When my father told me that liars figure and figures lie, he could have
been talking about lawyers. The numerical sleight-of-hand in this
presidential election saga is simply staggering.
On Tuesday, for example, the Miami Herald ran a front-page story about
how, without confusing ballots and voting irregularities, Al Gore would have
won Florida by 23,000 votes. Reading a little further, though, shows that
this conclusion is "a hypothetical result derived from something that
clearly doesn't exist." Like mythical budgeting based on imaginary surpluses
going on in Washington, this result quickly becomes something else entirely
when the assumptions are wiggled even a chad (sorry).
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This so-called analysis, for example, assumes that absolutely every
single voter intended to vote for a presidential candidate. This simply is
not true. In some Florida counties, more than 5 percent of voters said they
had no intention of voting for any presidential candidate. And this analysis
treats all ballots rejected by counting machines the same way, whether they
contained no vote or multiple votes for president. That's why other analyses
with more realistic assumptions have come to a very different conclusion.
Even the liberal Slate magazine concluded that Gore would have lost by more
than 700 votes if all ballots had been manually recounted.
How about some other funny numbers. Republican Senate candidate Bill
McCollum received 207,000 fewer votes than Mr. Bush. He ran behind Mr. Bush
in 63 of 67 counties, including even his home county of Seminole. Yet he ran
1,600 votes ahead of Mr. Bush in liberal Palm Beach County. Three possible
explanations exist for this head-scratcher. First, there could have been
outright fraud deliberately suppressing the Bush vote. Not likely, since no
one has alleged any Chicago-style antics. Second, Palm Beach voters might
have split their ticket, choosing Republican Mr. McCollum for the Senate and
someone else for president. I'm not seeing it. Mr. McCollum, after all, was
one of those House impeachment managers trying to remove Mr. Gore's boss
from office. Third, and most likely, some folks just didn't vote for a
presidential candidate. Once again, reality must really annoy those
number-crunchers trying to explain away Mr. Gore's loss.
Or here's an interesting set of numbers. More than 180,000 ballots across
Florida were not counted for various reasons, some in every single county.
Mr. Gore, as you all know, says his only goal is not to be president but to
have every Florida vote counted. Why, then, did he ask for a manual recount
in only four of 67 counties? All heavily Democratic counties, mind you, with
the three largest using that punch-card voting system. Like the Big Bad Wolf
talking to Little Red Riding Hood, you can hear Mr. Gore explaining his
selective recount request by saying to those ballot cards "all the better to
see you with, my dear."
Try figuring this lie. Last week, during the trial contesting Florida's
election results, Mr. Gore said his chances of winning were "50-50." Then
Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected every single Gore argument, a result
the International Herald Tribune called a "crippling setback," the Chicago
Tribune labeled a "definitive rebuff," and the New York Times reported Gore
lawyers called a "devastating blow." Yet on Tuesday Mr. Gore said "I'll
stick with that" 50-50 prediction. That's some fuzzy math.
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And just a few final numbers for Mr. Gore to consider. The Portrait of
America and WashingtonPost/ABC polls each say 57 percent of Americans want
him to concede and NBC says it's at 59 percent (up 10 points in a week).
Americans by more than 2-to-1 disapprove of how Mr. Gore is handling this
election stand-off. And this just in: Gallup now says that "for the first
time since Al Gore emerged in 1992 as Bill Clinton's running mate for
president, the vice president is now viewed unfavorably by a majority of
American adults." Go figure.