Everybody leads with last night’s televised addresses to the nation by George W. Bush and Al Gore. Gore expressed disagreement with the Supreme Court ruling against him but accepted its finality and therefore conceded defeat, referring to Bush publicly for the first time as “president-elect.” Bush spoke a little over an hour later and stressed that despite the divisive nature of his victory, he intended to emphasize national reconciliation. Everybody reports that Bush will meet with Gore in Washington next week and, says the New York Times, also with President Clinton.
Both the NYT and Los Angeles Times leads go high with Bush’s statement that “Our nation must rise above a house divided,” with the LAT pointing out right away that the line is a reference to Abraham Lincoln. The paper also notes that Gore invoked Stephen Douglas’ statement, on the occasion of his concession to Lincoln nearly 150 years ago, that “partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.” The coverage points out that Bush made his address from the Texas House of Representatives, which he chose because he feels that his workings with that Democratic body are a model for what he can do in Washington. The NYT lead says that Bush’s address “was not the kind of speech Mr. Bush would have delivered had he won the large victory his aides were predicting on election night. He offered nothing to the conservative wing of his party.”
The papers report that Gore, shortly before making his speech, called Bush to concede. The LAT lead notes that on television, Gore joked that he told Bush this time he wouldn’t call back. The USA Today lead goes high with another quip from Gore’s speech–he ended it by parroting the line he used against Bush’s father during the 1992 election: “It’s time for me to go.” (Is it because of the comity of the moment that the paper doesn’t point out that during the Republican convention, Dick Cheney used the line against Gore?)
Underneath all the warm fuzzies, the papers find plenty of hard feelings. The LAT has Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assertion that an eventual Florida recount will “show that Al Gore did in fact win the state.” (An inside Washington Post story says that 14 organizations including the Post and other newspapers are already working on holding just such a recount.) The NYT quotes the Rev. Jesse Jackson saying Bush has no “moral authority.” The WP quotes his Democratic congressman son’s accusation that the court pulled off a “velvet legal coup.” USAT has Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel calling the court’s decision “the greatest mass disenfranchisement of African Americans since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” The WP lead says that the “election left many Democrats, particularly African Americans, embittered.”
USAT cites a new poll stating that Americans are “sharply divided along party lines over the election’s outcome.” This is certainly reflected in today’s op-ed pages. The LAT opinion page has “NEVER AGAIN WILL WE VIEW THE JUDICIARY AS NONPOLITICAL” cheek-by-jowl with “THE COURT’S DECISION IS LAW, NOT POLITICS.” A little further down the page, a cartoon of Bush is captioned “The Grinch who stole the presidency.” William Safire says the Supreme Court “did itself proud.” And the Wall Street Journallead editorial sees its decision as “William Rehnquist’s finest hour.”
Yet USAT’s poll also suggests that 80 percent of Americans will accept Bush as a legitimate president.
Just about the only front-page, nonelection story is the LAT’s report that after power producers in Western states refused to ship electricity to California, the secretary of energy threatened to force them to sell power to the state at below-market rates. The power companies “blinked,” says the paper, and more electricity began flowing into California, thus averting power outages.
An inside WP story casts an interesting light on the recent stress by the Supreme Court and others on the notion of a Dec. 12 deadline for presidential elector selection. It reports that as of the end of that day, only 29 states and Washington, D.C., had certified their elector slates. The reason the paper gets from the federal officials in charge of such matters? The real deadline, they say, is Dec. 18.