Rove's Replacement Brags About "Brooks Brother Riot" That Shut Down 2000 Recount
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Do you remember the Republican riot that shut down the Miami-Dade recount in 2000?
Several of the rioters ended up with top White House jobs, including Matt Schlapp (#6), the White House political director, and Gary Malphrus (#2), deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Today another rioter, Joel Kaplan, was given one of Karl Rove's jobs (Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy), a promotion from his current job as White House deputy budget director. Kaplan has never expressed any regrets; in fact he bragged about his role.
Kaplan described his role in a lecture at the Harvard University Institute of Politics, calling the demonstration the ''Brooks Brothers Protest,'' a reference to the way the demonstrators were dressed.
How outrageous was the riot? Robert Parry described it best:
On Nov. 22, 2000, after learning that the Miami canvassing board was starting an examination of 10,750 disputed ballots that had previously not been counted, Rep. John Sweeney, a New York Republican, called on Republican troops to “shut it down,” according to Down and Dirty. Brendan Quinn, executive director of the New York GOP, told about two dozen Republican operatives to storm the room on the 19th floor where the canvassing board was meeting, Tapper reported.
“Emotional and angry, they immediately make their way outside the larger room in which the tabulating room is contained,” Tapper wrote. “The mass of ‘angry voters’ on the 19th floor swells to maybe 80 people,” including many of the Republican activists from outside Florida.
News cameras captured the chaotic scene outside the canvassing board's offices. The protesters shouted slogans and banged on the doors and walls. The unruly protest prevented official observers and members of the press from reaching the room. Miami-Dade county spokesman Mayco Villafana was pushed and shoved. Security officials feared the confrontation was spinning out of control.
The canvassing board suddenly reversed its decision and canceled the recount. “Until the demonstration stops, nobody can do anything,” said David Leahy, Miami’s supervisor of elections, although the canvassing board members would later insist that they were not intimidated into stopping the recount. [Down and Dirty]
A Sample Ballot
While the siege of the canvassing board office was underway, county Democratic chairman Joe Geller stopped at another office seeking a sample ballot. He wanted to demonstrate his theory that some voters had intended to vote for Gore but instead marked an adjoining number that represented no candidate.
As Geller took the ballot marked “sample,” one of the Republican activists began shouting, “This guy’s got a ballot!”
In Down and Dirty, Tapper writes: “The masses swarm around him, yelling, getting in his face, pushing him, grabbing him. ‘Arrest him!’ they cry. ‘Arrest him!’ With the help of a diminutive DNC aide, Luis Rosero, and the political director of the Miami Gore campaign, Joe Fraga, Geller manages to wrench himself into the elevator.
“Rosero, who stays back to talk to the press, gets kicked, punched. A woman pushes him into a much larger guy, seemingly trying to instigate a fight. In the lobby of the building, a group of 50 or so Republicans are crushed around Geller, surrounding him. …
“The cops escort Geller back to the 19th floor, so the elections officials can see what’s going on, investigate the charges. Of course, it turns out that all Geller had was a sample ballot. The crowd is pulling at the cops, pulling at Geller. It’s insanity! Some even get in the face of 73-year-old Rep. Carrie Meek. Democratic operatives decide to pull out of the area altogether.” [Tapper’s Down and Dirty]
Despite the use of intimidation to influence actions by election officials, Bush and his top aides remained publicly silent about these disruptive tactics. The Washington Post reported that "even as the Bush campaign and the Republicans portray themselves as above the fray," national Republicans actually had joined in and helped finance the raucous protests. [Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2000]
The Wall Street Journal added more details, including the fact that Bush offered personal words of encouragement to the rioters in a conference call to a Bush campaign-sponsored celebration on the night of Thanksgiving Day, one day after the canvassing board assault.
"The night's highlight was a conference call from Mr. Bush and running mate Dick Cheney, which included joking reference by both running mates to the incident in Miami, two [Republican] staffers in attendance say," according to the Journal. [Nov. 27, 2000]
And what role did it play in Stolen Election 2000? Again, Robert Parry:
The Brooks Brothers Riot – carried live on CNN and other networks – marked a turning point in the recount battle. At the time, Bush clung to a lead that had dwindled to several hundred votes and Gore was pressing for recounts. The riot in Miami and the prospects of spreading violence were among the arguments later cited by defenders of the 5-to-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12, 2000, that stopped a statewide Florida recount and handed Bush the presidency.
Backed by the $13.8 million war chest, the Bush operation made clear in Miami and in other protests that it was ready to kick up plenty of political dust if it didn’t get its way.
A later unofficial recount by news organizations found that if all legally cast ballots in Florida had been counted – regardless of which kinds of chads were accepted, whether punched-through, hanging or dimpled – Gore would have won Florida and thus the presidency. Gore also won the national popular vote, defeating Bush by more than a half million votes, making Bush the first popular-vote loser in more than a century to be installed in the White House. [Consortiumnews.com's "So Bush Did Steal the White House"]
Why were the rioters never prosecuted? Because George Bush appointed Ralph Reed's tool John Ashcroft as Attorney General.
But now that a rioter has risen to the ranks of Deputy Chief of Staff, isn't it high time for Joe Lieberman or Henry Waxman to demand an investigation?