Get a grip!

Posted: Dec 15, 2000 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- To hear the hyperventilated, blowdried airheads of "broadcast journalism" before Tuesday night's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, you might have thought that the nation had spent the last six weeks at the brink of catastrophe. The way the talking heads and the pundits have howled about everything from a "constitutional crisis" to the potential for "a political civil war," you might have concluded that the 10th Mountain Division was deploying units to Tallahassee instead of Tuzla. The rhetoric in reporting our protracted presidential election process is that found in great war literature. We've heard and read about "assaults," "offenses," "aggression" and "breakdowns." And those were all words found in legal briefs! That's not to say that the institutions of our government have not been "assailed." There have been withering attacks and assaults -- not by soldiers, but by politicians and liberal commentators. The targets have included Florida's secretary of state and governor, much of Florida's judicial system, and even the Supreme Court of the United States. The "conflict" has been so intense that it apparently produced exiles and refugees -- Hollywood elites who pledged that if George W. Bush won the election, they would flee the country. Get a grip. This is nothing. There are no tanks in the streets. The armed forces haven't been called out to guard airports, train depots, post offices or radio and television stations. Throughout the long wait for a new president, though you wouldn't know it from the way our election has been reported, the American people still got up in the morning and went to work. The mail got delivered, the water still ran, the garbage got picked up, and with the exception of California, the lights still came on with the flick of a switch. But on election day in many countries around the world, this is not the case. I've been to countries where carnage routinely accompanies political disputes. We've been so busy examining our own navels that we've missed what's been going on in other elections all over the world. In the Middle East, while a bloody conflict that has already killed more than 300 and wounded hundreds more rages on, the prime minister of the only democracy in the region has resigned. Israel may or may not re-elect Ehud Barak on Feb. 6, but between now and then his countrymen face great risks and grave uncertainty because the people in the region have not yet been able to find a way to resolve their differences without bloodshed. In the horn of Africa, tens of thousands of people in two of the poorest countries on earth died before Ethiopia and Eritrea signed last week's peace agreement. Lacking political comity, the people of these impoverished nations, plagued with famine, disease and drought -- and a brutal, bloody war -- have no mechanism for resolving their differences. Now they face the indignity of occupation by more than 4,000 UN peacekeepers who will be deployed in February to police the border between these two nations. In our hemisphere, on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, voters went to the polls this week to cast ballots in a parliamentary election that threatens to divide people ethnically and racially instead of ideologically. Because the mechanisms for resolving these rivalries are inadequate to the task, the poor people of these beautiful islands have little hope that the country's 12 percent unemployment will decrease anytime soon. And before we hear more attacks on how the U.S. Supreme Court resolved the dispute over our election laws, consider what happened in Cote d'Ivoire, the prosperous west African republic of 16 million that has been described as a "model democracy." There, the supreme court arbitrarily excluded 14 of 19 presidential candidates -- most of them from the opposition parties. On election eve, mobs took to the streets wielding sticks, stones and machetes. Businesses closed, vehicles were overturned and set afire, and the military has been called out to restore order. Then, of course, there is the incumbent administration's great success story -- Haiti. Just after the polls opened on Nov. 26, Haitians were turned out of their homes by local authorities and were told to vote for Jean-Bertrand Aristide in an election that was so fraudulent that even the Organization of American States (OAS) refused to certify it. In 1991, Aristide, a favorite of Bill Clinton, was thrown out of power in a military coup but was forcibly returned to office by U.S. forces at the direction of commander in chief Clinton in 1994. Aristide's supporters campaigned by tossing homemade bombs at political opponents, killing and wounding scores. Before you buy into the hyperbole of the bloviated barons of bombast who have been so quick to tell us how bad our system is, think again. And then, say a prayer of thanks for the remarkable wisdom of those who crafted our Constitution. It's not only stood the test of time. It's even withstood Bill Clinton and Al Gore.