Florida Squeeze

How you look at things.
Nov. 11 2000 1:30 AM

Florida Squeeze

(Continued from Page 1)

8. Gore can divine the truth. Gore's principal challenge to the Florida count—he thinks thousands of Palm Beach County ballots that were punched twice or were marked for Pat Buchanan were meant for him—is largely speculative. Short of collecting affidavits from these voters and matching them with the ballots, there's no way to prove how many of them meant to vote for Gore. So the Gore team weaves an illusion of clear error. "Here in Florida, it also seems very likely that more voters went to the polls believing that they were voting for Al Gore than for George Bush," Daley theorized Wednesday. "There seems every reason to believe that well over 2,000 of these votes" cast for Pat Buchanan "were votes for Vice President Al Gore, more than enough to make him the winner." Never mind that these ballots were marked for Buchanan. They "were votes for … Gore."

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9. Bush is defying democracy. The Gore camp brings all of these arguments to bear on the ultimate question: whether Bush, by virtue of leading the latest vote count in Florida, is the presumptive president-elect. If the media and the public accept that premise, they'll ratchet up the pressure on Gore until he concedes. To avert that scenario, Daley fired a shot across the Bush campaign's bow Wednesday. "Their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves the victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the risk of dividing the American people and creating a sense of confusion," he charged. "Bold claims not based on the rule of the people endanger the orderly transition of power."

What a combination of chutzpah and jujitsu. How do you defeat a self-fulfilling argument? With a self-fulfilling argument to the contrary. The way the Gore campaign frames the standoff, not only should Bush be deprived of the presumption of victory, but he's the one bucking the electorate's verdict and disrupting the constitutional process. Bush, not Gore, is dividing the public and making uncertified claims, says the man who trails in Florida. Who does Gore think he is, the president? If he wins the debate over who won the election, he will be.