Much has been made of John McCain's gracious concession speech. Rightfully so, his presentation is seen as statesmanlike, putting patriotism over partisanship. Like others, I applaud him for his service and his grace in defeat. If we had seen more of that John McCain in the past 22 months, the tone and tenor of the election would have been substantially improved.
But what strikes me when I hear praise for McCain is the deafening sound of silence when we consider Al Gore's amazing concession in 2000. Consider the circumstances in which the two men gave their speeches. McCain lost with no ambiguity, early in the evening, with overwhelming clarity. His opponent not only won a landslide of Electoral College votes, but a majority of the popular vote as well. His defeat was clean and clear.
Al Gore on the other hand found himself conceding an election he actually won. He clearly had more popular votes than Bush, and the Electoral College vote was only declared to be in Bush's favor by judicial fiat. This circumstance makes Gore's speech all the more incredible. As we acknowledge McCain, let us remember the words from Gore during a time of potential constitutional crisis:
Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, "Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you." Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.
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 as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new President-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.
President-elect Bush inherits a nation whose citizens will be ready to assist him in the conduct of his large responsibilities. I, personally, will be at his disposal, and I call on all Americans -- I particularly urge all who stood with us -- to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done. And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party; we will stand together behind our new president.
Gore deserves our greatest respect for putting country first in difficult times. He did so with a level of statesmanship rarely seen in the history of our republic. As we honor McCain, let us remember and praise the powerful words, grace, honor and patriotism of Al Gore.
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