BRAD FRIEDMAN ON THE EPIC FAIL OF 2008
INTERVIEW BY ALLAN UTHMAN
Brad Friedman is perhaps the most diligent and unassailable election integrity advocate in America. His work at Bradblog.com is required reading for anyone who gives a damn about maintaining democracy in America, and he’s also the guy we call whenever we start freaking out about the insanity of allowing hackable, untested voting machines to tabulate an election between two morally bankrupt parties, or the bitter injustice of trumped up voter fraud charges taking precedence in the media over real, actual voter fraud.
BEAST: To start, this whole ACORN thing, it seems like such a—
Brad Friedman: Scam?
BEAST: Well, yeah, like another low point for the media.
BF: It really is. It really is a complete and utter scam, I mean just take a look at the last two or three items that I’ve posted at Bradblog just in the last twelve hours, you’ll see what’s really going on, versus the bullshit.
BEAST: Right, the thing about West Virginia, I saw that and I’m completely baffled.
BF: And that’s a small one, frankly. I mean we’ve seen that one going on all over the country, but we’re also seeing tens of thousands of voters being illegally purged in dozens of states, as reported by the New York Times, the Brennan Center for Justice, within just the last week or so, and the media is doing absolutely nothing to report on that. It’s astounding—although I shouldn’t be astounded by now, I should know better.
BEAST: It’s pretty amazing that Republicans still get away with calling it the liberal media and talking about liberal bias, when it seems the only stories they cover are these, you know, fraudulent talking points brought by the GOP.
BF: Yeah, they really are.
BEAST: And the thing that’s driving me crazy is, wasn’t it just a year or so ago that the Justice Department was in all this hot water for firing prosecutors for not prosecuting these bogus voter registration fraud cases?
BF: That’s right. And they’re still doing the same exact thing. You saw the leak from two unnamed FBI officials who said that ACORN was under investigation. That leak is completely in violation of Department of Justice rules, written rules about talking about investigations, about bringing investigations this close to an election, they are simply doing exactly what they did back in 2004 and 2006 with these purges, with those U.S. attorney purges, and they’re doing it again because there was essentially no accountability brought for that.
BF: You know? The Democrats huffed and puffed and wrote sternly worded letters, but they allowed themselves to be steamrolled by these bad guys. And they never sent the message that they couldn’t get away with it, so they’re doing it all over again. It’s unbelievable.
BEAST: What I can’t believe is what a shoddy job of journalism is being done about this. I mean, for instance, just the fact that they keep calling it voter fraud, the ACORN thing, and they don’t draw—it seems like the first thing you would do is draw a distinction between voter registration fraud and voter fraud. Because these faked names, they can’t actually go vote. It’s not voter fraud.
BF: Yeah, exactly. I wrote an article at Bradblog, and I published another version of it over at the Guardian UK, saying exactly that—saying, “Where is the ACORN voter fraud, can someone cite me a single example anytime, anywhere?” And that was earlier this week, and what do you know, not one single person has been able to show me any. Previous articles, they were like, “Well, what about this in Nevada?” And “What about that in Indiana and Ohio?” And you know, “They’re under investigation everywhere,” And I said “Yeah, John McCain is under investigation in 50 states, for stealing the election, by me. That doesn’t mean he did it.” Anybody can be under investigation when you’ve got all these Republican officials bringing these phony charges.
And remember, aside from the point you make about the difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud, most of these cases were brought to the attention of election officials, months and months ago, by ACORN themselves! And so for, all of a sudden, these Republican officials to come out yelling, “Oh my God, we’re being buried by voter fraud from ACORN, and fraudulent registrations,” it’s a complete lie. They know it. And in every single one of those cases, if you go through it, it was months ago when they were told about whatever problems there were, and [ACORN] turned in those registration forms as they’re required to by law, and did so while flagging them as problematic, the ones that were problematic.
So the thing’s a complete scam. We expect Fox News to lie about it; it’s somewhat a surprise they’ve made it such a cottage industry, but not that much of a surprise. So we expect them to lie about it, but the same thing is going on at CNN and MSNBC on this story.
BEAST: I was just watching the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report on Fox, for some reason, and they’re all over it. It was pretty unbelievable. They’ve got three guys all agreeing with each other, essentially, on this.
BF: Oh, of course. And was John Fund one of them?
BEAST: Yes. Yes he was.
BF: I’ll be on Fox News tomorrow with John Fund myself.
BEAST: Hopefully, they’ll let you talk.
BF: Well, I fully expect to be sandbagged. It’s my first time on Fox news.
BEAST: He did say, Paul Gigot, the guy that moderates that show, he did give some voice to the other side, just by saying. “well, the response to this is that you can register Mickey Mouse, but he can’t vote.”And then John Fund says, “oh, well here’s this example,” in Ohio I think, and he seemed to be conflating, again, registration fraud with voter fraud.
BF: Well there was one actual report of voter fraud, is you take it to be true, from Murdoch’s New York Post, in which someone had registered at a fraudulent address, many times, by ACORN, months and months ago. He was turned in. Election officials then contacted the guy, told him to knock it off, and then he showed up anyway, registered again in person, and voted, apparently—illegally, at a phony address, just like what Ann Coulter did, by the way.
BEAST: Yeah, I saw that! That’s hilarious.
BF: But it had nothing to do with ACORN. And yet, they were saying, “This guy, ACORN was helping him commit voter fraud.” And then the other story they ran in the New York Post was about this guy who registered 72 times? What they don’t point out is that he registered 72 times from the same address—which would give him exactly one vote. They seem to leave those important details out of their story as they’re busy lying about it to the American people.
BEAST: What I’m wondering is, what’s the motivation behind it? Is it to distract people from actual voter fraud? Or is it to establish a pretext—
BF: There’s actually a lot of reasons for it. One, any time they can cause havoc here, in the days before the elections, any havoc and chaos they can cause, and allow them to challenge voters, to get them off the rolls, to keep them from voting, that helps them. Just the challenge itself helps them, because if they do it on election day, it makes the lines go around the block—they’re going to be insanely long anyway, and this makes them even longer and keeps people from voting. Anybody they can force to vote with a provisional ballot, that mean those ballots can be challenged too, and sometimes we see 30% or more provisional ballots thrown out.
Finally, this is all about—the big picture here is about these photo ID restrictions that they want to impose at the polling place, despite the fact that 20 million Americans don’t have the type of photo ID that would be required to vote under these new restrictions. And the Supreme Court has sent the signal that it doesn’t matter that there is no voter fraud in places like Indiana and Georgia, where they’ve brought these kind of laws. They’ve sent the signal that as long as there is a fear of voter fraud, that in and of itself undermines confidence in the system, and that in and of itself is reason to allow for these laws to be passed. So, what do you know? They go out and they create the fear, the perception of voter fraud, so now they can run to the Supreme Court and say, “See? We don’t want the same thing that happened in 2008 to happen again, what with all those allegations of voter fraud.” So you have to allow us to pass these new, draconian, poll taxes, essentially, that will succeed in keeping millions of African Americans, elderly, students, urban dwellers—predominantly Democratic voters—from even being able to cast a vote. That’s what all of this is about.
BEAST: John McCain said in the last debate that ACORN was “perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
BF: Which is exactly what [Republicans] are doing. John McCain of all people, a once honorable guy, ought to know better. But he doesn’t care.
BEAST: Yeah, I mean how much of an overstatement is that? Not even an overstatement really, just, you know, completely bonkers.
BF: Well, in truth he may be right, but it’s not ACORN that’s destroying the fabric of Democracy, it’s these liars and charlatans and democracy-haters who are creating this scam out of whole cloth, before they take that cloth and rip it up, to quote Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate. I mean, they are the ones who are shredding the fabric of democracy with all of this.
And at the same time—the other thing I didn’t mention, as far as why they’re doing this, is that it completely obscures the fact that tens of thousands of voters are being purged all across the country, in state after state, illegally. And nobody’s talking about that, or the problems with voting machines.
BEAST: And it even enhances the purges because it seems to legitimize them, the idea that they’re getting rid of these “fraudulent” people, when they’re really actual voters.
BF: That’s right. It is nothing less than a direct assault on democracy. Make no mistake about it. And when I talk about Democracy, I’m talking about non-partisan, you know, not right and left, but rather right and wrong. Just, you know, people being able to vote legally, have their vote counted and have it counted accurately and transparently. That’s what I’m fighting for, and I’ll fight for it for a Republican voter just as much as a Democratic voter.
So I’m intensely offended by what these guys are doing, the scam that the Republican party is running right now, because we’ve had people die in this country fighting for the right to vote. We’re ostensibly sending out our troops to fight and die for the spread of democracy in theory, and here they are back home, just—what? Destroying the fabric of our democracy here in our own country. It’s just remarkable.
BEAST: The last time we spoke, you were talking about Rush Holt’s bill. Has there been any progress in Congress on any kind of oversight on these touchscreen electronic voting machines, or anything like that?
BF: No, almost none, and this is where the Democrats have completely dropped the ball—one of many places where they’ve completely dropped the ball. But even the Rush Holt bill, as you’ll recall, would have allowed for the use of completely unverifiable touchscreen voting systems forever in this country. And so, you know, the Democrats don’t get it. And they still don’t get it. I was on the air the other day with Harry Reid, who was crowing about how lucky they were in Nevada because they had paper trails on their touchscreen systems. I mean, the very same voting systems, Sequoia Edge with Veri-Vote Printer, you can see being hacked, including the paper trail, on a UC Santa Barbara video that was put out just two weeks ago, showing exactly how to hack those machines in such a way that even if you bothered to count 100% of the paper trails—and they never count any of them by the way, but even if you did—they would match the internal numbers perfectly, even though the election was hacked. And here you’ve got the Senate Majority leader saying that “We’re lucky in Nevada because we have these machines.” Are you kidding me? These guys are absolutely clueless.
BEAST: The irony here, I think, is that if McCain wins, there will be a legitimate doubt as to the actual result, but it won’t be covered in the media, because they seem to be refusing to cover the touchscreen issue. But if Obama wins, there will be an illegitimate doubt, that will no doubt be talked about incessantly.
BF: No doubt. Because the Republicans are not afraid of being called sore losers, and conspiracy theorists, and tinfoil hat wearers. They get in there and fight for their voters, and even for the folks who they’ve successfully purged from the rolls. And make no mistake, it’s going to be a combination of front and back end assaults on voters, where they keep them from voting in the first place, and then on the back end, where a single person can flip an entire election without detection on these electronic voting systems. That’s in play too. So it’s both of these things. And yeah, if they win, the Democrats will probably pull a John Kerry, as they did in 2004, and say “Well, we lost, and uh, darn that Bradley effect,” or whatever nonsense they want to come up with.
BEAST: I have a feeling they’re going to talk about the Bradley effect a lot if Obama loses.
BF: Oh, yeah.
BEAST: Especially if the exit polls, once again, don’t match.
BF: Mmm-hmmm. Yeah, there’s all kinds of narratives that are already in place. You remember the exit polls, they’re inaccurate, according to uh, the guys who’d like them to be inaccurate. Mind you, if you’ve got a state where the exit polls show John McCain winning, and Obama ends up winning, why I will bet you a thousand dollars they will use those exit polls as evidence that the Democrats stole the election. So bad exit polls are only bad when they show a Democrat should have won. When it’s the other way around, these guys have absolutely no compunction about claiming, about saying, about doing anything they can to win elections, period. That’s all it’s about for those guys. And for a presidential campaign that has tried to fool America by using the “country first” slogan for the campaign—I mean these guys, country doesn’t come close to first for these guys. It’s bottom of the list. It’s power first. It’s winning first, period.
BEAST: Everybody’s talking about how Obama’s ahead in the polls, but I am absolutely un-reassured. I still fully expect that they’ll make him lose somehow.
BF: Of course.
BEAST: And even if he does win, they’ll take it to court, I have no doubt.
BF: Oh yeah. They will have no problem doing that. Even in 2004, while they were busy calling Democrats sore losers, for questioning the tens of thousands of voters who were denied their right to cast a vote at all in Ohio, calling them conspiracy theorists and sore losers, they were up there in Washington State, bringing their own conspiracy theory, tinfoil hat, sore loser case in the Washington gubernatorial race. And they took that all the way, as far as they could, until a judge just said “forget it,” you know, “there’s nothing here, you’ve got no evidence of fraud.” But it didn’t stop them from going to court as far as they could.
Democrats don’t do that. Democrats are pussies. They’re scared to death of being called bad names by the right wing media, and apparently they haven’t figured out that they’re going to be called bad names by the right wing media anyway. So they may as well stand up for the voters, for Christ’s sake.
BEAST: It seems to me that the Obama campaign has a little more moxie than previous Democratic campaigns. Maybe he’ll go to court?
BF: I would put the emphasis there on “little.” I think they do have a little more, but that’s about it. To be frank, I’ve seen little sign, other than this push back Friday night, when they pushed back a little bit on this ACORN thing and called on Mukasey to investigate federal law enforcement’s complicity in this whole ACORN voter fraud scam. Other than that, the DNC and Obama campaign have done almost nothing to signal that they are standing up for the voters. I give you one example that I’ve used recently a lot: Up in Pennsylvania, where the Secretary of State, a Democrat, about a month ago, said that no paper ballots needed to be given out—mind you, they use touchscreens almost across the entire state—he said no paper ballots need to be given out unless every machine in a precinct breaks down! So, I mean, you remember what happened in 2004, when you had precincts where just one machine broke down and then the lines would go around the block. So he gives the edict that, well don’t worry about it, you don’t have to worry about paper ballots unless every machine breaks down? Are you kidding me?
Where the hell is Obama? Where are the Democrats? Why aren’t they jumping up and down and screaming holy hell in Pennsylvania, demanding that every single voter who wants to vote on paper can vote on paper, will be told they can vote on paper, will have their paper ballot counted that night before any election results are released, and will have it counted accurately? Where are they? They’re doing nothing, in a swing state like Pennsylvania! And I’m just astounded by that.
So when I, I hear people telling me all the time, “Oh, well I talked to the Obama campaign and they said they were on top of this,” I say, “Really? What are they doing?” And they say “Oh, well they say they’re gonna have thousands of attorneys out on election day, and if anything goes wrong they’re gonna be there.” That’s the exact same thing we heard from John Kerry in 2004, and apparently he was just kidding. So why should we believe that they’re going to do anything different this time around, in the Obama campaign?
BEAST: I just—I don’t understand why the Democrats aren’t pushing hard on these issues. I mean, they’re spending all this money on their campaigns and it could be that they might as well have just stayed home.
BF: See my “pussies” comment earlier in the interview.
BEAST: [Laughs] Okay. It’s also really troubling to see words like “communist” come back into the political lexicon in reference to Democrats. I think a big story of this campaign is the tragedy of watching John McCain basically forfeit his dignity.
BF: You’re right. And of course it’s not yet a tragedy. It won’t be that tragedy until he’s actually lost this thing and I won’t believe that he has until something like January 21st, 2009. And mind you, I’m not a supporter of Obama’s or McCain’s. It seems to me they’ve got plenty of supporters each. I’m supporting the voters this year. I think that’s a nice change of pace, because they don’t have nearly enough supporters.
Yet, at the same time, with the stuff you’re talking about, these desperate tactics, playing the old McCarthy card, the old House Un-American Activities card, this just shows you how bankrupt this party is of ideas at this point. And while I’m not gonna vote for them, I would be delighted to see Obama win, and hopefully, bring on a new day in this country. But as long as the right wing controls the media, pretty much top to bottom, as they do, I don’t even know that an Obama win is gonna make a significant dent in the divide in this country.
BEAST: Well I’m sure that immediately, they’ll start, well I guess they would call it the Illinois Project, and start assaulting him from all directions the way they did with the Clintons.
BF: That’s right. And they will bring him down, and they will bring impeachment hearings, and in the meantime you’ve got this guy who actually did commit impeachable crimes sitting in the White House right now, and we’re not doing a goddamn thing about it—
BEAST: Don’t even get me started.
BF: Other than, you know, a handful of congressmen, like Kucinich and so forth. It’s unbelievable the lack of accountability they’ve brought. And so I only Vince Bugliosi is successful, and he can actually prosecute this guy for murder when he’s out of office.
BEAST: [Skeptical] Yeah, we’ll see.
BF: I mean, that’s the only thing that’s left.
BEAST: The only thing I can say about that is, I’ve come to the conclusion, eventually, that Bush is not the problem, that Congress is the problem. Because if Congress was functioning adequately, then Bush would have been out of office years ago.
BF: You know, you’re right. I can’t disagree with you there, although if you keep digging, and keep looking for the problem, it again comes back to the media. The corporate media. We expect the bad guys to be bad. We expect Democrats to be pussies. What we expect beyond that, though, is for there to be a fourth estate that holds all of these guys accountable when they screw up. And there used to be such a fourth estate, and when the New York Times would put out a story of corruption, there were real consequences to it.
But we now live in an outlaw nation. All of the bodies that used to bring accountability, whether it’s the Department of Justice, or state AGs, or Congress, or the media—they’re no longer there. I mean, this is every man for himself at this point. And I think it’s got to begin with media reform—and I don’t know how you accomplish that.
BEAST: The thing is, even if the Washington Post or the New York Times covers something, it doesn’t matter anymore if it doesn’t make it to television.
BF: Well, that’s right. Because remember, at the same time as they’ve been pounding this phony ACORN bullshit on Fox and MSNBC and CNN, the New York Times came out with this remarkable report showing tens of thousands of voters being purged from the rolls in state after state, and you haven’t heard a peep about it on any of these shows. Now I’m going to be on Fox news tomorrow, so maybe you’ll hear a peep about it, if i can get it in.
BEAST: Well, I hope it’s live.
BF: [Laughs] It will be live. We’ll see how I can do. The last time I was on the air, on the radio with John Fund, about a week or two ago, he hung up.
BF: Yeah. During the first commercial break.
BF: Speaking of pussies.
BF: Although, don’t print that remark about him until after 2:40 PM tomorrow.
BEAST: Okay. Yeah, Fund is a real…
BEAST: Yeah, and a smug one, too.
BF: Oh he’s shameless. I’m actually kind of glad that it’s him, because he seems to not mind having his ass kicked.
BEAST: Yeah, I’ve seen him on Bill Maher…
BF: Yeah! He seems to enjoy it! He gets off on people beating up on him.
BEAST: I guess he knows that’s his job.
BF: He seems like a pretty pathetic guy, and if you’ve looked at his book, it’s a pathetic book, filled with all kind of nonsense, and not one mention of Ann Coulter’s voter fraud! Go figure! It’s a book about voter fraud and they don’t mention Ann Coulter, who actually committed it, and I’ve got the documents to prove it! Now why don’t they care about her, I wonder?
BEAST: Every once in a while I go over to some hardcore right wing websites, you know, Freerepublic.com, that sort of thing—just to see what these people are saying. And they uh, well they appear to really buy into the ACORN thing. ACORN, to them, is like COBRA from GI Joe, you know, this massive, malevolent entity.
BEAST: And what’s surprising is just how walled off they are from, you know—
BEAST: Yeah. And what I’m trying to figure out is whether they really believe what they’re saying or if they’re all, you know, in “Operative” mode.
BF: I think the bulk of them really do believe it. And they’ve convinced each other, they’ve talked each other into this crap. And it’s not that difficult if you’re turning on cable news, and you see on every single channel, they’re repeating the same thing! In some cases, as with Fox, they’re doing it wall to wall, you know, “ACORN voter fraud! ACORN voter fraud!” And then you’ve got the leader of their party, their presidential nominee, comes out at a rally and talks about ACORN voter fraud, and goes on a debate in front of 50 million people, and says this is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated in our nation! Of course they believe it.
BEAST: And at the same time they’ve been told they can’t trust the mainstream media because they’re all in the tank for Obama, and it’s all this big, evil communist conspiracy.
BF: Oh, it’s a brilliant scheme. The truth is what they say the truth is, and anybody who says otherwise is part of the liberal conspiracy to destroy America. That’s the short story, and apparently there’s still some 30% of this nation who believe it. Pretty much those same dead-enders who are still supporting George W. Bush even now.
BEAST: You’ve just got to wonder if it’s a winning strategy to just whip this one third of the country into a frenzy. How many people in the middle are going to care, or is it actually going to alienate them?
BF: But remember: The frenzy is all that’s important, because—I mean, you remember the “Brooks Brothers riot” in 2000 in Florida? You know, you had about a dozen or twenty Republican insiders who rolled up their sleeves, took off their ties, and started acting like they were an angry mob, and the media was all over it.
BEAST: Yeah, that was amazing. I’ve seen the picture where they identify every person in the mob and show their connections to the Republican party and the Bush adminisration.
BF: Exactly, yeah, this is Tom Delay’s aide, you know, here’s Karl Rove’s guy—and yet, the media reported it as “Oh no, an angry mob is coming in,” and the folks who were counting the ballots, trying to count the ballots down there in Palm Beach, stopped counting because they were scared to death.
Do you think it’s going to take much more than that for the the Fox News Alerts to start busting out this year, when you’ve got angry mobs who are told, there’s voter fraud going on here or there? I mean, we’re going to have a real meltdown this November. I’m quite concerned. I think everyone, to quote Bush, is “misunderestimating” just what it is that we are heading for here, with all of the phony baloney that the Republicans have been doing, all the people they’ve purged from the rolls, all the people on their side of the aisle, who they’ve got worked up to believe there’s Democratic voter fraud going on. I mean, this is a tinderbox. This nation is ready to explode and I think that is scary as hell.
BEAST: How much longer can the country survive these dubious elections before either we address the problem coherently, or people just stop feeling like they live in a democracy?
BF: I think a lot of people already do not feel like they live in a democracy, and justifiably so after after these last two presidential elections. But how long can it go on? It can go on until a Republican perceives that they have been screwed by this system, by these machines, for example. As soon as they feel that a Republican has lost a race because of a faulty, hackable voting machine, that’s when there will be reform. Because they will make sure there’s reform. The Democrats have been screwed out of one election after another. Sarasota is one of the most recent examples—Sarasota, Florida in 2006. 18,000 votes disappear in a Democratic district where the race went to the Republican by 369 votes—Katherine Harris’s old seat, by the way. And what did the Democrats do about it? Absolutely nothing.
BEAST: Despite all this, the Democrats are likely to gain a lot of seats in November. Do you think there’s any chance that they will be able, with a greater majority, to do something, pass a bill, whatever?
BF: Probably not. I mean, even if they had a veto-proof majority in the Senate—remember, for the first six year of the Bush administration, we were told the Democrats couldn’t do this or that because they just didn’t have the majority, that the Republican had the White House and both chambers of Congress. Then they got the majority in both chambers of Congress, and we were told they can’t do anything because it wasn’t enough of a majority. So, oddly enough, the Republicans have gotten everything they wanted, even while they’re in the minority. So, if the Republicans can get whatever they want while they’re in the minority, why couldn’t the Democrats get it when they were in the minority? Why can’t they get it now that they’re in the majority? You know, why are they signing off on giving immunity to the phone companies, the FISA bill?
BEAST: Well, because they’re almost as corrupt as the Republicans, I suppose.
BF: I don’t know, you know? I don’t find them to be as corrupt; I find them to be, uh, you know, once again, pussies. I just find them to be scared to death, incompetent, and they don’t know how to govern, how to fight for the people that brung ‘em to the dance. And so they have just been a failure on that level. But I don’t find them to be as corrupt. I find the Republicans to be evil, and I find the Democrats to be idiots. And there is a distinction, albeit a small one. I realize I’m really grasping for straws there, if that’s the difference between the two.
BEAST: It’s like the difference between Dr. Frankenstein and Igor.
BF: Exactly [laughs]. So I really have no reason to believe they will do anything differently until I see them do it. When they do it, I will be delighted, and I will be happy to laud them for it. But I’ll believe it when I see it.
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