reporter Bill Sammon makes it clear in the opening pages of At Any Cost
that he's not a big fan of Al Gore. In this fast-paced account of what happened to Florida's controversial vote, he explains how a defeated Gore desperately fought to turn things around. He starts by suggesting that tens of thousands of voters in the Florida Panhandle--Republican country--decided not to cast ballots when the media wrongly called the state for Gore early in the evening on Election Day, before all the polls had closed in the western part of the state. Without this blunder--which hasn't received nearly the attention heaped on the media for prematurely calling the election for George W. Bush several hours later--Sammon believes Gore would have given up his post-election campaign much sooner. Sammon also believes this had repercussions outside Florida: "If not for the networks' early and erroneous projections, Bush might have easily won the popular vote, and carried a few congressional seats with him."
The bulk of the book zeros in on Gore and his goal of "seizing the presidency." In one nifty bit of reporting, Sammon tracks down a navy lieutenant whose military ballot Gore's lawyers were determined to throw out. Sammon describes the unseemly spectacle of their success:
When the [Duval County] canvassing board announced that the ballots of 149 soldiers, sailors, and airmen had been disqualified, a pair of jubilant Gore lawyers exchanged high-fives. A Republican, visibly shaken by this sight, demanded to know how they could celebrate the disenfranchisement of U.S. military members risking their lives around the world. One of the Gore lawyers glibly replied, "A win's a win."
Sammon also covers all that business about the chads, Gore's "smear campaign" against Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and the Supreme Court's controversial Bush
ruling. This is by no means the definitive story of what happened in Florida, but it's a useful piece of journalism--and one that Bush's supporters will read with that heady mixture of outrage and excitement that politics uniquely provides. --John J. Miller
Al Gore was furious. He wasn't supposed to lose.
Drawing on exhaustive, on-the-scene reporting and exclusive interviews with the key players including President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney Washington Times reporter Bill Sammon has written the definitive account of the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history.
At Any Cost is a breathtaking examination of Vice President Al Gore's audacious and unprecedented effort to overturn the presidential election. Desperate to forestall the spectacular collapse of his political career and determined to inflict as much damage as possible on Bush, Gore pulled out all the stops in an extraordinary, thirty-six day campaign of scorched-earth political warfare that propelled the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis.
Alternately infuriating and hilarious, At Any Cost provides a compelling, insider's look at this historic standoff. In At Any Cost, you will see:
* Gore lawyers high-fiving each other after disqualifying more than a thousand military ballots on trumped-up hypertechnicalities. "A win's a win," crowed one of the lawyers after tossing out the ballot of Navy Lieutenant John Russell, who at that moment was off the coast of Yemen, where he had just finished rescuing the USS Cole in the wake of a deadly terrorist strike.
* Gore personally orchestrating a smear-and-destroy campaign against Florida's top election official, Katherine Harris, for upholding state laws that got in the way of his desperate quest. Privately calling her "Cruella De Vil," the micromanaging Gore directly engaged in the politics of personal destruction, even as he piously pledged to elevate "the tone of our dialogue."
* Democratic operative Bob Beckel plotting to "kidnap" Bush electors in a secret campaign to foist the election debacle on Congress and plunge the nation into electoral chaos. While Gore publicly distanced himself from Beckel, he privately retained an Electoral College expert to advise him on the possibility of flipping "faithless" electors.
At Any Cost is a gripping, must-read account of the biggest attempted larceny in the history of American politics.
"You make the decision to run first and then you run with all your heart and soul," Gore told reporters in 1991 as he mulled a campaign for the White House. "You're going to rip the lungs out of anybody else who's in the race. And you're going to do it right."
Gore reaffirmed his scorched-earth philosophy during the 2000 campaign.
"I'm not like George Bush," he told aides. "If he wins or loses, life goes on. I'll do anything to win."
And so on Thursday, November 9, Gore made the most momentous decision of the post-election struggle. He would fight on. There was no turning back. He would seize the presidency at any cost.
* * * * *
Gore had known even before the first ballot was recounted that his odds for success were slim. Having been a professional politician for twenty-four years, he realized that recounts rarely reverse elections. Oh, there was some genuine hope in the Gore camp, especially during those first heady hours, that a new tally would produce a new winner. But there was also a more realistic assessment of the situation. The cold-eyed pros on Team Gore immediately viewed the recount in purely pragmatic terms: It bought them some time. No more than a couple of days, to be sure, but enough time to come up with a Plan B. One thing was certain: They couldn't wait until the conclusion of the recount, which would probably confirm Bush's win, to disabuse the press and public of the expectation of quick closure. If the Gore team didn't come up with a secondary strategy almost immediately, there would be tremendous pressure on the vice president to concede....