Just when I'm starting to think the Republicans might â¦might have the better part of the argument about whether or not improperly filed absentee ballots ought to be tossed out in Seminole and Martin counties, well, along comes Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee. I don't know what else to say but that Nicholson is just a snarling and ferocious character. And his constant effort to paste a smile over his nasty outbursts just gives him an even more menacing appearance.
Okay, enough ranting about Jim Nicholson. Back to my point.
Republicans and the New York Times editorial page have a good point arguing that it's unseemly for Gore to possibly be benefiting from throwing out thousands of absentee ballots of voters who committed no intentional fraud. It certainly gives me pause.
Nicholson is on MSNBC at roughly 9:20 PM on Wednesday night. He's debating Ed Rendell, chairman of the DNC. Rendell offers to Nicholson that the Dems will drop every lawsuit to every ballot if the Republicans will agree to a hand recount of the ballots in every county in Florida - especially of course those choice ballots in Miami-Dade. Nicholson responds that there's no reason to recount those votes, the much-mentioned 'undervotes,' because those are ballots of people who intentionally did not cast a vote for president. And then he tosses in that Democrats just can't wait to disenfranchise Bush voters - and, in a gratuitous flourish, that they especially want to disenfranchise military voters.
So here you have the rub. Everyone who is even remotely honest concedes that the bulk of those undervotes in Miami-Dade and other counties are from people who tried to vote. Maybe they didn't vote correctly. Maybe their intentions are unrecoverable. But no one seriously thinks all those people went to the polls and intentionally didn't vote for a candidate in the race that most everybody cared most about.
So you have Jim Nicholson making an assertion that is transparent and deceitful crap. And tossing in a few slurs for good measure.
What this really comes down is that folks like Jim Nicholson can lie in transparently ridiculous ways and in so doing attempt to exclude numerous ballots. But if Democrats - or private citizens trying to help them - try to knock out illegally cast ballots they're unprincipled slime. Democrats, it seems, have to play by Marquis of Queensbury rules, while no rules appear to apply to Republicans.
Democrats believe that they would win the election if all the votes were counted. And they have good reason to think this is so. If this is the case how wrong is it to knock out votes if in so doing you'd arrive at the outcome that a full tabulation of the votes would show? Or to put it another way, is it possible to steal your own car?
Is this really an unfair way of looking at it?
I'm anything but oblivious to the morally suspect nature of this sort of reasoning. But I put it forth to show the difficulty of contesting an election under rules which the other side seems uninterested in following.
So what to do?
If it were legally feasible to make such a deal (and I'm quite sure it's not) the ethical use of the Seminole and Martin ballots would be to do the following: get the ballots excluded by legal process. Then go to the Republicans and say 'fine, you wanna play that way. Then we win. But if you'll agree to a hand recount in every county in the state then we'll withdraw out objections to these ballots. And we'll live by the outcome of those hand recounts without recourse to tossing out those absentee ballots. Take your choice.'
Possible? Of course not.
P.S. If, in the course of the Seminole and Martin county trials, it turns out that Republicans were extended the opportunity to correct their ballots while Democrats were not, well â¦ then all bets are off. I say throw 'em out.
P.P.S. Watching how worked up Nicholson just got I'm almost tempted to think the Dems might still have a chance at this. Almost.