Something's rotten in the state of Denmark

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

NY Observer to Kerry: GET OFF YOUR ASS

Well, now we've made it to the beautiful pink newsprint of the New York Observer. If only this blog were not anonymous; as we're coming to New York this weekend for a wedding, we could maybe have parlayed the Ron Rosenbaum namedrop into better dinner reservations. (Though rest assured, Claudius' stepson also enjoys his fair share of Steak and Shake when driving through Bloomington.) We thank Ron for the hype, which we guarantee will only further encourage us to post, thus distracting us from our day job and a Tuesday deadline.

For the record, unlike Rosenbaum, your liege Hamlet forgives Kerry's decision to concede given what information Kerry had at the time. The Kerry Edwards team looked at the number of provisional ballots outstanding, and they looked at the number of votes Bush was ahead. Kerry would have had to have won more than 90% of the provisional ballots, and the provisional ballots would have to have all been accepted. This was possible, but unlikely. Very, very unlikely. (The large number of stories about irregularities, the Warren County lockdown, the Franklin County glitch -- none of that had emerged by midday Wednesday.)

I think that, had the stories of irregularities emerged earlier, the concession would have been put on hold, the same way it was held off until Wednesday to assess the numbers. I also know from inside sources, cough cough, that if the recount in Ohio turns anything up, that concession could easily be retracted. (It ain't legally binding, folks. Just imagine the speech: "Knowing now what we did not know then," but with some more awesome Shrumanian pizzaz about mountaintops and sunrises. Yes, I admit, some days, these are the daydreams that get me up in the morning to blog to you from two 50 watt towers in the middle of the Mojave.)

Once you get past Rosenbaum's anti-Kerry bile (there's a couple of milkbuckets' worth), he makes good points, and is, after all, bringing it into a publication with a very different readership than Truthout or DemocracyNow. Rosenbaum is bringing the message to the Conde Nast set, as well as the people who keep writing checks to let Mark Green run for various offices. Yes, not mainstream America; but yet, people who have key hands in mainstream media. A little different from the Counterpunch/Pacifica crew.

I know—you don’t have to tell me—that most of the wildest C.I.A./Diebold/Rove/Master Hacker conspiracy theories of this election have been debunked, as has much of the alleged "evidence" on which they’re based. Farhad Manjoo, a Kerry partisan, did an important service in his Salon piece on Nov. 10, in which he cast doubt on some of the more paranoid theories, as have others on the "reality-based" left. But not all doubts have been resolved, certainly not in Ohio, where the provisional votes haven’t even been counted as I write this, where the Libertarian and the Green parties may succeed in getting the entire vote recounted—and in places beyond Ohio as well. (For what Slate’s Mickey Kaus calls "a non-crazy" voting-irregularity Web site, go to

I want to separate what I’m talking about here (mainly Mr. Kerry’s cave-in on Ohio) from fringe Internet conspiracy theories. What I am saying is that Mr. Kerry’s craven failure that morning to call for a scrupulous count in Ohio—which decided the election regardless of Bush’s popular-vote margin—was a stupid, paranoia-generating move.

In Ohio, where a switch of some 68,000 votes could have changed the name of the next President, the count deserved maximum scrutiny. Especially when the combination of allegedly "spoiled" invalid ballots (93,000) and the number of "provisional" ballots (155,000)—whose examination and tallying is still underway as I write—could have made a substantial dent in the 135,000-vote Bush margin. I think it’s unlikely it would have changed the result but, when we’re told the entire American polity is about to undergo a tectonic shift because of a margin that small, we ought to know exactly what that margin was. And if that means recounts and litigation, so be it.

Mr. Kerry’s failure to aggressively pursue the counting and recounting at the outset—that morning, when the evidence was fresh on the ground—has made it virtually impossible to know the vote with the exactitude we deserve. Especially if the Democratic Party is going to change its principles on the basis of 68,000 votes in Ohio. If we’re going to accede to discarding the constitutional separation of church and state, I’d like to know the exact count that mandates it, please.

Harsh on Kerry? Maybe just a wee bit, hmm? But he's holding Kerry's feet to the fire, as well he should. The more outrage over Ohio, the more likely that Kerry will step back in, and say not so fast, if the provisional ballot count cuts the margin severely down or the Glibs' recount starts to raise some suspicious eyebrows.

Rosenbaum mentions MSNBC's coverage, the On the Media piece, the NY Times editorial. All calling for a scrupulous count in Ohio. "No, it’s not Florida 2000 close in Ohio, but it’s close. And in the light of reports of some irregularities and malfunctions already exposed there, don’t we all deserve—both Bush and Kerry supporters—a respite from the allegations of an illegitimate Presidency that are now sweeping through cyberspace? For the sake of history, for the sake of maximum clarity and rationality in our political culture, we deserve the most exacting count possible, even if that means (horror of horrors) litigation." Here, here!

This graph made me smile. Rosenbaum ain't holding back:
On Mr. Olbermann’s MSNBC show, he asked Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter why reporters haven’t been looking into the reality on the ground in Ohio. Mr. Alter said, in effect, that he thought reporters preferred the outcome to be decisive that morning so they wouldn’t have to cancel their post-election vacation plans. Another great moment in journalism! (Mr. Alter added that he thought when they came back from vacation, "you’ll see" reporters looking more closely into the situation.) Then the Times editorial debunked the paper’s own earlier tendentious debunking (the one that branded just about all election complaints as "conspiracy theories").

Rosenbaum then mentions the Daily Kos' prediction that if "the provisional votes narrow the gap to a point where fraud could’ve cost us the election (say 30,000 votes) the Democrats and Kerry will fight."

I'll echo that. 30,000 is very different from 130,000. I have not talked explicitly about this with My Big Campaign Connection for a week, but I would think that if the provisional ballots make this big an impact -- you might see more than just tacit, quiet support from the Kerry crew for the Greens and Libs-lead recount in Ohio.

And yes, rather than yielding to the inevitable, I think having Kerry go back to work on the Hill is part of the same strategy that Rosenbaum quotes me as offering -- "The anonymous rottendenmark blogger suggested that [quietly sending Kerry lawyers to Ohio on fact-finding mission] was a smart strategy: play it low-key, as if they weren’t there to contest the result, but if something turned up" -- as it allows Kerry to play it safe. This is not the ramshackle Gore '00 strategy that James Baker surmounted the way Godzilla surmounts a croquet hoop. Kerry plays like nothing's wrong at all now, it means he doesn't look like a whiney sore loser if and when shit goes down in Winesburg Country.

Rosenbaum ends with this: "After the nightmare of Florida and the destabilizing effect it had on the polity, we all deserve a fair and exact count, and Mr. Kerry should be out front fighting for it. Didn’t he run as the bemedaled hero unafraid to fight the Viet Cong and Al Qaeda? Should he really be afraid of Ohio? Turn that Swift boat back to shore, John. You’ve stranded your supporters."

Wait and see what transpires with the counting of the Ohio provisional ballots. If the counting of the provisionals cuts 130,000 down, way down, in size -- it could be a unique December.

And keep your eye on New Mexico.