Betreff: Votes, Steroids, and Shoes (Keith Olbermann) & Jackson vs Blackwell
Von: "Heidi Chesney"
Datum: Sun, 5 Dec 2004 15:52:07 -0800
An: , ,

 December 5, 2004 | 5:52 p.m. ET
Votes, Steroids, and Shoes (Keith Olbermann)

NEW YORK - It's not exactly Zola's "J'Accuse." In fact it seems to have been 
written entirely in Congressionalese.

But anybody seeking the proverbial laundry list of all the complaints, 
questions, and oddities of Election Night in Ohio is referred to the 
fifteen-page letter sent Thursday to Ohio's Secretary of State Kenneth 
Blackwell, over the signatures of twelve of the fifteen Democratic members 
of the House Judiciary Committee.

The document is so calm as to almost neuter the implications of the 34 
specific questions John Conyers and his associates pose. It was not composed 
by a political firebrand. It does not invoke the Cuyahoga County "super 
voting" precinct numbers, since explained as amateurish accounting rather 
than political perfidy. Curiously, it does echo John Kerry's ambiguous 
on-line statement. "We are sure you agree with us that regardless of the 
outcome of the election."

More importantly, it starts where our own investigations of Ohio began, with 
the lockdown in Warren County as the votes were tallied there. The Judiciary 
members ask three questions that, in importance, actually transcend the 
election itself. They want to know if Blackwell has investigated the barring 
of reporters during the vote count, if Blackwell has identified the FBI 
agent who allegedly (and despite FBI denials) warned the county of a 
terrorist threat, and, most pointedly: "If County officials were not advised 
of terrorist activity by an FBI agent, have you inquired as to why they 
misrepresented this fact? If the lockdown was not as a response to a 
terrorist threat, why did it take place? Did any manipulation of vote 
tallies occur?"

Blackwell needs to answer these questions. He needs to answer them even if 
his answers aren't very convincing. Twelve Congressmen from the losing side 
of a presidential election do not a Warren Commission make (forgive the 
coincidental historical analogy). The likelihood they'll even get anything 
going inside the Judiciary Committee is negligible.

But posterity is a stern taskmaster. At the time, the election disaster of 
1876 was wrapped up nicely, with Rutherford Hayes taking the oath early in 
1877, and Samuel Tilden slipping into the backwaters of history. But ask any 
American of any political stripe about 1876, and if they paid attention in 
one Social Studies class in High School, they're likely to tell you that was 
the year the presidency was stolen. A comprehensive study of the 
machinations that permitted the seating of a man who won neither the popular 
nor the electoral vote - and the awful consequences for the South of the 
resulting enabling compromise - was published as recently as last year (Roy 
Morris's Fraud Of The Century).

It is neither wild speculation nor partisan sour grapes to suggest that 
unless Blackwell promptly answers the 34 questions raised in the Democrats' 
letter, the 2004 election will meet a similar historical fate. With the 
exponential growth in the rapidity of research, the issue, unless settled 
now by thorough and transparent investigation, could trickle gradually into 
the collective public consciousness - and far sooner than did the 
Hayes/Tilden fiasco. It should be assumed that even if the day-to-day 
chroniclers of such things in the media find Ohio's vote too complicated, or 
too unlikely to alter the outcome, investigators and historians will 
populate the bookshelves of the nation with scathing analyses, even 
dismissals, of the 2004 vote - probably even before the nation again goes to 
the polls.

Logic must suggest to the more sober of the Republicans that this needs to 
be addressed now. A party trumpeting the already-exaggerated claims that its 
vote majority owes largely to the "Moral Values" issues has got to be aware 
of the potential for long-term damage that continuing a stonewall answer to 
those 34 questions (and others) can wreak. I only have to look away from 
this screen for a second, to my small collection of political campaign 
buttons, to underscore the wisdom of this warning. One of mine reads "The 'I' 
in Nixon stands for integrity."

One of the benchmarks for this kind of cautionary tale can be found, oddly,
in the burgeoning steroid scandal in baseball. When the steroid "precursor,"
androstrenedione, was found to be in public view in the locker of Mark
McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals during his historic 1998 season, its
presence caused a quick uproar that largely faded as McGwire first broke,
then shattered the seasonal home run record. I recall interviewing the late,
great, sportswriter Leonard Koppett on my old MSNBC program, and hearing him
insist that the discovery of McGwire's use of a substance so dangerous you
can't even get it with a prescription in Canada, would have no long-term
effect on McGwire's record nor the sport as a whole.

Six years later, McGwire is an almost-forgotten figure outside of the city
he electrified. Barry Bonds, the even bulkier man who broke McGwire's
record, and now approaches Henry Aaron's mark for career home runs, is at
the center of the latest steroid firestorm. Jason Giambi, the New York
Yankees' slugger, proves to have admitted to a grand jury a year ago this
month that he took steroids and human growth hormone obtained from Bonds's
personal trainer. Bonds testified that he obtained the same materials from
the same man, but insists he was sure they were vitamins and "Flaxseed Oil."

Baseball is unforgiving about results it later deems skewed. For years, the
record for the highest seasonal batting average in history was given to Tip
O'Neill of the 1887 St. Louis Browns, with a phenomenal mark of .492. But O'Neill's
average owed largely to a one-season rules interpretation: that bases on
balls should be counted as hits. O'Neill's average didn't just get an
asterisk - it prompted a gradual revising of history that saw his average
reduced to .435 in all the record books.

But it didn't stop there. Once the rules of the day were overruled by the
perspective of history, the quality of the league in which O'Neill played -
the old American Association - was gradually downgraded to the point where
its stars were dismissed for consideration for the sport's Hall of Fame,
despite statistics equaling or surpassing those of the men who played in the
rival National League of the same era.

And the progressive repudiation continued to expand. All of the hefty
batting performances prior to 1893 are viewed with smiling derision, because
it was not until that season that the pitcher was moved out to his current
distance from the plate. Hitting was "too easy," therefore the statistics of
the time, and the men who compiled them, are ignored. The rewriting of
history has also claimed the World Series played before 1900, and, in fact,
nearly everything accomplished on a baseball field in the 19th Century -
largely because 1893 is a more difficult separating point to remember than
is 1900.

It is safe to say that Barry Bonds will be the Tip O'Neill of 2004, and his
turn-of-the-century era could eventually wind up being as statistically
invalid and quaint as events before 1900. His and McGwire's records may stay
in the books, but Henry Aaron's and Roger Maris's will likely be given
unofficial priority.

That's a lesson that should be remembered by Secretary of State Blackwell. A
presidency, like a baseball season, is fleeting. History is not. As George
W. Bush seeks the legacy so important to every second-term president, it
should be remembered by him as well.

And lastly, while we're in this overlap among politics, sports, the rules,
and the credibility of authority - a quick thought about the Pittsburgh
Steelers' football quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The National Football
League has threatened him with a fine of $5,000 if he again adorns his
shoes, or any other part of his uniform, with the hand-written message "40."

The number is an homage to the late Arizona Cardinals' player Pat Tillman,
who quit football to serve his country as an Army Ranger, and was killed by
friendly fire in Afghanistan last April.

For reasons of marketing, and to curb players from writing anything on their
uniforms (whether "Hi Mom," "Vote Bush," or "Coca-Cola"), the NFL doesn't
want Roethlisberger paying public tribute to Tillman.

But, the league is happy to sell you a Pat Tillman replica jersey, complete
with that big number 40, for $64.99.

Keep those emails coming at . December 2, 2004 | 8:13 p.m. ET Jackson verses Blackwell (Keith Olbermann) SECAUCUS - The complaint about the voting irregularities story is that it has been a little austere, a little impersonal. Part of its lack of appeal to the mainstream media has been its lack of "name players" - the aloofness of John Kerry, as an example. You wouldn't think you'd have to sex up something as important as the integrity of the democratic process, but it turns out that in these early years of the 21st Century, you have to sex up everything - ask Monday Night Football. But, not to worry, two players have taken to the stage, big-time. If Ohio actually gets the notice it deserves, the credit will go to Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. You will recall that in his syndicated Op-Ed column (appearing principally in The Chicago Sun-Times) earlier this week, Jackson wrote the Ohio vote count was "marred by intolerable, often partisan, irregularities and discrepancies," and added that "U.S. citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in." During the day Thursday, Secretary Blackwell's media secretary was firing back... calling the column blatantly inaccurate: "We expect someone writing an Op-Ed and a syndicate distributing that Op-Ed would fact-check information and have a responsibility to the facts." Proving two can play at this game, Blackwell has wrote his own Op-Ed piece in response and it was made available to newspapers today. Jesse in turn, actually turned up on CNN this evening on Paula Zahn's news hour, talking about the same stuff he talked about on Countdown on Tuesday, and that we've been talking about here since the week after the election. Somehow I'm thinking it was a good idea that Blackwell and Jackson appeared on consecutive nights on Countdown, and not the same one. Blackwell, incidentally, got sued again, by the Greens and Libs again. The Badnarik and Cobb parties are already due back in court tomorrow to try to get a Federal Judge to vacate the temporary restraining order against the re-count inside Delaware County, Ohio. Today, they filed another federal action, naming Blackwell directly, accusing him of stalling the re-count and abusing his authority. The suit asks that the recount begin immediately... since the electoral college is scheduled to meet just eleven days from now - although its vote won't be opened by congress until January 6. Blackwell gets to wait until Monday to certify the state's vote, even though all 88 counties in the Buckeye State have finished their own confirmations. Data is still sketchy, but it turns out election officials accepted about 77% of the provisional ballots - about 121,000 of them. No statewide count of the provisionals yet, though results reported by one county - Franklin (that's Columbus), indicated that Senator Kerry had gotten nearly 7,700 of the more-than 12,000 provisional votes counted. But of all the developments out of Ohio, the most provocative, clearly, is still stalled under the weight of its own paperwork. The Alliance for Democracy is not quite ready with its challenge to the vote yet. Lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, with who else but Reverend Jackson by his side today on the steps of the Ohio Supreme Court, said that the group hopes to file its election challenge tomorrow - if not, Monday - but it's not guaranteeing anything. If and when it gets around to it, the Alliance will be asking one high court justice to set the election results aside, pending a full investigation and hearing. Arnebeck said today he believes that if all ballots were counted in what he calls a "traditional context," the outcome would not just swing from President Bush's 130,000 vote election night lead - it would swing all the way in the opposite direction, and give Kerry a 130,000 vote lead. "Once we file the litigation." Arnebeck added, "aggressive discovery will proceed, and we'll get to the truth. I want to reemphasize once again as we did at the previous press conference that the purpose here is not partisan, the purpose here is not destructive toward anyone and we invite all candidates, we invite the Bush campaign and the Kerry campaign to join and cooperate in a non-partisan effort to find the truth, gather the facts, and assure the public, and assure both candidates, that this is an honest election." Arnebeck sounded a little like a protestor in Kiev: "Our presidential election affects not just this country but all the citizens of the world. And therefore it's absolutely essential that the person who assumes the mantle of that office has the full confidence of our public and the world community that it was an honest election." Amen. One final note here. I should clarify what I wrote in this space last night about Countdown's interaction with Bev Harris of Black Box Voting. My staff is not certain that any of our messages to Ms. Harris inviting her on the show since the week of November 15 have specifically asked her for permission to play the videotapes of her work trying to audit the Florida vote. We think so, but I've got only three people booking all the guests on this program, and they each probably make about 100 calls a day. Complicating our effort is the fact that even as we hoped to provide a platform to publicize and illuminate her efforts, Ms. Harris had returned none of the messages left on her own voicemail by Countdown staffers since she spoke to our staffers briefly, twice, during the week of November 8. Only today did she even get back in touch with us, and was so belligerent, threatening, and demanding, that we have chosen to withdraw our invitation to her to appear, or to have videotape of her efforts played, on Countdown. Threats against myself or my staff will not be tolerated. We are not only busting our humps on the voting irregularities beat, but we remain the only mainstream news organization to continue to cover this vital story. These are my people - they are running professional risks I can't begin to describe - and I will stand up for them, first, last, and always. E-mail me at