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Howard Dean replays the 2000 election's legal fight

May 31, 2008 |  7:52 am

Even as Democratic leaders sat down in a Washington hotel this morning to try to resolve their dispute over primaries in Michigan and Florida, the head of the party took a swipe at the resolution of another fight over counting votes -- the one that decided the 2000 general election.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, in remarks opening the much-anticipated rules committee meeting, invoked the name of Al Gore, the party's nominee eight years ago. And in doing so, heDemocratic National Chairman Howard Dean spoke at the party's rules committee meeting trying to resolve the dispute over the Florida and Michigan primaries asserted that the presidency had been "snatched from" Gore by "five intellectually bankrupt justices."

So much for the recent recommendation from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia -- one of those who was part of the 5-4 ruling that led to George W. Bush becoming president -- that folks "get over" what happened and that the debate about it is "so old now."

Dean brought up Gore's name in telling an anecdote about his own disillusionment, as a presidential candidate in 2004, with the party he now hopes will unite after dealing with the Florida/Michigan mess and, at some point, settling on a nominee for this year.

Dean told of angrily pacing in a hotel room one night in Wisconsin -- where an impending primary loss would extinguish what had once been his front-running candidacy -- and talking with Gore on the telephone. For undisclosed reasons, he was venting, wondering why he should stay a Democrat and asking what the party had done for him.

Gore, according to Dean, finally cooled him down by saying, "This is not about you, it's about your country."

Who knows, more stories like this one -- and continued squabbling ...

... between the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama camps -- might give new life to that long-since-abandoned "Draft Al Gore" movement.

Dean, in wrapping up his comments, left little doubt that he believed that Florida and Michigan should end up with something less than full delegations at the party's convention in Denver this summer.

He urged the rules panel to reach a decision that respected voters in the two states -- including those who did not cast primary ballots because they had been told the contests would not count. And he called on the committee to respect the 48 states that did not violate party rules in scheduling their nominating contests.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Associated Press