The Final Clinton Legacy

A short while later, after a weekend of exhaustive arguments and cross examinations, Florida Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls delivered the payoff punch, rejecting Gore’s lawsuit and refusing to order another manual recount of thousands of South Florida ballots. This was the roundhouse right that would have put any normal combatant out for the count.

But Al Gore’s no normal combatant. Through his coterie of trusted spin meisters and demagogues, he declared victory and vowed to fight on.

From a public relations standpoint, yesterday’s events are a disaster for Al Gore that will likely move public opinion further in the direction of him needing to concede. Each and every announcement in recent weeks has been another “nail in the coffin” for Gore's attempts to win the presidency of the United States through the courts.

But Al Gore, supposedly, hasn’t even considered conceding.

In a New York Times interview and follow-up article, both Gore himself and aides confirmed that he is not ready to give up. He is, in fact, convinced that once there is a “fair count” in Florida — when “every vote is counted” — then the “voice of the people” will have been heard, at which point the much-derided Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, will be forced to certify the election for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

Stahl did extract one promise from the vice president on 60 Minutes. He at least promised to concede on Inauguration Day if George W. Bush is sworn in as president. “Regardless of how it comes out, whoever is sworn in as president on Jan. 20 should have the support of all the people. And if that's not me, I will not question the fairness or legitimacy of the final outcome,” Gore said on the CBS news program.

It’s outrageous that he has yet to consider the “concession option.” After all, whatever your politics, there are some basic facts that even the Democratic candidate for president should acknowledge: He lost the election in Florida on the first (Election Day) count. Then, when an automatic recount was done, he still trailed his opponent. Finally, when a Democrat-controlled Florida Supreme Court ignored state (and federal and constitutional) law, and decided to extend the deadline for official certification of the state’s election in order to allow a handful of Democratic counties to hold hand recounts, he still lost.

But concede? Never! He won’t even think about it.

If we have learned anything about politics in the last eight years, no American should be surprised. Despite all the counts and recounts and court defeats, it’s gonna take something big to make this man give up. Why? Well, do you remember: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”?

In a London Telegraph piece this past weekend, journalist Stephen Robinson got at the heart of Al Gore: “In his gracelessness and self-righteous fury, Mr. Gore uncannily resembles Bill Clinton during the impeachment hearings, when the President set himself up as the defender of the constitution against a Republican witch hunt. Mr. Clinton even cited his success in heading off conviction on his impeachment charges as one of the two major triumphs of his presidency.”

If the situation weren’t so tragic, its resemblances to impeachment would be quite funny. There are many of the same characters. There’s Larry Tribe, and Alan Dershowitz, and the usual lineup of Congressional Democrat apologists selling their souls in defense of their man. There are also the same windy pundits on television, many of whom are putting their professional reputations on the line in defense of plain, bald-faced lies.

And there are plenty of lies this time around, make no mistake about that. You know those precious dimpled chads you’ve heard so much about? Did you know that the Florida Supreme Court based part of their decision to extend the deadline for state certification of votes — thus allowing Gore to pursue manual hand recounts in selected Democratic counties — on a lie?

Michael LaVelle, an attorney involved in a 1991 Illinois recount case, gave a late-night affidavit to the Gore camp saying that the Illinois Supreme Court had allowed the counting of dimpled chads.

Problem is, the Illinois Supreme Court did no such thing.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Chicago Tribune revealed the lie: Al Gore’s team in Florida, lead by trial lawyer extraordinaire David Boies, got a false affidavit from LaVelle, who told the reporter he had a fuzzy memory when he gave the affidavit. He subsequently took it back and issued a new one to the Democratic Party of Florida — but not to the court.

Meanwhile, the “brilliant” David Boies continues to play dumb, telling the press that he knows nothing of the affidavit. The Washington D.C.-based National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint to the Florida bar naming Boies and Mitchell Berger, his co-counsel in the Florida mess. But don’t expect to hear much about that on the TV news shows. Such a story would only be newsworthy if it was Bush’s lawyers who had filed the false affidavits.

There is one more direct connection I’d like to mention between the Never-Ending Election and Mr. Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives. The president, in an interview with a Canadian reporter last week, predicted that Al Gore would win this election. He went on to say that America is being embarrassed in front of the world. Bill Clinton said this — and few blinked.

As Dick Cheney said on Meet the Press Sunday, Al Gore will ultimately look better in the eyes of history if he concedes — sooner rather than later. It is still possible for him to salvage the perception that he is a noble man with the best interests of his country in mind. But the way things are going, it doesn’t appear likely he will choose that road.

Like some latter-day Rocky Balboa, Mr. Gore is flat on his back right now, bleeding profusely and gasping for air, hoping the bell will save him. If something like that does happen, and he ultimately wins this election on some technicality or judicial usurpation of power, it will represent the ultimate Clinton legacy.

To be sure, this exhausting drama has been a great civics lesson for our nation’s youth. But there’s another, more important lesson our children are learning from Mr. Gore: How not to act when you’ve lost the game.

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