Ododita on 11 Nov 2000 17:35:41 -0000

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For posting.

-O.D. Odita

The fallacy of Nixon's graceful exit
In 1960, the GOP candidate fought hard behind the scenes to make sure
the election wasn't stolen from him -- just as Al Gore should do.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Gerald Posner

Nov. 10, 2000 | One of the most oft-repeated myths in the aftermath of
the current presidential election disputes is the claim that Vice
President Al Gore should behave more like Richard Nixon, who is cited
frequently for having graciously decided not to pursue legal remedies in
response to possible voter fraud that might have cost him the 1960
election with John Kennedy. But the notion that Nixon graciously exited
is just false.

The 1960 race was unquestionably close. Some states -- like California
-- initially fell into Kennedy's electoral count, but were reversed
almost two weeks later after absentee ballots were counted. But the core
questions about the election centered on rumors of fraud, primarily in
Illinois, where Democratic Mayor Richard Daley's powerful political
machine controlled voter-heavy Chicago, and Texas, where vice
presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson was a senator. Rumors of
impropriety existed before the election. After the election, when
Illinois went for Kennedy by fewer than 9,000 votes, and Texas by just
over 40,000, Republicans cried foul.

Nixon was worried about how to challenge the vote and still not be
branded in history as a "sore loser." Although he would later claim that
President Eisenhower encouraged him to contest the election outcome,
that was not true, as the outgoing president withdrew his support for
any challenge within a day of the vote. Yet, contrary to modern memory,
Nixon and his Republican allies still mounted a massive vote challenge.

It is true that Nixon did quickly concede the election to Kennedy. And
while he was careful not to put a public imprimatur on the concerted
Republican effort to challenge the election results, he privately not
only authorized it, but actively encouraged it.

A conservative journalist and close Nixon friend, Earl Mazo, of the New
York Herald Tribune, launched a press frenzy over possible voter fraud.
(He was later Nixon's official biographer.) And not only did Republican
senators like Thruston Morton ask for recounts in 11 states just three
days after the election, but Nixon aides Bob Finch and Len Hall
personally did field checks of votes in almost a dozen states.

The Republicans obtained recounts, involved U.S. Attorneys and the FBI,
and even impaneled grand juries in their quest to get a different
election result. A slew of lawsuits were filed by Republicans, and
unsuccessful appeals to state election commissions routinely followed.
However, all their efforts failed to uncover any significant wrongdoing.

In Illinois, for instance, the final recount showed that Nixon's votes
had been undercounted by 943 -- yet, in 40 percent of the rechecked
precincts, it turned out that Nixon's vote had been overcounted.
(Contrast this with Gore, whose vote total steadily climbed during the
Florida recount.) Unhappy with those results, Republicans went to
federal court, where their case was dismissed. They then appealed to the
State Board of Elections, which also rejected their claims. It was not
until Dec. 19 -- over a month after the election -- that the national
Republican Party backed off its Illinois claims.

Similar results, and extended fights, took place in Texas and New Jersey
among other states. In Hawaii, Republican efforts had the unintended
result of reversing the state's electoral votes from Nixon to Kennedy.

Although Republicans continued to insist that Illinois and Texas had
somehow figured out a way to cheat and still pass a recount, they never
produced hard evidence of widespread impropriety. Yet, that was
certainly not for lack of trying. For over a month, the Republican
efforts were aggressive and widespread. That Nixon was clever enough to
allow his aides and political friends to do the work on his behalf --
while officially seeming to remove himself from the fray -- should not
let Americans have amnesia about what really happened in the wake of the
1960 vote.

If the current rallying cry of Republicans is that Al Gore should behave
like Richard Nixon did in 1960, that is precisely what he is doing --
strongly making every effort to ensure that the final vote was fair and