They’re still counting ballots in Florida, where election controversy seems endemic in a system that needs fixing.
But sitting on the sidelines is a guy named Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, who is heckling state and local officials, accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” an election, suggesting widespread “fraud” where none exists and in general exacerbating an already-tense and contentious election.
Trump is doing a supreme disservice to the cause of free and fair elections, which are a hallmark of the nation he was elected to lead.
How about comparing this president’s conduct with another president who, as he was preparing to leave office, stood by silently while officials in the same state of Florida grappled with another — even more significant — electoral controversy.
Vice President Al Gore wanted to succeed President Clinton in 2000. He and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush fought hammer-and-tong for the presidency. It came down to Florida. The race was razor thin. Whoever won the state’s electoral votes would be elected president.
They launched a recount. Bush’s margin of victory narrowed to 537 votes out of more than 5 million ballots cast. Then the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. It ordered the count stopped. Bush won the state’s electoral votes. He took the oath of office in January 2001.
President Clinton stayed quiet through it all. When he was asked about the controversy, the president said he preferred not to get involved. The U.S. Constitution did its job without presidential hectoring, haranguing and harassment.
Yep, there’s a lesson to be learned about a previous president’s conduct during a seriously contentious time. The lesson will be lost on Donald John Trump.