Politics & Policy

The Noose Is Tightening

The Gore campaign's blunder over absentee military ballots.

The end-game noose is slowly tightening around Al Gore’s neck, as the Florida recount fiasco (it’s really a new count, not a recount) is producing bad arithmetic for the veep.

At this stage, Team Gore has picked up less than 200 votes, and even Democratic veterans are grumbling that the finish line is in sight. Even more, the noose of public opinion is tightening around the Gore campaign in response to their incredible blunder over absentee military ballots.

The country is up in arms over the denial of voting rights to the men and women serving overseas. Incredibly, while leading Democratic spokesmen such as Sen. Joe Lieberman have backpedaled, they are still unwilling to acknowledge the true size and scope of this public-relations disaster. If nothing else, this sordid episode firmly places the Democratic party back in the old McGovernite, anti-military culture that party moderates have fled for over a decade.

What’s more, the notion that ballot mistakes in West Palm Beach are equivalent to ballot denials from the armed services, as put forth last night by California Gov. Gray Davis on one of the cable talk shows, is an outrage.

There is no equivalence here.

When troops are serving on the front line, anywhere around the world, the mail goes when it goes. When it is strategically and tactically appropriate, military mail is put on the next transport plane. To clarify this point, I spoke to my father-in-law, Col. Burritt Hollister Pond, USAF (retired), who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and completed his career tour on the senior staff of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs. Holly Pond, who knows a thing or two about military procedures, tells me that when servicemen and women are in conflict zones, for example such as Bosnia, they are actually given franking privileges for mail — the same franking granted members of the U.S. Congress. So there are no ordinary postage stamps or postmarks. Instead, they merely put their name, rank, and serial number on the envelope. At that point, the squadron clerk, or whoever is in charge of various administrative duties, becomes the post office. And the mail goes when it goes.

In similar fashion, people serving on submarine duty, where ships can be submerged for 30 to 60 days at a time, have no recourse to normal postal services or timetables. Literally, the mail is posted and sent when they come up for air.

So, it’s for these reasons that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was exactly right when she generated an election bulletin that absentee ballots from the military need not be postmarked as of Election Day. It would be sufficient to merely have a dated signature in order to qualify. Surely, the Tallahassee Democratic attorney, Mark Herron, was aware of all this when he sent his now-infamous memo to thousands of Democratic poll workers advising them how to disqualify absentee ballots. This action led to roughly 40% of the military absentee ballots being thrown out. Efforts by Democratic spokesmen high and low to deny the memo itself, and the intent of the memo, and the results of the memo, smacks of dishonesty and unpatriotism. That’s the long and short of it.

How all this plays out, of course, remains to be seen. If there is a recount of the absentee military ballots still available, Bush will win the lion’s share, thereby offsetting Gore’s hand recount gains. Of course, Right-thinking people remain properly worried that the Democrats have a great dimpled pile of ballots off in some counting room corner that they will magically find in the last minute in order to steal the election. Come to think of it, perhaps the Bushies should enlist some military men and women to prevent the Gorites from making their last minute grab. After all, the defense of freedom around the world starts right here at home with honest balloting.


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