Bush already planning to authorize domestic spying by NSA
- December: A declassified document from Bush's transition team clearly shows that Bush and his incoming administration are already planning on authorizing domestic spying and wiretapping by the National Security Agency. Page 32 of the document reads in part, "Senior leadership must understand that today's and tomorrow's mission will demand a powerful, permanent presence on a global telecommunications network that will host the 'protected' communications of Americans as well as the targeted communications of adversaries." (NSA/Impeach For Peace/OhMy News, Bush Transition Team [PDF of actual document])
- December: As one of his final acts as president, Clinton issues orders implementing the creation of rules providing relief for workers suffering from ergonomically caused injuries, most of which are lumped together under the term "repetitive stress syndrome." Ergonomic injuries afflict tens of thousands of American workers, mostly those in lower-paying jobs requiring a great deal of manual or physical labor. The rules are a result of twelve years of hearings and investigations by the Department of Labor. One of the first actions of the Bush administration is to repeal the rules. The Bush attack is headed by lawyer Eugene Scalia, the son of the Supreme Court justice and the right's most visible opponent of "ergo legislation." Scalia's National Coalition on Ergonomics, an organization funded by large corporate interests, leads the attack; the NCE has opposing legislation ready to introduce in Congress before Bush is even seated in the Oval Office. The White House will issue a press release straight from the NCE that asserts ergonomic injuries such as RSS are "unproven" and "subject to questioning," and complains that such legislation will cost companies millions of dollars with no resulting benefits for those companies. (The benefits to the huge number of employees suffering from RSS, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the dozens of related ergonomic injuries are apparently not worth considering.) The House, led by Senate Majority Whip Tom DeLay, moves to quash the new rules by using an obscure law, the Congressional Review Act, to overturn Clinton's executive order without having to go through the usual Congressional review and debate procedures. After newly seated Labor Secretary Elaine Chao promises to undertake new studies of ergonomic injuries, the rules will be repealed by Congress. As of early in Bush's second term, no such review as promised by Chao has ever been undertaken, and no federal protection for ergonomic injuries exists. Eugene Scalia will be rewarded for his efforts by being named Solicitor for the Department of Labor in January 2002. (Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose)
- December 1 - 4: Both Bush and Gore campaigns make their opening arguments to the US Supreme Court. Bush's arguments are presented by Federalist Society maven and Arkansas Project veteran Theodore Olson; well-known liberal law professor Laurence Tribe argues for Gore. The court seems quite sympathetic to Olson's arguments. Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor, and Kennedy all make it clear that they have little use for what they term the Florida Supreme Court's interference in the election. During the justices' initial conference about the case, the poles are clear: Scalia wants to overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling and essentially call the election for Bush, while Stevens wants the Court to back out of the case and let the political process unfold. The justices in the middle, refusing to take either side, prevail upon Rehnquist to draft a ruling that simply asks the Florida Supreme Court to clarify its ruling: whether it had based its ruling on the state constitution, which the Bush team had said was improper, or had acted under state statute, which was arguably permissible. By December 4, all nine justices sign off on the ruling, creating a facade of unity that does not exist. The conservative justices are particularly happy; by eating up precious time, they had rendered Gore's chances of prevailing in a recount unlikely in the extreme, and had done so without appearing unduly partisan. They feel it is unlikely that the Florida Supreme Court will intervene again in the race. (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable, CBS News)
- December 2: Florida Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls holds a trial to consider Gore's request for a hand count of 14,000 contested ballots in Democratic-leaning Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. (CBS News)
- December 4: The US Supreme Court throws out a Florida Supreme Court ruling that allows selective manual recounts in Florida's presidential election and sends the case back for further proceedings. Judge Sauls dismisses Gore's bid for a recount of thousands of contested ballots and refuses his request to overturn George W. Bush's certified statewide victory. Former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi says that Sauls demonstrates he has "no more business presiding this historic case than the local cabby, making one gross legal blunder after another," all in Bush's favor. Sauls's verdict will be overturned on December 8, with the Florida Supreme Court noting a fistful of legal errors in Sauls's verdict and saying that Sauls failed to even address the central issue of the legal counting of undervotes. (CBS News, Vincent Bugliosi)
- December 6: The US Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously refuses to grant the Bush campaign's request to throw out the manual recount results in Florida. The majority of judges on the court are Republican appointees. (CBS News, Vincent Bugliosi)
- December 7: Bush and Gore lawyers present their arguments to the Florida Supreme Court. In a related issue, a federal court rules that Dick Cheney is a resident of Wyoming, not Texas, and therefore is a valid candidate for office. (The Constitution prohibits both a presidential and a vice-presidential candidate from being from the same state.) Cheney sold his Texas residence just before the elections; Cheney has claimed his vacation home at a ski resort in Wyoming as his legal residence, though he has lived and worked in Texas for most of his life. (CBS News, US News and World Report)
- December 8: The Florida Supreme Court stuns both camps by issuing another ruling, this time reversing Judge Sauls's ruling in favor of Bush and ordering an immediate statewide manual recount of all 61,000 undervotes. The state Supreme Court ruling adds 383 votes to Gore's tally, cutting Bush's margin to 154, and allows for the counting of 45,000 previously uncounted "undervotes." Two Florida circuit court judges reject a request by Gore's campaign to throw out absentee ballots in Seminole and Martin counties because of GOP tampering (with the active assistance of GOP election supervisors, Florida GOP officials sent operatives to both counties to illegally alter over 2,500 defective Republican absentee ballot applications; at least 550 Democratic applications were ignored). The Florida Supreme Court fails to issue directives on exactly how the undervotes will be counted (the entire "hanging chad" issue), effectively leaving it to the counties to determine what counts as voter intent and what does not.
- Vanity Fair reports, "As they watched televised images of bug-eyed Florida officials inspecting punch-card ballots for hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chads, the [US] Supreme Court clerks knew the case was certain to head back their way." The Bush camp immediately asks the US Supreme Court to stay the decision and halt the recount. In an unusual move, Scalia asks his fellow justices to instantly grant the stay, even before Gore's camp can respond. This is partially because the Gore vote totals are slowly but surely drawing even with the Bush totals; both camps predict that if the recounts continue, that by the following Monday, December 11, Gore will have a lead. The Vanity Fair reporters add, "...Scalia was convinced that all the manual recounts were illegitimate. He told his colleagues such recounts would cast 'a needless and unjustified cloud' over Bush's legitimacy. It was essential, he said, to shut down the process immediately. The clerks were amazed at how baldly Scalia was pushing what they considered his own partisan agenda." While Scalia's request is not granted, he does succeed in getting Rehnquist to move up the case conference to 10 AM; meanwhile, the conservative justices busily issue memos to one another and to their more liberal colleagues, each presenting different arguments as to why the recounts must be stopped and Bush must be named president. It is apparent to the liberal justices' clerks that the conservatives have already decided the case and are mustering their arguments. In the conference, the split is clear: 5 justices in favor of stopping recounts, led by Scalia; 4 justices in favor of withdrawing from the case, led by Stevens. The majority is so eager to proceed with the ruling that Stevens has to ask for time enough to complete writing his dissent.
- Vanity Fair reports, "What [Stevens] wrote -- that 'counting every legally cast vote cannot constitute irreparable harm' -- so provoked Scalia that, as eager as he was to halt the recount, he delayed things by dashing off an angry rejoinder, largely reiterating what he'd told the justices the previous night. 'Count first, and rule upon legality afterwards, is not a recipe for producing election results that have the public acceptance democratic stability requires,' he argued, forecasting that a majority of the Court would ultimately rule in Bush's favor on the merits. Even some of the justices voting with Scalia squirmed at how publicly he'd acknowledged the divisions within the Court. To the liberal clerks, what he had written was at least refreshing in its candor. 'The Court had worked hard to claim a moral high ground, but at that moment he p*ssed it away,' one recalls. 'And there was a certain amount of glee. He'd made our case for us to the public about how crassly partisan the whole thing was.' Scalia's opinion held up release of the order for an hour. Finally, shortly before three o'clock, the Court granted the stay. No more votes would be counted. Oral arguments were set for the following Monday, December 11." Scalia's reasoning for the stay is summed up by the statement he writes saying that to allow the recounts to continue would cause "irreparable harm" to Bush, an astonishing rationale. The New York Times writes that the stay seems to be "racing to beat the clock before an unwelcome truth could come out. Conservative law professor Terrence Sandalow, a former Bork supporter, says that "the balance of harms so unmistakably were on the side of Gore" that the granting of the stay was "incomprehensible," and calls the stay "an unmistakably partisan decision without any foundation in law." (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable, CBS News, US News and World Report, Floridagate, Vincent Bugliosi)
"With the haste of a criminal, Justice Scalia, in trying to justify the Court's shutting down of the vote counting, wrote, unbelievably, that counting these votes would 'threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [Bush]...by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election.' ...In other words, although the election had not yet been decided, the absolutely incredible Scalia was presupposing that Bush had won the election -- indeed, had a right to win it -- and any recount that showed Gore got more votes in Florida than Bush could 'cloud' Bush's presidency." -- Vincent Bugliosi
"There is no such thing in the Constitution as the right to vote for president." -- Justice Antonin Scalia, December 2000
- December 8: The Gore team is, predictably, crushed by the US Supreme Court's ruling to stay the recounts, but still clings to a shred of hope. Gore, showing what in hindsight is incredible naivete, defends the good faith of the justices and pressures his people not to "trash" the Court in public statements. Gore's lawyers hope that either Kennedy or O'Connor can be peeled away from the majority. Gore decides to replace senior counselor Laurence Tribe with lawyer David Boies; Boies is less publicly liberal than Tribe and, it is hoped, will not antagonize the conservatives on the Court as Tribe sometimes does; also, Boies has been representing Gore in Florida and is more familiar with the details of the case. However, the clerks for the liberal justices have given up. They place what little hopes they have in, not any legal arguments, but the media: O'Connor has been reported to have held forth at a party on Election Night about how dismayed she is over Gore's apparent victory. The clerks hope that, once this incident makes the papers, O'Connor will have to recuse herself from the decision. Gore's lawyers consider asking her to recuse herself, but ultimately end up hoping that she will lean towards their side of the argument to prove her fairness, a slender and, in hindsight, pathetic hope. (O'Connor never considers recusing herself.) (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable)
- December 9: An Atlanta federal appeals court rules in favor of hand counts in Florida, but says that new tallies can not be certified until the US Supreme Court gives permission. (CBS News)
- December 11: Oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore begin. Gore's team feels that the Bush argument that the Florida Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds is a loser; though they don't know it, Justice Kennedy agrees with them. But instead of siding with the liberal minority, Kennedy circulates a memo endorsing O'Connor's argument (that the court had improperly usurped the state legislature's power), but that the argument wasn't enough: the conservative justices need to add that recounting ballots under different statutes in different counties violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Kennedy's argument causes a bit of a stir. Up until now, the argument has been all but dismissed, and the Court, in accepting the case, indicated it would not even consider the argument.
- As Vanity Fair reports, "Even in the best of circumstances, voting procedures were riddled with inconsistencies, beginning with the use of systems of wildly varying reliability, such as punch cards and optiscan machines, in different jurisdictions. Voters, often poor or black, in counties with older machines were far less likely to have their votes counted than those in wealthier jurisdictions, and nobody ever heard a peep from the Supreme Court about unconstitutionality. Moreover, the Rehnquist Court had always stingily construed the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War to protect freed slaves, applying it only when discrimination was systematic, blatant, intentional, incontrovertible. It was not surprising, then, that the Court had originally declined to hear arguments on the point, or that, when they returned to the Court, Bush's lawyers had given those arguments only 5 pages in a 50-page brief. But here was Kennedy dusting it off. And not as some academic exercise, but as the very basis of the Court's decision. 'We read the memo and thought, Oh, we've lost Kennedy,' one liberal clerk recalls. In the star-studded audience awaiting the arguments that morning, someone spotted Al Gore's daughter Karenna -- praying, he thought. It wouldn't help. The Court already had its majority. Now it had its rationale." But when arguments open, Kennedy asks bemusedly, "Where is the federal question here?" as if he was still wondering why the Court was hearing the case.
- The liberal clerks, on their side of the courtroom, are angered with Kennedy's pretense. It doesn't take long for Kennedy to get to the heart of his presentation: he denigrates the Florida Supreme Court's interference in the elections, and then makes his statement to Bush lawyer Theodore Olson: "I thought your point was that the process is being conducted in violation of the equal-protection clause, and it is standardless," he tells Olson. Olson, a keen student of the Court and canny reader of its moods, naturally agrees. It is obvious that Kennedy is leading the Bush team through the arguments that the majority has decided to find acceptable. O'Connor attacks the apparent inability of the Florida voters to punch or mark their ballots properly, and wants to know why they can't seem to follow the standards; Gore's lawyer, David Boies, tries to explain that for 80 years Florida law has focused less on overall standards and more on the intent of the voter, but to no avail. "[T]his was one instance for the Rehnquist Court in which deference to the states, and precedent, didn't matter," writes Vanity Fair.
- After the justices retire to their chambers, Breyer begins working on Kennedy, suggesting that if the equal-protection clause is indeed being violated, then the case needs to be sent back to Florida for uniform standards to be developed. For a few moments, Kennedy indeed switches, or seems to: he says that the case should be sent back to Florida for the standards to be made uniform. But the liberal clerks never believe Kennedy is actually changing his opinion; rather, they believe that he just wants to give the impression that he is agonizing over his decision. Sure enough, a half-hour later, after conferring with Scalia and his own clerks, Kennedy switches back. "He probably wanted to think of himself as having wavered," one clerk speculates. Others speculate that his clerks did everything they could do to persuade him to switch back. "We assumed that his clerks were coordinating with Scalia's clerks and trying to push him to stay with the majority," one says. "I think his clerks were horrified, and the idea that he would even blink for a moment here scared them," says another. "They knew the presidency would be decided in their chambers," a third clerk, this one working for one of the majority justices, recalls. "They would have fought tooth and nail -- they would have put chains across the door -- to keep him from changing his vote." Another clerk for another conservative justice puts it a bit differently: "Kennedy would not have voted the other way," this clerk says, "but had he been tempted, the clerks could have dissuaded him." Breyer later laments that he had Kennedy convinced, only to have his clerks work him over and pull him back in the other direction. Though jousting continues among the justices, including a brief moment where Stevens bangs out a one-paragraph opinion remanding the case back to the Florida courts, it is clear that enough of the justices are bent on halting the recounts and handing the presidency to Bush. (Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable, CBS News)
- December 12: In a 79-41 vote, the Republican-run Florida House approves 25 electors pledged to Bush. The House has previously indicated that it intends to send Bush electors to Washington no matter what the results of the vote, in a stunning repudiation of the law and of the integrity of the electoral process. "It doesn't matter if the dispute is contrived and illegitimate because it is caused by a rogue, partisan, and extremely unprincipled Florida legislature which was threatening to give Florida to Bush even if Gore ended up winning the popular vote," former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi later observes. "so in any close presidential race in the future, any state legislature controlled by a political party which knows it has a majority of the same party on the [US] Supreme Court who they feel will be as audacious and unprincipled as they are, can intentionally create a 'crisis' by threatening to send in electors who do not represent the will of the people of their state, and then let their friends on the Supreme Court take over from there. I see." In addition, Florida's Supreme Court upholds two state court rulings that allow 25,000 absentee ballots to remain in the state's official vote tally. (CBS News, Guardian, US News and World Report, Floridagate, Intervention Magazine, Vincent Bugliosi)
- December 12: At 4 p.m., Gore calls Sarah Brady, wife of former Reagan press secretary Jim Brady and the prime mover behind the Brady gun control bill. "We're going to win this thing, Sarah," Gore says. "I just have all the faith in the world that Sandra Day O'Connor is going to be with us on this one." Brady recalls, "He was just very optimistic and trustful that the system would work." Brady is not as optimistic, recalling that O'Connor had voted to strike down part of the so-called Brady law that required localities to run background checks on handgun purchasers. (Consortium News)
- December 12, evening: The five conservative justices determined to vote for Bush resolve their final differences. Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas insist that the Bush argument that the Florida courts improperly infringed on the prerogatives of the legislature; O'Connor and Kennedy maintain that a stronger argument can be found in the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The five justices finally agree to use the equal protection clause as the basis of their decision, with the stunning caveat that this decision should not apply to anything else. (USA Today/Vincent Bugliosi)
Supreme Court breaks Constitutional law to declare Bush the president
- December 12, 10 PM: By a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court votes to overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling that called for manual recounts. Earlier in the evening, it rules 7-2 that the Florida Supreme Court decision violates the US Constitution's protections of due process and equal protection under the law; the court splits by a 5-4 vote along ideological conservative and liberal lines in deciding that new recounts should not be ordered to remedy the problem. (In the 7-2 ruling, Breyer and Souter rule that there are some equal protection concerns, and rule that the case should be sent back to the Florida Supreme Court with instructions to develop uniform standards and continue the recounts. The claim by some conservatives that the decision to give Bush the election is 7-2 is specious.) The justices set an impossible deadline of midnight -- two hours from the ruling -- to complete any recounting already in motion and resolving any inconsistencies. The case is remanded to the Florida court "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion."
- In essence, the Supreme Court ruling hands Florida, and thusly the presidential election, to Bush. In its ruling, mostly written by Kennedy with input from O'Connor, the court declares that the 14th Amendment prohibits variations in vote counting by county officials, contrary to all precedents; the court then explicitly refuses to set a precedent for future cases, stating that this case is "unique" and should not be cited as a precedent for any subsequent court case. Scalia writes in his concurrent opinion that "counting [votes] and ruling later" would be a recipe for "electoral error," a fantastic judicial oxymoron. Several justices issue bitter dissents. "One thing...is certain," Justice Stevens argues in the principal dissent, based on his earlier dissent but deliberately stripped of almost all legalese so as to be understandable by the average citizen, "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." Breyer adds that "in this highly politicized matter, the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public's confidence in the court itself." Stevens and Ginsburg deny that the equal-protection clause applies to the case at all. For better or worse, Ginsburg wrote, disparities were a part of all elections; if there were any equal-protection concerns at all, she wrote, they surely applied more to black voters, noting a New York Times report that a disproportionate number of blacks had encountered problems voting. Though racial questions already hung over the Florida vote, hers was to be the only reference to race in any of the opinions, and it was relegated to a footnote. But to the liberal clerks, these issues needed to be acknowledged, and a footnote was better than nothing at all. (Even the footnote will be removed by Ginsberg after Scalia cries foul.)
- Breyer's and Souter's dissents acknowledge at least some legal validity to the equal-protection argument, but both state that the proper course of action is to remand the case back to Florida for handling. The decision to go with Kennedy's more tempered work as the majority decision comes as something of a surprise to Rehnquist, who had worked on what he thought would be the majority opinion; Kennedy's opinion, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, focuses strongly on the equal-protection issue, and much less so on jurisdictional problems. Scalia sends a memo out complaining that the dissenters have gone too far in their opinions; this memo is what prompts Ginsberg to remove what Scalia calls the "Al Sharpton footnote" from her dissent. Kennedy, too, sends a memo complaining that the dissenters were indulging in "trashing the Court." (Veteran political observers may well view this as yet another example of conservatives' penchant for "sore winning.") Kennedy, trying to create an appearance of unity, inserts a line in the majority opinion saying that eight of the nine justices, including Stevens, agrees at least somewhat with the equal-protection argument. Stevens' clerks react with outrage, prompting Kennedy to change the line to "seven justices." Later, as they hand in their respective decisions, Eduardo Penalver, the Stevens clerk, runs into a Kennedy clerk named Grant Dixton and tells him that what the Kennedy chambers has done is disgusting and unprofessional. Scalia's line is what triggers conservatives to falsely claim that the court's actual ruling was a 7-2 decision and not a 5-4 decision.
- Vanity Fair observes, "Despite their loyalty to their justices -- a striking, filial-like phenomenon among most clerks -- several concede that the dissenters in Bush v. Gore were simply outmaneuvered. Never did the four of them have the votes to prevail. But first by endorsing a decision suggesting that the Florida Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds, then by appearing to buttress the majority's equal-protection claims, the dissenters had aided and abetted the enemy. 'They gave just enough cover to the five justices and their defenders in the press and academia so that it was impossible to rile up the American people about these five conservative ideologues stealing the election,' one clerk complains. The tone and multiplicity of the dissents didn't help. While Stevens's rhetoric was impassioned, even enraged, the other dissents were pallid." Several items stand out in Kennedy's opinion. First, the ringing rhetoric of the "equal dignity owed to each voter" belies the reality of at least 60,000, and potentially far more, possibly valid votes being deliberately ignored. (Although Florida still has six days to remedy the situation, Kennedy's opinion insists that not enough time remains to do anything, and orders the recounting halted and the vote totals accepted as confirmed by Harris on November 26.) Secondly, the liberal clerks are outraged at Kennedy's pose that the Court only took the case reluctantly and out of necessity. "That infuriated us," one liberal clerk recalls. "It was typical Kennedy bullsh*t, aggrandizing the power of the Court while ostensibly wringing his hands about it."
- Though Scalia joins in the opinion, privately he is less than impressed with the legal flaccidity of it, reputedly terming it "a piece of sh*t." (Scalia denies the characterization.) Some liberal clerks even consider illegally leaking incriminating memos that would prove to the world how legally bankrupt and potentially criminal the decision is, but no such memos exist; whatever criminal intent may have been discussed, none was ever set down on paper for the clerks to find. "If there'd been a memo saying, 'I know this is total garbage but I want Bush to be president,' I think it would have found its way into the public domain," one clerk recalls.
- After being informed of the ruling, Gore finally realizes that he never had a chance with the Court, and congratulates his legal team for making it so hard for the Court to justify its decision. Kevin Martin, the Scalia clerk who'd tangled earlier with Stevens's clerks, informs his colleagues by e-mail that Gore was about to concede. To some, it seems like gloating; Eduardo Penalver asks him to stop. "Life sucks," Martin replied. "Life may suck now," Penalver responds, "but life is long." Rumors that Souter is depressed for weeks over the ruling, that according to Newsweek, Breyer will later tell a group of Russian judges that the decision was "the most outrageous, indefensible thing" the Court had ever done, and that Souter will complain to some prep-school students that had he had "one more day -- one more day," he could have won over Kennedy, are unfounded and appear to be inconsistent and out of character for the two justices. The clerks, for instance, believe Souter had spent most of the last few crucial days in his chambers brooding over the case rather than working any back channels. As for the vote recounting, when it was halted by Court fiat, Gore was behind by 154 votes and steadily gaining ground. A year later, a consortium of newspapers will re-examine the votes, and find that, if Florida considered only the undervotes, Bush would have still won by the slimmest of margins; however, if the overvotes had also been counted, as Judge Terry Lewis says was the most likely scenario, then Gore would have won by tens of thousands of votes. (CBS News, Guardian, US News and World Report, Floridagate, Intervention Magazine, Vanity Fair/Make Them Accountable, Consortium News, Vincent Bugliosi)
- Journalist Molly Dickerson writes, "[W]hat the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling ensured was that uncounted votes from Florida's poorer precincts -- with outmoded punch-card ballot systems -- remained uncounted. That gave greater weight to the votes from wealthier precincts with modern optical scanners that experienced a far smaller error rate. Not surprisingly, the poorer precincts had higher percentages of African-Americans, as well as large numbers of retired senior citizens, many of them Jewish. Both groups overwhelmingly favored Gore and his vice presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman. The hand count of these uncounted ballots would have reduced this disparity between the wealthier and the poorer precincts. Instead, the US Supreme Court cited the 14th Amendment to ensure that greater weight was given to the votes of wealthier whites in Florida than to poorer African-Americans and elderly Jews. The irony -- the outrage to many civil rights leaders -- was that the 14th Amendment had been enacted after the Civil War to prevent discrimination against African-Americans. Now, it was being used to disenfranchise them and to grant greater voting power to whites." (Consortium News)
- The idea that the Florida Supreme Court attempted to "steal the election for Gore," in contrast to the demonstrably criminal actions of the five justices of the US Supreme Court, has no basis in reality. As Vincent Bugliosi observes, "You don't steal an election by wanting all valid votes to be counted. The Florida Supreme Court wanted all valid votes to be counted. The US Supreme Court wanted valid votes not to be counted. When you separate the wheat from the chaff and look at the inherent morality, or lack thereof, of the two courts, there is no comparison." (Vincent Bugliosi)
- The idea that the Court ruled as it did due to time constraints, or that decisions to stop the recounts taken by Katherine Harris were justified by time constraints, is equally ludicrous. As the dean of the Vermont Law School and eminent Electoral College expert L. Kinan Wroth later notes, the election does not have to be concluded until January 6, the last day of the current Congressional session, when the College's votes must be counted by Congress. Until then, all deadlines are arbitrary. A related, and even more ignorant, argument is that the Supreme Court ruled as it did to avoid a "constitutional crisis." In short, there was no crisis. There was an extremely close election that was being resolved in the manner prescribed by Florida law -- until the Supreme Court intervened and arbitrarily ruled that all legal votes would not be counted. As Bugliosi sums up the argument about the so-called constitutional crisis, "...if an American election is bitterly close, as all close elections are, then it's better for the Supreme Court to pick the president, whether or not he won the election, than to have the dispute resolved in the manner prescribed by law. ...The argument is so insane that to rebut it necessarily gives it a dignity it does not have." (Vincent Bugliosi)
- A huge number of personal involvements by the justices ruling on the case go unremarked by the press, and no justice recuses him- or herself from the decision. Justice Clarence Thomas's wife Virginia is a member of the Bush transition team at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Justice Antonin Scalia's son Eugene is a partner at the law firm of chief Bush lawyer Theodore Olson. Both are hoping for, and will receive, lucrative posts in any new Bush administration. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has a more personal reason for wanting Bush to win -- she hopes to be named the first female Chief Justice of the court, and hopes that she can land that position during a Bush presidency. Certainly Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from the decision, and arguably O'Connor as well. None of the three do so, and their votes are key in reversing the Florida Supreme Court decision and giving the election to Bush. "What is so wrong about the Supreme Court's even agreeing to take this case," says a former assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, "is that their vote was a completely self-interested vote by the conservatives. They have ensured that they will remain in the majority, even increase their majority." "This decision is absolutely the most intellectually dishonest and transparent thing they could ever possibly do," says Washington defense and election law lawyer Stanley Brand. (Consortium News)
- December 13: Gore concedes the election, allowing Bush to assume the presidency after the Supreme Court halts the Florida recounts and awards the election to Bush, stating that a recount would interfere with Bush's presidential aspirations. Justice Antonin Scalia states that continuing the recounts would do "irreparable harm" to Bush, and that a recount would "cast a cloud upon what [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Five days later, the Electoral College will cast its votes, resulting in 271 votes for Bush and 267 for Gore. Though a single US representative and a single US senator can forestall the Electoral College's affirmation, Gore, as president of the Senate, prevails upon Democratic senators not to join a number of Democratic representatives, mostly members of the Black Congressional Caucus, feeling that to do so would make him look as if he were using a technicality of the law to block the ascension of Bush to the White House. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bushwatch, CBS News, Guardian, H.R. Clinton)
- December 13: A large band of protesters gather outside of Blair House, the Vice President's residence in Washington DC. They wave signs reading "sore Loserman" and other slogans, chant, "Get out of Cheney's house!" and shout other, less printable and more vicious statements and exhortations. A Gore family member later says she was afraid that rocks would come smashing through the windows, and that there were moments where she feared the mob would storm the house. (Consortium News)
- Of the political debate surrounding the 2000 recount, Lewis Lapham writes, "...I remember being struck by the poisonous language dribbling out of the mouths of people who as recently as the preceding summer had been talking about restoring 'civility to the American political discourse.' The Republicans never tired of accusing the Democrats of stealing the election ('chad molesters,' 'commanders in thief'), but it was their own behavior that more nearly resembled that of Mafia bagmen hurrying to get the votes across the border and out of state before somebody searched the luggage. A court that ruled in favor of George W. Bush was a court deserving of compliance and respect; a court that ruled otherwise was a treasonous court, renegade and corrupt. Citizens allied with the prima facie righteousness of the Republican cause deserved the name of patriot; Democrats were partisan hacks, by definition crooked and self-serving, slum-dwelling perps, accustomed to stealing elections and cars." Lapham writes that the entire body of argument, discussion, and rhetoric displayed by Republicans from chief lawyer James Baker on down to the rank and file can be summed up in the simple phrase, "Unless we win, it's illegal."
- The mainstream media threw in almost completely with the GOP cause. The Wall Street Journal accused Democrats of attempting a "coup d'etat." Columnists in newspapers with national circulations compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler and Al Capone. Arguments supporting Democratic positions were routinely dismissed as "preposterous" or "illegitimate." Motions filed on Gore's behalf were characterized as "an unfolding miscarriage of justice." The National Review's Mark Steyn determined to his own satisfaction that the unexpectedly large number of Gore voters were, by and large, a crop of gangsters, thugs, and petty criminals: "aliens Al Gore strong-armed the INS into hustling through the naturalization process without background checks," friends of Al Sharpton and Alec Baldwin, senile pensioners rounded up from nursing homes, "[g]ay scout leaders," "partial abortion fetishists," and "the Palm Beach chapter of Jews for Buchanan." It is understandable that most Gore voters will have trouble recognizing themselves in this list. (Lewis Lapham)
"It's amazing I won. I was running against peace, prosperity, and incumbency." -- George W. Bush to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Perrson, June 14, 2001, unaware that he was being filmed
"Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise." -- Adolf Hitler
"I fixed the election in Florida for George Bush." -- James Baker, December 2003, quoted by Greg Palast
"...I get a sense of from all of this -- and then topped obviously by spending all the money in 2000 to basically buy the election -- is that this [the Bush family] is not a family that has a particularly strong commitment to American democracy. Its sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution." -- Kevin Phillips, quoted in Buzzflash
"The dilution of participatory democracy arising out of the 2000 election would worsen as the Florida recount unfolded, and the result fed the ideological cocksureness that would become so visible in the early months of the Bush administration. If the lack of a popular mandate from the election seemed unimportant to the Bush team, that view may have been encouraged by the most surprising language in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision upholding Bush's election, indicating that, in the American democracy, the public had no constitutional right to participate in electing a president. -- Kevin Phillips
"As for me, I will give our new president the same level of support and encouragement that was given to the current administration by such luminaries as Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh, Richard [Mellon] Scaife, Ted Olson, Pat Robertson, and, of course, George W. himself. In other words, I will badmouth the president daily; I will work in whatever small way I can to defeat and undermine his programs and agenda, I will believe every scurrilous lie told about him and I will criticize and ridicule his wife and children at every opportunity." -- Paul Kirkpatrick, December 14, 2000, Northwest Arkansas Morning News
- December 17: Vice-President elect Dick Cheney tells CBS's Bob Schieffer, "As...Bush has made very clear, he ran on a particular platform that was very carefully developed; it's his program and it's his agenda and we have no intention at all of backing off of it.... The suggestion that somehow, because this was a close election, we should fundamentally change our beliefs, I just think it's silly." The decision has already been made for Bush and his incoming administration to function as if it has a strong mandate from the American electorate, regardless of the actual vote tallies. As for Bush, he tells reporters a day later, "It's amazing what happens when you listen to the other person's opinion. And we began the process of doing that today." (CBS/Ron Suskind)
- December 18: President-elect Bush states, "[T]here are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." (CNN/Buzzflash)
- December 19: The Washington Post reports that "the United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose." Russia and the US are discussing "what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper." It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia, but 9/11 allows the US to do it without Russian help. (CCR)
Clinton administration completes comprehensive plan to fight terrorism, a plan ignored by the Bush administration
- December 20: Counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke submits a plan to "roll back" al-Qaeda in response to the USS Cole bombing. The main component is a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" for bin Laden there. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision to the new administration. One month later, the plan is rejected and no action is taken. Russia's President Putin later claims he "tried to egg on the previous Clinton administration -- without success -- to act militarily against the whole Taliban regime: 'Washington's reaction at the time really amazed me. They shrugged their shoulders and said matter-of-factly: "We can't do anything because the Taliban does not want to turn him over."'" (CCR)
- December 30: Bush announces a two-day economic forum with business leaders and economists, on the theme that the US economy is in "serious trouble." The economy is considered as strong as it has been in years, with "Clintonomics" resulting in a balanced budget, a budget surplus, the smallest federal deficit in a generation, low interest rates, and low unemployment. Among those invited to the conference, to be held at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, are incoming Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, incoming Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and Bush economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey. O'Neill finds out he is to attend the conference by reading about it in the New York Times, and calls Bush's chief aide Karl Rove to chastise him. "I think it would be better, Karl, if someone had bothered to first ask me whether I thought this was a good idea and then whether I thought it would be a good idea for me to attend," O'Neill tells Rove. "My answer to both questions is no." Rove is suitably penitent, and O'Neill knows that if he is not to become a mere functionary whose job it is to parrot the ideas and initiatives coming from Bush and his inner circle, O'Neill has to stand up for himself, to draw a line in the sand, so to speak. O'Neill then tells Rove that the idea behind the economic conference is all wrong, staffed as it is with little more than economists who, like Lindsey, are fervent Bush agenda supporters. To "build a genuine consensus," O'Neill tells Rove, they "should get a group that represents a diversity of opinions, including labor and various schools of economic thinking. And then have a real discussion." Rove is deferential, but then plays down the importance of the forum, telling O'Neill that all it really is for is to "give airtime to businessmen who had supported Bush in the campaign." O'Neill was taken aback by Rove, whose role, he thinks at the time, is to handle political campaigns, not shape the president's agenda. He will find out that he is wrong, that Rove has far more power than he would have ever guessed.
- O'Neill has little use for Lindsey, regarding him as an intellectual and economic lightweight who always made sure he was on the right side of the argument for his own political advancement. In 1991, the ever-more conservative Lindsey was nominated to be one of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors; Lindsey said in his Senate confirmation hearings that his business experience could be summed up in the fact that he had run a hot-dog stand in college. Under Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Lindsey continued to build up his conservative credentials, winning a reputation as an engaging speaker who could sum up complicated economic theories and initiatives in simple laymen's terms. Lindsey hooked up with then-Governor Bush in 1997, becoming a fervent attack dog against Clinton's economic policies and an advocate of huge tax cuts. Lindsey had risen to head Bush's economic team, made up of like-minded Hoover Institute economists who essentially served as an echo chamber for their deeply conservative, business-friendly economic ideas. By the time Bush entered office, Lindsey and his group were advocating $1.6 trillion of immediate tax cuts, largely for the wealthy and for corporations. O'Neill knew Lindsey was slated to head the National Economic Council, and was not sanguine about the appointment. He drafted a note for himself: "Get an Agreement for LL to be the honest broker not the unilateral advisor to the P [Bush] or get him out of the broker role." It did not happen that way. (Ron Suskind)
- Late December: The outgoing Clinton administration is praised for its antiterrorism efforts by two former Reagan counterterrorism officials. Robert Oakley, the ambassador for counterterrorism in Reagan's State Department, says, "Overall, I give them very high marks. The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama [bin Laden], which made him stronger." Oakley's successor, Paul Bremer, who will go on to become the American governor of Iraq after the 2003 invasion, says he thinks the Clinton adminstration was "correctly focused on bin Laden." Some of the Clinton administration's successes include the arrest and conviction of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, including Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah; the prevention of a terrorist plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II and blow up a dozen US jetliners; attacks on the UN building, FBI headquarters, the Israeli embassy in Washington, the US embassy in Albania, the Los Angeles and Boston airports, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. During Clinton's tenure, he tripled the counterterrorism budget for the FBI, doubled overall counterterrorism funding, oversaw the destruction of al-Qaeda terror cells in over twenty countries, and created a top-level national security post to coordinate all federal counterterrorism activity. His first and second crime bills contained stringent antiterrorism legislation. His administration stockpiled a huge reserve of drugs and vaccines to battle any bioterrorism attacks. He, in Al Franken's words, "coaxed, cajoled, and badgered foreign leaders to join in the fight internationally, or to do more within their own borders." The Washington Post's Barton Gellman writes, "By any measure available, Clinton left office having given greater priority to terrorism than any president before him. ...[Clinton's was the] first administration to undertake a systematic anti-terrorism effort."
- All of these successes were done in spite of Republican opposition. In 1996, Senator Orrin Hatch summed up Republican opposition to a Clinton request for more antiterrorism funding by saying, "The administration would be wise to utilize the resources Congress has already provided before it requests additional funding." After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Republicans blocked the administration's request for intelligence agencies to wiretap the phones of terror suspects, justifying their opposition by citing the baseless FBI "Filegate" scandal. (Al Franken)
- Late 2000: The National Gulf War Resource Center, the largest Gulf War veterans group, asks Congress to turn over the reins on medical research of so-called "Gulf War illness" to an independent body, saying that the Pentagon is trying to cover up and deny liability instead of trying to find a source and a cure for the series of disorders. (US/Iraq Relations Timeline)
- At year's end, the US's military spending of $343 billion is 69 percent greater than that of the next five highest nations combined. Russia, which has the second largest military budget, spends less than one-sixth what the United States does. Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Iran, and Syria spend $14.4 billion combined; Iran accounts for 52 percent of this total. (ZMag)
"Where Clinton said, 'Go slow,' Bush policymakers said, 'No go.' The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both." -- Greg Palast, discussing the two presidents' approaches towards Islamic terrorism
- 2000 - 2001: An energy crisis in California leaves the state in shambles, unable to pay for electricity for its residents and businesses. Prices went from $12 per megawatt hour in 1998 to $200 in December 2000 to $250 in January 2001, and at times a megawatt cost $1,000. At the time it is not known that the entire crisis is artificially created by energy companies such as Enron, with the collusion and participation of high-ranking politicians such as future vice-president Dick Cheney. The earliest indication of a potential problem came as early as July 13, 1998, "when employees of one of the two power-marketing centers in California watched incredulously as the wholesale price of $1 a megawatt hour spiked to $9,999, stayed at that price for four hours, then dropped to a penny. Someone was testing the system to find the limits of market exploitation. This incident was the earliest indication that the people and the state could become victims of fraud. The Sacramento Bee broke the story three years later, on May 6, 2001. Today, Californians are still paying the costs of the debacle while according to state officials the power companies who manipulated the energy markets reaped more than $7.5 billion in unfair profits."
- Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay was one of the prime movers behind the massive fraud. Lay, a long-time supporter of Bush family political ventures, will be George W. Bush's first choice for Secretary of Energy. Enron executives contribute over $2 million to Bush's campaign between 1999 and 2001. A study authorized by Representative Henry Waxman reveals that Enron had 112 known contacts with the Bush administration in 2001. This figure does not include seventy-three disclosed contacts between former Army Secretary Thomas White and his former colleagues at Enron while White was in office, before Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired White. (White's unit at Enron. which specialized in privatizing energy utilities, was at the center of the California price-fixing scandal.) After Bush takes office, Lay will work with close friend and Enron shareholder Dick Cheney on the vice-president's secretive Energy Task Force, choosing candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an agency that would oversee his company. Cheney chooses Pat Wood, Lay's personal preference, to head the commission.
- In April 2001, Lay gives Cheney a memo recommending a number of national energy policy changes. The memo includes Enron's specific positions on technical issues, which are presented as a cure for California's energy problems. It includes a recommendation against placing price caps on energy, which California officials will later recommend to Bush; both Bush and Cheney will deny the requests until public pressure force them to reconsider. At least seventeen of Enron's policy recommendations make it into the official White House National Energy Policy report. After Cheney refuses to tell Congress who was on his task force, the General Accounting Office files a lawsuit against Cheney to force him to reveal the information. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who normally only makes appearances before the Supreme Court, forms a handpicked team of Justice Department lawyers to defend Cheney. A pliable federal judge, John Bates, who had worked for the Kenneth Starr investigation of Whitewater and is a financial contributor to the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, finds in Cheney's favor and, pressured by Republican threats to gut its budget, the GAO drops the lawsuit. Scotland's Sunday Herald breaks the news that Cheney commissioned an energy report from ex-Secretary of State, Enron affiliate, and Carlyle Group honcho James Baker before December 2000 -- before Bush officially took office. The Herald article also reveals that Baker's panel includes Kenneth Lay, executives from another energy firm, Houston's Dynergy Inc. (like Enron, involved in manipulating California's energy crisis), four other prominent oil company executives, and Sheikh Saud Al Nasser Al Sabah, the former Kuwaiti oil minister. The Baker Institute's report on energy was funded through Khalid Al-Turki and the Arthur Ross Foundation.
- Baker's task force issues a report in April 2001 that sounds a harsh warning of California-like energy crises all across the nation. It also warns that "reliable" Middle East oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia may not be able to provide enough oil to serve the US's future needs, and makes the fascinating recommendation that Iraq be considered as an alternative oil supplier. The report states, "The United States should conduct an immediate policy review of Iraq, including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments.... Sanctions that are not effective should be phased out and replaced with highly focused and enforced sanctions that target the regime's ability to maintain and acquire weapons of mass destruction." Military intervention is listed as a method worth considering. Cheney receives the report in April 2001 and presents it to Bush's cabinet; according to the Herald, the administration makes the decision to invade Iraq and secure its oil at that time, six months before the 9/11 bombings. In May 2001, Cheney gives his task force's energy report to Bush. Ostensibly the work of his own group, in reality it is based on Baker's report from April, with the glaring exception of the material concerning Iraq. Initially, California was being given the blame for its energy problems; after the Bee's report in May 2001, speculation that the state's energy market was being manipulated began to be heard. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission undertakes a two-year staff investigation; on March 26, 2003, it releases its findings, which plainly point to market manipulation on a massive scale. Subsequent government investigations find evidence that Kenneth Lay had much more input into the task force's report than was acknowledged, and in fact, much of the task force's recommendations were designed to assist energy corporations such as Enron at the expense of the American public. This is one of the major reasons why Enron declared bankruptcy when it did. Meanwhile, many of the Cheney task force's recommendations have been implemented as govermental policy -- including, it seems, the initiative to destroy the Hussein regime and secure Iraq's oil for US use. (Sacramento Bee, Scotland Sunday Herald/Common Dreams, Yurica Report, Paul Waldman, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)