Saturday, September 25, 2004
Graydon Carter, founder of Spy magazine and author of the excellent anti-Bush polemic What We've Lost (appendix here), has recently been publishing outstanding stuff at Vanity Fair -- including, in the October issue, "The Path to Florida," by David Margolick, Evgenia Peretz, and Michael Schnayerson, an epic tale that captures the full horror of the 2000 election and suggests that 2004 may be even worse. (Vanity Fair does not maintain a proper website, and we are therefore indebted to Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog, who obtained permission to post the entire article, including photos, in .PDF format; part 1 is here, part 2 here.) Felon purges, military absentee ballots, e-voting machines, the systematic disenfranchisement of African-American voters, the "Brooks Brothers riot," and a host of related shananigans are covered in detail, but the centerpiece of the article is a riveting blow-by-blow account of the process by which the Supreme Court arrived at its unprecedented and disastrous decision stopping the Florida recounts and installing Bush as president. The sources for this narrative were as close to the action as anyone, excluding the nine justices themselves:
The court's proceedings are shrouded in mystery, and the law clerks, who research precedents, review petitions, and draft opinions, are normally notoriously, maddeningly discreet. In addition, Rehnquist makes them all sign confidentiality agreements, then reiterates the point to them in person. A surprising number of clerks talked to Vanity Fair for this article, however. They all drew clear limits on what they would say. They would not discuss conversations with their respective judges, nor disclose any documents they might have retained. "In this administration, the FBI is likely to come after us," one explained. To the inevitable charges that they broke their vows of confidentiality, the clerks have a ready response: by taking on Bush v. Gore and deciding the case as it did, the Court broke its promise to them. "We feel that something illegitimate was done with the Court's power, and such an extraordinary situation justifies breaking an obligation we'd otherwise honor," one clerk says. "Our secrecy was helping to shield some of these actions" . . . .Thanks to our distinguished colleague Avedon Carol for the tip -- and for introducing us to this delightful artefact, the first known collaboration between Lou Reed, John Lennon, and George W. Bush.
Ultimately, only the five justices in the majority know how and why they decided the case as they did and whether they did it in good or bad faith. Perhaps even they don't know the answer. An insider was asked if the five would pass a lie-detector test on the subject. "I honestly don't know," this insider replies. "People are amazing self-kidders."