Biden on Bush v. Gore, “The Bad Decision”

July 16th, 2013

At a June fundraiser, Vice President Biden had some comments on Bush v. Gore, and President Gore:

When he took the microphone, Biden took time to remind Democrats of what could have been in 2000 if the Supreme Court had ruled differently in Bush v. Gore.

“This man was elected president of the United States of America,” Biden said to Gore after joking that he was “lobbying for a job” with him, according to the pool report. “No, no, no. He was elected president of the United States of America. But for the good of the nation, when the bad decision, in my view, was made, he did the right thing for the nation.”

“Al, you set an example for this country that is going to live as long as recorded history, about the man who won by a decision that I think constitutional scholars now and in the future will conclude was an ill-fated decision,” Biden said. “The way you stepped up, it was amazing.”

For my research on Unprecedented, I went back and analyzed how politicians talked about Bush v. Gore, to compare it to President Obama’s rhetoric. What struck me was how consistently members of Congress accepted the Court’s ruling, and one questioned its legitimacy–before or after the case was decided. In sharp contrast to how President Obama rhapsodized about how the Supreme Court should “exercise its jurisprudence carefully” in NFIB.

This portion of the book was left on the cutting room floor, so I post it here:

On December 13, 2000, immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore effectively ended the 2000 presidential election, Vice President Al Gore’s concession speech reflected the finality and legitimacy of the Court’s decision (a decision that most on the left consider neither final nor legitimate). “Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the Court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the electoral college. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Indeed, the stakes of Bush v. Gore were so much higher than those of NFIB v. Sebelius, yet at no point during the run-up to the decision did Gore choose to challenge the authority of the courts. Gore’s restraint was common among Democrats at the time. On the Sunday before Bush v. Gore was decided, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) told ABC’s This Week that “I just don’t think we get anywhere by criticizing courts as being partisan, questioning their motives and their integrity.” Gephardt acknowledged the finality of the Supreme Court’s ruling.