IT AIN'T ABOUT...

IT AIN'T ABOUT HARRIS. I'm pretty sympathetic to the point Jon Chait raises in his terrific piece on Katherine Harris: Now that the GOP spin on Harris is replete with admissions that she's a few crayons short of a full box, shouldn't that force them to reconsider the legitimacy of her decisions during the 2000 recount? In other words, if Harris is nuts, then why trust that in 2000 she was sane. Maybe Bush did lose.

The problem is Jon seems to counteract his own thesis in the article. As he writes, Harris was ignorant of election law and completely incapable of making these decisions. So the GOP sent in a ringer:

Republicans close to Bush dispatched J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, a veteran Florida Republican lawyer well-versed in election law, to serve as Harris's close adviser. From that point on, decisions became more decisive and uniformly pro-Bush. When asked by the Post if he was coordinating his decisions with the Bush campaign, Stipanovich tellingly refused to offer a denial.

Harris may have been a concerned relative away from a white coat with buckles, but she was little more than a marionette. The real decisions were made by a hack sent by the central committee.

In some ways, this is precisely the problem. The decisions made during the recount were grotesque miscarriages of justice that clearly and obviously subverted the will of the electorate and the integrity of the election. But it wasn't because they were rendered by a lunatic or an incompetent; it was because they were nakedly calculated power plays that prioritized partisanship above and beyond the public good. For some reason, we're able to question and vilify the incompetent (see Miers, Harriett), the corrupt (Cunningham, Duke), and the insane (Harris, Katherine), but we�re unable to lay a glove on the far more lethal and routine manipulations of power that serve the ambitions and interests of the wealthy. Harris will get hers, but even if her mania did spur a reassessment of her role, we'd be comforting ourselves by condemning a mere vessel. The question isn't how to expose Harris, but how to expose Stipanovich and those who sent him.

--Ezra Klein

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