When I read a

on Wednesday that said the Democratic National Committee hired a telemarketing firm an hour before the polls closed Nov. 7 in Florida to make calls to Palm Beach County voters using a script suggesting that the now infamous butterfly ballots were “confusing,” I smelled a big, fat Clinton-Gore rat.

According to the report, a Texas-based telemarketing firm called Telequest (ironic that it is based in Gov. Bush’s home state, eh?) was hired by the DNC to make 5,000 calls in less than 45 minutes using this script:

“Some voters have encountered a problem today with punch card ballots in Palm Beach County. These voters have said that they believe that they accidentally punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate.

“If you have already voted and think you may have punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate, you should return to the polls and request that the election officials write down your name so that this problem can be fixed.”

The Democrats say the effort was legitimate. I say if you believe that, you’re probably still waiting for your first quarter from the tooth fairy.

“Once we were informed by local news accounts of the magnitude of the problem with confusion about the ballot, we shifted our scripts to make sure that people who were voting were aware of the questions and confusion around the ballot,” DNC spokeschick Jenny Backus told reporters.

As I recall, all of the “controversy” over “confusing ballots” came on Wednesday — the day after the election and just as Florida was ordering a mandatory recount.

“The maneuver indicates that long before Americans awoke to the reality of the Florida ballot dispute, Democrats were already mobilizing voters there,” The Associated Press said.

Sure it does. That’s the point; the DNC had this planned.

“Within hours of the phone campaign, hundreds of Democratic voters had called election officials in Palm Beach to complain they may have been confused by the ballot and voted for the wrong candidate,” according to the report.

Nothing like being “persuaded” into confusion — especially if your candidate is behind.

“The calls,” according to AP, “indicate that Democrats were concerned about Palm Beach problems even before they knew Florida’s vote would end in a razor-thin margin, said American University political science professor Candice Nelson.”

I would agree. Again, that’s the point.

“To the extent there have been accusations that Democrats didn’t cry foul until they realized Wednesday that Bush may have won, this cuts the other way,” Nelson said.

Yeah, it certainly does “appear” that way, doesn’t it? As in, it was probably supposed to “appear” that way. I smell “plausible deniability.”

The problem is, this trash doesn’t wash.

If you pay much heed to the flavor of the AP report, it makes it sound as though — suddenly — Democrats and Palm Beach election officials were inundated with billions of voters calling to complain about “confusing” Florida ballots on the spur of the moment. As we’ve learned, voters were prompted to call by the DNC.

Political campaigns indeed do encounter sudden, spur-of-the-moment “problems” that have to be handled quickly, I agree. But something this complex doesn’t work that way. Something this easy to get off the ground was planned well in advance — and probably not just in Florida but in other key states Gore had a chance of losing at the last moment.

In Florida, my personal guess is that Democrats were tipped off early that they were losing, either by polling station workers or local press buddies or both. When this information was received, “Plan B” was activated. The plan was, as it seems to me, to convince Gore supporters who can manage 12 full Bingo cards that they can’t manage to properly read and cast a vote on a single ballot.

I don’t quite know how the networks factor into this — but by proclaiming a Gore victory too early there is no question the declaration suppressed votes for Bush elsewhere in the state. That too, is something to consider.

As for the crux of this report, it suggests:

  • The Democrats put this pre-ordained plan into action because they knew early on they were losing a key state;

  • TeleQuest was pre-ordained as the telemarketer of choice (you don’t think the DNC found them in the phone book on election night, do you?);

  • The script TeleQuest was using was already written — it had to be, because if the firm made 5,000 calls in the 45 minutes before Florida polls closed, when would there have been time to write the script?

Also an oddity — the DNC intimated that state party officials were receiving lots of phone calls complaining about the “confusion” of the ballot throughout the day. Yet they waited until less than an hour before the polls closed to begin making these phone calls. Not likely; if there was true ballot confusion, a political party would want its supporters to know early and often that they may run into a problem, lest they legitimately cast a vote for the wrong man.

As a coup de grace, TeleQuest also said they provided the names of Palm Beach county residents who said they may have voted “improperly” (remember, this is after being prompted into such a response by the script employed) to the DNC, obviously so Democratic officials could then use those names in anticipated litigation.

It is just amazing to me that the establishment press accepts this tripe without question. A first-year political science major could figure this one out.

In any other election, one could dismiss this whole ordeal as just a cheap political tactic. But in this election, such a tactic could well decide the fate and future of the world’s richest, most powerful nation. That has implications beyond our borders so, in essence, our presidential decision is bigger than all of us.

None of that seems to matter much to Gore and the Democrats. To them power is more important and the path to achieving power justifies the means, no matter how illegal, improper or immoral.

Gore no longer deserves the White House or the respect of the American people. Honesty and integrity are as unfamiliar to him and the DNC as “controlling legal authority.”

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