The ghosts of 2000 haunt the polling places of Florida and Ohio these nights, and their pals in other states are stirring. On Friday evening, a Pentagon source -- calling more to vent frustration than anything else -- informed me that a platoons of Kerrythugs were using verbal abuse and physical force to prevent likely Republican voters from getting into polling places in Florida, and that Republicans weren't doing a damned thing to stop it. It seems that if you have a Bush bumper sticker on your car, or a "W" pin in your lapel, you will find all parking spaces blocked and may even find doors barricaded by punks.
The report, as I expected given this source's track record, was comprehensively correct. It seems that Ms. Glenda Hood, Flori-duh's Secretary of State, decided some time ago that the state could forego the usual Election Day protection of polling places during the weeks "early voting" was taking place. As a result, there are dozens of reports of voter intimidation, electioneering at the polling places, and nothing is being done to protect the likely Republican voters.
I suggested to a political pal of mine that she check in with W's campaign and ask, in more polite terms than I was likely to, just why the *^#! they weren't doing something about this. As of Friday night the Bush campaign had petitioned Ms. Hood (before I dialed in) to reverse herself and provide poll protection. The campaign plans to sue if the decision neglecting protection isn't promptly reversed. Ms. Hood's track record was, to this point, pretty mixed. She decided to keep Ralph Nader on the ballot despite Democrats' efforts to exclude him. But she also decided to scrap, rather than fix, the problematic list of felons whose votes are illegal under Florida law when the current list failed to include many Hispanics. But this question is too important for its solution to be delayed: the polls, and all the voters, have to be protected. If Hood acts immediately to reverse her earlier decision and protect voters and polling places, we should all sing her praises. If she doesn't, she should be fired. Today.
Dear Ms. Hood: Would you like to be remembered as the lady who gave John Kerry the White House? Or would you prefer to wake up, smell the coffee, and do your job? While you're at it, Ms. Hood, you can tell us precisely what you're doing to prevent double voting by the dual-registered New York/Flori-duh voters. One report says there are as many as 50,000 of them. Remember that W won Florida in 2000 by about 537 votes. And what steps are you taking to ensure that military absentee ballots aren't disallowed as too many were in 2000? (Note to JEB: give her two hours to decide to protect the polls and issue orders to start getting it done. If she doesn't perform within the two hours, fire her and put her deputy in charge with another two-hour deadline. You'll not run out of people to appoint to that job before you get someone to act.)
It's just as bad in Ohio, or it was until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a lower court's decision. That decision blocked an effort to make voters (oh, the outrage!) actually vote in their own precincts. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (who JEB might recruit to fill Ms. Hood's -- I hope -- soon-to-be vacant post) issued a directive to disallow "provisional" ballots voted in precincts other than the one the voter is registered in. The Dems, of course, sued and won. Now, even with the Sixth Circuit decision, Ohio may be lost in recounts and audits for months, trying to separate those ballots that should be allowed from those that shouldn't. Don't bother to stay up late on November 2. You can watch 'till dawn, but you won't see the final result for weeks thereafter.
ALL THIS IS, OF COURSE, because of Mr. Kerry's election night plans. Mr. Kerry plans to avoid the recount problems Algore fell into by the simple expedient of declaring himself the victor, even if he has lost and if one or more states whose electoral votes could change the result are still up for grabs in the courts. In this coup-d'avocat, Kerry plans to start naming his cabinet, and wait for the courts to deliver the White House to him. A guy named Jefferson Davis tried something like this a while ago, but he at least had the good grace to resign from the Senate before forming his government. I wish Kerry the same luck Jeff Davis had.
Luck will figure prominently in the terrorists' ability to prevent Mr. Bush's re-election. They will try in Iraq, and perhaps here as well. The upsurge in violence in Iraq continues. About 40 bodies of executed Iraqi policemen were found near Baquba on Saturday, and the attacks on American troops will continue. Our planned strikes against the insurgents' strongholds in Falluja could come earlier than expected, and may quiet the situation considerably. The decision to launch an all-out assault against Falluja was mistakenly put off in March and April when the Marine general in command of the force surrounding the city decided to rely on locals to restore order. They didn't, and the ground we paid for with lives was given back to the terrorists. This time, Mr. Bush's decision (and whether he makes it or the local commander does, it's still the President's decision) should be based on the military judgment of whether the time is right to decisively defeat the insurgents, and without reference to the election. If the time to do it is now, let's do it and let the political chips fall where they may.
At home, and outside the war zone abroad, we may yet see a terrorist attack against American civilians. Terrorists have managed to put enormous pressure on Britain's Blair government by the simple expedient of taking a few civilians hostage, and murdering them brutally. That won't work against Mr. Bush. The bad guys have to come up with something far larger and more devastating to affect things here. Their model is Spain.
As Richard Miniter explains in his new book, Shadow War (Regnery), the 3/11 Madrid train bombings -- just four days before the Spanish national election -- were timed perfectly. There was just enough time for the news media to turn the Aznar government's error in saying the Basque ETA terrorists were responsible into condemnations of incompetence and coverup. The Spanish people collapsed in fear, throwing out Aznar in favor of the appeaser Zapatero.
To attempt this in America, there would have to be a major terrorist attack here at least four or five days before the election, to allow for the initial outrage to be manipulated into anger at W. Such an attack is clearly possible, even likely. But Americans won't cave like the Spanish did. If we are attacked, W won't stand by rubbing his knuckles in indecision. He won't go to the U.N. He will strike at whoever is likely to have been responsible, and America will rally around him. Unless there is an attack of such magnitude as we cannot now make ourselves believe will happen -- a nuclear attack on a major city -- the effect here will not be what it was in Spain. Terrorists may even try to disrupt voting or the ballot-counting, but it's hard to see how they could do that in enough places to affect anything.
If you think we are overheated about the election you're right. But what's going on here pales in comparison to what people are saying in Europe and the UK. One Charlie Brooker -- writing for the terminally liberal Guardian newspaper -- said in his most recent column that a Bush win would disprove the existence of God once and for all. Brooker ended with the plaintive cry, "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Jr. -- where are you now that we need you?" Brooker thus joins with OBL, Ayatollah Khamenei and the rest of the terrorists who dream of making a Kerry win a sure thing by the simple expedient of assassinating Mr. Bush. The Justice Department should put Brooker, and his editors, on the Terrorist Watch List. The least we can do is keep cretins such as them out of the country.
TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).
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