Salon's take on the 2004 election fraud

According to Farhad Manjoo, the 2004 election was not stolen, even though there was massive disenfranchisement and attempts by Republican leaders to swing the election illegally. Manjoo starts out by accepting the fact that the election, especially Ohio (Manjoo focuses almost exclusively on Ohio), was dirty. Then he starts taking shots at Kennedy:

One has to wonder what, after all of this, Kennedy might have brought to the debate. There could have been an earnest exploration of the issues in order to finally shed some light on the problems we face in elections, and a call to urgently begin repairing our electoral machinery. Voting reforms are forever on the backburner in Congress; even the 2000 election did little to prompt improvements. If only someone with Kennedy’s stature would outline this need.

Uh, what are you talking about Farhad? That’s exactly what he did. Or didn’t you catch the bit where Rolling Stone and RFK Jr. issued a “Call to Investigation”? I blogged about this yesterday. I guess I can forgive Manjoo for not reading my blog, but come on dude; read the sideboxes along with the main story. Of course it seems that Manjoo’s interest is in making the needed changes without pointing fingers at the people who made new laws necessary by breaking all the old ones. I’m sure the guilty parties would be very grateful if they could escape consequence, but isn’t the best way to ensure fair elections to strongly enforce existing laws so that potential criminals are put off by the risks?

From there, Manjoo’s article actually improves somewhat as he offers some clarifications of some of Kennedy’s points, but he never even tackles some of RFK’s more explosive allegations. There is a large chasm between the two articles and what they try to achieve. By far, RFK’s article is the more modest of the two; it doesn’t claim to have all of the answers, it’s just a compendium of the most egregious incidents of fraud that Kennedy could find. He takes a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” approach, which is probably what irked Manjoo about it. Manjoo doesn’t have time for grey areas or inferences. He’s interested in settling this argument in one four-page article. That’s bold. That’s also stupid. As I mentioned in previous posts, an election is a supremely complicated affair and to state without reservation that you know how millions of people intended to vote, and actually voted, is borderline insane. In spite of this, Manjoo’s rebuttal is entitled: Was the 2004 election stolen? No.

Well, there ya go! That clears that up! Whew! All we had to do was ask Manjoo! Hell, why don’t we skip the next election in November and just let Manjoo call it.

Okay, I’m being facetious, but I don’t like the tone of Manjoo’s article. He’s using judo techniques that strike me as being very political. He gives a lot of ground only to snatch it back with a powerful accusation, which, upon examination, is not as powerful as his words implied. Manjoo accuses Kennedy of using a straw man, but then proceeds to do the exact same thing later on. Manjoo also sets the bar for proof higher than any person could possibly achieve and then mocks Kennedy for not succeeding:

Certainly you can find some good in Kennedy’s report. His section on Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s right-wing secretary of state, nicely sums up the reasons why people have been suspicious of the voting process in the state. Blackwell, Kennedy notes, “had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws — setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts.” There’s no argument that he used those powers for partisan gain. As Kennedy documents, in the months prior to the election, Blackwell issued a series of arbitrary and capricious voting and registration rules that could well have disenfranchised many people in the state.

But to prove Blackwell stole the state for Bush, Kennedy’s got to do more than show instances of Blackwell’s mischief. He’s got to outline where Blackwell’s actions could possibly have added up to enough votes to put the wrong man in office. In that, he fails. In the following pages, I match Kennedy’s claims with the reality of the 2004 election.

I don’t think Kennedy needs to prove the wrong man is sitting in the White House. He just needs to prove the election was fraudulent. That would certainly call into question whether the right man is in the White House, but proving it is not a job for a reporter. It takes a Congressional investigation, a grand jury and a whole team of investigators to even begin to “prove” it. The process would take years. Kennedy is simply trying to jumpstart it (as the “call to investigation” would indicate).

But that’s not good enough for Manjoo, who appears to be expecting a smoking gun with Karl Rove’s fingerprints on it to have been found in a ballotbox marked “fraudulent votes.” What Manjoo fails to understand is that fraud – by it’s very nature – is deceptive. You’re not supposed to be able to prove it was fraud if it was perpetrated correctly. That’s the whole point! But the fact – which Manjoo acknoweldges – that the Republicans perpetrated some fraud and managed to disenfranchise some voters would seem to indicate a pattern of illegal activity. When you have a pattern you can start to deduce motives (pretty obvious in this case) and likely perpetrators (again, obvious). Whether or not the election was stolen is irrelevent: There needs to be an investigation! Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We’ve got a shitload of smoke over Ohio and nobody, except for John Conyers, is bothering to take a closer look. We need to find out if there is more illegal activity than has been discovered thusfar. That’s the whole point of an investigation, isn’t it? Many investigations are started before there is conclusive evidence that a crime has actually taken place. In this case we already have a series of attempts to rig the election by Republicans throughout the nation, using every dirty trick in the book. And we’re not going to even bother investigating? This is bullshit!

Manjoo starts off saying he wants voting reform (and attacking Kennedy for supposedly not wanting it), but by the end he’s just picking apart a few of Kennedy’s weaker points, one by one. Manjoo doesn’t want an investigation; he wants to bury this thing.

Manjoo’s supposed rebuttals aren’t all that great anyway. Check this one out, wherein Manjoo takes Kennedy to task for saying the voter rolls were unfairly scrubbed:

Scrubbing the voting rolls of people who hadn’t voted in prior elections isn’t an arbitrary move. It’s the law. Here’s the relevant section of the Ohio code, 3503.19, which states that a person who “fails to vote in any election during the period of two federal elections” shall have his registration “canceled.” To be sure, people who intended to vote and weren’t aware of this rule could have been cut from the rolls, and you might say that’s unfair. But that’s an argument for a better election law, and not proof that the purges were part of a Republican election-theft plot.

If you go to the link that Manjoo provides, you’ll notice that 3503.19 was recently revised, and the new code didn’t go into effect until M
ay 2nd, 2006….which is just over a month ago. I thought we were talking about the 2004 election, Manjoo. Remember that Ken Blackwell is still Secretary of State. He’s going to try and make this next election even more fraudulent… especially since he’s running for governor. It’s possible that particular code was there beforehand, but it’s not entirely clear what was updated, and when. Certainly it could have been the law of the land — Blackwell would do his best to push that law through the legislature. Even Manjoo doesn’t hold Blackwell in very high regard. And he’s not afraid to use the race card (a classic for Democrats):

Listen to the chairman of the board of Franklin’s election office, an African-American man named William Anthony, who also headed the county’s Democratic Party. As I first pointed out in my review of “Fooled Again,” any effort to deliberately skew the vote toward Bush in Franklin would have had to involve Anthony — and he has rejected the charge that he’d do such a thing. “I am a black man. Why would I sit there and disenfranchise voters in my own community?” Anthony told the Columbus Dispatch.

Uh, so what? Ken Blackwell is black. He tried to disenfranchise his whole state, white and black! Certainly Anthony has run into a “race traitor” before. I’m not accusing Anthony of betraying his people, but Blackwell has betrayed not only his people, but all of Ohio, and possibly all of America.

As the MIT political scientists Charles Stewart has pointed out, it’s not useful to compare the role of exit polls in Ukraine’s 2004 election with exit polls in the U.S race. The two elections, and the two nations, are too different to come to any meaningful conclusion from such a comparison. In Ukraine, one exit poll showed opposition candidate and eventual president Viktor Yushchenko winning 54 percent to 43 percent nationally. Mitofsky’s final national poll put Kerry at 51 percent and Bush with 48 percent. Compare this to the actual result, which had Bush at 51 percent and Kerry with 48 percent. The difference is not that significant.

Not that significant? It’s the difference between victory and defeat! I know he probably means “statistically significant”, but come on! What about the 9.5% difference between some exit polls and the “actual” ballots? He ignores this because it’s hard to rebut. He also overstates Kennedy’s case for exit polls (although, arguably, so does Kennedy). Kennedy focused on using exit polls to show possible traces of election fraud. They are circumstantial evidence; not conclusive. Manjoo is building straw men like a factory.

Manjoo gets downright bitter when the subject moves to Steven F. Freeman. I wonder why? Something to do with Freeman’s credentials eclipsing his own? Well, I’ll just leave Manjoo alone for now. He’s been grinding this axe for a long time, and hasn’t seemed the least bit ready to even consider the possibility of a stolen election in all that time. There’s no point in arguing if he won’t admit the possibility. I’ll admit it’s totally possible Bush won fair and square. But I’ll also admit that it’s possible his team used every trick in the book to steal the election; whether they needed to or not.


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