WASHINGTON -- Political partisanship is always at its most ravenous when it is being practiced by the kind of confirmed "bipartisans" now greeting the Bushes as they fly in from Texas.
A bloodcurdling example of this parlous condition is the wry wordplay these bipartisans now engage in with the term "president-elect." Though President-elect George W. Bush won the election by playing according to the rules -- namely, by winning a majority in the Electoral College -- the wags call him the "President-select" and "President-reject." Their leader, President Clinton, told a Democratic gathering recently that Vice President Gore had gone on "to victory" after a "brilliant" campaign. "The only way they (Republicans) could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida," he said in an outburst of especially warm bipartisanship.
The retiring president is actually a rather Laodicean bipartisan. Even more violent are those Democrats who call themselves champions of civil rights. On the floor of the House of Representatives during the joint session to tally the Electoral College's vote on Jan. 6, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. spoke for the civil rights Democrats and other moral paragons when he strutted up to the microphone to support the notion that the Republicans won because of their "vote fraud" in Florida.
Incidentally, the Hon. Jackson's strut is a sight rarely seen in the House chamber. It approximates what Tom Wolfe in "The Bonfire of the Vanities" described as the "pimp roll," the ungainly swagger of a self-conscious street punk.
Of course, of all the bipartisans the most treacherous are those who somehow convince the media that they are "mild-mannered" or "soft-spoken." Generally these soft-spoken types are human land mines, capable of detonating at the least provocation. My favorites are Den. Tom Daschle and the ever-boyish Rep. Dick Gephardt. Both are tireless advocates of bipartisanship, and both are as partisan as the most partisan Republicans. Such "bipartisans" cannot venture into any area of American life without making a political point. They are to politics what Freud was to sex.
Right now all these "bipartisans" are quietly nursing obsessions about the "stolen election." Their intellectual reviews from the perfervid Nation to the comparatively mellow New Republic echo with snarls about Bush's "illegitimate presidency." Their columnists, led by the faithful Anthony Lewis and the political naif Frank Rich, cannot conceive of Washington as anything but a city invested by Republican usurpers. I have joked in this column about the Florida recount as being a fit scene for United Nations election monitors. I joked that the next American presidential election would have to be supervised by an international contingent of poll watchers.
Unfortunately, no flight of fancy, no essay into satire, can surpass the excesses of the bipartisan Democrats obsessing over "the stolen election." Just the other day I heard the unctuous Jimmy Carter say that, though he has led poll watchers into practically every Third World dictatorship, he would not even consider taking a team into Florida. He was not joking. He, former president that he is, mild-mannered as he is, was smearing the democratic repute of his own country.
Our nation's liberals have a habit of whipping themselves into emotional conditions that make reasoned discourse nearly impossible. How far would you get in telling the Hon. Jackson that Republicans are not racists or that his exaggerated strut is bad for his sacroiliac? Perhaps if we were trained in the psychiatric arts we could reassure them that the election was not stolen. The only "vote fraud" that has actually been discovered has been discovered by the liberal Miami Herald. It was found in black voting districts dominated by Democrats. Such hard facts only make our liberal friends angrier, and it will not be soothed by reminders that they can overturn this election in four years or that, given their belief in George W. Bush's doltishness, he will be as much a failure as Ronald Reagan.
They are whipping themselves into a frenzy. They will get worse. The stolen election of 2000 will become a staple of their conversation and their art. There will be Broadway plays, even musicals. Just as they have obsessed over the dreadful injustice committed against the innocent Bill Clinton by impeachment, they are now obsessing over the dreadful injustice committed against Al Gore.
Politics is a mental disorder for many of these fanatics. Every Bush nominee for the court and most of his other nominees are going to experience their bipartisanship good and hard. Linda Chavez was just the first.