I'm at the point in State of Denial where Woodward talks about the 2004 election. It's a riveting read, in part because I remember that election more strongly then any prior political experience save back for when I worked for Congress. It kills me. It just does.
So as you know, the Kerry campaign was planning on challenging the election. I even recall him doing so, for a couple of hours. They had a couple of good reasons: The first being that several hundred thousand provisional ballots hadn't been counted. According to election law, as I understand it through Woodward's analysis, if it's a close election the provisional ballots should be counted. I do not know if they have to be counted in such an event. Merely that it is an option. The second reason was the vast voting irregularities we all remember hearing. Lines of hundreds of people in Democratic districts waiting in the cold to vote. Many of them not getting their chance. We all thought, that even if the election didn't turn out the way we'd hoped--at least those concerns would be redressed. If I had to stand out in the cold or rain for six or eight hours, I'd be pissed. I don't frankly know what I would have done--maybe start a revolution.
Here's the kicker and this is what caused the "renewed outrage." 1) In the White House, things were tense, a huge discussion between Dan Bartlett, Bush and Rove among other's including Mary Matalin. In that discussion, the question was whether or not to "declare an early victory." And attempt to preempt the electoral mess that would result. Jim Frances, who'd run Bush's campaigns in Texas, wanted the speech--thinking that they wanted to get the numbers out there. Start winning hearts and minds and all that rot. Their reasoning at the time was this: Bush was ahead by 140,000 votes or so. There were only 250,000 provisional votes. Kerry would have to get most of them to win. It seemed a sure thing. But if Kerry contested, that would bring the whole thing to a standstill, and Bush would be embroiled in yet another legal battle with every lawyer in DC. The fighter in Bush agreed with Francis' assessment. Dan Bartlett and Steve Hadley, used everything in their personal arsenal to fight that. Bartlett, who later confirmed this as his finest moment said, "You cannot go out there and put the crown on your own head. You just cannot do it." How telling. How fucking fucked up is that? Goddamn! Someone actually had to tell these people that? As a piece of strategy, I can certainly understand Francis' point--preempting the facts with false facts--changes things. It persuades people, and in effect, changes facts. But that the word crown was used as a metaphor--absolutely horrifying, and absolutely unsurprising.
First off, the whole lawyer thing. People love to hate 'em. And I agree, you can hate the process, to some extent. But people forget. It's there for the redress of grievances. Fergawdsakes! Spurn the advances of your own lawyers sure, but ignore them and you have no legal standing whatsover!
The second thing, is what Woodward reports about Kerry's decision. His decision, which the candidate recounted as the only truly "presidential" moment he got to face, was to back off and accede. He saw the ballot problem. And he considered going out to Ohio, camping out with the disenfranchised voters. What happened?
Well as I understand, it was some hazerai about gentlemanly conceding. Doing the Right Thing. Not leaving the nation without a president during the midst of an occupation dubbed War. What a shitshow. Kerry can feel all grand about it if he likes, but his concession robbed thousands of Ohio voters of their rights. That isn't the Right Thing. Why am I writing this now? Why rehash it? Because there's this notion in America that if we don't have a "leader" the country will collapse in rebellion, every state will secede, there will be vicious mobs roaming the streets, "cat's and dogs living together...mass hysteria" thank you Dr. Venkman. It's totally ridiculous. Many of us knew then that the president wasn't providing any real leadership in Iraq (or anywhere else). Does it take time for a bureacracy to change over? At the top levels, yes, but it's not like the people at the post office were going to throw off their shackles and revolt. This whole notion that Democrat leaders have that they have to choose for the good of the country, choose solidarity. Fuck that! He chose, and it cost America 4 more years of it's verifiably worst leader in 200 odd years of history.