December 1, 2000

AL GORE THE O. J. SIMPSON OF AMERICAN POLITICS

Thursday morning the all-news cable TV networks were fixated on an eerie sight: aerial shots of the truck carrying the Miami-Dade ballots to Tallahassee. It was a Ryder truck, and not a white Bronco, but the same bizarre carnival atmosphere of surreality hung over the scene as during the O. J. Simpson media frenzy: airborne cameras tracked the truck on every mile of its journey and news anchors babbled in anticipation of its imminent arrival. Like the goblins of nightmares remembered, the whole familiar gallery of media ghouls materialized: Alan Dershowitz, Greta van Susteren, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton have all popped up again, spinning and weaving a web of lies. And, at the center of it all is the figure of a large man with somewhat fleshy features, who denies he's committed a crime and brazenly proclaims, against all the evidence, that he is really the victim here. Al Gore is the O. J. Simpson of American politics, a man whose ability to lie with a perfectly straight face defines what it is to be a sociopath.

IT ISN'T PRETTY

Once again, the scene is a courtroom practically every courtroom in the state of Florida, it seems. So far, 42 separate lawsuits have been filed by both sides in this increasingly acrimonious and troubling dispute, with more on the way. A lawyer's paradise, said one of the legal eagles for Team Bush but a hellish experience for the rest of us. And please don't give me any of the garbage being spouted by some "libertarians," who hail the electoral gridlock and ensuing paralysis as a supposed respite from the murderous tyranny of the federal Leviathan. It ain't happening, my friends Clinton has just unveiled a rash of last-minute executive orders seizing hundreds of thousands of acres in the West and Midwest. The stock market is plunging, and could at any moment go into meltdown mode – and a new and perhaps radical economic downturn will not bode well for the doctine free-markets and small government. On the overseas front, US foreign policy is barreling down the path to perdition at an ever-accelerating rate. As Nebojsa Malic pointed out in an excellent column the other day, KLA provocateurs are doing their best to lure President Vojislav Kostunica into a trap by means of numerous provocations, and the Serbian-Kosovo border is about to blow. In the Middle East, the likelihood of an all-out Arab-Israeli war grows with each passing day, and the ghosts of our sailors killed aboard the USS Cole that fateful day are restless, haunting the national conscience.

DISENFRANCHISED AND DEAD

The Gore campaign's concerted effort to disqualify overseas military ballots on technical grounds was very successful: some Florida counties rejected as many as 75% of such ballots. According to Colonel David Hackworth, among the disqualified ballots was that of Ronald Scott Owens, of Vero Beach, Florida, who was killed along with 16 others when the USS Cole was bombed. As many as 700 Florida military voters may have been disqualified by Gore's lawyers, who were dispatched to every county election board with a five-page memo outlining various strategies for disenfranchising the votes of American soldiers stationed overseas. The backlash was not long in coming, and it was so severe that the Democrats had to backtrack a bit, with Joe Lieberman denying everything but still, the Democrats did not drop their opposition on the local level, and the GOP is now in court fighting for the voting rights of overseas military personnel. The rank hypocrisy of raising the battle-cry "let every vote count!" while authoring and financing this vote-suppression campaign has enraged many in the military: a number have called in anonymously to talk radio, and communicated their anger via email and on military posting boards, so much so that the Pentagon has had to take steps to quell the rising tide of discontent.

MUTINY ON THE POTOMAC?

The Washington Post reports that military commanders are reminding the ranks that "it is a crime for officers to express contempt for the nation's political leaders, either in speech or in e-mail correspondence." Brigadier General Jack Rives, whom the Post describes as "the top lawyer for the Air Force's Air Combat Command," sent out an edict to 89,000 troops, advising them that "this is not the time to send e-mails or otherwise get involved in an improper or unprofessional manner with the continuing controversy over the presidential election." Even in the military, lawyers reign supreme. These guys are everywhere, clearly they're taking over the country and if a single disenfranchised US soldier dares to object they will throw him or her in the brig and throw away the key. The emptiness of this threat is, of course, laughable. Will they track down every e-mail, trace every phone call, monitor the mail and personal contacts of each and every grunt? Just as the high command couldn't control the growing rebellion in the ranks during the Vietnam war, so the same mutinous spirit is developing during the battle for the US Presidency. Why else would the military establishment – at the behest of the Clinton administration – clamp down on the First Amendment rights of our citizen-soldiers? They're scared to death that if Gore's platoon of lawyers seizes the White House the Marines just may retake it.

CONTEMPTUOUS WORDS

Colonel James Rosenblatt, staff judge advocate at the Army Training and Doctrine Command, sent out an even lengthier warning, and also decided that what the 67,000 soldiers and civilian employees in his command require at the moment is a series of indoctrination sessions "on the question of civilian control of the military." Rosenblatt cited Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice which forbids military personnel from using "contemptuous words against the President, Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any state." What about the Postmaster General? Surely he deserves a few mildly critical words in this case. In the Post article, Rosenblatt is quoted as saying that in all the 28 years of his service, this was the first time he had ever had to remind his soldiers of this particular provision. If the Gore coup succeeds, it won't be the last. Contemptuous words are the very least "President" Gore could expect for his contemptible actions.

SOLDIERS ARE CITIZENS

During the Vietnam war, military personnel were actively recruited by the antiwar movement and GI coffeehouses were set up near military bases in the US to attract soldiers disaffected by the war. Movement lawyers defended the rights of soldiers to have political opinions, and express them while in uniform. Our leaders told us we were fighting for "freedom" in the jungles of Southeast Asia, but those who were doing the fighting were told to shut up and obey orders. It was unenforceable and illegal then, just as it is now. "US soldiers are citizens, too," says Colonel Hackworth, "who keep our great country on course with their ballots as well as their bullets."

A LITTLE DIVERSION

Those bullets, especially of late, have been fired at all manner of "enemies," from the Iraqis to the Serbs to the Sudanese and the Afghans and who knows whom else they have in mind? A military "crisis" overseas would sure come in handy for the Gore forces about now: it would remind us all that he is, after all, still the Vice President, as he confers with Clinton in the White House and preens in front of the camera. Last time it was an aspirin factory in the Sudan; this time, who knows, maybe the Afghans will get their turn, or perhaps US investigators will suddenly "discover" the identity and whereabouts of the group behind the bombing of the USS Cole.

THE RADICALIZATION OF BILL KRISTOL

I am glad to see that I am not the only one reminded of the old neocon-theocon debate by this crisis: a recent column by Rod Dreher in the New York Post [November 29] recalls the debate pitting Norman Podhoretz against Richard John Neuhaus of First Things, the conservative religious magazine, in which the latter was condemned by the former for the heresy of believing that the Clintonian State had lost its legitimacy. In the now famous symposium published by the magazine, conservative legal theorist Robert Bork advocated civil disobedience against the dictatorship of the judiciary and Newhaus spoke of "the regime" as if he were describing the junta of a Third World banana republic. "I did not become a conservative to preach revolution against this country!" ranted Podhoretz. Gertrude Himmelfarb, the grande dame of the New York neocons, took the opportunity to declare that this only confirmed her suspicion that conservatives out in the heartland are "out of the mainstream." As I asked in my November 15 column: who's outside the mainstream now, Gertrude? Why, according to Dreher, even Bill Kristol recovering McCainite, and self-appointed pallbearer of a conservative movement he once declared to be "dead" has been radicalized by the Gore coup. Of course, the Weekly Standard sided with Podhoretz and Midge Decter when the First Things symposium was originally published, but Dreher plays down this aspect of it by writing that "four years ago, Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol was sympathetic to the symposiasts, but not keen on their strong language." That is putting it mildly: the Weekly Standard condemned Neuhaus and not only for his language but for engaging in "New Left-style" subversion. Neuhaus and his followers on the Right, declared Kristol's editorialist, David Brooks, has succumbed to "The Anti-American Temptation." But these days Kristol & Co. are singing a different tune:

"Now, having described Gore's post-election maneuvering as an attempted 'coup,' Kristol acknowledges that heated rhetoric is needed to arouse people to a serious threat. 'Others are now seeing what they were so upset about,' Kristol says. 'Finally, mainstream Republican types are waking up to it.'"

WELCOME, BILL!

Oh well, better late than never, especially at this crucial time. Welcome, Bill, to the populist army of peasants with pitchforks! But us right-wing extremists have not made a clean sweep of the neocons, and I am sad but not surprised to report that not even a socialist coup d'etat has the power to move Norman Podhoretz from a position once he is settled on it. In my November 24 column, noting the Weekly Standard's radicalized stance, I asked: "What's next? will Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter now organize the Upper West Side Militia?" Unfortunately, this task will have to be left to others: not even the lawyers' putsch has the power to move Norman and Midge a single millimeter from their principled passivity. Dreher reports that:

"For their part, Podhoretz and Decter say they're as steamed by the Florida Supremes' actions as anybody, but they still firmly reject any speculation on the legitimacy of the American government even if judges ultimately install Gore into the presidency. America has always suffered from bad judges, says Decter, and yet 'The country goes on. The system goes on. And I'd like to know what system would be better.'"

WHAT COULD BE WORSE?

What "system" is Decter talking about? If Gore seizes the White House with his phalanx of lawyers without a shot being fired metaphorically speaking, that is then what "system" will be in operation? Surely not the old American republic, but a Gore-Lieberman-Clinton junta, a tyrannous triumvirate to rule over the shattered remnants of our democracy. I ask you: What system could be worse than that?

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“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

 

Past Columns

Al Gore – The O.J. Simpson of American Politics
12/1/00

Coup d'Etat 2000 and the Madness of Al Gore
11/29/00

Slobo and Gore: Peas in a Pod
11/27/00

Gore Coup Radicalizes Republicans
11/24/00

The Dimple That Shook the World
11/22/00

Listen Soldier, You Can Stop the Gore Coup
11/20/00

Two Ways to Steal an Election
11/17/00

In Occupied America: Rage Against "The Regime"
11/15/00

Al Gore's Beer Hall Putsch
11/13/00

A Message to My Readers
11/10/00

The Real Victors: Nader & Buchanan
11/8/00

Buchanan's "Hail Mary" Pass May Work
11/6/00

Doubletalkin' Dubya: Bush Backtracks on Kosovo
11/3/00

The Nader Moment
11/1/00

The Smearing of Ralph Nader
10/30/00

Nader Sells Out
10/27/00

America's Fifth Column
10/25/00

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"
10/23/00

Hilary, the War Goddess
10/20/00

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age
10/18/00

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love
10/16/00

The Middle East: War Without End
10/13/00

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners
10/11/00

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters
10/9/00

Revolt of the Little Guys
10/6/00

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection
10/2/00

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil
9/29/00

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?
9/27/00

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisited
9/25/00

Curtains for Milosevic
9/22/00

Dubya's Kosovo Deception
9/20/00

The Return of Pat Buchanan
9/18/00

Euro-
Revolution!
9/15/00

The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee
9/13/00

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation
9/11/00

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare
9/8/00

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy
9/6/00

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones
9/4/00

Colombia – The Deja Vu War
9/1/00

Passage to Cartagena: An Inauspicious Visit
8/30/00

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers
8/28/00

Blowback: Read This Book!
8/25/00

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime
8/23/00

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?
8/21/00

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities
8/18/00

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!
8/16/00

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

 

RESTORE THE REPUBLIC

The point is that the old system, our republican form of government, has nearly broken down: those who oppose the Gore coup are fighting to restore it. Yes, America has always suffered from bad judges, but never from a "President" who overturned the election victory of his opponent in a court of law. To concede the legitimacy of such a regime is treason not only to conservative principles but to the country. This idea, that Gore is a usurper and in no way the legitimate President of the United States, is incomprehensible to sophisticates like Podhoretz, Decter, and the Manhattan chapter of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, but perfectly clear to ordinary people in the Other America, who don't need to consult the works of Leo Strauss before deciding that they've had enough.

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