Today's Papers

Clear and President Danger

Everybody leads with last night’s certification by Florida of George W. Bush as the winner of the state’s electoral votes, by a margin of 537 votes. The papers all report that later, Bush went on television saying he was “honored and humbled” and referring to his “responsibility of preparing to serve as America’s next president.” The Los Angeles Times says that with his remarks Bush “proclaimed himself the nation’s next president” and notes that he spoke of the election in the past tense. But just a few minutes later, the papers report, Joe Lieberman also went on television to announce that he and Al Gore will contest the Florida result. USA Today says that “the presidency will remain undecided into next month” and possibly up until the Dec. 12 Electoral College slate selection deadline. So for right now, Bush is merely the president of Florida.

The Washington Post and New York Times both report that although Bush, in his TV talk, spoke of formally starting his transition work (to be honchoed by Dick Cheney), the federal agency in charge of transition logistics said it would not release its $5.3 million budget to Bush. The NYT cites the White House as the source of that decision.

Bob Dole gets NYT space today to tell Gore that it’s time to concede, somehow arguing from what he did in 1996 after he got completely hosed. The papers make it clear, however, that the trendlet they noted last week of Democrats saying maybe Gore should concede after Florida’s certification has turned. The WP says that today Senate leader Tom Daschle and his House counterpart Dick Gephardt will hold a news conference to “show their solidarity with the vice president’s legal and political strategy.” And Al Gore, in an interview with the NYT, says that although some Republicans have told him to hang in there (he wouldn’t identify any of them), no Democrats have told him to quit. The WP has a new poll suggesting that in their fresh resolve, the Democrats may be parting from public sentiment: 60 percent of respondents say Gore should concede, and 56 percent say they’re confident the vote count in Florida is accurate.

The coverage explains that the election dispute will now go forward on a number of points in a number of courts. The Gore contest in Florida, which is essentially a lawsuit, will focus on Miami-Dade’s decision to abandon a manual recount. Bush will pursue various lawsuits aimed at reinstating disallowed absentee ballots from overseas. And Bush lawyers will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court this Friday that Florida’s highest court erred when it allowed hand recounts to continue after the state’s election certification deadline.

Moreover, the coverage explains, yesterday’s certification created new legal cases for Gore. Gore will file suit in Nassau County where, when a machine recount resulted in a discrepancy, officials didn’t do any further counting but instead certified the original election night totals, resulting in a loss of 52 Gore votes. And Secretary of State Katherine Harris rejected Palm Beach County’s request for a few extra hours to complete its manual recount and then rejected the tally the county submitted based on the work it was able to get done sans extension. The LAT and USAT explain that under last week’s Florida Supreme Court decision, Harris had the option of a Monday deadline, which would have enabled the Palm Beach recount to have been completed, but that she induced the Sunday night deadline by opening her office yesterday. And although everybody has the Palm Beach recount chief’s dismay over Harris’ inflexibility, only the LAT has his observation that the Democrats also delayed his work–by suing his canvassing board, which meant he spent “a whole morning in court that we could have been here working.”

The Wall Street Journal runs a story inside reporting that some of those protesters often cited now by Democrats as a factor in Miami-Dade County’s decision to bail out of its manual recount weren’t local citizens but rather Republican Capitol Hill staffers flown down by the Bush campaign. The story says Rep. Tom DeLay was the key organizer in Washington, offering free airfare, accommodations, and food. The story refers to this as “a well-organized effort by Republican operatives” but holds off until its ninth paragraph before mentioning a similar operation conducted by Jesse Jackson. The story uses the word “operative” five times–four times to describe Republicans, once to deny that Democrats have any such persons in Florida. They have, the Journal explains, “organizers.”