For what, you may ask. could I possibly blame the former VP? For everything, really, but I'll limit myself to the political culture in which we currently find ourselves, where the head of the DNC refers to politicians from the other party as "guilty" when many of them haven't even been charged with anything, much less tried. A political culture where cheating in elections is rampant, where fundraising becomes such an obsession that the phrase "no controlling legal authority" is now indelibly imprinted in the political mind, where the motivations of the opposition are always suspect, and where votes and elections are manipulated in nefarious ways to the detriment of trust in the most basic American right.
Sure, "no controlling legal authority" took place before the election of 2000, but look at it as a foreshadow of the events that would eventually unfold. Al Gore had it within him early on, but the transformation of the political culture was completed in the aftermath of the 2000 election. Democrats would point to the Clinton impeachment trial, but consider this. Mr. Clinton was impeached for perjury, for lying under oath in a trial, which is a crime. The explanation has been given that the lying was "only about sex," and so should not have been impeachable. Had the "only about sex" leeway been afforded Bob Packwood, for example, then I might concede the point.
The election took place on November 7. This timeline give the basics of the maneuvers, twists and turns before Mr. Gore finally gave a concession speech on December 13, 2000, nearly six weeks after the voting had taken place. In it Mr. Gore was magnanimous, gracious and conciliatory. Those were characteristics he should have demonstrated much earlier on, perhaps not on election night, though I believe that would have been for the best, but definitely after machine recounts of the entire state and all absentee ballots had been totaled. The search for hanging chads, the litigation of the voting, the criminalizing of misvotes of a type that have occurred in every election in virtually every corner of America poisoned the potable (though perhaps never perfectly pure) water of our democracy. Mr. Bush's team may have been the first to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they were not the first to go to the courts.
In Mr. Gore's concession speech we find the following:
Some have expressed concern that the unusual nature of this election might hamper the next president in the conduct of his office. I do not believe it need be so.
President-elect Bush inherits a nation whose citizens will be ready to assist him in the conduct of his large responsibilities.
I personally will be at his disposal, and I call on all Americans -- I particularly urge all who stood with us to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done.
And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us.
While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.
Did he mean it? I can't tell, and I certainly can't tell by observing the opposition that has cropped up at every juncture in the war against terrorists, a war that, after September 11th, Americans of all stripes should have been behind. But even after September 11th, 2001 there were those who opposed going after the Al Qaeda and the regime that harbored it.
Of course Mr. Gore could have gotten some encouragement to do the right thing, had the media presented his obstinacy in unflattering terms. But they wanted to see their guy succeed and take down the unqualified interloper from Texas. That left-lean of the media in general is consistent, and at this point undeniable.
So ask yourself this question. How much different would our politics be if Mr. Gore had conceded as Mr. Nixon had 40 years before, graciously and promptly, and then supported eminently supportable actions by the President in response to attacks by a foreign agent on American soil?
Very different, I would imagine. Many wonder how we got to the point where there is so much partisan animosity, where the Hatfields and McCoys have got nothing on the elephants and donkeys. I blame Al Gore.
(Submitted to Wizbang's COTT LXX)