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Consultant Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn’t.
Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon’s dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.
When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’
“There have been many times I’ve regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn’t have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn’t become president.’ It’s very disturbing to me.”
A lot is going wrong in this election, from malfunctioning electronic voting machines to voters being purged mistakenly from the rolls. But one thing is going very right: early voting. In the more than 30 states that allow early or no-excuse absentee voting, voters have been casting ballots in record numbers. Early voting has many advantages. The main one is that it makes it likely that more eligible voters will participate in democracy.
Election Day has traditionally been held on a single day — a Tuesday. Congress scheduled federal elections on Tuesdays because they worked well for farmers and Sabbath observers. But in the 21st century, having one day to vote is an antiquated relic. Voters have to fit in a visit to the polls with their work, family and other responsibilities. Many cannot find the time, particularly when lines are as long as they have been in recent times.
The answer, as many states have discovered, is to move away from a single day of voting and allow voters to cast ballots over a period of days or weeks. Voters across the country have responded enthusiastically. In Florida, more than one million people have already cast ballots at early voting centers, some waiting on lines for hours to do so. In Georgia, too, more than one million people already have voted, a big jump from the less than 500,000 people who voted early four years ago.
Some people are wary of early voting. As Susan Saulny reported in The Times on Wednesday, there are rumors in the African-American community in Jacksonville, Fla., that early voting is a scam and that the votes cast early would be discarded. Given Florida’s history with electoral mischief, some skepticism about election procedures is not only understandable, but necessary.
But the truth is that early voting actually makes it harder for the forces of disenfranchisement to stop eligible voters from casting ballots. If election officials try to require voters to present ID when it is not required by law, early voting gives voters a chance to simply return the next day. Dirty tricks are also harder to pull off. If political operatives want to jam get-out-the-vote telephone lines, as they did on Election Day in New Hampshire in 2002, it would be harder to do if people voted over two weeks.
Early voting also reduces the burden on election systems that are often stretched near to the breaking point. In 2004, voters waited in lines as long as 10 hours. And there is every indication that lines on Tuesday, in some places and at some times, will again be extraordinarily long. The more people who vote early, the fewer who will be lined up at the polls on Election Day.
Now that it is clear how successful the early-voting process has been, the states that have not adopted it — including New York — should do so. Congress should also mandate early voting for federal elections — ideally as part of a larger federal bill that would fix the wide array of problems with the electoral system. Today, the idea that all voting must occur in a 15-hour window, or less, on a single day is as outdated as a punch-card voting machine.
McCain’s on the phone !! Who wants to take the call? The man of honor has something disgraceful and disrespectful to say.
It doesn’t make sense feeling sorry for McCain – underdog or not – as he’s the fighter who punches below the belt.
Laura Meckler reports from New York City on the presidential race:
John McCain’s presidential campaign is blanketing battleground states with automated phone calls that accuse Democrat Barack Obama of working closely with a domestic terrorist, of holding extreme views on abortion and of “putting Hollywood above America.”
Automated calls have been an under-the-radar communication tool in recent elections, as they are hard to track and cheap to make. Hundreds of thousands of calls can be delivered before the opposition or the media is aware of them.
But today, a barrage of McCain-funded calls came into the open. Democrats have tracked them in 10 competitive states: Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Maine, where Republicans hope to snag a single electoral vote given to the winner of the northern congressional district.
Obama spokesman, “John McCain’s campaign has admitted that the economy is a losing issue for them, so he’s chosen to launch dishonorable and dishonest attacks like this.”
The calls are tough on Obama. The one that has been tracked in the most places picks up on McCain’s message from the stump and in TV ads to tie him to William Ayers, a 1960s era radical who is now a college professor. He has a loose association with Obama: the two sat on a board together and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama years ago, but Obama has said the two are not close. The McCain campaign has said that the issue is not the relationship between the two but Obama’s candor about it. But the automated phone call raises the relationship itself:
“Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans,” the recorded message said. “And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country.”
The call ends with the legally required disclosure, informing the listener that the call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee. (Listen)
Asked about the calls, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said: “They are 100% factual, and the mission of this campaign is to ensure that voters are informed on Election Day and the presidential vetting process is complete.”
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded, “John McCain’s campaign has admitted that the economy is a losing issue for them, so he’s chosen to launch dishonorable and dishonest attacks like this.”
A second script, picked up in Virginia and North Carolina, warns, “Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats aren’t who you think they are.” It goes on to say that Democrats do not understand the terrorist threat. (Listen)
Another recorded message, which Democrats say was made to North Carolina homes, talks about an anti-abortion measure that Obama opposed in the Illinios legislature. (Listen)
A fourth message accuses Obama of spending more time at a Hollywood fundraiser than working on the financial crisis. (Listen)