[save_bill_clinton] The Prime Primary Problem
- "But it is clear that Mr. Bush has been complicit in the effort to rig the vote. "The Prime Primary Problem
Tuesday, February 1, 2000; Page A14TODAY'S PRIMARIES in New Hampshire are too close to call, and inevitably that closeness has harshened the tone of the campaign. On the Democratic side, Bill Bradley and Al Gore have been slamming each other for slamming each other; and Mr. Bradley has taken aim at his opponent's past equivocation on the question of abortion rights. On the Republican side, John McCain has insinuated that George Bush lacks the experience and knowledge to be president, and has gone after him for indifference to corrupt campaign finance. Some will accept these assaults as a natural part of a vigorous contest, while others will worry that sour insults may alienate voters. But there can be no such debate over the scandal brewing elsewhere. Unless a federal judge intervenes soon, New York's Republican primary will have been outrageously fixed.
In order to get their names on New York's ballot, Republican candidates are required to embark on a signature-gathering drive so onerous that only the best organized candidates bother to try. As a result, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer, who between them won nearly a quarter of the Republican vote in Iowa, have been excluded from the outset. But the situation is not much fairer for stronger candidates. Steve Forbes has shelled out $750,000 for lawyers and signature collectors, but has nonetheless been shoved off the ballot in three of New York's 31 congressional districts. Mr. McCain, who relied mainly on volunteer signature harvesters, finds himself off the ballot in 13 districts.
These ejections are the result of lawsuits filed by New York's Republican establishment, which aims to please Mr. Bush; indeed the state's governor, George Pataki, is said to fancy himself as vice president. No exclusionary lawsuits would have been filed if Mr. Bush had spoken out against them, but Mr. Bush refused to do so. His refusal is both cowardly and clumsy. Cowardly, because he lacks the guts to stand up for open democratic competition. Clumsy, because he taints what most professionals believe he could have won honestly.
Last Thursday, a New York judge upheld the state's primary-fixing, so the hope for an open contest now rests on federal intervention. Mr. McCain has filed suit against New York's process, and on Friday Mr. Forbes joined forces with him. It is not clear who will prevail in this legal battle. But it is clear that Mr. Bush has been complicit in the effort to rig the vote.
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