Today's Papers

Appealing for Votes

All the papers devote most of their front pages to yesterday’s Florida Supreme Court ruling. The Washington Post leads with a score card of sorts. It begins by noting that the court split 4-3 in ruling that all the state’s undervote ballots must be counted by hand, and in the second paragraph, the Post adds that the decision trims Bush’s lead in Florida to 154 votes. The Los Angeles Times shoves both bits of information into a subhead and mentions them again early in its lead story. By contrast, the New York Times waits until the second paragraph of its lead story to mention the vote, and it does not bother to give the new vote margin until deep in the story.

Everyone reports that the court blasted a key ruling against Gore from earlier in the week, in which the judge refused to look at the ballots because Gore had not proved they would carry him to victory. The papers also say that yesterday’s decision was carefully crafted to rely on state election laws, not the Florida Constitution. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated it would overturn any decision based on the Florida Constitution.

Early editions of the WP and NYT don’t say when the hand counts will start, but the LAT reports they will begin at 8 a.m. EST and run through tomorrow. Both sides’ legal teams wasted no time swinging into action. Bush’s lawyers immediately asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the hand count while the Gore camp tried to get it started yesterday evening. The NYT reports that one court was hit so quickly with legal wrangling that it had to ask a court reporter to transcribe proceedings from home, watching the action on C-SPAN.

None of the papers devote much space to the decisions that went against Gore yesterday. Two circuit court judges threw out cases that would have disqualified enough absentee ballots to put Gore in the lead. For a couple of hours yesterday, the losses seemed to be the nails in Gore’s electoral coffin. At the very least, they added to a Bush optimism that grew until the Florida Supreme Court ruling. The WP says that early in the day, Bush seemed ready to name several appointees to his administration, and the NYT adds that he “chuckled” his way through a photo op.

All the papers go high with an update on the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature’s plan to appoint an alternative slate of electors if Bush ultimately fails to win in court. The Legislature convened a special, one-hour session yesterday to debate ground rules for picking electors. Despite hefty Democratic opposition, both chambers are leaning toward choosing electors through a resolution rather than a law. The LAT says this is controversial because a resolution goes into effect in less time than a law and because a resolution does not have to be signed by Bush’s brother Jeb, who is trying to avoid being linked too closely to the election fiasco.

The WP takes the most alarmist view of yesterday’s events. In an above-the-fold analysis piece, the paper says that the Florida Supreme Court decision presents a “potentially dangerous quandary,” pitting the Florida courts, the Florida Legislature, the U.S. Supreme Court, and Congress against one another. The story quotes a former Republican legislator as saying that the decision yesterday places the country in a constitutional crisis. It balances that with a joint statement from Daschle and Gephardt that says there is still plenty of time for a hand count.

The LAT and the NYT are a bit folksier. The NYT runs a story on the Gore household’s reaction to yesterday’s ruling. It likens the scene to Election Night, when Gore–concession speech in hand–trundled through the rain to prepare supporters to accept a loss. The LAT describes how various Washington bigwigs took the news, ranging from a fuming Tom DeLay to a crying Barbara Boxer.

All three newspapers reefer stories on an upsurge in violence in the Middle East. Ten people–seven Palestinians and three Israelis–were killed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank yesterday. The NYT explicitly links the violence to yesterday being the 13th anniversary of the first uprising, which was commemorated among the Palestinians as yet another “Day of Rage.” The WP stops at implying a link. The Post also says that 90 percent of the people who have died in the violence have been Palestinian while the NYT says only that “most” of the victims have been Palestinian.

All three papers also reefer the passing of California Rep. Julian Dixon, who died from an apparent heart attack yesterday. Dixon had served in the House for 22 years and was the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He was a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the House Ethics Committee. In 1989, he led the ethics investigation into then-Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned. The LAT said Dixon was a “consummate gentleman politician” who often took on “thankless but important jobs.”