Here’s why. This passage from Baker’s account of the 2000 Presidential election in Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House:
After thirty-six frenzied days, it was over. The final tally showed Bush and Cheney winning Florida by 537 votes out of nearly 6 million cast and winning the Presidency with 271 electoral votes, one more than the minimum needed.
Notice what’s missing?
The national popular vote.
Which Gore won by over half a million votes, 50,999,897 to 50,456,002.
Baker devotes 17 densely packed pages to covering the weeks from election night through the Supreme Court’s decision to give Bush the Presidency and only on the 17th of those pages does he get around to mentioning, in an aside, without numbers, that Bush lost the popular vote.
He also doesn’t mention that while Bush got 1 more electoral vote than he needed, he only got 5 more than Gore, (271-266), while if Gore had taken Florida he’d have had 21 more than he needed and had 45 more than Bush, 291-246.
In other words, Baker doesn’t think it’s worth bothering to note that in the battle over the Florida election results Gore was fighting to assert a decisive popular and electoral victory and Bush was fighting for a dubious 1 vote win in the Electoral College. Meanwhile, he portrays Gore as the petty and spiteful sore loser who took too long to accept reality.
I’m not going to get deep into Baker’s account of the Supreme Court decision, except to quote this from Days of Fire:
But however reasoned or flawed its findings may have been, the Supreme Court did not elect Bush and Cheney; it stopped a a recount process that would not have changed the outcome. Two extensive recounts conducted later by media organizations showed that Bush and Cheney would still have won even if the hand recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court or the more limited recount in four Democratic counties sought by Gore had gone forward.
The first independent recount was conducted by the Miami Herald and USA Today. The commission found that under most recount scenarios, Bush would have won the election, but Gore would have won using the most generous standards.
Ultimately, a media consortium—comprising the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Tribune Co. (parent of the Los Angeles Times), Associated Press, CNN, Palm Beach Post and St. Petersburg Times—hired the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to examine 175,010 ballots that were collected from the entire state, not just the disputed counties that were discounted; these ballots contained undervotes (votes with no choice made for president) and overvotes (votes made with more than one choice marked). Their goal was to determine the reliability and accuracy of the systems used for the voting process. The NORC concluded that if the disputes over the validity of all the ballots statewide in question had been consistently resolved and any uniform standard applied, the electoral result would have been reversed and Gore would have won by 107–115 votes if only two of the three coders had to agree on the ballot. When counting ballots wherein all three coders agreed, Gore would have won the most restrictive scenario by 127 votes and Bush would have won the most inclusive scenario by 110 votes.
Subsequent analyses cast further doubt on conclusions that Bush likely would have won anyway, had the U.S. Supreme Court not intervened. An analysis of the NORC data by University of Pennsylvania researcher Steven F. Freeman and journalist Joel Bleifuss concluded that a recount of all uncounted votes using any standard (inclusive, strict, statewide or county by county), Gore would have been the victor. Such a statewide review including all uncounted votes was a very real possibility, as Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, whom the Florida Supreme Court had assigned to oversee the statewide recount, had scheduled a hearing for December 13 (mooted by the U.S. Supreme Court's final ruling on the 12th) to consider the question of including overvotes as well as undervotes, and subsequent statements by Judge Lewis and internal court documents support the likelihood of including overvotes in the recount. Florida State University professor of public policy Lance deHaven-Smith observed that, even considering only undervotes, "under any of the five most reasonable interpretations of the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Gore does, in fact, more than make up the deficit". Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's analysis of the NORC study and media coverage of it supports these interpretations and criticizes the coverage of the study by media outlets such as the New York Times and the other media consortium members.
Also, as Baker tells it, Bush’s team fought for their guy lawyer against lawyer, always tough, always determined, but always fair and on the up and up; he doesn’t appear to have heard of the Brooks Brothers Riot, Katherine Harris, or Jeb Bush’s disenfranchisement of over 12,000 legitimate potential Gore voters. He deals with Palm Beach County in a note and makes its sound as though Gore’s losing West Virginia and Tennessee counts as something more than a disappointing bit of historical trivia. And his version of the Presidential Debates is the National Press Corps’ version from 2000. Never mind that the overnight polls favored him, Gore lost because he sighed a lot and rolled his eyes. The War on Gore continues.
What it comes down to is that Baker, who up until this point had been avoiding editorializing and any analysis that might cross the boundaries of critical opinion, goes out of his way to validate Bush’s election and push the idea that the better man won.
As I wrote the other day, in the first of what's probably going to wind up being half a dozen posts on the book---it's a big book!---Portrait of the politcian as a sour young man, given that Days of Fire is an insider account of the Bush-Cheney Administration and Baker seems content to report what his sources told him without editorializing or much in the way of hard questioning, so I'd expect it to be more sympathetic to Bush and Cheney than I’d like or think they deserve. But if it keeps on like this then it’s going to be an even harder read than I thought, because the last thing those two need is another apology from another Beltway Insider journalist.
I’m going to soldier on, though. I’ll report in from the field as I go.
"uncounted votes". That's the phrase to keep in mind. Not the undervotes or the overvotes or the ones who were illegally disenfranchised, but the many votes that, to this day, have never been counted at all. How can that happen?
Read John Lantigua’s report on the Brooks Brothers Riot in Salon, Miami’s Rent-a-Riot.
The image below with some of the rioters identified is from TruthMove.