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Stand Up for Democracy With Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has written a brilliant new article about the biggest political story in the history of the United States: An American politician illegitimately took the office of president by outright theft and fraud. Although such high crimes and misdemeanors have been rumored in previous elections, none in the history of the republic have been so thoroughly documented. George W. Bush is not the legitimate president of the United States.

Schoolchildren read (in the few remaining civics classes in America) about the multiple pollings and tense standoff that led to Thomas Jefferson's election as president in "the Revolution of 1800," because newspapers of the day looked into and reported on such things. But - unless we speak out - odds are that few will read about what happened in Ohio in 2004 in future history books, because modern newspaper editors are increasingly corporate appendages, and many of today's "reporters" worry more about currying favor with institutional power than investigating stories that may inconvenience or upset their "sources."

Kennedy's story - "Was The 2004 Election Stolen?" - broke on Thursday, June 1, 2006, when Rolling Stone magazine put it on their website and it appeared on other websites including www.commondreams.org. It hit the newsstands soon thereafter. In the article, Kennedy lays out the details of exactly how the Republican Party, in several states but particularly in Ohio, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to both steal the 2004 election and to cover up the evidence of that theft.

The subtitle of the article lays out Kennedy's foundational premise: "Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House." And that's just the beginning of the story, which includes ballot-box stuffing, electronic voting machine manipulation, "caging" in defiance of a court order banning Republicans from the notorious practice, threats and intimidation of Democratic voters by imported Republican goon squads, and multiple illegal uses of the office of the Secretary of State to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

The Republican rebuttals/attacks have already begun, starting with a particularly tragic hit-piece in one of the higher-profile "online magazines" that claims to authoritatively quote so-called but unnamed "experts" who doubt Kennedy's sources, and takes a clip of Ohio law so out of context as to essentially reverse its meaning in support of the Republican talking points.

The day Kennedy's article came out, Republican callers began dialing into talk radio shows complaining about "massive Democrat (sic) voter fraud by registering illegal immigrants" (to quote a caller to my Air America Radio program on 6/2/06). Clearly the meme Republicans will put out if Kennedy's story gets traction in the mainstream media is that "election fraud is something both parties do," and they'll use that meme to push even harder for more Republican-helpful restrictions on voters who are old, urban, or poor enough not to have or easily acquire two forms of government-issued ID. We can't let them - this is about real crimes, and the destruction of democracy in our republic.

Kennedy's article is an in-depth, on-the-ground report from Ohio about the 2004 election. In it, he acknowledges that he is building on the work of many who preceded him - this was a story not particularly difficult to uncover, even though the mainstream media has chosen to ignore it. Seminal investigations were done by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Columbus, Ohio Free Press, and by Michigan Congressman John Conyers, who held hearings in Ohio that resulted in a summary report now available in book form titled What Went Wrong In Ohio (all referenced by Kennedy).

Just after the 2002 elections, I wrote an article for Common Dreams ("If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines") outing Senator Chuck Hagel's odd journey from voting machine peddler to the US Senate (being elected on his own machines). Six months later, in the summer of 2003, MoveOn.org commissioned me to write a round-up article about voting machine problems which they emailed to over 2 million members, and was published on AlterNet. In both articles (and others since), I was building on the work of Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.org, Lynn Landes, and many others, just as Kennedy has done.

It's not like the theft of the 2004 election is a secret to anybody who is looking. Mark Crispin Miller devoted an entire (brilliant) book to the topic, "Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)", and BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast lays it out in a chapter of his new book "Armed Madhouse" and articles on his website www.gregpalast.com.

Kennedy, however, has a name and reputation that demands instant recognition in the mainstream American media. And he didn't just recycle the work of those who preceded him - he went to Ohio, talked with elections officials, looked over records, investigated the investigators, and only included in his story those facts he felt were sufficiently solid that they could, as he told me, "convince a jury." In fact, he is calling for criminal investigations into his evidence, for indictments of culpable Republican officials, and jury trials.

Even with such a credible and high-profile figure involved, however, the response so far of America's corporate-owned mainstream media to Kennedy's article evokes echoes of the media's handling of similar Republican Party crimes in Florida in the 2000 election.

Although it was reported - in The New York Times, no less - that Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush in a statewide recount of Florida "no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent," most Americans don't know to this day that Gore actually won the 2000 election. The reason is a small percentage of Republican spin and a large percentage of journalistic cowardice in the mainstream media following 9/11. (This cowardice is limited to the USA, by the way - the story was extensively covered in most of the rest of the world.)

In the 2000 case, The New York Times, on November 12, 2001, published a story summarizing the work of the newspaper consortium that spent nearly a year counting all the ballots in the 2000 Florida election. They found that a statewide recount - the process the Florida Supreme Court had mandated and which had begun when George W. Bush sued before the US Supreme Court to stop the recount - "could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his [Gore's] way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent."

The Times analysis further showed that had "spoiled" ballots - ballots normally punched but "spoiled" because the voter also wrote onto the ballot the name of the candidate - been counted, the results were even more spectacular. While 35,176 voters wrote in Bush's name after punching the hole for him, 80,775 wrote in Gore's name while punching the hole for Gore. Katherine Harris decided that these were "spoiled" ballots, and ordered that none of them should be counted. Many were from African American districts, where older and often broken machines were distributed, causing voters to write onto their ballots so their intent would be unambiguous. As the Times added in a sidebar article with a self-explanatory title by Ford Fessenden, in the 2000 election in Florida: "Ballots Cast by Blacks and Older Voters Were Tossed in Far Greater Numbers."

The November, 2001, New York Times article went on to document how, in a statewide recount, there was no possible doubt that Al Gore won Florida in 2000:

"If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards [all the ones that were used by either party], and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin. For example, using the most permissive ''dimpled chad'' standard, nearly 25,000 additional votes would have been reaped, yielding 644 net new votes for Mr. Gore and giving him a 107-vote victory margin. ...

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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