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The Lying Sleeps Tonight?
I'd give anything to see the Leon County courthouse.


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Jonah Goldberg

I’m watching Bush attorney Barry Richard — who looks like an alternate for Dion and the Belmonts — give his opening statement. I was hoping he would start with a stentorian reading of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” In fact, I’d give anything to see the Leon County courthouse, brimming with more legal barracudas and sharks than the Boston Aquarium, all of a sudden burst into a rousing chorus of “…a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, hush my darling, don’t fear my darling, the lion sleeps tonight.”

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I confess, I often wish overly serious events would turn into musical numbers. I don’t why since I don’t actually like musicals (or Oscar parties) very much. But perhaps that is too much information.

Of course, if you were going to make this a musical you’d have to do a serious rewrite. Instead of “Lion” it would hopefully be “the lying sleeps tonight.” Because, in the last month, we’ve seen so much deception, fibbing, spinning, white lying, black lying, mendacity, canards, mallards … no, wait, mallards are ducks. Anyway, we’ve seen a lot of lying. It’s enough to make a guy like me crave show tunes. (I won’t list the lies because that has been done ably for NRO by several writers including Rich Lowry and John Derbyshire.

Unfortunately, I spent most of the day yesterday moving into my swank new digs, so I had to listen to the Supreme Court on my walkman and, later, on C-SPAN replays (that’d be a great name for a band: The C-SPAN Replays). But this seems like a formality at this point. The Supreme Court hearing was interesting in the sense that it was interesting (as all Supreme Court arguments are interesting). But its political relevance was a lot less than what it would have been even a week ago.

Similarly, today’s “marathon hearing” will not likely result in a major Gore victory. Indeed, most experts suggest that a “major Gore victory” would result in the hand-recounting of ballots in Miami-Dade County. But it’s looking increasingly likely that even a full hand recount there wouldn’t produce nearly enough votes for Gore to win.

The “additional” 157 votes that Gore collected in the partial recount of Miami-Dade were from the county’s most liberal precincts. It was stopped — conveniently enough — right before the Cuban, a.k.a. Viva Bush! precincts were counted. This is a wonderful real-life example of how a half-truth is a lie. The Gore team says, “Hey, we gained 157 votes! That means we’d get over 600 votes if you counted them all.” But, as first predicted by Michael Barone on Fox News and later by several independent statisticians (quoted on CNN and elsewhere), Gore could even end up losing votes in a full hand recount in Miami-Dade.

That is, of course, so long nano-dimples aren’t counted as the full-throated voice of the people, as the Gore team contends.

Assuming the judge down in Seminole County doesn’t get to appoint Al Gore president by throwing out 15,000 overseas ballots, mostly from military personnel, it’s hard to see how Bush doesn’t become the next president. Even if this woman does throw out the ballots, the Florida supreme court would likely reverse her, which would give the appearance of a different court confirming the election of George Bush.

This illuminates the real problem with all of this at the present stage. What Bush–and the country–need right now is a way to give Bush the presidency in a manner that will minimize whining from the losers. We need an exit strategy. Indeed, the Supreme Court might offer one. My guess is that they will not overturn the Florida supreme court. What they might do, however, is conclude that the Florida court was wrong. But because Bush already has been certified as the winner — despite the Florida court’s efforts — the Supremes don’t need to do anything about it. Moreover, the federal Supreme Court might telegraph its view that the Florida and national legislatures would be perfectly within their rights to handle this as they see fit. That would tell Democrats — if not the Gore team itself — that there’s no way for Al Gore to win.

This would essentially create what I like to call the Miracle on 34th Street scenario. In that great film — which takes place, conveniently enough, between Thanksgiving and Christmas — a judge is put in the untenable position of having to rule that Kris Kringle isn’t actually Santa Claus. He knows that to rule Santa isn’t real would be tragic. His lifeline comes when the post office decides to deliver all of the “Dear Santa” letters written by little boys and girls to the defendant. The judge declares that if the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, considers the defendant the rightful recipient of Santa’s mail, who was he to argue with them?

I always thought that libertarians and federalists should consider Miracle on 34th Street horrible propaganda (yes, I think about such things a lot). The federal government shouldn’t be in the business of certifying gift-bearing saints, after all. And the same thing does apply here. It isn’t a delightful prospect that we need the federal Supreme Court’s high priests to offer secular beatification to state matters, but that’s where we are. And if that would result in the lying being put to sleep tonight, so be it.



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