Stupid White Men and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation

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Stupid White Men

and Other Sorry Excuses for

the State of the Nation
Michael Moore

Copyright ©2001 by Michael Moore. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promotional use. For information please write: Special Markets Department, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 East 53 rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

Designed by Kris Tobiassen

Printed on acid-free paper

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

ISBN 0-06-039245-2

02 03 04 05 WB/QWM 20 19 18 17 16 15 14

It’s amazing I won. I was running against peace, prosperity, and incumbency.

—GEORGE W. BUSH, JUNE 14, 2001, speaking to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Perrson, unaware that a live television camera was still rolling


ONE A Very American Coup 1

TWO Dear George 29

THREE Dow Wow Wow 47

FOUR Kill Whitey 56

FIVE Idiot Nation 85

SIX Nice Planet Nobody Home 119

SEVEN The End of Men 142

EIGHT We’re Number One! 163

NINE One Big Happy Prison 195

TEN Democrats, DOA 209

ELEVEN The People’s Prayer 229

EPILOGUE Tallahassee Hi-Ho 236




THERE ARE THOSE who say it all started to unravel the night of November 7, 2000, when Jeb Bush gave his brother George Jr. an early Christmas present—the state of Florida.

For others, those upon whom a decade’s fortune had smiled, the turning point came when the Dow had its biggest annual loss in almost twenty years.

For most, though, the day the music died came the night we were told Pluto was no longer a planet, and life as we knew it was as distant as the look in the new “President’s” eyes.

Wherever you choose to pinpoint the exact moment when it all crumbled before your eyes, it matters not. The only thing that matters is that we, collectively, as Americans, all know that someone has pulled the plug on our all-night binge. The American Century? That’s over. Welcome to your Century 21 Nightmare!

A man no one elected sits in the White House.

California can’t find enough electricity to operate its juicers, or execute its inmates.

It’s cheaper to FedEx yourself across town than to drive there.

Russia and China have signed a new pact—just when we’d dismantled the last of the fallout shelters.

Dot-coms have turned into Not-coms, making the NASDAQ as safe a bet as a backroom. craps game in Reno.

The past two years have seen the most layoffs since the worst years of the Reagan Renaissance devastated the country.

You stand a better chance of dating Katherine Harris or Tom DeLay than of making your Northwest connection in Detroit on a sunny day.

What’s that you say? You want to talk to a real human being in “customer service“? HA HA HA! Press “4” and kiss the rest of your day good-bye.

Oh, and aren’t you lucky! You’re working two jobs, and so is your wife, and you’ve got little Jimmy working down at McDonald’s, too, so you can afford that new home on the tree-lined street with neatly trimmed lawns and little white picket fences, and—look, there goes Spot to greet Grandpa as he pulls into the driveway!—and next month you’re going to make the last payment on that student loan you’ve had for the past twenty years, but then ... SUDDENLY, your company has announced it’s moving to Mexico—without you! Your wife’s employer has decided she’s no longer needed because the new “human resources” consultant believes that one person can easily do the jobs of three, and little Jimmy has come down with an unknown illness from something he ate out of the McNugget fryer, and your HMO says they won’t cover little Jimmy’s operation but they’ll be happy to treat him as an outpatient if you’re willing to drive to Tijuana twice a week because, well, they’ve built a new outpatient clinic just across the border, thanks to free trade, which may or may not be responsible for the worm found in Jimmy’s half-eaten McNugget—oh, sorry, the collection agency just called and they’d like your new Celica back because you’ve missed a payment! Hey, maybe when you go to Tijuana and drop Jimmy off you can head down the street and reapply for your old job, where all the “associates” are given their own outhouse and fed a free breakfast burrito when they arrive at work at five o’clock every morning.

Pardon me if I was dreaming, but weren’t things looking up just a year or so ago? Weren’t we supposed to be living through the “largest economic expansion in history”? Hadn’t the government ended fifty-five years of operating in the red and finally boasted a “cash surplus” large enough to fix every road, bridge, and tooth in America? Air and water pollution were at their lowest levels in decades, crime was at a record low, teen pregnancies had dropped out of sight, and more kids were graduating from high school and college than ever before. Old people lived longer, you could call Katmandu for 12 cents a minute, and the Internet was bringing all the world (save the two billion or so who live without electricity) closer together. Palestinians broke bread with Israelis, Catholics shared a pint with Protestants in Northern Ireland. Yes, life was getting a whole lot better—and we all felt it. People were friendlier, strangers on the street would give you the time of day, and Regis made the questions easier so we could have more millionaires.

Then something happened.

Investors lost millions in the stock market. Crime went up for the first time in a decade. Job losses skyrocketed. American icons like Montgomery Ward and TWA vanished. Suddenly we were 2.5 million barrels short of oil—every day! Israelis started killing Palestinians again, and Palestinians returned the favor. By mid2 00 1, thirty-seven countries were at war around the world. China became our new enemy—again. The United Nations kicked us off their Human Rights Commission, and the European Union attacked us for unilaterally violating the ABM treaty by reintroducing “Star Wars.” It was hard, damn hard, to find a good movie; millions stopped watching network television; and every radio station you tuned in sounded the same—like crap.

In short, all of a sudden everything sucked. Whether it’s the shaky economy, depleted energy supplies, elusive world peace, no job security, no health care, or the simple unusable ballot we were given to pick a President, it has become maddeningly clear to most Americans that nothing seems to work. Firestone tires don’t work, and the Ford Explorers that ride atop them don’t work either—which means you don’t work at all because you’re dead and decapitated and lying in a ditch outside the Dunkin’ Donuts.

911 doesn’t work. 411 doesn’t work. Cell phones don’t work, and when they do, it’s some asshole having an argument with his broker at the table next to you while you’re trying to eat dinner.

Freedom of choice is a thing of the past. We’re down to six media companies, six airlines, two and a half carmakers, and one radio conglomerate. Everything you will ever need is at WalMart. You can choose between two political parties that sound alike, vote alike, and are funded alike by the same exact wealthy donors. You can choose to wear nondescript pastels and keep your mouth shut, or you can choose to wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt and get kicked out of school. Britney or Christina, WB; or UPN, Florida or Texas—there ain’t no friggin’ difference, folks, it’s all the same, it’s all the same, it’s all the same....

How did all this happen? Three little words:

Stupid White Men.

Think about it: the Bush boys, who took the slender inheritance of Poppy’s political mind (not to mention charisma) and spread it even thinner among themselves. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Spencer Abraham, and the other old shills Bush revived to prop him up. The CEOs of the Fortune 500; the wizards behind Hollywood and five-hundred-channel TV; hell, the average Joe who sees 15 mpg on his new-car sticker and thinks “not bad!” as the ozone clouds part above his head.

That’s right, the whole planet is being overrun—and I’m convinced it’s starting to fight back. One day last February in Chicago the temperature hit 70 degrees, and what happened? Everyone was, like, Wow, this is great! People were walking around in shorts, and the beach along Lake Michigan was filled with sunbathers. “Boy, I love this weather,” said one lady to me on the street.

You love this? Let me ask you—if the sun suddenly rose at midnight tonight, would you say, “Oh, wow, this is beautiful! I love it! More daylight!”

No, of course you wouldn’t. You’d be freaking out on a level that has never been measured. You would be screaming bloody murder that the Earth was spinning out of control, heading toward the sun at a million miles a second. I doubt anyone would be running to the beach to catch any of those bonus rays. Of course, maybe it’s not that bad: maybe someone just launched a thousand warheads on Milwaukee, and that’s the bright light you’re seeing to the north as nuclear fission interacts with vacant boarded-up breweries. Either way, you’d be ripping through so many Hail Marys and God Have Mercies you might just knock ten years off your sentence to purgatory.

So why on earth do we think a 70-degree day in the coldest month of the year, in one of the coldest cities in America, is something to crow about? We ought to be demanding action from our representatives, and swift retribution against those responsible for these climate changes. This isn’t right, folks: something is terribly wrong. And if you don’t believe me, ask that dead infected cow you’re drowning in A-1. He knew the answer, but we killed him before we could moo it out of him.

But let’s not worry about Mother Earth—she’s lasted through much worse. Let the tree-huggers lose their sleep over it—we’re too damn busy trying to make money!

Ali, money. The sweet stench of success. A couple years ago I was talking to a guy in a bar who happened to be a stockbroker. He asked me about my “investments.” I told him I didn’t have any, that I don’t own a single share of stock. He was stunned.

“You mean you don’t have a portfolio where you keep your money? ”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep your money in portfolios,” I replied, “or in a briefcase, or even under the futon. I save what little I can in a place called a ‘bank,’ where I have what the old-timers call a ‘savings account.’ ”

He was not amused. “You’re just screwing yourself,” he said. “And you’re being irresponsible. I remember reading you made a lot of money from your first film, right? Do you know how much you’d have today if you’d invested it in the stock market ten years ago? Probably about thirty mil.”

Thirty million? Dollars? Coulda been mine? Agggghhhh!!! What was I thinking?

Suddenly I got very queasy, and it felt like all my principles and beliefs were about to end up on my shoes. I excused myself and went outside.

Some time after this event, the stockbroker guy got hold of my home address and started sending me weekly “market updates” and other propaganda in the hope that I’d give him my kid’s college fund to gamble with on the Strip known as Wall Street.

Well, the “Investment Opportunities” flyers have stopped coming. In the past eighteen months, Microsoft has gone from $120 to $40, Dell from $50 to $16, and and its cute little sock puppet have gone to puppy heaven. The NASDAQ has lost nearly 40 percent of its value, and average Americans, snookered into the madness of playing the market with their meager savings, have lost billions. Any thoughts of “early retirement” we may have entertained are out the window; we’ll be lucky if they let us cut back to forty hours a week when we’re eighty-two, or incontinent, whichever comes first.

Actually, not all of us. There are almost fifty-six thousand new millionaires in the country—and they’ve, made out like bandits. They made their money because they already had a goodly sum to begin with and then invested it in companies that got rich by throwing people out of work, exploiting children and the poor in other countries, and receiving big reductions in their taxes. For them greed wasn’t good, it was mandatory. In fact, they were so good at creating a climate of greed that the word itself went out of style. Now it’s called SUCCESS! and, yes, it comes with its own punctuation. Soon virtually no one questioned all this gluttony as wrong or obscene; it became such a part of our daily life that when this character from Texas got greedy and took an election he didn’t win, we stood back and gave it to him—he wasn’t being greedy, after all, just being smart. just as corporate agriculture’s dicey schemes to corrupt the genetic makeup of your corn flakes aren’t insane or greedy—that’s progress. Just as the guy next door who wants the biggest SUV ever built isn’t being greedy—he just wants more torque, baby!

This Stupid White Virus is so powerful it has even infected ringers like Colin Powell, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. And it’s created a deep funk—a grand, national funk you can feel wherever you go. It has permeated us so profoundly I wonder if we’ll ever recover.

Of course, we’re all trying hard to forget about the moment when this ugly cultural shift hit critical mass and the Forces of Evil took over. I know what it is, you know what it is, even an idiot like Brit Hume knows what it is. It’s that damn stolen election. Stolen, hijacked, abducted, and ripped from the very hands and hearts of the American people. There is absolutely NO DISPUTE over who got the most votes, and there’s little question now about the shenanigans that took place in Florida; yet he who won is not the man we see playing Wiffle ball on the South Lawn this afternoon.

Yes, we’re all telling ourselves nothing all that bad really happened—get over it, we’ve been told—but the events of those thirty-six days shook us hard, knocked the wind out of us, and wedged something deep in our national craw. Nothing short of one big national Heimlich maneuver can save us now. We’re stumbling around blue in the face, wondering if relief will come in time. Will I have my job next year? What will happen to my retirement fund? Do ice cubes count as a food group.

YOU DO NOT COUNT! It’s a tough lesson to learn. And tougher still to discover that all the stuff you’ve always been told to do— vote, obey the law, recycle your wine-cooler bottles doesn’t really matter, either. You might as well pull the shades and take the phone off the hook, because you and your fellow Americans have just been declared irrelevant. Your services as a citizen, we regret to inform you, are no longer required.

So confusion reigns, and the seismic tremors of national frustration are starting to rumble beneath our feet. The grumbling isn’t subsiding, it’s growing each day. Eight months after the election, deep into 2001, a Fox News poll announced that nearly 60 percent of the American public had NOT gotten over how Bush took the White House— that we’re still “angry.” That’s a long time to harbor aggressive ill will toward our Leader. A mood that swings out of control like this— with no prompting from refined sugar or Oprah— is a mood that can alter history. Millions of Americans, from all points on the political spectrum, are feeling off-balance, unsure, upset, unglued. The rest are in prison.

The common view in the heartland is that the ship of state is running on fumes, and no one’s at the wheel; after all, the designated driver wasn’t designated by anyone— and he’s a self-confessed drunk driver to boot.

Hard-core Republicans are desperately hoping that Big Dick Cheney can survive half a dozen more heart attacks and last long enough to oversee the raping and pillaging of everything west of Wichita. What they don’t realize is that he’s already put the rest of the country into cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, he and his gang are double-timing it to dismantle as much of the environment, the Constitution, and the evidence in Tallahassee as they can before the EMS unit called Election 2002 arrives.

And if there’s one thing I’m certain of, there’s a triage a-comin’. The American public will be turning off the life support system on this administration faster than you can say “Jack Splat Kevorkian.”

So hack away, Ms. Norton—last I heard, trees grow back! Bombs away, Mr. Rumsfeld and General Powell—we’re all out of Sergeant McVeighs for you to pin medals on! Drill away, Mr. Abraham—we’ll have you parking those big gas hogs at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club before you know it!

Soon, like good Saint Jeffords of Vermont, the elephants will be jumping from the sinking ship. The rest of us will just sit back and enjoy the show while contemplating how to make next month’s house payment, and where to take cover as the remains of Antonin Scalia rain down upon us like a cold shower in January. Hey, dammit—wait! IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO RAIN IN JANUARY!

So the panic builds. The media can turn and look the other way if they want, and the pundits can keep trying to sell their lies by repeating them so often that they start seeming true. But we millions of Americans aren’t going to fall for the deception. The stock market isn’t just going through a “natural cycle.” There’s nothing beneficial about “genetically enhanced beef.” The bank doesn’t want to “work with you” to help you catch up. And the cable guy isn’t coming “between 8 A.M. and 5 PM.”—or any other time, for that matter. It’s all a bunch of hooey, from top to bottom, and as soon as they recognize we’re onto them, the sooner we’ll get our country back.

Today I took my year-old car, with less than 4,000 miles on it, into the repair shop at the dealership where I bought it. Why? Seems that every other time I go to start the car, it won’t start. I’ve replaced the starter, the battery, the fuse, the computer chip. But none of that has solved the problem.

When I told the service manager all this, he looked at me with a witheringly vacant stare. “Oh, these new Beetles—they don’t start unless you drive them every day.”

I thought for sure I must have heard him wrong—after all, he was speaking perfect English. So I asked him again what the problem was.

“You see,” he said, shaking his head in pity, “these VWs are run by a computer system, and if the computer hasn’t read any activity—namely, you turning it on and driving it every day or so—then the computer assumes the battery is dead or something, and just shuts down the whole car. Is there any way you or someone you know can go down to the garage and start it once a day?”

I didn’t know what to say. “If you don’t start the car every day, it will die”—what is this, 1901? Am I being arrogant to expect that a car I spent $20,000 on is supposed to start whenever I put the key in the ignition? There aren’t many sure things left in the world these days: the sun still sets in the west, the Pope still says Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Strom Thurmond still comes back to life whenever there’s an ex-First Lady around to grope. I would have thought I could cling to at least this one last article of faith: a brand-new car always starts—period!

“Like ninety-five percent of the customers you’ve sold these new Beetles to,” I said, “I live in Manhattan. Do you know anybody in Manhattan who drives their car every day?”

“Yes, sir, we understand. Nobody in the city drives a car every day. They use the subways! I don’t know why they even sell these cars in the city. It’s really a shame. Have you tried writing to Volkswagen? Is there a kid on your block you can get to start it for a few minutes every day or so?”

So I’m stuck with a car that doesn’t run, in a country where nothing works, everything sucks, and it’s every man, woman, and state-tested child for themselves. Survival of the richest—no more lifeboats for you, or you, or you!

There’s got to be a better way...

Stupid White Men

A Very American Coup

I am a citizen of the United States of America. Our government has been overthrown. Our elected President has been exiled. Old white men wielding martinis and wearing dickies have occupied our nation’s capital.

We are under siege. We are the United States Government in-Exile.

Our numbers are not insignificant. There are over 154 million adults among us, and 80 million children, That’s 234 million people who did not vote for, and are not represented by, the regime that has placed itself in power.

Al Gore is the elected President of the United States. He received 539,898 more votes than George W. Bush. But he does not sit tonight in the Oval Office. Instead our elected President roams the country without purpose or mission, surfacing only to lecture college students and replenish his stash of Little Debbie’s Snack Cakes.

Al Gore won. Al Gore, President-in-Exile. Long live El Presidente Albertooooooo Gorrrrrrrrrrre!

So who, then, is the man that now occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I’ll tell you who:

He is George W Bush, “President” of the United States. The Thief-in-Chief.

It used to be that politicians would wait until they were in office before they became crooks. This one came prepackaged. Now he is a trespasser on federal land, a squatter in the Oval Office. If I told you this was Guatemala, you’d believe it in a heartbeat, no matter what your political stripe. But because this coup was wrapped in an American flag, delivered in your choice of red, white, or blue, those responsible believe they’re going to get away with it.

That’s why, on behalf of 234 million Americans held hostage, I have requested that NATO do what it did in Bosnia and Kosovo, what America did in Haiti, what Lee Marvin did in The Dirty Dozen:

Send in the Marines! Launch the SCUD missiles! Bring us the head of Antonin Scalia!

I have sent a personal request to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to hear our plea. We are no longer able to govern ourselves or to hold free and fair elections. We need U.N. observers, U.N. troops, U.N. resolutions!

Dammit, we need Jimmy Carter!

We are now finally no better than a backwater banana republic. We are asking ourselves why any of us should bother to get up in the morning to work our asses off to produce goods and services that only serve to make the junta and its cohorts in Corporate America (a separate, autonomous fiefdom within the United States that has been allowed to run on its own for some time) even richer. Why should we pay our taxes to finance their coup? Can we ever again send our sons off into battle to give their lives defending “our way of life“—when all that really means is the lifestyle of the gray old men holed up in the headquarters they seized by the Potomac?

Oh JesusMaryAndJoseph, I can’t take it! Somebody pass me the universal remote! I need to switch back to the fairy tale that I was a citizen in a democracy with an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happy Meals. The story I was told as a child said that I mattered, that I was equal to every one of my fellow citizens—and that not a single one of us was to he treated differently or unfairly, that no one was to wield power over others without their consent. The will of the people. America the Beautiful. Land that I love. Twilight’s ... last ... gleaming. Oh, say, can you see—are the Belgian peacekeepers on their way? Hurry!

The coup began long before the shenanigans on Election Day 2000. In the summer of 1999 Katherine Harris, an honorary Stupid White Man who was both George W. Bush’s presidential campaign cochairwoman and the Florida secretary of state in charge of elections, paid $4 million to Database Technologies to go through Florida’s voter rolls and remove anyone “suspected” of being a former felon. She did so With the blessing of the governor of Florida, George Ws brother Jeb Bush—whose own wife was caught by immigration officials trying to sneak $19,000 worth of jewelry into the country without declaring and paying tax on it ... a felony in its own right. But hey, this is America. We don’t prosecute felons if they’re rich or married to a governing Bush.

The law states that ex-felons cannot vote in Florida. And sadly (though I’m confident that Florida’s justice system was always unimpeachably fair), that means 31 percent of all black men in Florida are prohibited from voting because they have a felony on their record. Harris and Bush knew that removing the names of ex-felons from the voter rolls would keep thousands of black citizens out of the voting booth.

Black Floridians, overwhelmingly, are Democrats—and sure enough, Al Gore received the votes of more than 90 percent of them on November 7, 2000.

That is, 90 percent of those who were allowed to vote.

In what appears to be a mass fraud committed by the state of Florida, Bush, Harris, and company not only removed thousands of black felons from the rolls, they also removed thousands of black citizens who had never committed a crime in their lives—along with thousands of eligible voters who had committed only misdemeanors.

How did this happen? Harris’s office told Database—a firm with strong Republican ties—to cast as wide a net as possible to get rid of these voters. Her minions instructed the company to include even people with “similar” names to those of the actual felons. They insisted Database check people with the same birth dates as known felons, or similar Social Security numbers; an 80 percent match of relevant information, the election office instructed, was sufficient for Database to add a voter to the ineligible list.

These orders were shocking, even to Bush-friendly Database. They would mean that thousands of legitimate voters might be barred from voting on Election Day just because they had a name that sounded like someone else’s, or shared a birthday with some unknown bank robber. Marlene Thorogood, the Database project manager, sent an E-mail to Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell, a lawyer for Katherine Harris’s election division, warning him that “Unfortunately, programming in this fashion may supply you with false positives,” or misidentifications.

Never mind that, said ol’ Bucky. His response: “Obviously, we want to capture more names that possibly aren’t matches and let [county election] supervisors make a final determination rather than exclude certain matches altogether.”

Database did as they were told. And before long 173,000 registered voters in Florida were permanently wiped off the voter rolls. In Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest county, 66 percent of the voters who were removed were black. In Tampa’s county, 54 percent of those who would be denied the right to vote on November 7, 2000, were black.

But culling names from Florida’s records alone was not enough for Harris and her department. Eight thousand additional Floridians were thrown off the voting rolls because Database used a false list supplied by another state, a state which claimed that all the names on the list were former convicted felons who had since moved to Florida,

It turns out that the felons on the list had served their time and had all their voting privileges reinstated. And there were others on the list who had committed only misdemeanors—such as parking violations or littering. What state was it that offered Jeb and George a helping hand by sending this bogus list to Florida?


This entire incident stunk to the high heavens, but the American media ignored it. It took the British Broadcasting Corporation to dig deep into this story, running fifteen-minute segments on its prime-time news program revealing all the sordid details and laying responsibility for the scam right at the doorstep of Governor Jeb Bush. It’s a sad day when we have to look to a country 5,000 miles away to find out the truth about our own elections. (Eventually the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post picked up the story, but it received little attention.)

This assault on the voting rights of minorities was so widespread in Florida that it even affected people like Linda Howell. Linda received a letter informing her that she was a felon—and therefore advising her not to bother showing up on Election Day, because she would be barred from voting. The only problem was, Linda Howell wasn’t a felon—in fact, she was the elections supervisor of Madison County, Florida! She and other local election officials tried to get the state to rectify the problem, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. They were told that everyone who complained about being prevented from voting should submit themselves for fingerprinting—and then let the state determine whether or not they were felons.

On November 7, 2000, as black Floridians flocked to the polls in record numbers, many were met at the ballot boxes with a blunt rebuke: “You cannot vote.” In a number of precincts in Florida’s inner cities, the polling locations were heavily fortified with police to block anyone on Katherine and Jeb’s “felons list” from voting. Hundreds of law-abiding citizens looking to exercise their constitutional right to vote, mostly in black and Hispanic communities, were sent away—and threatened with arrest if they protested.

George W. Bush would officially be credited with receiving 537 more votes than Al Gore in Florida. Is it safe to assume that the thousands of registered black and Hispanic voters barred from the polls might have made the difference if they had been allowed to vote—and cost Bush the election? Without a doubt.

On election night, after the polls closed, there was much confusion over what was happening with the counting of the votes in Florida. Finally a decision was made by the man in charge of the election night desk for the Fox News Channel. He decided that Fox should go on the air and declare that Bush had won Florida and thus the election. And that’s what happened. Fox formally declared Bush the winner.

But down in Tallahassee, the counting of the votes had not yet been completed; in fact, the Associated Press insisted it was still too close to call, and refused to follow Fox’s lead.

Not so the other networks. They ran like lemmings after Fox made the call, afraid that they would be seen as slow or out of the loop—even though their own news reporters on the ground were insisting that it was too early to call the election. But who needs reporters when you’re playing follow the leader—the leader, in this case, being John Ellis, the man in charge of Fox’s election coverage. Who is John Ellis?

He’s a first cousin of George W. and Jeb Bush.

Once Ellis made the call and everyone followed suit, there was no going back—and nothing was more psychologically devastating for Gore’s chances of winning than the sudden perception that HE was being the spoiler by asking for recounts, withdrawing his concession of defeat, tying up the courts with lawyers and lawsuits. The truth is that during all of this, Gore actually was ahead—he had the most votes—but that was never how the news media played it.

The one moment from that election night I will never forget came earlier in the evening, after the networks had first correctly-projected the state of Florida for Gore. The cameras cut to a hotel room in Texas. There sat George W with his father, the former President, and his mother, Barbara. The old man appeared cool as a cucumber, even though it looked like curtains for Sonny. A reporter asked young Bush what he thought about the outcome.

“I’m not ... conceding anything in Florida,” Junior piped up, semicoherently. “I know you’ve all the projections, but people are actually counting the votes.... The networks called this thing awfully earlier and people are actually counting the votes have different perspective so...” It was an odd moment in that crazy night of election result coverage. The Bushes, with their relaxed smiles, looked like a family of cats that had just wolfed down a bunch of canaries—as if they knew something we didn’t.

They did. They knew Jeb and Katherine had done their job months earlier. They knew cousin John was holding down the fort at Fox election central. And if all else failed, there was always that team Poppy could count on: the United States Supreme Court.

As we all know, that’s exactly what happened for the next thirty-six days. The forces of the Empire struck back, and they did so without mercy. While Gore was stupidly concentrating on getting recounts in a few counties, the Bush team was going after the holy grail—the overseas absentee ballots. Many of these ballots would come from the military, which typically votes Republican, and would finally give Bush the lead that denying the vote to thousands of blacks and Jewish grandmothers hadn’t.

Gore knew this, and tried to make sure the ballots underwent maximum scrutiny before they could be counted. Sure, this ran contrary to the “let every vote be counted” plea he’d made when calling for recounts. But he also had Florida law, which is pretty clear about this, on his side. It states that overseas absentee ballots can only be counted if they were cast and signed on or before election day, and mailed and postmarked from another country by election day.

But while Jim Baker was chanting his mantra—“It is not fair to change the rules and standards governing the counting or recounting of votes after it appears that one side has concluded that is the only way to get the votes it needs”—he and his operatives were doing just that.

A July 2001 investigation by the New York Times showed that of the 2,490 overseas ballots that ended up being included in the certified election results, 680 were considered flawed and questionable. Bush got the overseas vote by a ratio, of 4 to 5. By that percentage, 544 of the votes that went to Bush should have been thrown out. Got the math? Suddenly Bush’s “winning margin” of 537 votes is down to a chilly negative 7.

So how did all these votes end up being counted for Bush? Within hours of the election, the Bush campaign had launched their attack. The first step was to make sure that as many ballots got in as possible. Republican operatives sent out frantic E-mails to navy ships asking them to dig up any ballots that might be hanging around. They even put in a call to Clinton Defense Secretary William S. Cohen (a Republican) to ask him to put pressure on the military outposts. He declined, but it didn’t matter: thousands of votes poured in—even some that were signed after election day.

Now all they had to do was make sure that as many of these votes as possible went to W And so the real thievery began.

According to the Times, Katherine Harris had planned to send out a memo to her canvassing boards clarifying the procedure for counting overseas ballots. Included in this memo was a reminder that state law required all ballots to have been “postmarked or signed and dated” by election day. When it was clear that George’s lead was rapidly shrinking, she decided not to send the memo. Instead she sent out a note that said ballots “are not required to be postmarked on or prior to” election day. Hmmm.

What caused her to change her mind—and the law? We may never know, since the computer records that showed what happened have been mysteriously erased—a possible violation of Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Now, long after the horse has left the barn, Harris has turned over her hard drives to the media for inspection—but only after her own computer consultant “looked them over.” This is a woman who is now planning to run for Congress. Can these people get any more shameless?

Armed with the blessing of the secretary of state, the Republicans launched an all-out campaign to make sure as broad a standard as possible was used in counting these absentee ballots. “Equal representation,” Florida style, meant that the rules governing acceptance or denial of your absentee ballot depended on what county you were from. Perhaps that would explain why in counties where Gore won, only 2 out of 10 absentee ballots with unclear postmarks were counted; in Bush counties, predictably, 6 out of 10 such ballots made it into the final tally.

When the Democrats complained that ballots that didn’t follow the rules shouldn’t be counted, the Republicans launched a fierce public relations campaign to make it look as if the Democrats were trying to screw the men and women who were risking their lives for our country. A Republican city council member from Naples was typical in his hyperbole: “If they catch a bullet, or fragment from a terrorist bomb, that fragment does not have any postmark or registration of any kind.” Republican Congressman Steve Buyer from Indiana even obtained (possibly illegally) the phone numbers and E-mail addresses of military personnel so that he could gather tales of ballot-denial woe to garner sympathy for “our fighting men and women.” Even Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf weighed in with the reflection that “it’s a very sad day in our country” when Democrats start harassing military voters.

All the pressure worked on the wimpy, spineless Democrats. They choked. While appearing on Meet the Press, vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman argued that the Democrats should stop creating a fuss and not be bothered that hundreds of military ballots were being counted, just because they weren’t “postmarked.”

Lieberman, like so many others among this new breed of Democrats, should have fought for principle instead of worrying about image. Why? Well, as the New York Times found out:

• 344 ballots had no evidence that they were cast on or before Election Day

• 183 ballots were postmarked in the United States

• 96 ballots lacked appropriate witness information

• 169 ballots came from unregistered voters, had envelopes that weren’t signed properly, or came from people who hadn’t requested a ballot

• 5 ballots came after the November 17 deadline

• 19 overseas voters voted on two ballots—and had both counted

All of these ballots violated Florida law, yet they all were counted. Can I say this any louder? Bush didn’t win! Gore did. It has nothing to do with chads, or even the blatant repression of Florida’s Aftican-American community and their right to vote. It was a simple matter of breaking the law, all documented, all the evidence sitting there in Tallahassee, clearly marked without question—and all done purposefully to throw the election to Bush.

On the morning of Saturday, December 9, 2000, the Supreme Court got word that the recounts in Florida, in spite of everything the Bush camp had done to fix the elections, were going in favor of Al Gore. By 2 Pm., the unofficial tally showed that Gore was catching up to Bush—“only 66 votes down, and gaining!” as one breathless newscaster put it. It was critical to Bush that the words “Al Gore is in the lead” never be heard on American television: With only moments to spare, they did what they had to do. At 2:45 that afternoon, the Supreme Court stopped the recount.

On the Court sat Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor and Nixon appointee Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Both in their seventies, they were hoping to retire under a Republican administration so that their replacements would share their conservative ideology. On election night, O’Connor was heard lamenting at a party in Georgetown that she couldn’t hold out another four—or eight—years. Junior Bush was their only hope for securing a contented retirement in their home state of Arizona.

Meanwhile, two other justices with extremist right-wing viewpoints found themselves with a conflict of interest. justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia Lamp Thomas, worked at the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank in D.C.; now, she has just been hired by George W. Bush to help recruit people to serve in his impending administration. And Eugene Scalia, the son of justice Antonin Scalia, was a lawyer with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher—the very law firm representing Bush before the Supreme Court!

But neither Thomas nor Scalia saw any conflict of interest, and they refused to remove themselves from the case. In fact, when the Court convened later, it was Scalia who issued the now-infamous explanation of why the ballot-counting had to be halted: “The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does, in my view, threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election.” In other words, if we let all the votes be counted and they come out in Gore’s favor, and Gore wins, well, that will impair Bush’s ability to govern once we install him as “President.”

True enough: if the ballots proved that Gore had won—which they eventually would—then I guess that would tend to dampen the country’s feelings of legitimacy about a Bush presidency.

In their decision, the Court used the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment—the same amendment they’ve loudly disclaimed when used by blacks over the years to halt discrimination based on race—to justify the theft. Because of the variation in the recount methods, they argued, voters in each district weren’t being treated equally, and therefore their rights were being violated. (Funny, but only the dissenters on the court mentioned that the antiquated voting equipment found disproportionately in poor and minority Florida neighborhoods had created an entirely different—and far more disturbing— —inequality in the system.)

Eventually the press got around to conducting their own recounts of the votes, doing their best to spin the jumbled ball of public confusion into orbit. The headline in the Miami Herald read: “Review of ballots finds Bush’s win would have endured manual recount.” But if you read the entire story, buried deep inside was this paragraph: “Bush’s lead would have vanished if the recount had been conducted under the severely restrictive standards that some Republicans advocated.... The review found that the result would have been different if every canvassing board in every county had examined every undervote ... [Under] the most inclusive standard [that is, a standard that sought to include the true will of ALL the people] Gore would have won by 393 votes.... On ballots that [suggested] a fault with either the machine or the voter’s ability to use it ... Gore would have won by 299 votes.”

I did not vote for Al Gore, but I think any fair person would conclude that the will of the people in Florida clearly went his way. Whether it was the counting debacle or the exclusion of thousands of black citizens that corrupted the results, there is little doubt that Gore was the people’s choice.

There was perhaps no worse example of the wholesale denial of the right of each voter to have his vote properly counted than in Palm Beach County. Much has been made of the “butterfly ballot,” which made it easy to vote for the wrong person because candidates’ names and punch holes were crammed unevenly onto facing pages. The media went out of its way to point out that the ballot was designed by one of the county’s election commissioners, a Democrat, and then approved by the majority-Democrat local board. What right did Gore have to complain if his own party was responsible for the faulty design of the ballot?

Had anyone bothered to check, they would have discovered that one of the two “Democrats” on the committee—the ballot’s designer, Theresa LePore—had actually been a registered Republican. She switched her affiliation to Democrat in 1996; then, just three months after Bush seized office, she resigned as a Democrat and switched her voter registration to Independent. No one in the press bothered to question what was really going on.

Thus, the Palm Beach Post estimates that more than 3,000 voters, mostly elderly and Jewish, who thought they were voting for Al Gore ended up punching the wrong hole—for Pat Buchanan. Even Buchanan went on TV to declare that no way in hell did those Jewish voters vote for him.

On January 2 0, 2 001, George W. Bush, positioned with his junta on the Capitol steps, stood in front of Chief Justice Rehnquist and took the oath that Presidents take at their inaugurations. A cold and steady rain fell over Washington throughout the day. Dark clouds obscured the sun, and the parade route, usually jammed with tens of thousands of citizens all the way to the White House, was eerily bare.

Except for the 20,000 protesters who jeered Bush every inch of the way. Holding signs denouncing Bush for stealing the election, the rain-soaked demonstrators were the conscience of the nation. Bush’s limousine could not avoid them. Instead of cheering crowds of supporters, he was greeted by good people moved to remind this illegitimate ruler that he did not win the election and that the people would never forget.

At the traditional point where Presidents since Jimmy Carter have stopped their limos and emerged to walk the last four blocks (as a reminder that we are a nation ruled not by kings but by, uh, equals), Bush’s triple-armored black car with its dark-tinted windows—favored by mobsters everywhere—came to an abrupt halt. The crowd grew louder—“HAIL TO THE THIEF!” You could see the Secret Service and Bush’s advisers huddling in the freezing rain, trying to figure out what to do. If Bush got out and walked, he would be booed, shouted down, and pelted with eggs the rest of the way. The limousine sat there for what must have been five minutes. The rain poured. Eggs and tomatoes hit the car. The protesters dared Bush to step out and face them.

Then, suddenly, the President’s car bolted and tore down the street. The decision had been made—hit the gas and get past this rabble as quickly as possible. The Secret Service agents running beside the limo were left behind, the car’s tires splashing dirty rain from the street onto the men who were there to protect its passenger. It might have been the finest thing I have ever witnessed in Washington, D.C.—a pretender to the American throne forced to turn tail and run from thousands of American citizens armed only with the Truth and the ingredients of a decent omelet.

Once the American Lie put the pedal to the metal, it ran for cover to the bulletproof reviewing stand in front of the White House. Many of Bush’s family and invited guests had already left to get dry. But George stood there and waved proudly at the marching bands, their instruments disabled by the rain, the long parade of floats wilted and crumbled by the time they arrived at the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. Every so often a lucky convertible passed by, carrying the few dampened celebrities Bush had convinced to honor him—Kelsey Grammer, Drew Carey, Chuck Norris. By parade’s end Bush stood alone in the stands, drenched, even his parents having deserted him for shelter. It was a pathetic sight—the poor little rich boy who came in second showing up to claim his prize, with no one there to cheer him on.

Sadder still were the 154 million of us who had not voted for him. In a nation of 200 million voters, I would say we constitute the majority.

And yet what could George W. have been thinking, other than “What, me worry?” There were plenty of hired hands to be installed in the White House, pulling the strings for their puppet President. With Daddy’s old buddies called back to D.C. to lend a hand, Georgie could sit back and tell the public he was “delegating.” The puppetmasters moved in, and the business of running the world could easily be left to them.

And who are these fine, patriotic pillars of the Bush junta? They represent the modest and selfless ranks of corporate America, and they are listed below, for easy reference, to help the United Nations and NATO forces round them up when they arrive to restore order and democracy. Grateful citizens will line the boulevards and avenues and cheer their arrival.

Personally, I will settle for nothing less than multiple show trials and their immediate deportation to a real banana republic. God Bless America!

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