The Mind of James Donahue

A Stolen Presidency

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Was the Presidency
     Stolen from Gore?

The political chaos surrounding the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore for the U. S. Presidential office was an example of a democratic system in bankruptcy.

When the carnival was over, Mr. Bush was declared a winner by default. Amid all of the "legal" rhetoric spewing from lawyer's mouths and pages of writings by the high court judges in both Florida and Washington, the basic question . . . who got the most votes . . . was skillfully hidden behind the magic of smoke and mirrors.

Even before the smoke cleared, however, a team of interested journalists, led by the Miami Herald, still had their eyes on the target. They, like most thinking Americans, were not thwarted from wanting to know who really won the election. The newspapers used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the stack of disputed ballots left uncounted by the archaic punch card machines.

The Herald hired a professional accounting firm to objectively examine an estimated 60,000 electronically discarded ballots in all 67 of Florida's counties. While the "unofficial count" remains a long and slow process expected to continue for weeks, the first counting has turned up enough evidence to show that it may have been Gore, not Bush, who carried that state.

The first votes tallied in Lake and Broward Counties by the end of the year pushed Gore ahead of Bush by an estimated 140 votes, a UK news report stated. The story said the Gore lead is expected to soar as the counting continues into the new year and the hotly contested "lost" ballots from the Miami area are included in the unofficial count.

In yet a separate experiment, the Miami Herald hired a team of political analysts and pollsters to make a statistical calculation based on projections of votes by each county. The study determined that Gore may have won the state by some 23,000 votes.

This was the very thing the Republican controlled leadership of Florida, and I suspect the conservative judges on the bench of the U. S. Supreme Court, did not want Americans to hear during those crucial days before the electoral college sat down to officially select our next president. That George W. Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, serves as governor of Florida, only makes the sequence of events appear more suspicious. With skilled precision, the Bush legal teams and the state's Republican cronies outflanked Gore's lawyers and consequently gave Florida's electoral college votes exclusively to Bush. If it stands unchallenged, that move will decide one of the closest presidential elections in American history.

There was a brief challenge, however. Alcee Hastings, Corrinne Brown and Carrie Meek, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, tried at the last moment to use a little known law to question the legality of Florida's electoral college votes.

If they could have gotten at least one member of the U. S. Senate to join them, the three could have forced both the House and the Senate to consider the challenge. The federal code allows a simple majority vote in both houses to uphold such a challenge. The decision would have been final, and overruled the Supreme Court. They failed to get that one senate vote, however.

That Bush is now our president does not mean he was the voter's choice. A New York Times story on Dec. 29 said a state-by-state survey by the Associated Press of the final certified election results showed Gore enjoyed a 539,947 popular vote lead over Bush. In other words, a half million more voters in the US chose Gore over Bush.

The problem with all of this is that Mr. Bush now assumes the top job of a nation obviously divided in political ideologies. That both the House and Senate are split almost evenly between party lines promises four years of political infighting. In spite of his careful selection of an impressive lineup of advisors and cabinet members, Mr. Bush may find himself an ineffective president. Anything he accomplishes may have to be done by executive order.

When asked on the street, many Americans seem indifferent about just which man actually wins the White House. There is an old saying that it never matters if a Republican or Democrat is in leadership, things seem to continue along just the same. But there are some basic differences between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore that I believe could have a deep and lasting impact on the future of this nation.

Gore, although proclaimed separated from the Clinton Administration, probably would have continued the party's philosophy of diplomacy rather than using guns and bullets to resolve political and ideological differences. In spite of his shortcomings, President Clinton tried during every moment of his tenure to bring about world peace. He sought it in Ireland, the Balkans, Africa, Russia, Korea, China and the Middle East.

There are indications in recent months that the leaders of many world nations are serious about finding peaceful solutions to these conflicts. A ship recently brought a delegation of politicians from Taiwan to China to discuss ways of resolving the discord that has separated these two Chinese nations since the days of World War II. The leaders of both Israel and the Palestinians are desperately attempting to work out a last-ditch peace package before Clinton leaves office. The leaders of North and South Korea met last year to make peace gestures for the first time in over 50 years.

Now comes the new Bush Administration. This president will be flanked by such military-minded advisors as his vice president elect Dick Cheney (former secretary of defense under President George Bush), General Colin Powell who once headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Donald Rumsfeld, former US ambassador to NATO and former secretary of defense to President Gerald Ford.

Bush is making it clear to the world that he was dead serious when he promised to rebuild the U.S. military. He also is indicating a willingness and to do battle with any nation that dares to violate our sovereignty or threaten terrorism. The diplomacy philosophy of the Clinton era seems to be coming to an abrupt end. Whether right or wrong, this indicates a major shift in the US foreign policy.

Most troubling is the Bush plan to dismantle all of the work the Clinton-Gore Administration accomplished on behalf of the world's sick environment. Government litigation pending against the big electric companies that expanded coal burning plants and ignored government clean-air standards could be dropped if Christine Todd Whitman wins the Bush appointment as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

During Whitman's tenure as governor of New Jersey, she cut the budget for state environmental protection by about 30 percent, relaxed enforcement of pollution regulations and declared she was keeping her state "open for business."

Gale Norton, the Bush pick for Secretary of the Interior, has already indicated she supports the Bush plan to open "sensitive areas" for oil and gas drilling. She said she believes her office would find ways "to develop our natural resources in a balanced an environmentally friendly way."

Mr. Bush will obviously be pressed by ranchers, lumber companies and other private interest groups angry about Bill Clinton's use of executive order to set aside billions of acres as protected national wilderness. And he will have the power to issue new executive orders, reopening these lands to public use once again.

Bush stated during his campaign that he does not believe there is enough proof that global warming is a real threat. Instead of following the Gore plan to search for alternative earth-friendly energy sources, Bush advocates opening new oil and gas wells and providing all of the organic energy fuels Americans want. In other words, it is going to be business as usual.

In contrast, Gore is a well-known environmentalist. He has been a leading voice in the world movement to press for clean air standards and reduce toxic greenhouse gas emissions. He was the world's best hope for saving our dying planet.

Our decision in Election 2000 will, indeed, have a lasting impact on our children and our grandchildren. If we don't change the direction we are moving, these children may live out their short lives in air purified buildings, wear face masks to walk out of doors, and feed on foods like algae grown in enclosed tanks within their homes.

I believe the problem is so severe, the next generation may be the last humans to ever walk on the face of this dying planet.


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