Rare role falls to defeated Gore

An AP News Analysis

Posted: Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak regrets that he has only one country to give for his political life. President Bill Clinton, still searching for a legacy that would be his if he had done something worthy of one, has so dishonored his own country he has no shame in dishonoring another one -- in this case Israel -- by helping Barak help Israel's enemies destroy the Jewish state.

Just what part of annihilation do these two not understand?

The latest round of peace talks were as big a sham as the talks between the Nixon Administration and the North Vietnamese 25 years ago. North Vietnam used the agreement to allow the U.S. to save some short-term face but it got all the land it wanted. Peace wasn't at hand then and it isn't now in the Middle East.

The latest to join the Israel-as-oppressor chorus are leaders of most of the Christian faiths in Israel, including Greek and Armenian Orthodox, Roman and Greek Catholics, Copts and Syriacs, Lutherans and Anglicans. In a joint statement, the various patriarchs suggested that the Palestinians are oppressed and that Israel is the oppressor.

Do these people think their religious freedom will be preserved if Jerusalem is run by Yassir Arafat? It wasn't when Jordan occupied the land. Because many Christian denominations refused to come to the aid of Jews during the Holocaust, and some still oppose any Jewish presence in the land, they are overdrawn at the bank where they once kept their moral capital and should not be taken seriously.

Arafat will settle for nothing less than total domination. One cannot name a single agreement he has honored. He gets land and Israel gets no peace, only more grief. Arafat gets American ad European money but spends hardly any helping his people. Instead, he uses it to shore up his power base and create significant wealth for himself and his cronies.

Arafat takes our importunings about peace and spits in our face. He hates Israel, and he hates America. He and his friends will never make peace with the Jews. How many more wars, terrorist acts and pledges never to settle for less than all the land will it take before the West and liberal politicians in Israel wake-up from their self-deluded peace nap?

Much is being made of the few days remaining before the Jan. 20 inauguration of a new American president and the Feb. 6 election for a new Israeli prime minister. Arafat is using these two events to pry more concessions from Clinton and Barak. He has no intention of reciprocating them. He hasn't done so before and he has acknowledged the possibility of assassination should he fail to satisfy the various factions who want everything.

The crux of the agreement being brokered by the Clinton Administration is that Arafat will relinquish any more claims of land from the Israelis if he gets what Barak is willing to give up. Arafat might conceivably sign such a document (though I doubt it) but neither he nor his colleagues will honor it. The so-called right of return for Palestinians living abroad that is part of the negotiations is simply an invitation for more of Israel's enemies to come in and finish killing off the Jewish state.

The Palestinian media report what their side believes but diplomats ignore them. High ranking members of Arafat's Fatah organization and the Palestinian Authority have participated in events at which speakers have denounced the latest round of negotiations in Washington. Ahmad Hilles, Secretary General of the Fatah faction in Gaza, said on Dec. 23 at an Islamic Jihad rally, "(the) Intifada will go on and will continue hurting Israelis, and causing their blood shed everywhere ..." (as reported by the Palestinian Authority newspaper, Alhayat Aljadida). That's not the kind of language one associates with a people preparing for peace.

Neither is the action by Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. According to the Dec. 24 London Times, Hussein has ordered his scientists to resume work on a nuclear bomb program. The Times quotes a defector from Hussein's nuclear program, Salman Yassin' Zweir, as saying that Hussein will never give up the dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb.

Ask yourself which nation would be Hussein's most likely target?

Fortunately, the Israeli Knesset would have to approve any agreement with Arafat. It is unlikely that they would, but who can say for sure? Jews have a habit of being their own worst enemies, worse sometimes than their declared enemies.

Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services Inc.

HEAD:Who's protecting Israel's interests?


AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- The new Congress is about to write the last chapter in the closest of presidential elections -- and the first pages about its own near deadlock. There is a script for the final, formal count of electoral votes in joint session, but none for the politically tied Senate and barely Republican House that emerged from the closest of congressional elections.

The Senate was dead even once before, 120 years ago, but Republicans held firmer control of the House in that Congress, in 1881. In this one, there will be 221 Republicans plus an independent ally, putting them in charge by only five votes.

Congress convenes on Wednesday and is to meet in joint session on Saturday for the formal counting of the electoral votes making George W. Bush president by the narrowest margin in 124 years. The drama in that ceremony is in the role of Al Gore who, as vice president, is president of the Senate and so presiding officer at the last act in his own defeat.

Richard M. Nixon, 40 years ago, was the last vice president to do so. In 1969, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey chose not to preside at the joint session that counted and announced the electoral votes by which Nixon defeated him.

He was out of town and ''recused'' himself from presiding. The record doesn't explain but his Humphrey's memoir of election night, 1968, may tell: ''To lose to Nixon. Ye gods...The worst moment of my life.''

Only once before had a vice president announced his own electoral defeat, when Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge presided as Abraham Lincoln's election was affirmed in 1860. Stephen Douglas was the national Democrat in that election prelude to the Civil War, second in popular votes but with only a handful of electoral votes.

Conceding to Bush after their long struggle for Florida, Gore quoted the words of Douglas to Lincoln: ''Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.''

When he declared the election of John F. Kennedy in 1961, the defeated Nixon told the joint session of Congress there could be no ''more striking and eloquent example of the stability of our constitutional system.''

''In our campaigns, no matter how hard fought they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win,'' Nixon said.

While the electoral vote that year was not close, Kennedy got only 119,450 more popular votes than Nixon.

Bush is becoming only the fourth man elected president with an electoral college majority while losing the popular vote. The first was John Quincy Adams in 1824, the only other son of a president to be elected president.

Gore got 539,947 more votes than Bush on Nov. 7. When the battle for Florida ended in the U.S. Supreme Court five weeks later, Bush had 271 electoral votes, one more than a majority, and Gore had 267.

In the congressional ceremony, the certificates recording the electoral votes cast by each state are unsealed, counted by tellers, and announced in alphabetical order of the states. There can be objections, which then have to be settled in separate House and Senate sessions, with majorities of both required to reject challenged electors.

That last happened in 1969, when Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, the defeated Democratic vice presidential nominee, led a challenge to a Nixon elector who had defected to George C. Wallace. It made no difference in the outcome; the objective was to set a precedent against so-called faithless electors who do not vote as their states did. The challenge failed.

All that is charted by law and precedent. The course for 50-50 Senate is not. Democrats want a share of power to match their equal number. Never before has there been a window like the 17 days in which Democrats will have effective control with Vice President Gore holding the tie-breaking vote, a temporary advantage their leaders say they will not try to use.

Republicans can prevent them from doing anything simply by talking until Jan. 20, when the situation is reversed and Dick Cheney becomes the vice president and tie breaker.

The majority party controls committees and the flow of Senate business. Democrats want an equal hand in both. They point to power sharing in state legislative bodies that are politically even, five in the new year, with deals for co-chairmanships or alternating leadership.

That has never been tried in Congress, and there is no real prospect the Republicans will try it now. But they will have to settle with the Democrats on a way out, or face a season of stalemate.

In 1881, the Senate was tied at 37 to 37, with two independents, one voting with each party, and a Republican vice president. The session was 11 weeks of stalling and standoffs. The closest thing since was a near-tie in 1953 after the mid-session death of a Republican senator led to a 48-47 Democratic edge. But Sen. Wayne Morse, then an independent, later a Democrat, sided with the Republicans on leadership votes, and since Vice President Nixon had the tie-breaking vote, GOP control wasn't tested.

Walter R. Mears has reported on Washington and national politics for The Associated Press for more than 35 years.

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