pardon to anyone who goes down to the FBI within 30 days and swears out a confession of his involvement in vote fraud and vote tampering in the 2000 elections. It's harder to spin history when history has the affidavits.
And of course we must all pray. I say this more than I do it, and not many of us have done it enough, which is the reason this happened. Prayer can move mountains; it could have redirected Al Gore's ferocity and need, too. Prayer--simply talking to God--is the one thing without which we lose.
And after praying, consider this. There is now all over the Internet a quote attributed to Stalin that for so many sums up the Florida story: "It doesn't matter who votes, it only matters who count the votes."
True enough at the moment. But I prefer the last words of a more likable lefty, Joe Hill of the International Workers of the World: "Don't mourn--organize."