Rumblings From Mordor
Former Watergate conspirator John Dean is back with yet another thoughtful, if ominous, observation about the political stakes facing the nation on November 2, 2004. It has to give one pause to hear someone who has the connections and experience John Dean has to hear that he thinks a second American Civil War is possible - even likely - considering the currently divisive political situation.
The Coming Post-Election Chaos
A Storm Warning of Things to Come If the Vote Is as Close as Expected
By JOHN W. DEAN
Friday, Oct. 22, 2004
Only a miracle, it strikes me, can prevent this election from descending into post-election chaos. But given the alternatives, a miracle is what I am hoping for.
This next presidential election, on November 2, may be followed by post-election chaos unlike any we've ever known Look at the swirling, ugly currents currently at work in this conspicuously close race. There is Republicans' history of going negative to win elections. There is Karl Rove's disposition to challenge close elections in post-election brawls. And there is Democrats' (and others) new unwillingness to roll over [YES!], as was done in 2000. Finally, look at the fact that a half-dozen lawsuits are in the works in the key states and more are being developed.
This is a climate for trouble. A storm warning is appropriate. In the end, attorneys and legal strategy could prove as important, if not more so, to the outcome of this election as the traditional political strategists and strategy. Let's go over each factor that spells trouble - and see how they may combine.
A GOP Disposition For Nasty Campaigns
Before this year's race, the 1988 presidential race between George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis was well-known as the most foul of modern campaigns. The Bush campaign used Willie Horton to smear their way to the White House - with Lee Atwater playing the hardest of hardball.
In the 2000 Republican primary race, George W. Bush used similar tactics against Senator John McCain. That's no surprise: Bush's political strategist Karl Rove, and Bush himself, were protégées' and admirers of Lee Atwater. To my knowledge, all of Rove's campaigns have accentuated the negative - often dwelling exclusively on nasty attacks. This one is no exception.
Thus, if Bush narrowly prevails on Election Day, the Democrats are likely to be in a less than congenial mood - and especially likely to go to court. And there will doubtless be fodder for litigation, given the GOP's propensity to try to disqualify votes and voters.
The GOP's Campaign Tactic Of Attempting to Disqualify Votes And Voters
In 1986, former Assistant United States Attorney James Brosnahan (today a noted San Francisco trial attorney) testified - based on an investigation the Justice Department had dispatched him to conduct - that as a young Phoenix attorney, Justice William Rehnquist had been part of conservative Republicans' 1962 efforts to disqualify black and Hispanic voters who showed up to vote. Brosnahan's testimony was supported by no less than fourteen additional witnesses. Rehnquist nevertheless became Chief Justice - thanks to the continued support of conservative Republicans.
During the 1964 Goldwater versus Johnson race, when I first heard of such tactics, I was appalled to hear friends bragging about excluding Johnson supporters from voting.
Later, when I found myself working at the Department of Justice for Richard Kleindienst, we discussed such tactics. Kleindienst served as director of field operations for Goldwater in 1964, and for Nixon in 1968. Remarkably, Kleindienst confided that he had engaged in fewer dubious tactics in 1968 than in 1964.
If such efforts were mounted by the Nixon campaign in 1972, when I had a good overview of what was going on, I am not aware of it. Even Nixon had his limits, and he was more interested in wooing white Southerners into the Republican ranks. He did so, successfully, when such Southern Democratic stalwarts and pillars of bigotry and racism as Senators Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms joined the GOP. They renewed the party's effort to disqualify voters who, and votes that, did not see the world as Republicans did.
The racism became less blatant. After all, it had become a crime -- which called for new tactics. Yet the revised stratagems were (and remain) anything but subtle.
The 2000 presidential race in Florida is an excellent example. Reportedly, Bush's Florida victory came courtesy of 537 votes out of some six million. It's plain from this slim margin that the GOP's voter and vote disqualifying tactics cost Vice President Al Gore the presidency. (In the October 2004 issue of Vanity Fair, an excellent article entitled "The Path To Florida" explains how the Republicans nullified and disqualified literally hundreds of thousands of Florida votes.)
This lesson has not been lost on the Democrats - who are likely to refrain from conceding if they are losing in 2004 until all of the dubious disqualifications in closely-won swing states are sorted out.
Rove's Refusal To Accept Defeat: The Knee-jerk Response of Suing
And it won't only be the Democrats heading to court. Indeed, in Florida in 2000, it was Bush who sued first -- while later falsely accusing Gore of starting the litigation. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't merely the closeness of the tallying in what appeared to be unique circumstances in Florida that spawned litigation. To the contrary, suing is a standard operating procedure for Karl Rove when he is losing (or has lost) a race.
A recent profile of Karl Rove in the November 2004 Atlantic Monthly, entitled "Karl Rove In A Corner," examines how Rove operates in a close race. While Rove has had only a few, his tactics are never pretty. The article describes "Rove's power, when challenged, to draw on an animal ferocity that far exceeds the chest-thumping bravado common to professional political operatives" - and notes that "Rove's fiercest tendencies have been elided in national media coverage."
Consider Rove's role in a 1994 judicial campaign for the Alabama Supreme Court. Election returns showed his candidate had lost by 304 votes. But Rove went to court - not only suing to overturn the election, but at the same time, further campaigning to garner support for these efforts. These maneuvers went on and on and on. Rove's candidate and his opponent both appeared for Inauguration Day ceremonies, although neither was seated. Rove moved the matter from state to federal courts. And he appealed whenever he could - all the way up to the U. S. Supreme Court, which stayed the case almost a year after the election. In the end, Rove's man won -- purportedly by 262 votes.
Doubtless, Rove was similarly prepared to take Bush's 2000 lawsuits as far as necessary. Had the U.S. Supreme Court bumped the case back to the Florida Supreme Court, and allowed the recount to conclude, doubtless Rove would have again challenged the recount - all the way back up to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Make no mistake: If Bush loses, and it is very close, Rove will want to litigate as long as possible, going to the U.S. Supreme Court (again) if possible.
Still Too Close To Call: The Conspicuous Closeness Of The 2004 Race
So far, no incumbent modern president has won or lost in a squeaker. Even races that looked close in the polls were subject to a last-minute surge in one direction. But we are now ten days away from the 2004 election, with no surge yet in evidence. The electorate is deeply divided. Most of the undecided are now decided. So a true surge for either candidate is unlikely.
Exactly how close will the race be? Of course, polls are an imperfect measure, and they tend to be less reliable the closer it is to Election Day. Still, as I write, and based on the consensus of polls I believe (historically) to be the most reliable, the situation appears to be this:
There are a total of 538 electoral votes. A simple majority of 270 wins. (If the candidates tie at 269, the tie is broken by the House of Representatives.)
President Bush seems to have a lock on 176 electoral votes from twenty states: AL-9, AK-3, AZ-10, GA-15, ID-4, IN-10, KS-6, KY-8, LA-9, MS-6, MT-3, NE-5, ND-3, OK-7, SC-3, TN-11, TX-34, UT-5, VA-13 and WY-3. Six states with 51 electoral votes tilt toward Bush: AR-6, CO-9, MO-11, NV-5, NC-15 and WV-5.
Senator Kerry seems to have a lock on 153 electoral votes in ten states and the District of Columbia: CA-55, CT-7, DE-3, HI-4, IL-21, MD-10, MA-12, NY-31, RI-4, VT-3 and DC-3. Six states with 63 electoral votes lean toward Kerry: ME-3 (note that Maine apportions its four electoral votes, and one vote still appears to be up for grabs), MI-17, MN-10, NJ-15, OR-7 and WA-11.
Suppose all the tilting states indeed go in the direction in which they are tilting. That gives Bush/Cheney 227 electoral votes, and Kerry/Edwards 216 votes. There are still eight true swing states. In total, they have 95 electoral votes: IA-7, FL-27, ME-1, NH-4, NM-5, OH-20, PA-21, and WI-10. It is in these states that election 2004 will ultimately be resolved - either in the voting booths, or in the courts.
Note that none of these states, alone - even Florida, with its 27 votes - will give either candidate a win. That means we could see simultaneous litigation in a number of states - chosen either because the polling was especially close, or because there are significant numbers of vulnerable votes to try to disqualify. It will be recalled that the possibility for multi-state litigation arose in 2000, before Florida became the focus; it could easily become a reality in 2004.
An Election For Attorneys: Neither Side Will Budge If Litigation Begins
When I discussed this situation with several attorneys on both sides, I realized none are likely to back down. It is impossible to get a complete count, but it appears that at least 10,000 - and possibly as many as 150,000 -- attorneys, paralegals and law students will be working as observers, or handling election problems, on November 2-- just in the swing states. They have been trained in the relevant state's election laws, and they will focus on the casting and counting of votes. With so many legal minds looking for problems and such combative attitudes on both sides, litigation seems inevitable - especially if the November 2 tally is close. And if litigation starts, it won't stop soon: A game of litigation chicken -- testing who will fold first - seems likely, with each party bent on holding out.
The Nightmare Scenario: An Election Up in the Air For Months
It may be days or weeks, if not months, before we know the final results of this presidential election. And given the Republican control of the government, if Karl Rove is on the losing side, it could be years: He will take every issue (if he is losing) to its ultimate appeal in every state he can.
The cost of such litigation will be great - with the capital of citizens' trust in their government, and its election processes, sinking along with the nation's (if not the world's) financial markets, which loathe uncertainty. After Bush v. Gore, is there any doubt how the High Court would resolve another round? This time, though, the Court, too, will pay more dearly. With persuasive power as its only source of authority, the Court's power will diminish as the American people's cynicism skyrockets.
It does not seem to trouble either Rove or Bush that they are moving us toward a Twenty-first Century civil war -- and that, once again, Southern conservatism is at its core.
At least they already have a flag.
That's the worst-case scenario. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. I have been hearing and seeing some things which indicate to me that John Dean isn't too far off with his observations. But there is also some good news.
While their influence as a leader of opinion isn't what it used to be, newspapers can still be viewed as a bellweather of local opinion, as their very survival requires that they maintain an affinity with their readers. Not to do so might bring about reduced circulation to the point of total economic collapse and closure.
Editor&Publisher has been running a series covering the announced endorsements of the nation's newspapers. If their data is any indication, Karl Rove will be taking the low road as John Dean suggests he will.
Daily Endorsement Tally
Kerry Gets Nod from 'Wash Post' and 6 Papers that Backed Bush in 2000, but President Gains 'Columbus Dispatch'
October 23, 2004
Senator John Kerry continued his raid on newspapers that backed President George W. Bush in 2000, grabbing six new "flip-flops," as well as The Washington Post, whose editorial page offered strong support to President Bush on the U.S. attack on Iraq, on Sunday endorsed his opponent for president. The paper said it found much to admire in the president's first term, and much that gives it pause about Senator John Kerry, but on balance, the Democrat "has staked a stronger claim on the nation's trust to lead for next four years."
In gaining the Orlando Sentinel, one of the switches from Bush, Kerry completed a sweep of major papers in top swing state Florida.
In another surprise, the Detroit News, which has never endorsed a Democrat, and backed Bush in 2000, announced that it would sit out the 2004 election, not happy with either candidate.
The moderate Chicago Sun-Times and the Los Angeles Daily News, which backed Bush in 2000, also endorsed Kerry.
Kerry picked up three other papers from the Bush 2000 column on Saturday with the endorsement of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Wausau (Wisc.) Daily Herald, and the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, each in a battleground state. Kerry also gained the backing of three more major papers: the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in hotly-contested Pennsylvania, Newsday (Melville, N.Y.) and the Des Moines Register, and he picked up The Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin, and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This means he has picked up 17 Bush papers from 2000, while losing only two Gore papers to Bush. Kerry now leads Bush 70-58 in endorsements in E[ditor]&P[ublisher]'s exclusive tally, and by about 11.9 million to 7.1 million in the circulation of backing papers.
Meanwhile, E&P has learned from several sources at the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the paper's nine-person editorial board decided earlier this week that it wanted to endorse Kerry but Publisher Alex Machaskee, who has final say, has decided on Bush. The paper backed Bush in 2000. This has caused consternation in some quarters at the Plain Dealer, with sources telling E&P that the endorsement editorial, which was expected to run Sunday, was put off.
I now present some opinions expressed by the papers cited above in their endorsements of John F. Kerry for President.
EDITORIAL: Kerry for president
Our position: The Bush presidency has disappointed us on almost all counts.
Posted October 24, 2004
I'm a marine. I'm tired of seeing my fellow Marines die at the hands of this Fraud of a commander in chief. This president is NOT for the troops. it's obvious he's against us. Please vote Kerry, so I and Many others can come home soon.
Submitted by: Andy Johnson
7:13 AM EDT, Oct 24, 2004
Four years ago, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president based on our trust in him to unite America. We expected him to forge bipartisan solutions to problems while keeping this nation secure and fiscally sound. Indeed, it has been 40 years since the Sentinel endorsed a Democrat -- Lyndon Johnson -- for president.
But we cannot forget what we wrote in endorsing Mr. Bush in 2000: "The nation needs a leader who can bring people together, who can stand firm on principle but knows the art of compromise."
Four years later, Mr. Bush presides over a bitterly divided Congress and nation. The unity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- the president's finest hour -- is a memory now. Mr. Bush's inflexibility has deepened the divide. This president has utterly failed to fulfill our expectations.
Four years ago, we expressed confidence that Mr. Bush would replace the Clinton-Gore approach of frequent military intervention for one of selective involvement "using strict tests to evaluate U.S. national interests." To the president's credit, the war in Afghanistan met those tests. But today, U.S. forces also are fighting and dying in a war of choice in Iraq -- one that was launched to disarm a dictator who did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Before the Iraq war, Mr. Bush brushed aside dissenting views -- some within his own government -- about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. And because the president failed to round up more international support, more than 80 percent of the coalition forces in Iraq are American troops, and the United States is spending $1 billion a week on the conflict.
Meanwhile, nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea have worsened.
Four years ago, we also called on Mr. Bush to pay down the nation's multi-trillion-dollar debt before cutting taxes or increasing spending. Yet since then, he has pushed through massive tax cuts, and the national debt has risen from $5.8 trillion to $7.4 trillion. Discretionary spending -- not including defense and homeland security -- has risen 16 percent over three years. The president has not vetoed a single spending bill. Mr. Bush has been unwilling to reconsider any of his tax cuts, even as the rationale for them -- a huge budget surplus -- has vanished, and the country has gone to war. Other presidents have raised taxes to pay for wars; Mr. Bush is borrowing the money, leaving the bill for future generations.
Four years ago, we called it a "disgrace" that 43 million Americans lacked health insurance. That number has risen under Mr. Bush to 45 million. Yet the plan he now touts on the campaign trail would reduce the ranks of the uninsured by less than 20 percent, and he has not offered a way to pay for it.
Mr. Bush has been a disappointment in other crucial areas. He has weakened environmental protections, pushed an energy policy that would perpetuate America's oil dependence and given up on free-market agricultural reforms that could jump-start trade talks. Indeed, Mr. Bush has abandoned the core values we thought we shared with him -- keeping the nation strong while ensuring that its government is limited, accountable and fiscally responsible.
We turn now to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, with the belief that he is more likely to meet the hopes we once held for Mr. Bush. We trust Mr. Kerry not to make the mistakes Mr. Bush has. In sum, we believe Mr. Kerry would be a more bipartisan and effective leader than Mr. Bush.
In the Nov. 2 general election, the [Orlando] Sentinel endorses John Kerry for president of the United States.
Newsday chimes in:
'Newsday' to Endorse Kerry
October 22, 2004
Newsday of Melville, N.Y., plans to endorse John Kerry in its Sunday [10/24/04] edition, editorial page editor Jim Klurfeld revealed Friday, adding that the decision followed a discussion in which both candidates were found to have serious negatives. "There was a feeling that the case against Bush was very strong. We felt that Bush had split the country further." Klurfeld told E[ditor]&P[ublisher] Friday. "But the case for Kerry was problematic. His lack of decisiveness, his being too willing to please different political constituencies, were a problem. In the end would he stand up and make the tough decisions or try to split the difference?" But Klurfeld said the 12-person editorial board –- which met Tuesday evening to finalize its pick -– believed Kerry would offer "a fresh start. And has a chance to bring the country together."
This marks the fifth straight presidential election in which the paper has backed a Democrat since returning to endorsements in 1988 after a 16-year hiatus.
Things aren't looking too rosy for Bu$h in Nashville:
As president, Bush hasn't robbed the till. He hasn't consciously lied. He hasn't been corrupt. What Bush has been, however, is dumb.
These are complicated times. [There] are challenging problems. They're not for the so-so student in the class. They're not for a simpleton. They're not for George Bush.
George Bush has the intellectual curiosity of a sophomore frat boy at a state university. He wears the one-dimensional enthusiasm of a reformed alcoholic who saw the Lord and threw away the bottle. George Bush watches the world go by, and he plays it back in black and white. To him there's no such thing as gray.
George Bush's judgment is so tragically simple as to make us fearful for this nation. When an enemy in Afghanistan attacked us, he instead attacked Iraq. When the economy tanked, he gave money to the rich. And when he wasn't doing any of the above, he was putting on his cowboy hat, swaggering across America and projecting the image of America as Badass.
George Bush ran on a platform of compassionate conservatism. But when the world got dicey and his tiny viewfinder of a mind couldn't handle reality, he morphed into a schoolyard bully. If anything makes this newspaper regret this man's presidency, it is that the strongest nation in the world doesn't need to be a bully. Bullies are bullies because they're insecure and weak and dumb. This nation is none of the above. George Bush is all of above.
And so we endorse John Kerry. Over time, John Kerry has grown on us. To a Southerner, his pedantic delivery and royal elocution can be a bit much, but in the debates we've slowly come around. We are confident John Kerry will at least engage with the complexity in today's world.
It's not just that Bush won't do that. It's that he can't.
'Et tu, Brute?' Things aren't looking good for George with some conservatives:
Kerry’s the One
November 8, 2004 issue
Unfortunately, this election does not offer traditional conservatives an easy or natural choice and has left our editors as split as our readership. In an effort to deepen our readers’ and our own understanding of the options before us, we’ve asked several of our editors and contributors to make "the conservative case" for their favored candidate. Their pieces, plus Taki’s column closing out this issue, constitute TAC’s endorsement.
—The [Magazine's] Editors
There is little in John Kerry’s persona or platform that appeals to conservatives. But this election is not about John Kerry. It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush.
The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II: both gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries’ budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks. Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations.
This election is all about George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any conservative support.
To the surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies — a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration policies — temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election — are just as extreme. A re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans "won’t do."
During the campaign, few have paid attention to how much the Bush presidency has degraded the image of the United States in the world. Bush has accomplished this by giving the U.S. a novel foreign-policy doctrine under which it arrogates to itself the right to invade any country it wants if it feels threatened. It is the main reason that people all over the world who used to consider the United States a reliable and necessary bulwark of world stability now see us as a menace to their own peace and security. These sentiments mean that as long as Bush is president, we have no real allies in the world, no friends to help us dig out from the Iraq quagmire. Making yourself into the world’s most hated country is not an obvious way to secure that help.
Bush’s public performances plainly show him to be a man who has never read or thought much about foreign policy. Much has been written about the neoconservative hand guiding the Bush presidency — and it is peculiar that one who was fired from the National Security Council in the Reagan administration for suspicion of passing classified material to the Israeli embassy and another who has written position papers for an Israeli Likud Party leader have become key players in the making of American foreign policy.
The Bush foreign policy also surfs on deep currents within the Christian Right, some of which see unqualified support of Israel as part of a godly plan to bring about Armageddon and the future kingdom of Christ. These two strands of Jewish and Christian extremism build on one another in the Bush presidency — and President Bush has given not the slightest indication he would restrain either in a second term. With Colin Powell’s departure from the State Department looming, Bush is more than ever the "neocon-ian candidate."
The only way Americans will have a presidency in which neoconservatives and the Christian Armageddon set are not holding the reins of power is if Kerry is elected.
A Bush defeat will ignite a huge soul-searching within the rank-and-file of Republicandom: a quest to find out how and where the Bush presidency went wrong. And it is then that more traditional conservatives will have an audience to argue for a conservatism informed by the lessons of history, based in prudence and a sense of continuity with the American past — and to make that case without a powerful White House pulling in the opposite direction.
There is even some root rot in the GOP grass:
Choosing not to toe the party line
Local Republican launched Web site criticizing Bush
October 20, 2004
Anne Butterfield, 44, is a lifelong Republican. Her mom listened to Rush Limbaugh every morning. Her dad thought Richard Nixon was the best president in U.S. history. But this year, Butterfield is turning left. "It's coming to the attention of a lot of Republicans that it ain't working for us," said the Boulder County resident.
Butterfield, along with other Boulder County Republicans who support Democrat John Kerry, have created a new Web site, NationFirst-PartySecond.org. It is among a growing list of crossover-voting Web sites by members of both parties, such as RepublicansforKerry.org.
Butterfield said NationFirst-PartySecond.org gives Republicans "who are upset with George Bush a place where they can feel comfort, affirmation of their thoughts and a sense of solidarity _ that they're not crazy."
Due to my ongoing computer difficulties, some of these links are a week old now, but that doesn't make them any less relevant in showing that there is something of a groundswell in Kerry's favor:
[Again, with my PC down, my usual 'Fair Use' notice isn't available. Please consider it included, as 'Fair Use' is the intention with this post. Actual notice is available on my posts prior to about two weeks ago.]