Al Gore: Thy country or thyself?

Posted: Nov 11, 2000 12:00 AM
The burden is now on Al Gore and the Democratic Party to prove that they are still capable of putting the nation's interests above their own. During the impeachment saga, Republicans insisted that Democrats were sticking by Clinton -- despite his manifold abuses of power and felonies -- because he was their only remaining avenue to power. Democrats denied it, saying they were defending him because he was guilty only of private misconduct involving sex. The Gore team is continuing the Clinton-Gore tradition of subordinating all things sacred to its power-lust. When it appeared that it would take a minor miracle for Gore to win Florida on the recount, Gore's aides called a press conference and promised to contest the election. They are following the Clinton/Gore precedent of using litigation as a tool to thwart the people's will. It is unconscionable for them to continue to put the American people through this turmoil. The impeachment analogies are striking. Just as Bill Clinton claimed to be defending the Constitution when he fought impeachment, Gore asserts that he will be vindicating democracy by challenging the election. Just as Bill Clinton deliberately leaked secret grand jury information and fraudulently accused Ken Starr of doing it, Gore is accusing George Bush of being the one who is unwilling to abide by the will of the people. Just as Clinton used the full power of his office to marshal public opinion against his enemies, Gore has launched a nasty, post-election air war that is exacerbating the existing animosity among the already divided electorate. Gore says that if Bush fails to win the popular vote he will have no mandate and cannot fairly pursue his agenda. He is wrong. If Bush wins the electoral vote he will become the president, and will have every right to try to promote his agenda without adulteration or compromise. It is outrageous and irresponsible for anyone to suggest that Bush must win the popular vote to be entitled to the full constitutional authority of his office. It's not just Gore and his team that are arguing that we ignore the election results or the Constitution. Editorial writers and Democratic politicians are following suit. Columnist E.J. Dionne asks how any self-respecting Democratic partisan can just sit by and let Bush take the White House and assume leadership of an all-Republican government in Washington? Republican control of both branches, he writes, "cannot possibly be seen as reflecting the will of an electorate that spoke in moderate tones on issues." His solution? Scrap the Electoral College -- and in the meantime, Bush and Gore should get together and work this thing out. Can you believe this? There's nothing to work out. The Constitution provides that the winner of the electoral vote wins, period. Senate Democrats are also flexing their muscles. The day after the election they demanded a system of "power sharing" with the Republicans. They threatened to disrupt Senate business if Republicans do not accede to their demands. Now that Gore is trying to delegitimize the Florida election, the people of this country are getting a taste of the way he operates. The real Al Gore has finally stood up. He's the Al Gore of the first debate: Slash and burn, and win at all costs. When Republicans proudly cite the Constitution and the rule of law they are not just trying to sound patriotic. The integrity and stability of our entire political system demands that we adhere to the precepts and laws laid out in our Constitution. We cannot afford to make up the rules as we go. Gore's objections to the Florida election are patently specious. He should follow the class example of Sen. John Ashcroft, who, for the sake of the state of Missouri, the United States and the healing of the American people, conceded an election that, by contrast, he had every moral right to challenge. Gore has every right to wait until the recount, including all overseas ballots, is complete before he makes any announcements. But if he is still behind after all the votes have been retabulated, he should do the honorable thing, call down his forces, and concede the election to George Bush. By dragging out this bitter drama he will be tearing this nation apart and further dividing its people. Throughout this campaign Gore has been trying to prove he's not Bill Clinton. Now's his chance.