Whenever the name Maureen Dowd gets invoked on any political blog, but especially on any with a liberal twist, there is an immediate chorus of lament that Dowd lost the election for Gore. News flash: George Walker Bush defeated Al Gore, not Maureen Dowd. Nobody at Free Republic is crediting her with the assist. I know, I've checked. Let’s review the facts:
Ralph Nader got over 97,000 votes in Florida. If only one percent of these mostly left wing voters had voted for Gore instead of registering their protest, Gore would have won the state. And do you know how much publicity Maureen Dowd gave Nader? None. In the year running up to the election, Dowd did not mention Ralph Nader in her column once. Naderites didn't vote for Gore because of Dowd's nattering that Al was too liberal. Gore failed to carry his base, a problem his opponent didn't have.
Three thousand butterfly ballots were cast for Buchanan in Palm Beach County. The not-so-unusual butterfly ballot (I saw a couple during my three years in PBC back in the nineties. It wasn't all that uncommon.) confused voters. Buchanan got nearly six times the support he should have. Even more amazingly, 5,330 rejected votes were cast for both Buchanan and Gore as opposed to 1,631 for both Bush and Buchanan. Again, if only three hundred of these people had been bright enough to vote correctly, Gore would have been in the White House on 9/11. Indirectly, these myopic Magoo voters are why we invaded Iraq.
Al Gore lost by five electoral votes. He didn’t need Florida to win the election. He needed any other state whatsoever. He didn’t carry his home state of Tennessee, or Arkansas, the home state of the incumbent President, both of which Clinton carried in 1996. Other states that Gore lost that Clinton carried in 1996 include New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Arizona, and Nevada. Any one of these states would have indisputably swung the election to Gore making Florida moot.
Maureen Dowd was not on Gore’s legal team. The Supreme Court decision upholding the Katherine Harris certified vote tally was 5-4 from a court where most of the Justices had been nominated by Republican presidents. I doubt any of the justices were swayed by Maureen Dowd’s silly columns ridiculing Gore clothing choices.
It wasn’t Dowd’s job to get Gore elected. As an employee of the New York Times, she is not allowed to endorse political candidates. To say that Dowd should have been a team player and been less critical of Gore is to play into the right wing myth of the mainstream liberal media being a de facto arm of the Democratic Party. If your election hinges on the unvarnished support of the New York Times Op-Ed page, you as a candidate are not doing a good enough job of getting the right message to the voters.
Al Gore ran an error-prone misguided campaign. He was an uncharismatic speaker that failed to proactively respond to the attacks of his opponents. Many armchair quarterbacks cite the policy of distancing himself from Clinton and the attendant scandals as weakening support among crucial groups Gore should have carried. If Dowd’s columns pointed that out, it is no more her fault than it is the fault of the little boy in the crowd that the naked emperor let his advisors sell him invisible clothes. Don’t shoot the messenger, listen to the warnings and pay heed. Look at your candidate and realize that his flaws put him into an untenable position where the deck was stacked against him.
Crybaby sports teams blame the officiating. I never have sympathy for these athletes because if they had played a better game, the score wouldn’t have been so close that they need the support of the folk in black and white to make the decisions go their way.
After Al Gore won his consolation prize Oscar, Maureen Dowd wondered in her February 28, 2007 column if seven years of hindsight vindication have caused him to wonder the woulda, coulda, shouldas.
When he’s finished Web surfing, tweaking his PowerPoint and BlackBerrying, what goes through his head? Does he blame himself? Does he blame the voting machines? Ralph Nader? Robert Shrum? Naomi Wolf? How about Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.?Anyone on that list bears some of the burden for the Gore defeat. It's comforting to have a scapegoat, but Maureen Dowd is just up in the booth calling the game. It’s up to the players on the field to win.