Al Gore is back in the news. Not because of his lame appearances on the campaign trail on behalf of Hillary Clinton (imagine how unenthusiastic young voters must be about Clinton for her to think she needs a 68 year-old has-been to fire them up), but because of Donald Trump’s refusal to say in advance that he will “accept” the results of this year’s election.
This generated instant, mindless criticism of Trump which, in turn, led Republicans to cite Al Gore’s refusal for some time to accept that he had lost the 2000 presidential.
The point is a fair one, but not as a criticism of Gore. The ex-VP did nothing wrong in vigorously contesting the 2000 election and Trump has done nothing wrong by stating that he might not “accept” the outcome of this year’s contest.
Gore received more votes than George Bush. He lost the election because he lost Florida. But in Florida, as Charles Krauthammer elegantly put it at the time, Bush’s margin of victory did not exceed the margin of error inherent in an imperfect election process.
Thus, Gore had every right to litigate over Florida and to do so aggressively. Considering the stakes of any modern presidential election, I would be appalled if a Republican candidate facing the scenario Gore faced in 2000 did anything less than Gore did to contest the outcome. Such a hypothetical Republican would be flogged mercilessly by those who criticize Gore for “putting American through” prolonged litigation over, and uncertainty about, the 2000 result.
Once Gore’s appeals were exhausted, he gave a gracious speech in which he “accepted” the outcome. Whether he ever came to terms with it is another matter (at a recent appearance with Clinton, he brought up Florida 2000). I doubt that, in his place, I could ever fully have moved on.
Some Democrats were far less gracious than Gore. They insisted that the Bush presidency was illegitimate. Thus, it’s amusing to hear the mostly feigned outrage over Trump refusal to exclude the possibility that he won’t “accept” a Clinton victory.
But the hypocrisy of many of the liberals who wag their finger at Trump doesn’t mean that Al Gore behaved improperly when he pulled out all of the lawful stops in the hope of winning the incredibly tight 2000 presidential election. A candidate unwilling to fight that hard really shouldn’t run for president.