Bernard Weiner: How To Beat Karl Rove
How to Beat Karl Rove on Election Day
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
In a good many states, absentee voting already has started for the November 2 election. October deadlines in most states are fast approaching for registering to vote. Early-voting is just around the corner. So, six weeks out, it's a good time to take a longer look at balloting strategies and problems.
We here at The Crisis Papers, and various other print and internet commentators as well, have been urging citizens to vote either by absentee ballot or (if you've been incorrectly removed from the voting roll) by provisional ballot. In other words, try any alternative to avoid casting your ballot on a computer-voting machine that provides no verified-voting paper trail, and which can manipulate the tally inside the computer software program without anybody being able to detect or prove fraud.
Watch the news this week when Bev Harris and her BlackBoxVoting.com associates demonstrate before a national press conference how absolutely easy it is to alter computer tallies without anybody being able to tell it was done. Helps explain why the Republican Party in Florida is urging their members to vote by absentee ballot.
It is estimated that about one-third of voters on November 2 will be casting ballots on touch-screen computer-voting machines that provide no verified paper trail -- a trail that could be used in case there is suspicion of vote-counting hanky panky.
Note: In contrast to the prevailing wisdom that it's "too late" to provide such a trail for the upcoming election, Nevada voters will be voting WITH voter-verified ballots on computer-voting machines. As a recent New York Times editorial makes clear, it's fairly simple to hook up a printer to a compatible touch-screen computer: It's done when you've finished with your ATM transaction and want your receipt, and it can be done easily with computer-voting machines.
But maybe it's too late for that solution for most states. This being the case, the National Ballot Integrity Project feels that the only viable solution to the computer-voting problem for the November election is to mandate a return to paper-ballot voting, with ballots tabulated by hand. This is done in Candada and many other countries around the world, and is eminently the most fair and accurate way to vote and count votes. But it may be too late for this solution also.
ABSENTEE VOTING DESIRABLE BUT NOT FOOLPROOF
We continue to urge voters who wish to stay away from computerized voting to request an absentee ballot or (if your name is not on the voting roll when you show up at your precinct) provisional ballot -- or, if your voting officials allow for such a process, early voting. For example, I often travel down to City Hall for early voting, since paper ballots are employed, the kind that either are counted by hand or go through the optical scanning process -- with both having a numbered, verified-voting receipt.
Now having said that, there is no guarantee that the alternatives to computer-voting tallying are foolproof. Often, absentee ballots, for example, are bundled by party affiliation, which creates an opening for corrupt election officials to dump some, in favor of those from the party they favor. But, important point: You have a numbered receipt in case of a recount. For more on possible fraud with regard to absentee voting, see Michael Moss' "Some Absentee Ballot Tactics Draw Concern: Limited Restrictions Make Tampering Easier in Some States" ( http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/190549_absentee13.html ).
There are military ballots from around the world that the Bush Administration is willing to accept for this election via email, but there are no safeguards against tampering. Of course, the Bush Campaign is assuming those soldiers will be voting for Bush; given the way veterans and soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere have been maltreated by the Bush Administration, many of those votes may very well go for Kerry. If there's no corruption of the vote-tallying process, that is.
The point is that there are plenty of opportunities for deliberate corruption of the electoral process -- by mischievous hackers, by tampering with the tallying-software by those who count the computer votes (which this year is mostly by technicians from the same Republican-leaning companies that manufactured the touch-screen machines), by dropping of minority and other voters from the voting rolls, by destroying ballots from those suspected of voting for the "wrong" party, by fiddling with military votes coming in by email, etc. etc. For more details, check out the Electoral Integrity page. ( http://www.crisispapers.org/topics/electoral-integrity.htm )
KARL GOES A-ROVING
The Rove-led forces have proved, time and time again -- and, with gross obviousness recently -- that they are expert at pulling off electoral scams and criminal slimes, and there is every reason to believe that if they think they can get away with it, they'll do whatever it takes to keep themselves in power for at least another four years.
We needn't go into detail about some of the more outrageous dirty tricks being pulled these days. You've read the news and seen through the spin. Their approach often rests on the Big Lie technique; it doesn't matter if most people see through the constant repetition of the lies, and recognize them as little more than political smoke and mirrors. The Rove-ites don't care. Because enough potential voters will be fooled into believing the unbelievable to perhaps throw the victory to Bush in tight races -- or, if not that, those on the fence who are possible voters for Kerry might get cynical enough about the dirt and mud being thrown around to simply abstain.
Just a few examples:
THE SMEAR BOAT VETS
These guys, none of whom served on Kerry's boat with him, are still angry with the Democrat candidate for his anti-war statements after he returned from Vietnam. So, armed with cash and logistical support from major Republican backers associated with the White House, they launch a Big Lie barrage about Kerry's medals and heroism. Again, truth is not the object here, rather the spreading of a lot of smoke that may make a number of people question Kerry's record -- and forcing the Kerry Campaign to play defense instead of offense.
CBS' "KILLIAN" MEMOS
Mere minutes after Dan Rather's report aired that showed memos from Bush's former National Guard commander Lt. Col. Jerry Killian -- which ordered Bush to report for a flight physical (which he never took) and which talked about pressure from above to "sugar coat" his performance rating -- the Rove forces, through a Republican surrogate blogger, launched a major, detailed attack on the memos, asserting that they were forgeries.
Note: They didn't attack the charges being made against Bush, since they knew them to be true; so, to distract from Bush's sorry history in the National Guard and the fact that he never completed his tour of duty, Rove's minions went on the offensive with a major diversion campaign. And it worked, since the major media were talking about the messenger, Dan Rather at CBS, instead of the message. Blogger Bob Fertik offerred White House officials $1000 in cash if they would come out and say the charges in the Killian memos were untrue, but no GOP figure has chosen to do so. (Groups have offerred to pay up to $50,000 to anyone who can vouch for Bush being on base in Alabama for the missing six months of his duty -- but nobody has stepped forward to collect that money either.)
There's even suspicion that, given Rove's history -- he once planted a surveillance bug in his office and then denounced the political opposition for trying to bug him -- that perhaps, knowing the Killian memos were out there and might be used by CBS, he may have set up Rather with forged documents in order to be able to denounce them as phony, so nobody would pay attention to the message in them. (Killian's secretary said the content of the memos is exactly what Killian said to her and others at the time, though she didn't type these particular memos.)
THE TORN-POSTER SCAM
Along similar lines, a Republican father, Phil Parlock, the other day denounced union members at a Kerry rally for allegedly ripping a pro-Bush poster from his daughter, who was sitting on his shoulders, and making her cry. Turns out that the alleged miscreant wearing a "union" t-shirt was Parlock's adult son. And Parlock has been pulling the same Democrats-attacked-us stunt at other political events over the years. The Big Lie, make-a-lot-of-noise technique. Doesn't matter if papers later have to print a retraction on a back page; the front-page story, with a photo of the crying little girl, made the front pages, and made the Kerry Democrats out to be the bad guys. All in a day's work, with Karl Rove as role-model.
Well, one could go on and on listing such scams and dirty tricks. Ever since Nixon, the GOP has glommed on to these techniques with increasing frequency, and Rove is a master at the game, always making sure that he and the White House are at least three levels removed from the dirty deeds -- except they're not always proficient in covering their tracks. You can spot a Rove dirty-trick from half mile away.
Given this track record of pre-voting (mis)behaviors, we should be prepared for an even wider variety of dirty tricks and outright vote-thievery and intimidation at the polls November 2 (especially in rural areas in the South, where police often harrass minority voters walking up to the precinct location).
That's why every polling place, and vote-counting center, should have observers on hand -- from the various parties, from the United Nations, neutral watchers, etc. -- trained to spot suspicious signs of diddling with the correct vote, and lawyers at the ready to file for immediate relief in the event of possible official malfeasance.
Note: If there are going to be manipulations of the vote-counting software, it most likely won't be at the precinct polls, but at the locations where the precinct votes will be tallied from disks, often going through central computers controlled by the same Republican-supporting companies that manufactured the unverified computer-voting machines.
HIGH-STAKE ROLLING OF ELECTORAL DICE
The stakes in this election are absolutely enormous -- more wars, starting up the military draft, the economy, education, Social Security, Medicare, an independent judiciary, and so on. -- and we know that the Rove-led GOP political operatives will do anything to stay in power. ANYTHING. Everything from the tactics mentioned above to encouraging stacked Bush-favorable polls to announcing Bin Laden's capture or death to maybe even inviting a terrorist attack or planting some WMD in Iraq. ANYTHING.
So, even though there never are any guarantees for a "pure" election, we can take steps to protect the sanctity of the ballot as much as possible. In a fair fight, Bush can be defeated. The bulk of the American people now realize, after nearly four years of extremist policy and incompetent bungling by this BushCheneyRumsfeldAshcroft crew, that it's time for a change.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the inevitable corruption that is bound to happen during this election. Don't take no for an answer when your election officials refuse to open their process to outside inspection and recounts. Put their feet to the fire and demand, DEMAND, DEMAND! an honest vote. If your local and state election officials won't or can't guarantee a free and honest election, then sue them, recall them, vote them out of office.
Let's be clear. We're not just fighting for the integrity of the electoral process for this one vote in November, but for the vote and for our other democratic institutions that have served our country well for more than two centuries. The Bush folks have little affection for the institutions of democratic republicanism -- remember Bush's "jokes" about preferring to rule as a dictator -- and, should they steal another election in November, American democracy could well wither and die by strangulation.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy supporters have mobilized on behalf of fair and free elections -- through MoveOn, ACT and Verified Voting organizations -- and are more motivated than usual in trying to ensure electoral integrity at the polls. These are our front-line troops in the battle for a fair balloting system.
PLAYING BY THEIR OWN RULES
But we would kid ourselves if we think BushCheneyRove play by the same rules that we do -- or, indeed, that they recognize rules at all. These are ruthless political operatives, who not only are motivated by the desire to remain in power and control of the body politic, but by the knowledge that they might well wind up in the federal slammer for the high crimes and misdemeanors they have carried out over the past four years.
They are well aware of where the bodies are buried. There is no dearth of scandal in this Administration. Where does one start?
Again, let's just take a few of the most egregious examples:
OUTING OUR OWN CIA AGENTS
It's a felony to reveal the identity of covert CIA agents. But Rove decided that Valerie Plame, in his words, was "fair game," because her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, told the truth about the use of phony WMD intelligence to convince Congress of the necessity for an immediate war with Iraq.
Two "senior Administration officials" told a number of newspaper reporters that Plame was a CIA agent, and one of those reporters, rightwing ideologue Robert Novak, actually ran her name. Investigations are ongoing as to the identity of those two officials, and indictments are expected -- but whether that will happen before November 2 is problematic.
As it turns out, Plame's speciality at the CIA was tracing sources of weapons of mass destruction. So, for political ends, Rove&Co. were willing to place the national security of the United States at risk by ending the career of an agent who worked for a decade in developing contacts around the globe that could provide clues for where the WMD was going. Shameful!
Last month, when Bush's numbers were plummeting -- and the RidgeAshcroft talk about yet another "terrorist" warning (based on "credible," but non-specific or ancient information) didn't do its job in distracting the American people -- Condoleeza Rice and others outed a CIA mole who had been inserted close to the heart of Al Qaeda leadership circles. (See Ernest Partridge's "Pravda on the Potomac" www.crisispapers.org/essays/pravda.htm ).
The object of naming this Pakistani mole seemed to be to demonstrate how successful the Bush "war on terrorism" was going. As in the Plame case, valuable information vital to American national security was compromised for political ends.
SPIES AT THE PENTAGON
When Rumsfeld couldn't get the CIA to provide him with the WMD justifications the Bush Administration needed to snow the Congress into voting for war against Iraq, he set up his own "intelligence" unit inside his office, staffed it with political appointees who would do his bidding. Lo and behold, the "intelligence" -- which we now know were lies of the first magnitude -- were provided and stovepiped straight to Cheney and Bush. The war began shortly thereafter.
Among that group of neo-conservative ideologues in Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans (many of whom were die-hard members of the Project for the New American Century) were a number of analysts who were especially dedicated to aiding Israel in its war against its Arab neighbors, and who were especially close to Ahmed Chalabi, the sleazy head of the chief Iraqi exile group.
Chalabi, as it turned out, was passing on classified information to Iran. Iran, according to Pulitizer Prize reporter Sy Hersh, may have been using Chalabi to pass on dastardly (and untrue) information about Iraq, so as to get the U.S. to invade and destroy its arch-enemy neighbor, and to suck the U.S. into a quagmire war in Iraq. Iran would then be the major player in the Gulf region.
The long and short of it is that the U.S. government had (and probably still has) on its payroll spies right in the heart of the Pentagon, passing on classified information that is winding up in the hands of foreign powers, Israel and Iran. Unconscionable! And, so far as we know, Bush has initiated no presidential fact-finding probe.
Those are just a few examples -- there are plenty more where those came from: the Administration's secret energy report, Cheney's machinations on behalf of his old employer Halliburton, Bush's AWOL status, turning over environmental policy to the polluting corporations, the shredding of our civil liberties and constitutional guarantees of due process of law, and on and on.
These explain, along with a host of other reasons, the necessity to rid ourselves of this incompetent, arrogant, greedy, reckless Administration. Kerry is our best bet to start to clean house and move our politics away from the rightwing fringes and back toward the center-progressive part of the spectrum.
And that's why what happens six weeks from now at the polls is so absolutely vital. We either take back our democratic system, or we watch it get strangled and die.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). He is a contributing author to the recently-released "Big Bush Lies" book.