Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

President-SElect George W. Bush
Wednesday, January 24, 2001

This is being sent out just after the inauguration of George W. Bush as the next president of the USA. Up until his inauguration, Bush was universally referred to as the "president-elect." As pointed out by a woman on the Lehrer NewsHour on PBS, however, that is a misnomer; he is, rather, the "president-select"!

I feel that the Inaugural Committee proved to be a bunch of ingrates, for Ralph Nader deserved a place of honor during the swearing-in ceremony but he was not even present.

Throughout his campaign, Bush kept parroting that he is "a uniter, not a divider". In a sense he is right; his Cabinet choices prove that he reconciling the radical Right with the rest of his Party. And the media is actually trying to help him- except for the odd investigative reporter and national columnist.

When the Linda Chavez story broke, Bush appeared on television to defend her. Once she withdrew, however, the media drew attention away from him by blasting away at her for not having been "straightforward" with the selection committee. As if Chavez is not astute enough to have remembered what happened to Zoe Baird, the woman who had been Bill Clinton's first choice for Attorney General.

Other than the token Democrat, Mineta, who will be confirmed as Secretary of Transportation, Bush picked what are, in effect, foxes to guard the hen house. John Ashcroft will become, after a hard fight, the Attorney General despite his record as a bigot, character assassin and radical Rightist; despite running as an incumbent Senator, he was defeated by a dead man. Gale Norton, meanwhile, brings to her proposed chair as Secretary of the Interior a record of favoring protection of the environment through self-policing by polluting sources rather than government regulation.

It has been reported that Bush's handlers spent over a hundred million dollars to buy him, first the nomination and then the presidency. And even then they had to depend on Nader plus what amounted to a bloodless coup d'etat in Florida, aided by prejudicial U.S. Supreme Court justices, to capture the White House.

That hundred million dollars was not accumulated from five and ten dollar bills mailed in; big money was involved. And it is not in the nature of most Americans with big money (except for those who set up foundations for charitable, educational and other benefactions) to write big checks for any politician without a self-serving purpose. They were backing two oil men they knew they could depend on.

Elly Margolis
Hayward, CA

Richard E. Berg-Andersson responds on behalf of TheGreenPapers.com:

I will only take this opportunity to make a few comments regarding the arguments I lately hear- on the part of Gore supporters- relative to their perceiving a lack of "legitimacy" for the Bush II Administration. Without beating a dead horse (very dead, considering that the White House keys have already been turned over to the new President)- that is, without attempting to reiterate my argument re: how this past presidential election, given its circumstances, could have only been decided by what author Robert A. Burt calls an "authoritarian imposition" (see my 13 December 2000 Commentary, "OUT OF DIVISION, DECISION")- let me only quote from my response to a subsequent "Vox Populi" from one David Jones, where I noted that "ANY authoritative decision at ANY level in this case (as it would be in any intractable political/legal situation) was, by definition, something of a blow to the theory of self-government in any event". Had former Vice President Al Gore somehow been elected in President Bush's stead, a lack of "legitimacy" for a GORE Administration would have also been decried- only the cast of decriers would have been different.

Historians will long debate the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida; presumably, after enough time has passed (and historians as yet unborn become leaders in their field), the Florida election debacle will be parsed in an academic and scientific a manner- that is, in a way much like that in which those historians who find interest in the subject continue to examine the Disputed Election of 1876. They, not anyone who lived through Election 2000, will be the arbiters of what actually happened in Florida this past November and December; therefore, I am not now going to get into issues of who stole what from which candidate in the Sunshine State: nor am I going to here opine upon how politically motivated the United States Supreme Court might or might not have been in the manner of its ultimately handing down its two rulings in the case of Bush v. Gore.

I will only note that, had the United States Supreme Court done absolutely nothing- that is, had they thrown up their hands and said, in effect, "this is a State matter which we dare not touch"- George W. Bush still would have been elected the 43rd President of the United States through the device of 25 Electoral Votes from Florida being counted for him before the tabulation Joint Session of this past 6 January. To quote from my parenthetical in that same "Vox Populi" response from which I quoted earlier: "one presumes that, had the Florida Supreme Court had the final word, this would only have been because the U.S. Supreme Court would not have found reasons to get involved themselves and that, had the Florida Legislature picked Bush Electors on their own, Congress clearly would have, if only because of the Political Party lineup in the new 107th Congress, acquiesced: thus, these differing State decisions- had either of them, in the end, been definitive- would not have been checked any more than the U.S. Supreme Court itself could be." For the simple, mathematical fact remains that former Vice President Gore could not have won this election once the dispute over its outcome had reached the Federal level; the only differences between events as they actually transpired and those that might have been would have been that Congress, and not the U.S. Supreme Court, would have been the final arbiter (as, in my opinion, the U.S. Constitution- supplemented by Title 3, Chapter 1 of the United States Code- intended) and Al Gore would have, thus, been left to give his concession speech 2 1/2 weeks later than he actually did.

Once Congress had accepted Florida's having cast its 25 Electoral Votes for George W. Bush on 6 January, Bush was constitutionally (no matter what the circumstances leading to this result) President-elect: legally eligible to take the oath of that High Office two weeks later. Whatever the illegitimacy of various and sundry vote-counting, political and legal activities in Florida and, later, Washington, D.C. beginning with the 7 November balloting in that State itself, once George W. Bush was given the imprimatur of Congress in this most recent tabulation Joint Session (regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court did or did not do), he was- by authority of the Constitution of the United States itself, as well as laws passed by Congress long ago under its umbrella- legitimate, for that very word comes directly from the Latin (OK-- technically, "Middle Latin") word "legitimatus"- meaning, simply, "to make lawful".

To those of you Gore supporters reading this who strongly believe that President Bush's campaign stole this last election on his behalf in Florida, I have to point out to you the fact that- no matter how unlawful you yourselves believe the Florida results to have been- the acceptance of those ballots cast by Bush Electors from that State in this most recent tabulation Joint Session of the 107th Congress truly "made" what you-all believe to be unlawful "lawful": in (Middle) Latin, "legitimatus"- hence, legitimate. Bush partisans believe, as strongly as Gore supporters believe otherwise, that Al Gore- not George W. Bush- was the villain in this piece: that it was the former Vice President's campaign that was attempting to steal the election on HIS behalf, that actions taken by Democratic partisans in Florida were the unlawful ones. Nevertheless, had Congress accepted the ballots cast by a slate of 25 GORE Electors from that State on 6 January- and thus were we at present referring to the Tennessean as "President Gore"- Gore's election would have been no less legitimate than Bush's, and for the exact same reasons!

In the end, Congress IS the ultimate umpire when it comes to Presidential Elections: this fact remains- the controversial rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court this past December did nothing to change that one iota; not a single line of Title 3, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code was altered by those particular decisions of the Nation's highest court! More importantly to the point, not a single Democrat in the Senate even objected to the counting of Florida's Electoral Vote in 6 January's tabulation Joint Session of this current Congress- NOT ONE!! Moreover, while much was made of the objections raised from the House side (unsuccessfully, for they- thereby- did not have the concurrence of at least one Senator, as required by Title 3 of the U.S. Code)- primarily by members of the Congressional Black Caucus- a supermajority of House Democrats also remained silent. I have recently posted a Commentary on the three main proposals for Electoral College reform on this web site ("TO THE SPOILS GOES THE VICTOR", 23 January 2001): in ALL cases where Congress would have been called upon to settle a presidential election dispute under two of those reform proposals I have outlined therein had they been adopted as a Constitutional Amendment, it would have been settled by a similar Joint Session of Congress with the Senators and Congressmen therein voting for President as individuals; it is very clear that, had the 6 January 2001 Joint Session been voting as individuals, George W. Bush would have quite easily won a sweeping majority of that body!

Had the U.S. Supreme Court not acted as they did (letting the Florida Supreme Court's order for a statewide recount stand: assuming the recounts showed Gore to be the victor in Florida, thus forcing the Florida Supreme Court to order a slate of 25 Gore Electors to be "appointed", the Florida Legislature would have already- by that time- chosen 25 Bush electors and we would have had two slates of Florida Electors- along with two differing sets of election returns from that State- "transmitted" to Congress), the result would have been exactly the same as had at least one Senator joined the objections raised against the counting of Florida's Electoral Vote by Congress under the actual circumstances as they stood back on 6 January. In BOTH cases, the two houses would have immediately separated from the tabulation Joint Session to debate and vote on any objections raised to the counting of Florida's Electoral Vote and, while the House of Representatives would have voted along Party lines to count the Bush Electors from Florida, the Senate would have split 50-50 along Party lines- leaving then-still-Vice President Gore himself to break the tie: if he voted for the Florida Electors supporting his own candidacy, the two houses would "not have concurred" under Title 3, Chapter 1 of the U.S. Code and, therefore- and by law, no less [!], Bush's Electors from Florida would have been counted once the Joint Session resumed thereafter; if Al Gore, instead, were to have decided that this was the perfect time to show statesmanship and magnanimity, he might even have voted to have the Bush Electors counted in any event!! Either way (that is, regardless of how Al Gore would have broken the tie in the Senate), George W. Bush would still have become our Nation's 43rd President and- from a constitutional perspective- would, thus, have established his legitimacy to exercise the powers and duties of that High Office.

In the long run, it matters little whether President Bush was, prior to noontime on 20 January, President-elect OR "President-SElect": according to the Constitution of the United States and Federal statutes enacted thereunder, George W. Bush is- as I type this- legally President of the United States. If Al Gore WAS, indeed, cheated out of his due election as President, he was as much cheated by the draft of the Framers combined with more-than-century old Acts of Congress as anything else; and, if that is- indeed- the nub of a problem, the solution is to now fix things so this doesn't ever happen again. Scoring President Bush's "legitimacy" does absolutely nothing to achieve this!

One last comment regarding the effect in this past election of the recent presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader: I have heard many Gore supporters grumbling- where not whining- about how many votes Nader took from their champion: that is, how Nader had "cost" Al Gore the election. Many further score Nader for refusing to drop out of the race for President or, even absent such a withdrawal, for campaigning in areas where Nader was potentially competitive with Gore- thereby "forcing" liberals who went to the polls to choose between Nader and Gore: enticing, I suppose the term would be, liberals away from the former Vice President.

My own answer to all this is "take it easy on Mr. Nader"! This is, after all, America- "land of the Free". Freedom includes the freedom to seek public office- even High Office. If a Ralph Nader or a Harry Browne, or a Pat Buchanan, or a John Hagelin, or a Howard Phillips- or anyone else, for that matter- can put together a slate of potential Presidential Electors in a given State and gain ballot access in that State, more power to 'em!: they have the inherent right to ask for the votes of ordinary- small 'e'- electors (meaning "registered voters") in that State for their own candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

No one held guns to the heads- at least as far as I know!- of the people who ended up voting for Ralph Nader (or, absent some confusion involving so-called "butterfly ballots" in a certain nameless Florida county, any other Third Party or Independent candidate) in this most recent election; those who so voted were perfectly free to do so (or- had they so chose- to vote for someone else, or not vote for President at all, or stay home and not even bother to show up at the polls). Nader voters, too, had the inherent right to choose Nader over Gore.

The person who cost Al Gore this most recent election was, just for everyone's information, a guy named Al Gore. If people voted for Nader instead of Gore, that is surely not Nader's fault- one has to ask the obvious question as to why a constituency that, but for Nader's candidacy, would have naturally gone to Gore didn't vote for the former Vice President anyway. One of the answers has to be the fact that many liberals are currently alienated from the current mainstream Democratic Party: these liberals saw, for example, Democrat vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman- not as a so-called "New Democrat"- but as a closet Republican who just happens to have a "D" just before the "-Conn." in the parenthesis after his name on the list of sitting United States Senators, a "D" that- to them- might as well have been a mere typographical error! Many of these liberals voted for Nader instead.

I won't go any further on the issue of the alienation among many voters- regardless of ideology- caused by the antics of the Democratic and Republican Parties as institutions, for that may yet be the subject of a later Commentary of mine for this site (we'll see!). I will, however, here merely repeat some of what I wrote earlier in this very response: "not a single Democrat in the Senate even objected to the counting of Florida's Electoral Vote in 6 January's tabulation Joint Session of this current Congress- NOT ONE!!"... "a supermajority of House Democrats also remained silent". Most of those most upset over what they- rightly or wrongly- perceive as the unlawful circumstances behind the Bush victory in Florida were from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party; those of you reading this who are Gore supporters (whether of this wing or not) should think long and hard about what message this inaction by Senate Democrats and most House Democrats sent to that liberal wing of that Party- then you yourselves might have a much better idea as to why Nader got the votes he did from those who might have otherwise voted for the former Vice President. Don't expect me to hold my breath, however, waiting for you-all to get the right answers!

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