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2005-11-04

Mark Crispin Miller: "Kerry Told Me He Now Thinks the Election Was Stolen"

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New York University professor and author Mark Crispin Miller says in an interview on Democracy Now!: "[Kerry] told me he now thinks the election was stolen. He says he doesn’t believe he is the person that can be out in front because of the sour grapes question. But he said he believes it was stolen. He says he argues with his democratic colleagues on the hill. He said he had a fight with Christopher Dodd because he said there’s questions about the voting machines and Dodd was angry." [includes rush transcript]

  • Mark Crispin Miller, author of "Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too." He is a professor at New York University and author of several other books including "Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney’s New World Order" and "The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking about the election. Was the 2004 presidential election stolen? Our guests are Mark Hertsgaard, who has done an article in the current Mother Jones magazine, "Recounting Ohio: Was Ohio Stolen? You Might Not Like the Answer"; and Mark Crispin Miller, wrote the book Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One, Too." Mark Crispin Miller, professor at New York University. Juan.

JUAN GONZALEZ: (Unless We Stop Them), that’s the last line of the subtitle. I would like to go back to Mark Hertsgaard a second. One of the issues that has been raised most, especially by social scientists and statisticians who have looked at the election, is this whole question of the difference between the exit polling that occurred on Election Day and the final results. And that’s been claimed as a major sort of indicator that there was something awry. You challenge that in your article. Could you talk about that?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Yes. The case, just to sort of expand on that, on the part of the skeptics, say, look, it’s just unprecedented that the exit polls would be that wrong. You’ll recall, of course, that the exit polls projected Kerry to win by a comfortable 3% nationwide at the start of sort of the middle of the day on Election Day, and then, of course, he lost by about that same margin. And the statisticians who looked at this said they focused on 11, in particular, states, so-called battleground states, and in each case they said the exit polls were mistaken or contradicted, rather, by the actual results, and they said if you looked at that on a matter of pure chance, the odds of that happening are about 988,000 to one. Therefore, there must be some other explanation; therefore, there’s strong evidence that the election was stolen, that the vote totals were somehow tampered with.

And my take on that is, yes, that’s entirely possible, but a theory is a very long way from fact, and in this area I disagree with my friend Mark Crispin Miller a bit, who — I think it’s very possible that the conventional explanation of this is correct; that is to say, the so-called reluctant responders on the part of Bush voters who had just come out from voting, and you know how exit polling works is that basically someone accosts you after you’ve left the voting booth and says, 'Would you tell me who you voted for?' And let’s remember, those exit pollsters are wearing the logos of the major news organizations — CNN, ABC, etc. — who pay for the polls. And the explanation given by the exit pollsters themselves for why they were wrong by about 1.9% was that they think that because the pro-Bush voters tend to be very hostile or at least skeptical of the supposedly — although we all know that they are not — supposedly liberal news media that they would be less inclined to give answers to them. I don’t find that very hard to believe, myself. I gather from Mark’s book that he finds that not very plausible.

But then, beyond that, there’s something very specific, which is in one of those eleven states, the State of New Hampshire, there actually was an actual recount paid for by Ralph Nader’s Green Party campaign. That campaign picked the precincts that would be recounted, precincts that they thought were suspicious, and that hand recount confirmed the actual vote totals and showed that the exit polls were, in fact, wrong. And so, I think that, again, it’s possible that this is what happened, but we are far, far way from having it proven.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, your response.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, as Mark said, we are friends. When we first met we had lunch on James Madison’s birthday and toasted that august moment in our history. So, you know, I think highly of him. It pains me, therefore, to see him engaging in this kind of — what strikes me as pedantic over-analysis of specific claims. I’m afraid that his evidence is partial in each case, and I can only suggest that people read the Free Press collection of documents, "Did George W. Bush Steal the Election in 2004?" It is voluminous, and it is highly credible on Ohio, as is the Conyers report.

I’m also not persuaded that the word of a Democrat, assuring us that there was no foul play in Warren County, for example, is authoritative. I mean, I agree with Mark. I think we should look at the facts. But what I think we should be emphasizing here is that this kind of, I think, hyper-vigilance in interrogating various details with a bias toward claiming that there is a conventional view, the conventional view is solid and the skeptics who question it are grasping at straws, they’re desperate to deny reality, this is itself a denial of reality. I want to repeat, Fooled Again deals with the entire country, not just with Ohio. I also want to emphasize that I’m not a Democrat, I’m an Independent. And I’m even less of a Democrat than I was before John Kerry conceded.

Speaking of John Kerry, I have some news for you. On Friday, this last Friday night, I arranged to meet Senator Kerry at a fundraiser to give him a copy of my book. He told me he now thinks the election was stolen. He said he doesn’t believe that he is the person who can go out front on the issue, because of the sour grapes, you know, question. But he said he believes it was stolen. He says he argues about this with his Democratic colleagues on the Hill. He had just had a big fight with Christopher Dodd about it, because he said, you know, ’There’s this stuff about the voting machines; they’re really questionable.’ And Dodd was angry. 'I don't want to hear about it,’ you know, 'I looked into it. There's nothing there.’

Well, there’s plenty there, and let me add one thing: This is not a criminal case, okay? We don’t have to prove guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is our election system, right? This is a system based on consent of the governed. If many, many millions of Americans are convinced that they got screwed on Election Day and couldn’t vote, or if 3.4 million more Americans claim that they voted than the actual total of voters — this is what the Census Bureau told us last May — this is grounds alone for serious investigation, and I think Mark would agree with me here. We have to have serious investigation.

AMY GOODMAN: Did Senator Kerry say, when he said on Friday night, according to you, that he does think the election was stolen, did he say why he raced out the next day after, for months, the Democratic candidates had assured the voters that they would make sure every vote was counted? I mean, Mark Hertsgaard says in his own piece in Mother Jones, "It didn’t help that Kerry conceded immediately, despite questions about Ohio. The American press is less an independent truth seeker than a transmission belt for opinions of movers and shakers in Washington. If the Democratic candidate wasn’t going to cry foul, the press certainly wasn’t going to do it for him."

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, that’s true. That was a real body blow to the democratic system, and it demoralized a lot of people when Kerry pulled out. It’s hard to forgive him for that. Why did he do it? Well, according to my evidence and I’ve got this in Fooled Again, Kerry was swayed by the brain trust around him. These are people like, you know, Bob Shrum, Mary Beth Cahill —- they’re, you know, Democratic Party war horses. I don’t think they have a stellar record of winning campaigns, and I don’t really understand how it is that they were hired to do this, but they persuaded him up in Martha’s Vineyard that he should pull out, otherwise, he told John Edwards in his call, Kerry said, "They say that if I don’t pull out, they are going to call us sore losers," as if there’s -—

MARK HERTSGAARD: I think Mark Crispin Miller has given us a major news flash here and kind of buried the lead. If Kerry thinks that the election was stolen, that is big, big news. And I think that it is very unfortunate that it took him 12 months to come around to that conclusion, because, you know, I want to stress this. In my piece — I’m an investigative journalist. I am going to deal with the facts, and I’m sorry, I am going to be kind of picky about the facts. That’s my business. But at the conclusion of the piece, I say repeatedly, it is smelly what happened in Ohio. It is entirely plausible that this election was stolen, and above all, that what we need is a real investigation both by the mainstream media and especially by people with subpoena power.

John Conyers, God bless him for pushing his own investigation, but he was stonewalled by Ken Blackwell, the Secretary of State of Ohio and other officials, including the Triad Computer Company, who basically refused to answer his questions. Had he or another agency with subpoena power should go back and get that, because I agree with Mark entirely. Look, this is the essence of our democracy. We deserve to have a persuasive answer to what happened in 2004. We probably would have gotten it if Kerry had shown the courage to say, on Election Day — on the day after Election Day a year ago what he apparently told Mark Crispin Miller the other night. If he had said then that "I suspect this election was stolen," believe me, even the corporate media would have investigated this. It’s too juicy a story, but because Kerry dropped the ball there, you know, it’s now a year later, and it’s only the outsiders who are talking about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you saying, Mark Crispin Miller, that John Edwards didn’t want to concede?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Absolutely not. I spoke to someone, a relative of his who was with him when the phone call came from Kerry. This is this in the book, Fooled Again. Kerry called him on the cell phone, and don’t forget that Edwards himself, four hours before, had just been on national TV promising righteously to count every vote, got a big hand. Now he felt he was being made to look like a fool, and he argued with Kerry vehemently. He said, "It’s too soon, you know. Wait." Kerry, you know, said this thing about how they will call us sore losers, as if that’s worse than the country, you know, going fascist, whatever. And Edwards said quite understandably, "So what?" You know, "So what if they call us sore losers?" I mean, they are going to call them names in any case. But it’s true, Mark is right, Kerry’s caving in like that gave an enormous gift to the right wing. They could now claim, "Well, even their candidate doesn’t think it was stolen." And they left, you know, the American people hanging out to dry there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Let me ask you. You raised earlier that you thought that because of all of these major questions about what happened in 2004, that it’s extremely important for the American people to get behind electoral reform now. But there was an attempt, supposedly, at electoral reform after the 2000 election, and in the eyes of many people the so-called reform has only made the situation worse. So, why expect that this will change now?

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, when I envision proper reform I’m — I guess I’m naive enough to assume this will take place in a democratic way at the behest of the people and not in the shadow of what’s essentially a dictatorship by one party. I mean, their cynicism is awesome. My hat’s off to their cynicism. In Fooled Again, I talk about precisely how they hijacked the issue of electoral reform early on. You know, the Democrats wouldn’t contest the 2000 theft of the election. The only thing they could bring themselves to do was sort of whine about electoral reform. 'We have to have electoral reform.'

So, what the White House did was very cleverly say, 'Yes, electoral reform. We're very interested in electoral reform,’ and on that basis, they shoved through the Help America Vote Act. Now, there are some decent provisions in that act, but it’s that act that mandates the use of touch screen voting machines throughout the entire country eventually. That’s already a serious problem. Those private vendors should be outlawed. We shouldn’t be using them at all.

So, the Democrats, because of their spinelessness, allowed themselves to be very badly outmaneuvered. The White House seized the issue of electoral reform and, of course, used it to promote the opposite, used it to make the situation worse, which they’re now trying to do with the Voting Rights Act. You know, they want to remove certain provisions from that to make it vulnerable to repeal or abolition by the Supreme Court. So we can’t trust this administration, you know, to guard the hen house.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Hertsgaard, as you hear this news of John Kerry, according to Mark Crispin Miller, saying that he thinks that the election was stolen, if you were John Kerry, what power do you have? What would you do? What power do you have right now as the former Democratic presidential candidate?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, unfortunately, as Mark said, he forfeited a lot of his moral authority on this a year ago when he went forward and conceded way too early. However, he is still the former presidential candidate and, if I were he and I wanted to make a fuss about this, which I am not so sure, I would do more than just say it to Mark Crispin Miller at a private fundraiser. I would probably write an op-ed in the Washington Post or The New York Times or someplace I know it would be seen and call for a genuine investigation in some way similar to what Senator Reid did the other day about calling for a real, instead of a phony, investigation into how the Bush administration deceived the country and manipulated intelligence to take us to war, because, certainly, besides going to war, the selection of the President is arguably one of the two or three core elements of this democracy — and try and get something with subpoena power to look into this.

But John Kerry, one other quick thing about that — look, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Kerry had run a decent campaign in the first place. George W. Bush was the most vulnerable incumbent in American presidential history, and Kerry ran a very poor campaign. And it was only possible if they did — if Bush did steal this, it was only because the vote was close enough to let them do it. And the vote should not have been even close in Ohio or elsewhere. In fact, in the current issue of Mother Jones they profile a very interesting piece on Paul Hackett, who, of course, is the first Iraqi war combat veteran to run for Congress. And he ran in Ohio, and he ran in a district that Bush won by two to one over Kerry in 2004, but Hackett, unlike Kerry, was not afraid to come out against the Iraq war, not afraid to take a very strongly critical attack stance against George W. Bush. And Hackett, although a political neophyte, in that same district that Bush won 2 to 1, Hackett got 48% of the vote, almost won. And I think had Kerry done that kind of a campaign we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, of course, Paul Hackett has announced he is running for Senate in Ohio, and his Democratic challenger is the longtime progressive Democratic Congress member, Sherrod Brown. Mark Crispin Miller, final comment.

MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Yeah, I’m going to agree readily that the Kerry people ran a miserable campaign. I have got stuff about it in the book. They were tone deaf. They were ridiculous, however, they still won. That’s my argument. And to pay, you know, too much attention to how inexpert the campaign was misses the point that there’s solid evidence that many, many millions of Americans voted against Bush, and this includes a lot of Republicans, Amy. This is not just a party issue. There’s a lot of evidence — I have it in Fooled Again — that the Republican Party was fractured last time, whereas the Democratic Party was more unified than it had ever been since 1964.

Now, I enjoy faulting political operatives for running idiotic campaigns. You know, it’s kind of gratifying. It’s cathartic, but let’s not be misled by this. The fact is that even though he ran a bad campaign, Bush had been running a far worse presidency, and the American people had had enough of that. I don’t — you know, I’m not a Democrat, as I say, and I’m not at the moment much of an admirer of Senator Kerry, but the fact is that this was an anti-Bush vote, and it’s extremely important, because Bush represents the antithesis of democracy.

You know, you had a story at the beginning of the hour about Haiti. Is it any surprise that this administration would steal its way to power? You know, they evicted the first democratically elected government of Haiti. Here they have written the entire legal code for Iraq, where there’s no press freedom. They don’t believe in democracy. They are profoundly opposed to democracy. Fooled Again talks about that theocratic frame of mind.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. When we come back from our break, we are going down to Argentina where President Bush is. We are going to talk about the mass protests that are taking place at the Summit of the Americas. Mark Crispin Miller has been our guest, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One, Too (Unless We Stop Them). And Mark Hertsgaard on the telephone with us who did the piece for Mother Jones, "Recounting Ohio: Was Ohio Stolen? You Might Not Like the Answer."

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