Tag Archives: 2000 election

Tough to bid farewell to icons

Americans have had a busy year bidding farewell to iconic public figures.

We’ve just bid adieu to our nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who in just a few days will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Barbara, and their first-born child, who died at age 3.

We have given President Bush the kind of sendoff he deserves, but which reportedly he would have disliked intensely. His son, Neil, noted that “Dad” would be embarrassed by “all the nice things people have said about him.” Nice things?

Good, gracious. Those “nice things” do not even begin to do justice to the service Bush 41 gave to the nation he cherished. It has been well-chronicled certainly since his death this past Friday at age 94. It was well-known already.

I have declared my belief on numerous occasions that Bush 41 was arguably the most qualified man ever to hold the office of president. As I have listened to the tributes, that belief has been shored up.

As for his wife, “Bar,” she left us in the spring. She and George H.W. Bush shared a 73-year marriage that produced six children. Five of them grew to adulthood, with their first child, Robin, dying as a toddler of leukemia.

Barbara Bush didn’t aspire to pursue a career other than being a homemaker and devoted spouse to a great man. She, however, achieved greatness, too, as first lady. She promoted literacy and always, without fail, carried herself with dignity and grace.

The tributes paid to the former first lady served as well to remind us that love truly does conquer all.

As for the third icon, he ventured to the gates of hell and returned to build a political life devoted to serving his nation.

John McCain died in August of brain cancer. He served for three decades as a U.S. senator from Arizona. And, yes, he was a bona fide, true-blue war hero. He was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War, taken captive and held as a POW for more than five years.

Donald J. Trump sought to disparage McCain’s war service by denigrating his hero status, how he was a “hero only because he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured.” That despicable utterance stands as a testament to the complete absence of character from the man who uttered it.

McCain would serve in the House and then the Senate with distinction. He rose to the level of icon during his years in Congress. His years as a POW elevated his profile immediately upon being elected to Congress.

He ran twice for president, losing the Republican nomination in 2000 to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then losing the 2008 election to Sen. Barack H. Obama.

All three of these individuals sought in their ways to achieve a “more perfect Union.” They are worthy of every single ounce of tribute they have received.

POTUS undermines, denigrates our electoral system

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.

Sad.

‘Florida, Florida, Florida’ … again!

The late, great broadcast journalist Tim Russert famously held up a white board in 2000 printed with “Florida, Florida, Florida,” meaning that Florida likely would determine the outcome of that year’s presidential race between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.

Boy, howdy! Did it ever!

Here we are. Eighteen years later and Florida has returned to the center of the political stage for all the wrong reasons.

They cannot get the ballots counted properly in Broward County or in Palm Beach County. Two races, one for governor and one for U.S. senator, hang in the balance. The Republicans are leading at the moment: Ron DeSantis for governor and Rick Scott for senator.

Donald Trump, along with Scott, are alleging voter fraud. Trump accuses Democrats of trying to “steal” the election from the GOP.

Hold on here!

They need to count all the ballots. Then we can determine the winners of those key races.

But after that? It seems Florida has a serious, extremely troubling history that needs to be corrected. It seems that these voting irregularities are occurring with far too much frequency in the Sunshine State.

Why in the world does this keep happening in Florida? Why can’t the good folks there conduct an election without this kind of kerfuffle?

Texas has more voters than Florida. So does California. Do we hear of this kind of thing happening in those two bigger states? No! It’s Florida, always Florida, time and again.

I am not prepared to declare there to be fraud taking place. I am sitting far away in Collin County, Texas. I do, though, remain troubled that this kind of mess keeps recurring.

We all ought to value our democratic process too much to stand for such scandalous conduct of this vastly important constitutional exercise.

‘Florida’ becomes new synonym for election incompetence

Move over, Texas. You — I mean “we” — are being replaced as the butt of jokes related to election incompetence and possible corruption.

There once was a time when Texas was known for dead people casting ballots in, say, tiny Duval County in the southern part of the state. It was thought that the cadaver vote vaulted Lyndon Baines Johnson into Congress.

As a transplant who moved to Texas more than three decades ago, I am not proud of the state’s former reputation as a cesspool for political corruption. In that regard, I feel sorry for the conscientious Floridians who now are living with the same level of skepticism.

Broward County, Fla., is in the news again. It isn’t good.

Trouble looms for 2020

They’re trying to determine the winner of two red-hot races in Florida: the campaign for governor and for U.S. Senate. The attention focuses on Broward County, home to around 2 million residents. Thus, they cast a lot of votes in that south Florida county.

They can’t seem to get ’em counted. There might be an automatic recount. Or maybe it’ll be a manual recount.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott holds a narrow lead over U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — at the moment! GOP U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is barely ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Scott and DeSantis have (more or less) declared victory. Nelson and Gillum aren’t conceding. They’re waiting … and waiting … and waiting for all the ballots to be counted.

Of course, this is far from the first time Florida has been at the epicenter of questionable electoral issues. You remember the 2000 presidential election, yes? It came down to an aborted recount of the contest between Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Albert Gore Jr. The winner would rake in the state’s Electoral College votes and win the presidency. The U.S. Supreme Court ended up ordering the vote count stopped and when it did, Gov. Bush had 537 more votes — out of more than 5.8 million ballots cast — than Vice President Gore. The court ruling came on a 5-4 vote; the five GOP appointed justices voted to stop the count, with the four Democratic appointed justices dissenting.

Well, the rest — as they say — is history.

This resident of Texas is glad to have my state kicked off the (alleged) voter fraud pedestal.

As a patriotic American, though, I do hope that our fellow Americans in Florida can cure what ails that state’s electoral process. Our political process needs to be free of this kind of turmoil.

I just pray the Russians aren’t involved.

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.