At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election

At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election

by Bill Sammon


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ISBN-13: 9780895261229
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Publication date: 09/28/2002
Pages: 294
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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It was 5:15 A.M. by the time I finally left the Washington Times newsroom on November 8, 2000. Having written countless versions of an ever-changing story - including one in which I authoritatively reported that George W. Bush had been elected president - I was physically and mentally exhausted. But like so many other journalists who had planned on taking some time off after the grueling, eighteen-month campaign, I was suddenly forced to scrap my vacation. The election was deadlocked and Florida was about to conduct a recount. Unable to remember the Sunshine State's capital, I asked an editor on the way out of the newsroom.

"I dunno," he shrugged. "Tallahassee?"

I stopped at home en route to the airport and stuffed a change of clothes in my briefcase. My wife suggested I pack a proper bag, but I assured her: "It's a two-day story - tops." Then I headed out the door, unaware that I would remain in Florida for the next forty-six days.

Bleary-eyed and suffering from the ravages of sleep deprivation, I found myself reflecting on the long campaign as the plane headed south. Although I had covered Vice President Al Gore almost nonstop for more than a year and a half, I kept coming back to a particular episode from the summer of 1999.

There were only a handful of us on Air Force Two in those early days of the campaign. On that particular trip, there were even fewer reporters than usual because the only public event on Gore's schedule was an environmental photo-op. Those were Gore's "earth tone" days and he wanted to showcase his new, casual wardrobe in a carefully staged canoe ride down the Connecticut River. The vice president's advance staff had even selected a site on the riverbank where news photographers would get the most flattering shot. They pleaded with their boss not to turn and smile at the cameras as he passed by, but instead to gaze purposefully ahead as he knifed his paddle through the pristine waters. The photo would look more candid that way.

At the livery, Gore clambered into a canoe with New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen and shoved off. The press were instructed to double up and follow.

"If we're short one life jacket, we just won't give one to the Washington Times guy," deadpanned Jake Tapper of Salon, a liberal online magazine.

"C'mon, Sammon, you're going with me," said Washington Post political correspondent Dan Balz.

We grabbed a canoe and pushed off before the other reporters could get in the water. As we began paddling, the bottom of the canoe brushed briefly over pebbles in the riverbed. But once we got into deeper water, we had no trouble whatsoever navigating.

It was a glorious summer day and the scenery was spectacular. At one point we passed under an old-fashioned covered bridge that connected New Hampshire and Vermont. At another point we spotted the gaggle of photographers as they prepared for their preordained photo of the day. But when Gore passed by, he couldn't resist turning to mug for the cameras with a big toothy grin. His aides and even the photographers groaned. So much for a candid shot.

Balz and I kept up a brisk pace in order to stay close to Gore. In addition to the other reporters, who were bringing up the rear, there were state officials from both Vermont and New Hampshire. Toss in the ubiquitous Secret Service and it was quite a little armada.

The four-mile jaunt seemed to end almost before it began. As we disembarked and started walking up the bank to the vice presidential motorcade, a man named John Kassel, director of the Vermont Division of Natural Resources, sidled up alongside me and struck up a conversation.

"They won't release the water for the fish when we ask them to, but somehow they find themselves able to release it for a politician," Kassel groused. "The only reason they did this was to make sure the vice president's canoe didn't get stuck."

When I expressed bewilderment, Kassel explained: The drought that had been plaguing New England all summer had slowed the Connecticut River to a trickle. Gore's advance team and the local environmentalists who organized the photo-op had fretted that there wouldn't be enough water to float the vice presidential canoe. So Pacific Gas & Electric was instructed to open the floodgates of its dam upriver at dawn that morning. By the time Gore got into his canoe, the river was plenty deep enough for the trip downstream.

"There are people on the phone right now telling them to shut it off," Kassel assured me.

As I reached the motorcade and Kassel went on his way, I pulled out my cell phone and began calling officials at PG&E. The other reporters were now milling around and I didn't want them to hear my conversation, so I did my best to remain circumspect. At length I reached a senior PG&E official who confirmed Kassel's account. I even tracked down the dam operator who had pushed the button that morning to open the floodgates.

Their story was nothing short of amazing. The drought was so severe that New Hampshire residents were forbidden from watering their lawns or washing their cars. And yet more than half a billion gallons of water had been released from a dam in order to accommodate Al Gore's environmental photo-op.

The story hit the front page of the Washington Times the next morning. As I prepared a follow-up report, I interviewed Sharon Francis, the local environmentalist who had helped plan the entire event. Francis reiterated a point I had made in my first story - that Gore himself had not ordered the raising of the river. But she also explained something I hadn't known. Francis said she informed Gore of the river-raising immediately after the canoe trip, as she and the vice president were walking to a riverbank podium to make brief remarks. How had Gore reacted to this news? According to Francis, he replied that since he was from Tennessee, home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, he was quite familiar with fluctuations in river levels. This bit of detail, while interesting, seemed of no consequence to my follow-up story.

But then at lunch, I had an opportunity to question Gore about the controversy. Careful not to accuse him of ordering the floodgates opened, I instead asked him how he felt about the river being raised "on your behalf."

"I didn't know it was, until I read your story," Gore replied.

As he walked away, I realized he had just contradicted Francis. Now, instead of a routine follow-up story destined for the back pages, I suddenly had another front-page exclusive: What did Gore know and when did he know it?

That afternoon, Gore's press secretary berated me in the driveway of a swank New Hampshire home as the vice president hobnobbed with Democratic donors inside. Chris Lehane was furious that I had written the story about the canoe flap. It was picked up by CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among other hot media barometers. The intended message of the day - that Gore was a better environmentalist than Democratic challenger Bill Bradley - had been utterly obliterated by the new controversy, which was already being dubbed "Floodgate." Suffice it to say that I was the least popular person aboard Air Force Two as we flew back to Washington that night.

Looking back, the whole episode turned out to be inconsequential in the grand scheme of campaign coverage. And yet the canoe flap had taught me something important about Al Gore. When caught in a jam, he reflexively resorted to deception instead of just taking his licks and moving on. He also made it his practice to dispatch staffers to attack the messenger and anyone else who dared question the message of the day. For two weeks after that canoe ride, Gore supporters furiously tried to spin the story. First they disputed the number of gallons released, arguing for days over whether it had been in the tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions, as PG&E originally asserted. When it became apparent that, no matter which number was accurate, it was still an enormous amount of water, Team Gore switched to another argument: The dam routinely released water anyway. But Cleve Kapala, PG&E's director of government affairs, said this particular release was orchestrated specifically for Gore.

"It was a bit artificial, to be honest with you," Kapala said. "The river was pretty dry and no one wanted the canoes to be dragging on the bottom. Vice President Gore's people were concerned that we not raise the level too high, either, because they didn't want it to be dangerous."

He added: "It took a lot of water to get it just right."

Dam operator Dennis Goodwin said raising the river for a VIP was anything but routine.

"It's a first for me, and I've been in this job for sixteen years," Goodwin said. "But if we hadn't done it, they might have hit bottom."

Finally, in desperation, Gore loyalists fell back on the argument first raised by Kassel - that a release would be good for the fish. But even Governor Shaheen's husband, Bill, who was manager of Gore's New Hampshire campaign, threw cold water on that theory.

"When you raise the level for fishing, you have to keep it up or else the fish die," said Shaheen, who acknowledged the river receded to its low level within hours after Gore's departure.

By railing against the story instead of getting it behind him, Gore gave it legs. The Hotline, an online compendium of campaign coverage read by virtually everyone in politics, charted each Gore misstep in what was becoming a canoe saga. The Republican National Committee gleefully issued daily news releases, including one headlined "Row vs. Wade." Someone even filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, charging that the release of water had amounted to an illegal campaign contribution. By going to war over a flubbed photo-op, Gore brought this flood of criticism on himself.

Now, fifteen months later, it looked as though Gore was digging in his heels once again. He had conceded the election to Bush, only to call back an hour later and withdraw his concession. He seemed to be hunkering down for a new fight, although no one knew, as my plane touched down in Tallahassee, just how far Gore was willing to go. At that early stage of the standoff, no one could have imagined that Gore would personally direct a smear-and-destroy campaign against Florida's top election official for simply upholding the law. In those innocent days of the automatic statewide recount, no one could have predicted that Gore would resort to disenfranchising GIs serving overseas, not to mention civilians living right there in Florida, even as he publicly pleaded to "count every vote." And not even the craziest of conspiracy theorists would dare posit a scenario in which Gore would privately consult an Electoral College expert to advise him on the possibilities of enlisting "faithless" Bush electors.

Still, as the plane taxied to a stop, I couldn't shake the sense that perhaps we were heading into a profoundly bigger and more important variation of the canoe story, in which Gore would do anything to win, no matter how bad he looked or how ugly it got.

I once spent several years uncovering election fraud in Cleveland for the Plain Dealer newspaper. I had seen how messy and imprecise the hallowed exercise of voting really was: disappearing ballots; a rigged vote-counting computer; a cat, I even found, who was registered to vote under the name Morris Feline Stuart, occupation "exterminator." In the end, there were investigations by everyone from the Ohio secretary of state to the FBI. Both Republican and Democratic election officials were forced from office.

Now I wondered if the entire nation was about to get an eyeful of the sausage-making operation known as voting in America.

Thirty-six days after arriving in Florida, most of the reporters finally went home. I remained for ten more days, traveling the state to research just how far Gore had gone to achieve his goal. In the end, when he knew all was lost, he tried to inflict mortal wounds on Bush's fledgling presidency. In the process, he all but obliterated any chance for a political comeback of his own.

In short, Al Gore had tried like, well, Al Gore, to seize the presidency - at any cost.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Spoiling for a Fight1
1Stiffing the Panhandlers9
2Barking at the Moon23
3"The Dadburn Ballots Are Still in the Car!"57
4A Butterfly Flutters By75
5It's a Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad World99
6"The First Faint Whisper of the Ax"119
7Disenfranchising GIs137
8Standards du Jour157
9"A Whiff of Fascism"167
10O. J. Weighs In181
11Kidnapping Electors201
12"May Have Even Been Slightly Favorable"217
13Al Gore, Political Kamikaze227
14"Seven Justices of the Court Agree"235
15Seven Minutes of Magnanimity259

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At Any Cost:How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
kkirkhoff on LibraryThing 26 days ago
This was an in-depth look at the major events surrounding the 2000 election. Gore supporters will no doubt paint the author as a Gore-hating, staunch Conservative because he says nothing bad about Bush or his backers, and Gore pretty much oozes sleaziness.Early on in the book there's a lot of good analysis on the early vote call in Florida, and the joke disguised as the Voter News Service. The network bias in calling Gore states early while not calling Bush states for up to two hours after polls closed is well documented.One of the more fascinating tidbits was early in the recount when Gore gathered his people around him for a motivational meeting. He drew four concentric circles on paper. The inner circle he put "Me". The next circle had "Supporters", the next one "Democratic Party", the last one "USA". This was his Circle of Responsibility. Me first. You second. The party third, and the country forth. Quite telling.Several chapters were dedicated to the recounts and the chaos that ensued. The Florida supreme court who re-wrote the election laws...after the election to boot. Also of interest was the US Supreme Court's decision. It was actually by a 7-2 vote that hand recounts were unconstitutional. Not 5-4 like some have said. The 5-4 vote was to stop the madness.I was vaguely familiar with Bob Beckel's attempt to sway electors. This was actually one story about which I didn't know the whole truth. Some had theorized that Beckel was trying to blackmail electors. He planned only to try to convince people he thought were "swayable" to have a change of heart.Many people claimed that Bush stole the election. This is technically impossible because at no time in the tallying of votes was he ever behind. This was Gore's election to steal.The clincher was the disection of Gore's "heartfelt" concession speech. Gore was trying to put himself above the events. To say that he and Bush were equal outsiders looking in on the election chaos. In reality, he caused it all. Bush was hanging back on the defensive. He never "took" votes from Gore.Although I follow the election and it's aftermath closely, there were some aspects that I found quite interesting in this book. Even though I was familiar with all the topics, I did get more of an inside look at what actually happened.Good stuff, if you can stomach getting to the core of the 2000 election..
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like most Americans who voted in 2000, the aftermath of that close election left me with many questions about the ethics and tactics of the Democrat Party and their allies in the Mainstream Press. Unable to win at the ballot box, the Gore Campaign sought to manipulate the courts and public opinion into recount after recount in a vain attempt to change the outcome. Veteran journalist Bill Sammon reveals the thinking and strategy in the Gore camp, as well as exposes the Mainstream Media's attempts to throw the election to the discredited, former Vice President by calling battleground states for him before polls in those state were closed. This book with open your eyes and disturb you. Let some posters on here bash Sammon and call him names like 'right wing.' His conclusions are based on facts and not conspiracy websites or gut feelings of people who can't admit their candidate lost. A must read for the political junkie, student of journalism and the American voter. Excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow, when I stopped reading this fiction, my mind had been brainwashed enough that I just wanted to run outside and goose step with the rest of the republicans down Pennsylvania Avenue to the white house.I just wonder what position in the bush administration the author now covets in lieu of payment for this inaccuracy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What I like about this book is it's about the facts. Not about opinions. The facts speak for themselves. The Truth hurts AL. Great insite into the Fl. nightmare
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not surprising that Democrats would not want the truth to come out about the election. The insist that Al Gore won the popular vote, but in reality, he did not. Votes are not counted after the candidate wins that state. Bush won more states, where the vote counting stopped. Had it continued, Bush would have won the popular vote also.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It really is too bad that this book has misguided so many readers with its baseless prose and obvious bias. Factual and accurate writing are eliminated when the truth contradicts the author's wishes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An essential read into the political residue of the Clinton years. One can draw the conclusion from this book that to The Gore 2000 team the truth is what they make it. I guess they had 8 years to learn from the pro's. I always suspected Gore and Daly to be shady, this book spells out their devious shenanagans. After finishing this book 18 months after the fact I am filled with a clear sense of wonder, why hasn't the general public caught on to Gore's corruption. This book scares me when I think of Gore 2004. The general public are oblivious. They need to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well, you know it'll be a Republican slant on things -- so one-sided analysis will inform the critical reader, exactly, how? Do you think anything's been left out that tarnishes the right? D'ya think? And the 'tried to steal' tag in the title implies that Republicans, in the end, did it slightly better (assuming the reader knows about their own voter list tampering). By the way Bush won. What's everyone so angry about?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't know which book the other two people read...must not have been this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a one-sided political fantasy which can't dispute the facts so 'creates' its own. Ignore this book and spend your money on something more objective or at least more factually accurate. The funniest part of this are the reviewers who give it five-stars!!! (AARGH)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read both this and Vincent Bugliosi book countering it, I must say that 'At any Cost' was information and fact laden as opposed to the opinion and emotion laden effort of Mr Bugliosi's mostly hysterical and forced prose. At Any Cost is a marvelous effort.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My wife and I just finished reading this book. Having watched most of these happenings on TV while it was going on, it was good to be able to review that part of our history. Everyone should read this book, even if they don't agree with it, just for the insight of how the news organizations work in reporting the election information to the public. The one thing I would like to have seen in the book was more references to the information that was presented. It appears that much of it was personal interviews, but Mr. Sammon does not always indicate that. Also, the timing of the information given by the media was probably from watching the news archives, but we are not told that. Still a good book and a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I followed the election but didn't realize how dirty the Democrats got. It was great reading. The only reason I didn't give it 5 *'s is because of a few to several gramatical (not typos) errors. Being a professor at a university, I have a problem with the editing. But I'm sure there was a rush to get the book out. When I go to Italy this month, I'm bringing the book with me. The hotel has a bookshelf for guests to read. The majority of its guests are British. And a few years ago, they were glued to the hotel TV watching CNN's coverage of the Monika Lewinsky hearings. So I think they'll appreciate the reading. I'd like you to give Bill Sammon a thumbs up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must-read. Completely blows the lid off the Election 2000. Bill Sammons' account cuts through the media lies and distortions with passion and humorous insight. Though written with an obvious Republican slant, he does nothing but present the FACTS of each event in the order they progressed, from the media's left-biased, manipulative reporting of election results to Gore's last-ditch attempts to grab the White House. People who read this book should do so with an open mind, but embittered Gore supporters will not gain much by reading it, as they're blinded by media-based liberal propaganda and thouroughly convinced that George W. Bush 'stole' the election with the help of the US Supreme Court. Bottom line: You'll laugh, you'll scream, you'll pound you fist! VERY highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book clearly describes what really went on after the election / behind the scenes in the Al Gore camp. We (the public) only saw a small part of what went on through the Democratic slanted TV news media. It is fast reading as it is written in simple, easy to understand language. Once you start, you can't put it down. Read it w/ an open mind, it is an honest book & not simply written w/ a Republican slant. It is scary to think the wrong guy almost stole the election. I am now convinced Geroge W. is the nice guy who finished first & rightly so! The disenfranchisement of the military vote was especially chilling.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very well written book. Once I started reading I couldn't put it down. Sheds some insight on the networks lax performance and Algores insane drive for power. Wish the media would pick up where Bill Sammon left off.. nice trail of bread crumbs for you ABCNBCCBSMSNBCFOXNEWS ?! But of course we'll be disappointed. Good reading, Thoroughly enjoyed it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Was it just a bad dream? Did Bush Jr keep the world free for capitalism? Or did he free the world for exploitation by his keepers? This book is for you and the 100 million other Americans who slept through the election of 2000. More of a horror tale than a bedtime story, it will fill all those nasty little gaps in what we used to call reality.