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When All Is Said and Done, Who Collects the Poisoned Prize?

He's Tried Everything, Now He Should Try Conceding

November 28, 2000|KENNETH L. KHACHIGIAN | Kenneth L. Khachigian, a veteran Republican strategist and former senior advisor to President Reagan, practices law in Southern California

It was once said of the Midwest slaughterhouses that they could make use of every part of the hog but the squeal. On Monday, Al Gore confirmed an ill-kept secret: Now he's going for the squeal. After dragging things out for three weeks, Gore has a new strategy: dragging it out.

News reports now confirm that Gore's recount swat team showed up in Florida on Nov. 8 locked and loaded to unwind the election day results. Starting with the pretext of the "butterfly ballot," they selected the most heavily Democratic counties for recounts. They played into the favorable odds of partisan canvassing boards, an activist Florida high court and their well-honed use of tactical blitzkrieg to overwhelm the system.

But after all that, the system they manipulated actually worked to defeat Gore. George W. Bush never lost his lead--not even by the shifting standards Gore had hoped would befuddle a nation that might not sniff out his tawdry ploy.

Unctuous as always--and just as unconvincing as Joe Lieberman was on Sunday night--Gore used his prime-time remarks Monday to continue his claim that his exhaustive legal maneuvering really isn't about who wins but about the integrity of our system. Does anyone believe that the man who hid behind "no controlling legal authority," savaged Bill Bradley last year in the Democratic primaries and clawed his way up every inch of the greasy pole of politics seeks merely to serve as America's schoolmarm?

How pathetic Gore has become--a 24-year public servant and holder of the second-highest office--now reduced to a whiny mendicant asking an increasingly unsympathetic public to rescue him from defeat. Was that Al Gore or was it really the "Saturday Night Live" troupe playing in prime time? Anymore, we can't tell the difference, for now Gore has become a caricature of a caricature--making real the mockery of the evening satirists.

Sure, the lawyers are telling him he can still do it. And sure his family and his staff, not to mention the lobbyists who fear the loss of a gig and the pols and the Hollywood stars who are heartsick that they won't get any more nights in the Lincoln Bedroom--all want him to fight on.

But the ABC News/Washington Post poll Sunday night found that 60% of the country thought Gore should concede the election, and that included a quarter of his own supporters. Indeed, how could the public not be fatigued against the backdrop of this drama and its actors?

* Joe Lieberman--It was bad enough that Sen. Lieberman left his principles at the front door to his nomination--muting his beliefs about school choice, affirmative action and Hollywood salaciousness--but now he's an attack dog who's warmed to his task. A good man with a conscience has been transformed into a tinny-voiced sycophant--sad proof that ambition feeds political gluttony.

* Nuclear news--Where did they find these people? Have they caffeinated the air ducts at MSNBC? They prowl their sets, roving from place to place, breathless with charts and graphics. Memo to MSNBC: Loud does not mean insightful.

* The hand-wringers--There is not a Republican alive who did not shout hooray as several dozen of their own pounded on the doors in Miami-Dade County and clamored to be let in when they believed that partisans were retreating behind closed doors to put in the fix. To hear it told, it was a "riot," a threatening "mob." They "intimidated" the canvassers. Oh, my. Bob Dole spent 1996 asking, "Where's the outrage?" Well, the real outrage was found by a roomful of Republican activists who discovered that it's not a bad thing to shout and yell for one's principles. The contrived outrage of their critics rings hollow.

* Mudville's finest--It comes as no surprise that the same goon squads who sharpened their jackknives on Ken Starr, Linda Tripp and Kathleen Willey would find their way down to Florida to maintain their skill levels. Alan Dershowitz will be disappointed to learn that he only gets honorable mention for calling Secretary of State Katherine Harris a "crook." The blue ribbon goes to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York lefty who found a "whiff of fascism" in the Sunshine State. It has come to this: a Democratic U.S. congressman comparing peaceful demonstrators to the Nazi jackboots.

Failure and defeat have corrupted all common sense. Worse, they now threaten to corrupt a man who was given the gift of public service. Please, Mr. Vice President, for our sake--and yours--just go.

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