Howard Dean, speaking at a fundraiser in West Palm Beach on Wednesday on behalf of Bill Nelson, Democratis Senator from Florida (who faces an, um, er, challenge from Representative Katherine Harris), said the following:
“Thank God for Bill Nelson, because we’d have another crook in the United States Senate if it weren’t for him. He is going to beat the pants off Katherine Harris,” Dean said during his 20-minute address. “She doesn’t understand that it’s�improper to be chairman of a campaign and count the votes at the same time. This is not Russia and she is not Stalin.”
Ms. Harris was said to be “outraged” by this statements and has demanded an apology from Dr. Dean, for his having compared her to Stalin.
Two words to the Representative who has publicly announced that she is spending the entire sum of the monetary (not property, of course) inheritance her father left to her ($10 million): dream on (ditto with respect to defeating Mr. Nelson).
Mr. Dean has a colorful history of making impromptu, sometimes offensive remarks. I do not care for some of these remarks, nor do I care for some of the more weirdly shaped edges of his jagged abrasiveness. But make no mistake: for a politician (with all that word implies), he has a tendency to speak his mind. This, among other reasons, explains why he will never return to elected office.
May I ask what was so offensive about his remarks?
Josef Stalin, as Mr. Dean probably knew when he made the “offensive” comment, and as Ms. Harris probably did not, famously said, “The people who cast the votes control nothing. The people who count the votes control everything.” He, of course, knew this from firsthand experience, having ensured he remained in power by, among other things, ensuring that votes were counted by Stalin loyalists.
Ms. Harris, as of November 7, 2000, was the Chairwoman of the Florida Bush-Cheney campaign, to which she had contributed considerable sums of money that year. Her (appointive – she was appointed by Florida governor Jeb Bush) office did not come with many powers, but one of the office’s responsibilities was presiding over Florida elections, and ensuring compliance with Florida election law. I cannot think of another state where the Secretary of State’s office does NOT have this power.
However, in many states, the Secretary of State is forbidden from serving, as Harris did, as a member of a party’s campaign in a year when an election featuring that party is held. The states that have this rule have fashioned it so as to to neutralize obvious conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, in these states, Secretaries of State are still elected and appointed, and no court has held that any such individual’s First Amendment right of association has been infringed on account of such a rule.
Florida (and, of course, its electoral protege, Ohio) do not have such a rule. Thus, the campaign chair, of say, the Republican presidential ticket in year X can, if that person is Secretary of State, preside over a recount of votes if the vote count with respect to the Presidential election in that year X is disputed.(note to all of those people who think Florida election law, even without the benefit of the Florida Supreme Court’s gloss thereupon, is a mess: you’re right!) Ms. Harris gleefully, as we all know, presided over the recount of the 2000 Presidential Election in her role as Secretary of State, after she was asked to recuse herself on multiple occassions. Apparently, no one in Florida has brought a test case challenging the law (actually lack of law) allowing for a campaign chair to be the vote counter; such a test, if brought, would fail, because a court would probably hold that the would-be plaintiff would have to show actual harm occurred as a result of the duality. Bush v. Gore (a case where several members themselves, of course, had a conflict) implicitly held none did. The people of Florida could demand that a law banning this duality could be passed; this effort would fail as long as the legislature and executive remain in Republican hands. Pity.
So, what about the “Stalin” part of the quote upset her Highness? Ms. Harris determined whether recounts could go ahead, in which counties they could go ahead, and under what conditions they could go ahead, without having to explain herself to anyone. She was given virtually absolute discretion to make these determinations, which effectively served to add or subtract votes from Bush or Gore’s column – thus, she in effect counted the votes. She who decides what votes count counts the votes.
Perhaps she was offended by being compared to Stalin generally. After all, Ms. Harris is a conservative (supposedly, even though she embraced Bush v. Gore). Conservatives get very angry when they are compared to Stalin. (Look up the phrases “John Podhoretz” and “Stalin”). If so, that is a product of her own knee-jerk desire to label, not of Mr. Dean’s rudeness. Ms. Harris typically, and pathetically, laebeled Mr. Nelson a “liberal” during the campaign (seriously, if she were any more fresh, you’d have to slap her!). People who slap people with labels get quite huffy when they themselves believe they are being labeled. In this case, however, Mr. Dean didn’t exactly label her – he explained why he invoked the Stalin reference, and she failed to explain why the reference was not appropriate. Indeed, she has never explained why recusal was not appropriate. Of course, this isn’t necessarily her burden – but the more we hear about how corrupt, despicable and tyrannical this woman is, at least we can understand why she never COULD offer the explanation. Small solace, perhaps, as we find out more and more that the “Path to Florida” (literally and figurately speaking; a great Vanity Fair article by that name – chosen to denote how Bush was selected president – was published last year describing Ms. Harris’ zealous efforts to ensure Mr. Bush would not be denied the Presidency) will result in a dead-end for Ms. Harris’ career and, God willing, a deadly U-Turn in Republicans’ political fortunes was paved with mad intentions.