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Bush and Gore exchange personalities

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A refreshingly relaxed and confident Al Gore hit the airwaves Wednesday evening, mid-way through the network news broadcasts, touting a proposal which he claimed would resolve the election madness in Florida swiftly and amicably.

The publicity stunt was timed perfectly for maximum exposure, as the rude masses in the US tend to dine early, and often do so with the evening news droning in the background (assuming they're not actually lined up facing the TV, hunched over individual Formica-topped 'snack tables').

Der Veep

"This is the time to respect every voter and every vote," Gore said from the Vice President's beautifully-appointed official residence in Washington, and tastefully bordered by two photos of his lovely wife and children.

"Our goal must be what is right for America," the Veep said affably. And so he extended to Bush an olive branch, calculated for summary rejection, to the effect that if the Republicans were to allow manual re-counts in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, then he would be prepared to accept without challenge whatever outcome the returns might reflect.

"I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result," Gore promised, offering a tempting escape from the frenzy of litigation which has recently complicated the affair beyond all rational expectations.

And then he played his master card. "I am also prepared, if Governor Bush prefers, to include in this re-count all the counties in the entire state of Florida," he said, adding that he "would also be willing to abide by that result and agree not to take any legal action to challenge that result."

The Veep recommended that he and Bush meet before Florida officials certify the election returns, "not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America," a reference, no doubt, to the way Gore flack Chris Lehane called Florida's Republican secretary of State 'Kommissar Harris' and a 'hack', and the way Bush flack Karen Hughes claimed that Gore was flouting the law and attempting to 'overturn' the election like some Banana Republic strongman.

Gore further suggested that both candidates meet again after a winner is declared in order to "close ranks as Americans," or, in other words, so that the loser can publicly embrace the winner, and thus send a consoling message to a very pissed-off nation.

"If I turn out to be successful, I'll be ready to travel to Governor Bush's home. If I am not, I'll be ready to meet him wherever he wishes," he pledged.

The Veep reckoned that all the re-counts could be completed and the race decided "with finality and justice" within seven days.

Der Kommissar

About an hour later, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris stole Gore's fire, announcing that no county had shown sufficient cause for her to extend the deadline for submitting election returns, and further declaring that she would certify only those returns she'd received before her deadline of five o'clock p.m. Tuesday.

Gore campaign advisor Jack Quinn characterised Harris' declarations as "rash and precipitous."

A Florida judge had ruled Tuesday that Harris may not 'arbitrarily' reject any extra election returns that counties submit after the deadline. The palpably Republican Harris, however, smugly stated that "the reasons given in the requests are insufficient," as if she had actually considered them in good faith.

Thus she avoided acting 'arbitrarily', as the court had warned her against doing, by rejecting everything peremptorily and unilaterally, just as little Dubya would have hoped.

Meanwhile, the Broward County canvassing board decided Wednesday -- after first declining -- to begin manual re-counts of its entire lot of 587,928 ballots in defiance of Harris' declaration that she would not accept any updated returns.

"Let her get [an injunction] to make us stop," Canvassing Board Chairman and County Judge Robert Lee sniffed. "She's not the final legal authority."

Der Überslacker

About an hour after the mighty Amazon Harris boldly softened the enemy lines for him, a timid, frightened Dubya took to the airwaves to reject Gore's proposal 'officially'.

"This process must be fair, this process must be accurate, and this process must be final," he droned monotonously from the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas.

"Unfortunately, what the Vice President proposed is exactly what he has been proposing all along, continuing with selective hand re-counts that are neither fair nor accurate, and compounding the error by extending a flawed process state-wide," the rigid, uncomfortable Dubya said, staring deadpan into the cameras and looking like a deer caught in the headlights, save for the occasional moment when he mechanically operated his lips in a queer manner vaguely suggestive of human smiling.

Incredibly -- and we should not have believed it had we not witnessed it -- the 'easygoing Dubya' and the 'wooden Veep' had exchanged personas as if by means of some 1950's science-fiction-movie experiment in molecular transportation gone horribly wrong.

"This means every vote in Florida would be evaluated differently, by different individuals using different judgment and perhaps different local standards, and perhaps no standards at all. This would be neither fair nor accurate; it would be arbitrary and chaotic," he whinged dully.

"The outcome of this election will not be the result of deals or efforts to mould public opinion. The outcome of this election will be determined by the votes and by the law," he concluded, and operated his lips in that queer manner one more time. ®

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