Confidential memo - eyes only

William F. Buckley
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Posted: Nov 22, 2000 12:00 AM
Here are the planted axioms:

  • In any normal country, Gore would be acclaimed the winner for the simple reason that he got a majority of the people who voted on Nov. 7.

  • It's true, we have the good old Electoral College system. But even under its auspices, there is a pretty good likelihood that Gore is the winner. Look at it this way: We are talking about a margin of only a few hundred voters in a state in which 6 million voted. It isn't a point we want to discuss publicly, but the ambiguous votes are preponderantly Democratic. Republicans are the clerical set, and when they face a ballot with a little square in it, they know to stick something through it without leaving dancing chads here and there.

    This isn't the kind of thing that's going to find its way into sociology textbooks, but it's a fact: The kind of people who are going to produce ambiguous ballots are the less well-instructed Americans, the more careless types; types less accustomed to the disciplines of civic behavior. They tend to be Democrats. So therefore the more latitudinarian the canvas, the higher the likelihood that Vice President Gore is the victor.

  • There are motions that need to be undertaken for the sake of appearances as also to face political realities. The most obdurate political reality has been Ms. Harris. She is a Republican and did everything she could to precipitate closure (she used that term, "precipitate closure" -- sounds off as reckless and stuffy). When our Judge Lewis ruled that Harris must act with discretion, that was good. But when he went on, after her ruling, to say she had acted with discretion, that was no good. It helped that he didn't elaborate his reasons for concluding that she had behaved reasonably. That made it easier for the full Florida Supreme Court to come in and say ...

  • Hey there, Katherine! Hold your horses. We are going to get an en banc hearing (that's with six Democrats) and get the public lost with things like counts, recounts, ballots, official ballots, county deadlines and state deadlines. In terms of promoting general confusion, it couldn't have gone better. Just study one question asked. It was by Justice Pariente:

    "Well, would you think that we would want to, for old times' sake, interpret this statute that if, for example, in a legislative race it is a close race and the unsuccessful candidate has requested a manual recount under the statute, and requested it on the sixth day, that we would say that, because that's not an extraordinary circumstance, it's a foreseen circumstance, that we would say, well, the secretary has the discretion to not recognize that manual recount and declare the person, the other person, winner?"

    Answer that and go to the head of any class.

  • What is now going to happen is that the court will say OK to the recount, but will also say that the recount can't jeopardize the entitlement of the state of Florida to its electoral count in the national pool. That will sound like a good measured opinion, acknowledge the votes of the majority, encourage counting those votes, but satisfy the strict constructionists by keeping up the deadline talk.

  • We are taking one thing for granted. It is that, for reasons explained, an enlargement of the vote will enlarge the number of Gore voters. If Mr. Gore wins by a mere two or three hundred, we are prepared to challenge any reservations about -- closure! -- by observing that the other side was quite prepared, just a couple of weeks ago, to say that Bush had won by 200 votes. So? Two hundred votes is 200 more than the other guy got. So stop gassing about a narrow win. As one commentator wrote, "Nobody says it's illegitimate if the swimmer wins by 1/100th of a second."

  • The business about the overseas military vote hurt us a bit, because half the screen that night was showing our guy in Vietnam saluting locals he didn't have the nerve to shoot at, and the other half was showing our guys in bases and ships overseas, their ballots being tossed away because they didn't have a witness -- swear to God, a witness! -- to their signature. Well, we gave them that, and made a few points, so that's pretty well tucked away.

    So just stick in there. It's going our way.