Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has written a brilliant new article about the biggest political story in the history of the United States: An American politician illegitimately took the office of president by outright theft and fraud. Although such high crimes and misdemeanors have been rumored in previous elections, none in the history of the republic have been so thoroughly documented. George W. Bush is not the legitimate president of the United States.
Schoolchildren read (in the few remaining civics classes in America) about the multiple pollings and tense standoff that led to Thomas Jefferson’s election as president in “the Revolution of 1800,” because newspapers of the day looked into and reported on such things. But – unless we speak out – odds are that few will read about what happened in Ohio in 2004 in future history books, because modern newspaper editors are increasingly corporate appendages, and many of today’s “reporters” worry more about currying favor with institutional power than investigating stories that may inconvenience or upset their “sources.”
Kennedy’s story – “Was The 2004 Election Stolen?” – broke on Thursday, June 1, 2006, when Rolling Stone magazine put it on their website and it appeared on other websites including www.commondreams.org. It hit the newsstands soon thereafter. In the article, Kennedy lays out the details of exactly how the Republican Party, in several states but particularly in Ohio, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to both steal the 2004 election and to cover up the evidence of that theft.
The subtitle of the article lays out Kennedy’s foundational premise: “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.” And that’s just the beginning of the story, which includes ballot-box stuffing, electronic voting machine manipulation, “caging” in defiance of a court order banning Republicans from the notorious practice, threats and intimidation of Democratic voters by imported Republican goon squads, and multiple illegal uses of the office of the Secretary of State to disenfranchise Democratic voters.
The Republican rebuttals/attacks have already begun, starting with a particularly tragic hit-piece in one of the higher-profile “online magazines” that claims to authoritatively quote so-called but unnamed “experts” who doubt Kennedy’s sources, and takes a clip of Ohio law so out of context as to essentially reverse its meaning in support of the Republican talking points.
The day Kennedy’s article came out, Republican callers began dialing into talk radio shows complaining about “massive Democrat (sic) voter fraud by registering illegal immigrants” (to quote a caller to my Air America Radio program on 6/2/06). Clearly the meme Republicans will put out if Kennedy’s story gets traction in the mainstream media is that “election fraud is something both parties do,” and they’ll use that meme to push even harder for more Republican-helpful restrictions on voters who are old, urban, or poor enough not to have or easily acquire two forms of government-issued ID. We can’t let them – this is about real crimes, and the destruction of democracy in our republic.
Kennedy’s article is an in-depth, on-the-ground report from Ohio about the 2004 election. In it, he acknowledges that he is building on the work of many who preceded him – this was a story not particularly difficult to uncover, even though the mainstream media has chosen to ignore it. Seminal investigations were done by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Columbus, Ohio Free Press, and by Michigan Congressman John Conyers, who held hearings in Ohio that resulted in a summary report now available in book form titled What Went Wrong In Ohio (all referenced by Kennedy).
Just after the 2002 elections, I wrote an article for Common Dreams (“If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines”) outing Senator Chuck Hagel’s odd journey from voting machine peddler to the US Senate (being elected on his own machines). Six months later, in the summer of 2003, MoveOn.org commissioned me to write a round-up article about voting machine problems which they emailed to over 2 million members, and was published on AlterNet. In both articles (and others since), I was building on the work of Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.org, Lynn Landes, and many others, just as Kennedy has done.
It’s not like the theft of the 2004 election is a secret to anybody who is looking. Mark Crispin Miller devoted an entire (brilliant) book to the topic, “Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)”, and BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast lays it out in a chapter of his new book “Armed Madhouse” and articles on his website www.gregpalast.com.
Kennedy, however, has a name and reputation that demands instant recognition in the mainstream American media. And he didn’t just recycle the work of those who preceded him – he went to Ohio, talked with elections officials, looked over records, investigated the investigators, and only included in his story those facts he felt were sufficiently solid that they could, as he told me, “convince a jury.” In fact, he is calling for criminal investigations into his evidence, for indictments of culpable Republican officials, and jury trials.
Even with such a credible and high-profile figure involved, however, the response so far of America’s corporate-owned mainstream media to Kennedy’s article evokes echoes of the media’s handling of similar Republican Party crimes in Florida in the 2000 election.
Although it was reported – in The New York Times, no less – that Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush in a statewide recount of Florida “no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent,” most Americans don’t know to this day that Gore actually won the 2000 election. The reason is a small percentage of Republican spin and a large percentage of journalistic cowardice in the mainstream media following 9/11. (This cowardice is limited to the USA, by the way – the story was extensively covered in most of the rest of the world.)
In the 2000 case, The New York Times, on November 12, 2001, published a story summarizing the work of the newspaper consortium that spent nearly a year counting all the ballots in the 2000 Florida election. They found that a statewide recount – the process the Florida Supreme Court had mandated and which had begun when George W. Bush sued before the US Supreme Court to stop the recount – “could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his [Gore’s] way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent.”
The Times analysis further showed that had “spoiled” ballots – ballots normally punched but “spoiled” because the voter also wrote onto the ballot the name of the candidate – been counted, the results were even more spectacular. While 35,176 voters wrote in Bush’s name after punching the hole for him, 80,775 wrote in Gore’s name while punching the hole for Gore. Katherine Harris decided that these were “spoiled” ballots, and ordered that none of them should be counted. Many were from African American districts, where older and often broken machines were distributed, causing voters to write onto their ballots so their intent would be unambiguous. As the Times added in a sidebar article with a self-explanatory title by Ford Fessenden, in the 2000 election in Florida: “Ballots Cast by Blacks and Older Voters Were Tossed in Far Greater Numbers.”
The November, 2001, New York Times article went on to document how, in a statewide recount, there was no possible doubt that Al Gore won Florida in 2000:
“If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards [all the ones that were used by either party], and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin. For example, using the most permissive ”dimpled chad” standard, nearly 25,000 additional votes would have been reaped, yielding 644 net new votes for Mr. Gore and giving him a 107-vote victory margin. …
“Using the most restrictive standard — the fully punched ballot card — 5,252 new votes would have been added to the Florida total, producing a net gain of 652 votes for Mr. Gore, and a 115-vote victory margin.
“All the other combinations likewise produced additional votes for Mr. Gore, giving him a slight margin over Mr. Bush, when at least two of the three coders agreed.”
And yet all of this information was buried well after the 17th paragraph of the story, which carried the baffling headline “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote.”
As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pointed out to me in an interview on my radio program on June 2, the reason the Times chose to bury the lede of their story and instead imply in the headline and first few paragraphs that Bush had legitimately won the 2000 election was because just a month earlier the US had been struck on 9/11 and The Times’ publisher didn’t want to undermine the president’s legitimacy in a time of national crisis.
In a case eerily prescient of the Times’ 2004 decision to delay reporting on Bush’s illegal wiretapping of Americans until after the election, the Times’ publisher and editors decided in November of 2001 that that wasn’t a good time to reveal that Bush was an illegitimate president and that Al Gore actually had won the election, both by the majority vote and the electoral vote. (Although, to their credit, at least they reported that Gore got the most votes in Florida, as did The Washington Post, which also ran the story but buried it deep within an article that similarly seemed to imply Bush won legitimately. USA Today passed over it altogether, simply saying that Bush won.)
The big question for today is whether media history will repeat itself. Will the mainstream media do any first-source on-the-ground investigative reporting into the theft of the 2004 election, or simply treat it as a political “difference of opinion”? And if they do engage in the hard work of first-source reporting as the Times and their consortium did in 2001, and the results again come back that Bush is an illegitimate president, will they again bury that fact seventeen paragraphs into a story with a misleading headline and opening as they did when, in 2001, they counted the ballots and found that Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush did in Florida?
So far, it seems that the mainstream media is going to pass on doing any of their own first-source reporting, while Kenneth Blackwell begins the process of destroying evidence, which he’ll be legally authorized to do in the next few months.
For example, on Friday, June 3, 2006, CNN briefly interviewed Kennedy, but treated the story as a political one rather than an example of investigative reporting. Instead of interviewing Kennedy about the details and substance of the story, Wolf Blitzer had on with Kennedy the infamous Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush/Cheney campaign and a likely co-conspirator in the crime, instead of an investigative reporter who had examined Kennedy’s evidence. Just as when Holt was confronted by Anderson Cooper in August of 2004 about the administration’s manipulation of terror alerts during the campaign, Holt similarly ridiculed the idea of Republican election crimes, and Blitzer didn’t challenge him – or let Kennedy finish most of his sentences.
Three days after Kennedy’s story broke in Rolling Stone, a Google news search shows no national “mainstream” media having picked up the story as a serious news report, or having done any follow-up reporting into the issues he raises whatsoever. An email reply from an editor at The Seattle Times, asking why they’re not covering the story, is characteristic of the response from many other national newspapers: “We subscribe to many news services for our national and foreign coverage. However, Rolling Stone is not one of them.”
The question should not be, “Is this a story we can quote or should investigate because it was first reported in a major newspaper?” Instead, it should be, “Is there credible evidence that the election of 2004 was stolen by Republicans engaged in openly criminal activity?” And, of course, “Are they preparing to do the same in 2006 and 2008?”
Our national mega-corporate-owned media – now so driven by ad dollars that sensationalized “missing white girls” trump real news – will only respond if enough of us raise enough questions with their editors and writers. Or if more of our members of congress (you can call your congressperson or senator at 202 225-3121) – particularly the “media darlings” like Joe Biden and (gulp) Chuck Hagel, who are ubiquitous on the Sunday talking-head shows – begin to speak out with the rare courage Congressman John Conyers showed when he pursued his investigation despite a virtual news blackout from the mainstream media.
Let them know what you think. Democracy begins with you, after all. Tag – you’re it!