Justice Antonin Scalia: Al Gore to blame for 2000 US election mess
By Toby Harnden London Telegraph June 27, 2008
The 2000 presidential election debacle was the fault of Al Gore, who should have followed Richard Nixon’s 1960 example and conceded without legal action, according to the Supreme Court’s leading conservative judge.
“Richard Nixon, when he lost to [John F.] Kennedy thought that the election had been stolen in Chicago, which was very likely true with the system at the time,” Justice Antonin Scalia told The Telegraph.
“But he did not even think about bringing a court challenge. That was his prerogative. So you know if you don’t like it, don’t blame it on me.
“I didn’t bring it into the courts. Mr Gore brought it into the courts.
“So if you don’t like the courts getting involved talk to Mr Gore.”
Justice Scalia insisted that his controversial decision, along with four other justices, to stop votes being recounted in Florida because the method was unconstitutional and it was too late to consider other options was “absolutely right”.
He was speaking during an interview about his book Making the Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.
A strict “textualist”, he rejects the notion of a “living constitution”, arguing instead that the original intentions of its framers should be closely adhered to.
Once a voice in the wilderness, Justice Scalia now often finds himself in a narrow majority on the Supreme Court, such as in a landmark gun control case in which he wrote for the 5-4 majority that the framers of the constitution believed in individual gun rights.
In December 2000, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices ruled that the recount method was unfair but only five, including Justice Scalia, decided that another recount was impractical and George W. Bush should therefore become president.
The 2000 election, in which Mr Bush eventually prevailed in pivotal Florida by just 537 votes, remains a potent source of discontent for Democrats. Last month, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that the election had been stolen by “five intellectually bankrupt judges”.
In 1960, Mr Kennedy won Illinois by just 8,858 votes and there were also allegations of voter fraud in Texas, where he won by 46,257 votes. If Mr Nixon had won both states he would have reached the White House eight years before he beat Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
Mr Kennedy’s Illinois victory came from Chicago’s Cook County, where he won by a stunning 450,000 votes.
There have long been allegations that Mayor Richard Daley, a Kennedy ally, and his Chicago Democratic “machine” engaged in large-scale electoral fraud.
Mr Nixon conceded the election to Mr Kennedy rather than going to the courts.
Justice Scalia, a conservative justice who was appointed to America’s highest court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, said he and the other justices had no option but to intervene once Mr Gore sought to overcome Mr Bush via the lower courts.
He said that he “of course” regretted that the Supreme Court had become involved. “But I don’t know how we could have avoided it. Could we have declined to accept the case on the basis that it wasn’t important enough?
“And you know bear in mind that the issue wasn’t whether or not the election was going to be decided by a court or not. It was whether it was going to be decided by the Florida court or by the United States Supreme Court, for a federal election.
“So I have no regrets about taking the case and I think our decision in the case was absolutely right. But if you ask me ‘Am I sorry it all happened?’ Of course I am sorry it happened there was no way that we were going to come out of it smelling like a rose.
“I mean, one side or the other was going to feel that was a politicised decision but that goes with the territory.”
He flatly denied there was any “partisan prejudice” involved in the 5-4 ruling, adding that “if you want to look for partisan decisions” then they could be found in the Florida supreme court’s rulings.
Justice Scalia said he thought that the United States was “over-lawed”, leading to too many lawyers in the country.
“I don’t think our legal system should be that complex. I think that any system that requires that many of the country’s best minds, and they are the best minds, is too complex.
“If you look at the figures, where does the top of the class in college go to? It goes into law. They don’t go into teaching. Now I love the law, there is nothing I would rather do but it doesn’t produce anything.”