All the majors lead with Al Gore’s televised plea last night for Americans to have patience as his attorneys pursue lawsuits in Florida aiming to review controversial ballot counts in several jurisdictions there. Gore denied claims that he wants recount after recount, insisting instead that his goal is “a single full and accurate count,” because “ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself.” The Los Angeles Times lead quotes the Gore legal papers’ allegation that Florida’s vote total is “wrong” and includes “illegal votes” and excludes “legal votes.” Meanwhile, all the leads report, George W. Bush is moving forward with transition plans.
The coverage, citing yesterday’s Washington Post poll result of 60 percent for a Gore concession (the USA Today cover story has a new poll with similar results, also cited by the LAT lead), says that Gore’s forces were working hard to prevent the erosion of support among the general public and among Democratic politicians. Widely noted is the trip to Florida taken by Democratic congressional leaders, followed by their televised conference call back to Gore and Joe Lieberman in Washington. The New York Times lead calls this a “choreographed show of support.” Likewise, the paper describes Bush and Dick Cheney as making “a public show of their transition planning” and describes Republicans as seeking to “create a sense of inevitability about the Bush ascension.” And the WP lead says that Bush yesterday “tried to project the image of a president-elect already immersed in the details of planning a new government.” Of course, this reporting drives home the paradox of such transparent PR–if a purposeful-looking activity is obviously contrived, publicizing it can’t possibly convey real purposefulness. This used to work, but the papers and the readers now know better.
Everybody has Dick Cheney’s declaration that the federal government’s refusal to fund a transition just yet was “regrettable.” And several papers carry his not-too-veiled threat that the country may suffer as a result. Everybody reports that the Bush campaign will raise its own transition funding, with a per contributor limit, USA Today says, of $5,000.
The WP reports that President Clinton does not believe anyone at the White House had anything to do with the decision to withhold federal transition money. The NYT, which yesterday cited a White House source for the funds decision, today reports that Clinton said he had nothing to with the decision to deny Bush access to the transition office suite. The Times also reports that Clinton “made clearer than ever before” that he shared Gore’s view of the Florida ballot count. The LAT has this, too, in less detail.
The WP lead editorial on Al Gore’s stance agrees with George W. Bush that Gore “has already had many bites at the apple” and says that “merely dimpled, unperforated ballots ought not be the basis for deciding the presidency–and Mr. Gore ought not want them to be.” The editorial concludes, “the court set a deadline; Mr. Gore wasn’t able to win within it; and the court, in our judgment, needs to be awfully careful about granting him the further relief he now seeks.” The NYT lead editorial disagrees, saying that “there is strong evidence that Florida’s vote has not been fully and fairly counted” and hence that Gore is “entitled to make his case.”
The NYT goes above the fold with–and everybody else stuffs–Microsoft’s filing yesterday of its appeal of the antitrust decision previously handed down against it. The appeals brief alleges that the trial judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, made mistakes in his interpretation of antitrust law but dwells more on the charge that in commenting publicly on the case, especially in newspaper interviews, Jackson has shown bias against the company and violated the judicial code of conduct.
The Wall Street Journal reports in a “Politics and Policy” piece that in the past 10 days, a half-dozen electors pledged to vote for George W. Bush have received letters and e-mails urging them to consider switching to Al Gore. The paper traces most of them to a college dorm Web site dedicated to abolishing the Electoral College, which has posted electors’ contact information.
Some transitions go smoother than others. The LAT fronts–and everybody else stuffs–the decision by Jack Welch of General Electric that his successor as CEO will be Jeffrey Immelt. The stories ply the usual big-shoes/promising résumé formula. The accompanying pictures suggest that the two men have grown very close: Although they are both dressed New York business casual, they are wearing identical shirts, trousers, and jackets. In the NYT picture (online, at least) the two are sitting in exactly the same body posture.
There’s a spate of coverage about Andrew Card, the Bush sorta-administration’s proto-chief-of-staff. The upshot is that he’s a long-time Bush family loyalist. The WSJ effort comes down the hardest on Card, a former auto industry lobbyist and GM executive, for being rather auto- and oil-friendly. The coverage also has an–oh, let’s just say odd–undercurrent. The WP piece quotes Card’s brother-in-law comparing choosing a chief of staff to picking a spouse and reports that yesterday Card “sounded like a newlywed at the start of the honeymoon.” And the NYT piece quotes Card as saying, “I’m thrilled, honored, appropriate in my humility, because I have to stretch to do the job. But I’d rather stretch than bend over to do it.”