Sunday, December 19, 2010

George Will: Bush v. Gore, 10 years on

WASHINGTON -- The passions that swirled around Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that ended 10 years ago Sunday, dissipated quickly. And remarkably little damage was done by the institutional collisions that resulted when control of the nation's supreme political office turned on 537 votes out of 5,963,110 cast in Florida.

Many controversies concerned whether particular votes could be said to have been cast properly. Chads are those bits of paper that, when a ballot is properly cast by puncturing spots next to candidates' names, are separated from the ballot. In Florida, there were "dimpled" chads that were merely dented, and "hanging" chads not separated from the ballots. Furthermore, there were undervotes (ballots with no vote for president) and overvotes (votes for two presidential candidates) and ill-designed (by a Democrat) butterfly ballots.

The post-election lunacy could have been substantially mitigated by adhering to a principle of personal responsibility: Voters who cast ballots incompetently are not entitled to have election officials toil to divine these voters' intentions. Al Gore got certain Democratic-dominated canvassing boards to turn their recounts into unfettered speculations and hunches about the intentions of voters who submitted inscrutable ballots. Before this, Palm Beach County had forbidden counting dimpled chads.

Once Gore initiated the intervention of courts, the U.S. Constitution was implicated. On Nov. 7, Gore finished second in Florida's Election Day vote count. A few days later, after the state's mandatory (in close elections) machine recount, he again finished second. Florida law required counties to certify their results in seven days, by Nov. 14.

But three of the four (of Florida's 67) counties -- each heavily Democratic -- where Gore was contesting the count were not finished deciphering voters' intentions. So Gore's lawyers persuaded the easily persuadable state Supreme Court -- with a majority of Democratic appointees -- to rewrite the law. It turned the seven-day period into 19 days.

Many liberals underwent instant conversions of convenience: They became champions of states' rights when the U.S. Supreme Court (seven of nine Republican appointees) unanimously overturned that extension. But the U.S. court reminded Florida's court to respect the real "states' rights" at issue -- the rights of state legislatures: The Constitution gives them plenary power to establish procedures for presidential elections.

Florida's Supreme Court felt emancipated from law. When rewriting the law to extend the deadline for certification of results by the four counties, the court said: "The will of the people, not a hyper-technical reliance upon statutory provisions, should be our guiding principle." But under representative government, the will of the people is expressed in statutes. Adherence to statutes -- even adherence stigmatized as "hyper-technical" -- is known as the rule of law.

In the end, seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices (and three of the seven Florida justices) agreed on this: The standardless recount ordered by the Florida court -- different rules in different counties regarding different kinds of chads and different ways of discerning voter intent -- violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Two of the seven U.S. justices favored ordering Florida's court to devise standards that could pass constitutional muster, and allowing the recount to continue for six more days. Five justices, believing that the recounting had become irredeemably lawless, ended it.

Once Gore summoned judicial intervention, and Florida's Supreme Court began to revise state election law, it probably was inevitable that possession of the nation's highest political office was going to be determined by a state's highest court, or the nation's. The U.S. Supreme Court was duty-bound not to defer to a state court that was patently misinterpreting -- disregarding, actually -- state law pertaining to a matter assigned by the U.S. Constitution to state legislatures.

Suppose that, after Nov. 7, Florida's Legislature had made by statute the sort of changes -- new deadlines for recounting and certifying votes, selective recounts, etc. -- that Florida's Supreme Court made by fiat. This would obviously have violated the federal law that requires presidential elections to be conducted by rules in place prior to Election Day.

Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. But this difficult case seems to have made little discernible law. That is good because it means no comparable electoral crisis has occurred. What the Supreme Court majority said on Dec. 12, 2000 -- "our consideration is limited to the present circumstances" -- has proved true. And may remain true, at least until the next time possession of the presidency turns on less than one ten-thousandths of a state's vote.
     
George Will's e-mail address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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Greg Sebourn

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My Grandma - A Eulogy

LET'S TALK ABOUT 1914 FOR A MOMENT.



FOR STARTERS, GRANDMA WAS BORN TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1914 IN HER FAMILY'S ATWOOD RANCH HOUSE.



IT IS WORTH NOTING THOSE ALSO BORN IN 1914:

JACK LALANNE

JOE DIMAGGIO

DANNY THOMAS



AND WHO DIED IN 1914:

JOHN MUIR, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST FOR WHICH NUMEROUS ROADS, PARKS, HOTELS, AND NATURE RESERVES ARE NAMED.



IT IS ALSO WORTH NOTING THAT IN 1914 WOODROW WILSON SIGNS MOTHER'S DAY PROCLAMATION AND BABE RUTH MAKES HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT WITH THE RED SOX. MOTHER'S DAY AND BASEBALL- TWO OF MY FAVORITES!! (PERHAPS HER NICKNAME "BABE" CAME FROM BABE RUTH???)



GRANDMA WAS BORN INTO A PERIOD OF TIME FILLED WITH TURMOIL. IN JUNE OF 1914 ARCHDUKE FRANZS FERDINAND WAS ASSASSINATED. WITHIN ONE MONTH WORLD WAR I RAGED ACROSS EUROPE. TWO DAYS AFTER HER BIRTH HOWEVER, GERMAN AND BRITISH TROOPS INTERRUPTED WWI TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. (PERHAPS THEY PAUSE KNOWING THAT A GREAT WOMAN WAS BORNE) WORLD WAR I CONTINUED UNTIL THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES IN 1919.



ALTHOUGH SHE WAS ONLY 5 YEARS OLD, SHE SAW THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS CREATED AND THE 19TH AMENDMENT WAS APPROVED BY THE U.S. CONGRESS GUARANTEEING THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO VOTE.



SHE LIVED THROUGH MANY NOTABLE EVENTS. LIKE THE 1933 LONG BEACH EARTHQUAKE OR WHEN ATWOOD FLOODED ALONG WITH MOST OF ORANGE COUNTY IN 1938 AND THE FLOOD-WATERS CLAIMED MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, 43 OF WHICH WERE FROM ATWOOD! ALL OF THIS DURING A TIME THAT WE READ ABOUT IN SCHOOL AND KNOWN AS "THE GREAT DEPRESSION". SOMEWHERE IN ALL OF THAT SHE FOUND THE LOVE OF HER LIFE, GRANDPA LEO, GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL, GOT MARRIED, AND HAD KIDS!



THEN THERE WAS WORLD WAR II. FROM PEARL HARBOR TO HIROSHIMA, GRANDMA WAS RAISING MY UNCLE BOB AND MOM ARLINE. WITH AIR-RAID SIRENS AND BLACKOUTS SHE WAS A WIFE AND MOTHER. WHAT A TIME TO RAISE CHILDREN! I BET GRANDMA'S PARENTS WERE ABEL TO TELL HER A THING OR TWO ABOUT RAISING KIDS IN WARTIME.



GRANDMA WAS THERE WHEN THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA HELD THEIR 3RD ANNUAL NATIONAL JAMBOREE IN 1953. SHE SAW AIRBASES OPEN IN '42 AND CLOSE IN '99. SHE WATCHED WALTER KNOTT START UP HIS BERRY FARM AND WALT DISNEY TURN ORANGE GROVES AND STRAWBERRY PATCHES INTO DISNEYLAND!



SHE SAW THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE FADE AWAY INTO HISTORY AND SPACE TRAVEL EXPLODE BEFORE HER WITH THE FIRST LUNAR LANDING. JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS. FROM TUBE RECTIFIERS TO SUPERCONDUCTORS; FROM TRANS-ATLANTIC TELEGRAPH CABLES TO SATELLITE TV.



SHE SAW MORE IN HER 93 YEARS THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER READ ABOUT, LET ALONE LIVE THROUGH!



OF THOSE 93 YEARS IT IS MY HONOR TO HAVE BEEN HER GRANDSON FOR 35 OF THEM. SHE WAS MY MOTHER WHEN MOM HAD TO WORK. SHE WIPED MY NOSE AND PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH. SHE LET ME PLAY WITH GRANDPA EVEN THOUGH SHE NEEDED HIM TO TAKE HER TO THE STORE. SHE WAS MY GRANDMA AND I WILL MISS HER IMMENSELY.



JUST LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM; SHE DID THIS. SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE INTO THIS WORLD AND TOGETHER TODAY. THIS IS HER LEGACY.



A Dedication To My Loving Wife, Stacey. Thank you for all you do for me!

Brad Paisley - I Thought I Loved You Then


I remember trying not to stare the night that I first met you
You had me mesmerized
3 weeks later in the front porch light taking 45 min to kiss you goodnight
I hadn’t told you yet but I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I remember taking you back to right where I first met you
You were so surprised
There were people around
But I didn’t care I got down on one knee right there
And once again I thought I loved you then

Chorus
Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Like a river meets the sea
Stronger than it’s ever been
We’ve come so far since that day
And I thought I loved you then.

I can just see you with a baby on the way
I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can’t see is how I’m ever gonna love you more
But I’ve said that before.

Now you’re my whole life now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl
Well look back some day at this moment that we’re in
And I'll look at you and say I thought I loved you then
And I thought I loved you then...

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