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Al Gore's Legal Doomsday Machine

All those lawyers on Team Gore ended up litigating their way to defeat.

Dec 25, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 15 • By TOD LINDBERG
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But they didn't join the Rehnquist opinion either. There is at least a chance that they would have accepted a recount had they been presented with a constitutional-looking scheme for one and had there been more time. That's something the Gore lawyers could have helped along. As for the misadventures of the Florida Supreme Court, that court did much (though not all) of its damage at the urging of Gore lawyers, not against their wishes.

It's possible of course that the Gore team began to doubt it could win a statewide hand recount with any but the loosest counting standards. Liberal counting in the Gore strongholds of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach -- and strict counting elsewhere -- might have been their only hope, which would help to explain an approach that otherwise looks legally haphazard.

But it seems just as likely that Al Gore decided to set in motion an all-fronts politico-legal war: Put hundreds of lawyers into motion; give no quarter to your opponents; contest everything; delay whatever looks likely to harm you. The result was occasional tactical brilliance, but what now seems to have been a huge strategic blunder.

It's hard to say whether this will give comfort to Gore or add to his torments, but on the terms of the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush v. Gore, victory may have been within reach for the vice president, if only his lawyers hadn't gotten in their own way.

Tod Lindberg is editor of Policy Review.