The first I ever heard of Matt Taibbi was when he appeared on The Daily Show. (Watch the clip here.) He was promoting his new book, Spanking the Donkey, in which he tells of his experiences as an irreverent reporter on the 2004 campaign trail. Why NOT cover the campaign trail in a gorilla suit? There just isn’t a good answer to that question.

It was an interesting inteview–I liked the part where he tells of Kerry’s reaction to the gorilla suit. Kerry asked, “Okay, what’s with the costume?” and, without missing a beat, Taibbi had responded, “What costume?” Kerry responded, “Riiiiight”, which Taibbi thought was an uncharacteristically cool response “as much of a doofus as he is.” Anyway, I meant to take a look at his book eventually, but forgot about him until the following showed up in my inbox via Ken Blackwell keyword news:

The Ohio election story is going to come back.
Taibbi, who came across in the Daily Show interview as knowledgeable about how the political game works, but not having any particular agenda that I could discern at the time, starts this article by saying that he agreed to take part in a panel discussion in the basement of the Capitol building last week. He agreed before finding out what the topic was, and cringed to find out that it was about “What went wrong in Ohio?”

Oh, Christ, not that, I thought. Like a lot of people in this country (and like most all of my colleagues in the journalism world), my instinctual reaction to the Ohio electoral-mess story has always been one of revulsion and irritation. Almost on principle I had refused even to look at any of the news stories surrounding the Ohio vote; there is a part of me that did not want to be associated with any sore-loser hysteria of the political margins, and in particular with this story, the great conspiratorial Snuffleupagus of the defeated left.

Back at the time of the Ohio recount and electoral challenge, I was following this story pretty closely, and I know that this “revulsion and irritation” was common. I suppose that is the sort of feeling that led Kos be annoyed with and dismissive of “fraudsters”. Just to clarify, for people who don’t recall my diary posts at the time, I was never expecting Bush’s victory to be overturned, but I did want to see a light shone on any wrongdoings that took place. Two reasons…first, we needed to find out what went wrong so that we could draft our election reform legislation accordingly, and second, I wanted Ken Blackwell’s wrongdoing to be a matter of public record. That man must not become governor of my state.

Anyway, since Taibbi started off so dismissive of the whole thing, and attended a panel that has caused him to rethink that position, his thoughts on the matter seemed worth sharing:

Even when they had a completely plausible excuse to at least investigate the Ohio charges on their own–after Michigan congressman John Conyers issued a lengthy report detailing the Ohio indiscretions–the big dailies still blew off the case. The New York Times mentioned the Conyers report only in the context of a 381-word page A16 item in January about John Kerry endorsing the election results (“Election Results to Be Certified, With Little Fuss From Kerry,” 1/16/05). That piece ended with a quote by Dennis Hastert, who dismissed the Conyers report as the work of the “loony left.”

I can only speak for myself, but I think that as a result of all of this, I was inclined to dismiss as a waste of time any discussion of what happened in Ohio. The story wasn’t going anywhere. Even if there was evidence of wrongdoing, how could it possibly be more incontrovertible than the evidence in Florida? And given that nothing happened when Bush stole the election in front of the entire world in Florida, why bother making a fuss now in Ohio–especially since John Kerry was clearly many millions of votes less of a victim than Al Gore?

Well, I don’t think that way anymore. After attending this panel, and speaking to the congressmen involved in the preparation of the Conyers report (in particular Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a former Ohio secretary of state) I’m convinced that Ohio was a far more brazen and frightening subversion of democracy than Florida.

Here’s the thing about Ohio. Until you really look at it, you won’t understand its significance, which is this: the techniques used in this particular theft have the capacity to alter elections not by dozens or hundreds or even thousands of votes, but by tens of thousands.

Read the whole article here:

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