Tag Archives: 2000 election

SCOTUS vote reflects deep national divide

David Brooks and Mark Shields make a fascinating duo on the “PBS NewsHour.” Brooks, the conservative and Shields, the liberal, clash often on the issues of the day.

This week they discussed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and Kavanaugh’s eventual ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The men concluded pretty the same thing about the highest court in the land: It has become the third political branch of government. Moreover, the closeness of the committee vote — and today’s vote in the full U.S. Senate — reflects the deep, dark divide throughout the nation.

It was Brooks who put the matter into amazing perspective. He notes that the Supreme Court once was thought to be independent of political strife. The Kavanaugh debate and the anger expressed by the nominee as well as senators on both ends of the spectrum tell us that the court has become just as political as the executive and legislative branches of government.

There is no way the nation’s founders could have envisioned this happening when they established the three “co-equal branches” of government.

The judicial branch once was thought to be the last bastion of critical analysis devoid of politics. Oh, brother!

Shields took a moment to note how George W. Bush was elected president on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to stop the recount of ballots in Florida after the 2000 presidential election. Five GOP-appointed justices ruled to stop the count; four Democratic-appointed justices dissented. Thus, President Bush took office on the basis of a single justice’s vote. That’s when it began, Shields seems to suggest.

And now we have Justice Brett Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court after the most contentious, bitterly fought and divisive debate of its kind in anyone’s memory.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a changed institution. To my way of thinking, it isn’t for the better.

Trump ignites a new era of nastiness

Donald J. Trump won’t leave a warm and fuzzy presidential legacy.

I feel confident in saying so. He’ll leave office no doubt proclaiming all kinds of economic and foreign policy success.

He won’t, though, be able to declare victory in his stated pledge to “unify” the country after the contentious and bitter campaign that elected him president of the United States.

We are more divided than we’ve been in the past 50 years. More divided than Bush v. Gore and the Florida recount — and a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision — that decided the 2000 election; more than the impeachment in 1998 of President Clinton; more than the fight over the Affordable Care Act in 2010; more divided, even, than during the Vietnam War, when millions of Americans marched in protest against that conflict.

Trump took office and declared at his inaugural that the “American carnage” would end “right here and right now.” It hasn’t.

He has dragged public discourse into the gutter. He has ignited his Democratic Party foes to follow him there. Man, I regret that trend. We hear Democrats using Trump’s own words and behavior as justification for their attempts to out-shout the president and the Republicans.

Trump’s declaration that the media are the “enemy of the American people” has energized his base, which is totally fine with him.

Donald Trump is not the president of the entire nation; he speaks only to his base and speaks only in language that his base understands. They comprise something around 38 percent of all Americans. That’s enough to suit the president.

Does any of this portend a legacy that makes us proud?

Nope. Not as far as I’m concerned. I’m pretty sure a lot of other Americans feel the same way.

Trump seeks to spend political capital he doesn’t have

The nation is full of Republicans who identify closely with the Grand Old Party — and who don’t identify with the nation’s top Republican.

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has done his level best to strip the bark off the hides of leading GOP politicians. To what end remains one of the major questions of the moment.

Matthew Dowd is a true-blue Republican. He’s a Texan with close ties to former President George W. Bush. He’s also a Never Trump kind of Republican. Dowd is a seasoned political operative who knows his way around the Republican Party pea patch.

He said something quite instructive about how these two Republican presidents — Bush and Trump — sought to get their terms in office off and running.

Dowd, speaking Sunday on “ABC This Week,” talked of how President Bush was elected under shaky circumstances. He lost the popular vote in 2000 to Albert Gore Jr. and earned enough Electoral College votes through a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

What did the president do, knowing he lacked political capital? Dowd recalled how Bush reached across the aisle to work with Democrats on key legislation. He cited President Bush’s partnership with the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy on education reform. He sought out Democrats to craft an immigration reform package as well.

As Dowd noted, that’s how presidents lacking in capital seek to build on their shaky political base.

How has Trump responded? Quite the opposite. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. He won the Electoral College majority by a total of 80,000 votes in three key swing states that voted twice for Barack Obama.

Trump’s strategy has been to thumb his nose at congressional Democrats. He has sought a Republican-only legislative agenda, except that he cannot manage to bring all the members of his own party — given the wide diversity of ideology within the GOP — under the same roof.

Therein lies a critical difference between Bush and Trump.

President Bush was able to work with Democrats who ran the Texas Legislature during the years he served as Texas governor from 1995 to 2000. He knew how to legislate and he took that government experience with him to the White House in January 2001.

Donald Trump has none of that experience. Zeeero! He ran on his record as business mogul and said he would govern the country the way he ran his business empire. No … can … do, Mr. President.

Nor can the president govern a nation with a population that voted for his opponent by appealing exclusively to his core supporters.

Will the president ever learn that lesson? Uhh, probably not.

Mr. VP? Bush won, you lost in 2000

Al Gore has returned to the public arena in a big way.

He’s pitching a documentary film, a sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth.” The former vice president also has suggested something quite provocative about the 2000 election, which he lost by the narrowest margin possible to George W. Bush.

“I think I carried Florida,” Gore told Bill Maher on Maher’s TV show the other night.

Yep, Gore thinks he won the state that decided the election.

Bush won, Gore lost.

Actually, Mr. Vice President, you didn’t win it. Bush did. The former Texas governor won Florida by 537 votes, giving him enough Electoral College votes to be elected. The final electoral vote total was Bush 271, Gore 266; Bush needed 270 electoral votes to win. Game over.

Yes, we know the story about the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision that stopped the recount of ballots in Florida. The five Republican-appointed justices voted to end the count; the four Democratic appointees wanted it to continue.

Moreover, a Knight-Ridder/Miami Herald study suggested later that Bush would have won Florida by an even wider margin had the recount continued.

I’ll stipulate here that I wanted Gore to be elected president in 2000. I was dismayed that the court ruled as it did.

However, the system worked precisely as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution. Although I wanted a different outcome, I never have challenged the legitimacy of President Bush’s election.

Neither should the man he defeated.

As long as POTUS keeps talking about the election …

I’m going to presume that as long as the president of the United States insists on talking about the 2016 election that it’s OK for the rest of us to bring it up, too.

Donald Trump won. He got the requisite number of Electoral College votes he needed to take the presidential oath of office on Jan. 20. But as a story in the New York Times notes, he keeps feeling the impulsive tug to remind visitors to the White House that — by golly! — he won.

Trump get past the win

The story relates how Trump hands out cards showing the electoral map, which gave the president a reasonably comfortable margin over Hillary Clinton. He doesn’t mention to visitors, though, that Hillary won nearly 3 million more popular votes. But that’s all right; Hillary’s “victory” meant far, far less than Trump’s actual win.

The story draws an interesting comparison between Trump’s victory and the previous win by a president who collected fewer popular votes than his opponent. That would be, of course, George W. Bush in 2000.

How did President Bush deal with his skin-of-the-teeth victory? Here’s how the Times analyzed it:

“After President George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 but won the narrowest of Electoral College victories after the Supreme Court stopped a hotly disputed Florida recount, he did not publicly dwell on the way he had gotten into office.

“Instead, Mr. Bush plowed forward with his agenda and put the election behind him, rarely speaking of it again. He also made a point of reaching out to Democrats in the early days of his administration on issues like education and tax cuts to try to heal some of the wounds caused by the election, eventually winning bipartisan votes on major legislation in his first year.

“’He knew he won, but he knew many people didn’t see him as a legitimate president and needed to reach out,’ said Matthew Dowd, a senior strategist for Mr. Bush in 2000 and chief strategist for his 2004 re-election campaign. ‘But he didn’t look back in any kind of insecurity because he knew he could only control what was happening today or in the future.’”

That’s how a grownup deals with close calls. If only we had one in the White House these days.

Wedding plans prove to be, um, breathtaking

I am trying to catch my breath as I write these next few words.

Richard Ware, the high-powered Amarillo banker, is getting married this weekend. That isn’t news all by itself, except perhaps for Ware’s family and closest friends.

His fiancée, though, deserves special attention. Her name is Katherine Harris, whose name is quite familiar to the most avid political junkies.

Harris served as Florida secretary of state in 2000, when that year’s presidential election hung in the balance over the counting of ballots in the Sunshine State. Harris was the chief elections officer in Florida and she finally certified — after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s favor — that Bush would win Florida’s electoral votes.

The wedding will occur in Texas. I hear that Mr. and Mrs. Ware will live some of the time in the Lone Star State.

I’m not quite sure what to say about this. I am left to offer only that during her 15 minutes at the center of the political stage, Katherine Harris became one of the more polarizing figures in recent U.S. political history. Suffice to say she made plenty of foes as well as friends as she operated in the middle of a tremendous national political swirl.

I’m still breathless.

Trump tears at the American democratic fabric


Donald J. Trump’s refusal to agree to accept the results of the election in the event he loses — which now seems more probable than ever — raises historic concerns about where we might be headed once all the ballots are counted.

The Republican presidential nominee would not commit to accepting the outcome while responding to a question from debate moderator Chris Wallace. He’ll “look at it” when the moment comes, Trump said.

Trump is now on the cusp of losing the presidency to Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. We’ve had a long and well-established — and wisely admired — tradition in this country of losing presidential candidates accepting these results with grace and class.

Peaceful transition of presidential power begins right there.

Trump won’t promise to do that.

Oh, I can hear my friends on the right now griping about the “precedent” set in 2000 when Democratic nominee Al Gore refused to concede the election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The immediate aftermath of that vote count was swathed in tension and controversy. The results from Florida weren’t yet known. That state’s electoral votes would be decisive in determining the next president. Gore conceded, then took it back once it became evident that another authority needed to step in; that would be the U.S. Supreme Court.

Well, the court ruled 5-4 that the Florida ballot recount should stop and that Bush would finish with 537 more votes in that state than Gore. Bush won the state — and was elected president.

What did Gore do? He conceded again — for the final time — and in the process brought some humor into the event by agreeing that “this time” he wouldn’t take it back.

He offered his full support to the new president.

So, let’s get off this idiotic notion that Al Gore did what Trump might do on Election Night.

Donald Trump is hinting that he might not accept the results no matter how wide the margin. In the process, Trump is feeding a dangerous — and demonstrably false — narrative about “rigged” and “phony” election results.

Gore re-enters the political arena


Former Vice President Al Gore has returned to the partisan battles, making a campaign appearance today alongside fellow Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

His message to the crowd in Miami, Fla.? Every vote counts, he said.

He called himself “Exhibit A” in promoting “that truth.”


Yes, the vice president collected more popular votes nationally than Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the 2000 election. Yes, the recount in Florida ended with Bush tallying 537 more votes than Gore out of more than 5.8 million ballots cast in that state; then the U.S. Supreme Court — in a 5-4 decision — ordered the recount stopped. And yes, that meant Bush would be elected with 271 electoral votes, one more than he needed to become the 43rd president of the United States.

OK, but before we cheer the return of the Man Who Was Almost President, allow me to toss a bit of a wet blanket over the cheering section.

All the vice president had to do to win the election outright was to win more votes in his home state of Tennessee than Bush.

He didn’t. Gov. Bush collected more Volunteer State votes than its home boy. In fact, it wasn’t that close, as Gore lost Tennessee by about 80,000 votes.

I sympathize with Gore’s predicament, having been denied the presidency by a single vote on the highest court in America. If only he had won his home state, though.

If only …

Ryan: We’re heading for ‘divisiveness’ as a nation


Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan is partially correct when he says the nation “is becoming divisive.”

I believe we’re already there, Mr. Speaker.

It’s not a condition that has just developed overnight, or certainly during the current election cycle.

It seems to my reckoning to have its roots in the 2000 election season, when a candidate for president was elected by the narrowest margin imaginable — and under circumstances that to this day hasn’t been accepted by many millions of Americans.

George W. Bush won the presidency after the Supreme Court stopped the recounting of ballots in Florida. The Texas governor had 537 more votes than Al Gore in that state. He won that state’s electoral votes, giving him the election — even though Gore had amassed more popular votes nationally than Bush.

For the record, I’ve never doubted the legitimacy of Bush’s election as president. The constitutional system worked.

But …

The spillover through the next several elections has seen a palpable division among Americans.

The current campaign has delivered an intense ratcheting up of the division that’s been there for some time now.

I’m not a fan of the speaker, but I do applaud him for speaking to our national idealism. He clearly was taking dead aim at the tone being delivered on the campaign trail by Donald J. Trump, who he didn’t mention by name. Everyone in the congressional conference room who heard Ryan knew of whom he was speaking.

As Politico described Ryan’s remarks: “He decried identity politics, criticizing those who pit groups of Americans against each other. He said the nation’s political system doesn’t need to be this bad. He accused both parties of staying comfortably in their corners, only talking to those who agree with them.”

Ain’t that the truth?

There once was a time when members of Congress — from both parties — talked openly with each other about how to legislate for the good of their states or the country. The Texas congressional delegation was known to have bipartisan breakfasts weekly, with House members breaking bread with each other and talking about issues that needed attention.

It doesn’t happen these days.

Instead, we’re seeing and hearing candidates and their rhetoric demonizing “the other side.” The No. 1 instigator of this campaign-trail anger is the GOP’s leading presidential candidate — Trump.

Ryan’s message will not resonate with the segment of the population that has bought into the Us vs. Them mantra that Trump and others are promoting. Ryan is now seen as a member of the hated “establishment.”

Ryan said: “What really bothers me the most about politics these days is this notion of identity politics. That we’re going to win election by dividing people. That we’re going to win by talking to people in ways that divide them and separate them from other people. Rather than inspiring people on our common humanity, on our common ideals, on our common culture, on things that should unify us.”

Is his message too sunny, too optimistic, too idealistic?

For the sake of our political future, I hope not.