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Who really won the presidency on Tuesday? Well, that depends on the
outcome in Florida. Before 9 p.m., Eastern, the state of Florida was
projected for Gore. A short while later this verdict was reversed. At
about 2:18 a.m., the television networks began predicting that George W.
Bush would
win Florida and become the next president. But after 4 a.m., that
announcement was retracted as the vote tally in Florida narrowed to a
final Bush margin of less than 2,000 votes. Now we are caught in
“recount limbo,” a place of suspense and uncertainty.

Television news anchors have described the election as “a
heartstopping night,” and a “rollercoster ride.” Dan Rather, at one
point, used the expression “wild and woolly” to explain what was
happening. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, who outwardly plays it
cool, has experienced
genuine anxiety. In fact, Russian officials have confided to U.S.
reporters that Putin fears a Bush win. After all, if George W. Bush were
elected, he could halt America’s military decline and build a national
missile defense.

Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, knows that Democratic candidate
Al Gore is soft on defense. In fact, Gore is soft on Russia. He also
knows that Gore lacks strategic sense, that Gore is a naive person whose
thinking emphasizes non-strategic threats like global warming and
rainforest destruction. Putin doesn’t worry about global warming or
rainforests. He worries about how many missiles, troops and ships are on
each side. Scientists recently found dangerous levels of radiation in
one of Russia’s rivers, due to nuclear weapons plants. Did Putin make a
big issue of this, announcing a massive effort to clean up Russia’s
nuclear waste problem?

It is no problem for the Kremlin. What is a little radiation? It is
nothing. If you want less radiation then get out of the sun. Such is the
Kremlin’s hardened attitude. To their way of thinking, the earth will
abide. Do your worst to Mother Earth, and it will heal. What is
important is raw power. What matters is secret military reserves and
clandestine nuclear plants that turn out plutonium and uranium to fuel
the bombs that will win the next war. Forget about the environment, they
say to themselves. Things in that regard will get much worse before they
get better.

But look at Al Gore, with his concern for the whales and the spotted
owls. A fool like this doesn’t come along every day. And look what he
has already done for Russia, giving the Kremlin a free pass on nuclear
materials to the Iranian fundamentalists. The Kremlin bosses wink at one
another. Ha
ha, we know! Yes, and Al Gore doesn’t know. He doesn’t even suspect.
Gore was the No. 2 guy in an administration that first opposed, then
politically sabotaged America’s hopes for national missile defense. Gore
also represents an administration that has taken money from suspected
Chinese agents, who are now working with Russia in a very special
“strategic partnership.”

Moscow and Beijing want a Gore presidency so they can build up their
strategic position. They wanted the “stupid American” electorate to vote
for Gore. But the American electorate is a mixed bunch, and the outcome
of American elections cannot always be manipulated.

If only Clinton had been allowed to run for a third term. Things
would be simpler and easier for the apparatchiks in Moscow. After all,
Clinton knows how to lie. He knows how to smile. He knows how to win an
election. But Al Gore is not so efficient. The odd lies of the vice
president, born out of a deep hunger for approval, strike a funny chord
with the public.

The Russians must be frustrated. But the communist speaker of the
Russian Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, recently put a different face on the
whole thing. He calmly predicted that George W. Bush would win the
American elections. Then he said, with true communist slyness, that
“constructive cooperation between our two great countries will be
continued because all important treaties and agreements between the
Soviet Union or Russia and the USA were signed when the Republicans were
in office.”

Seleznyov makes an excellent point. If the Kremlin is worried about
this election, it’s not because it lacks the ability to manipulate
Republican presidents as easily as Democratic ones. Perhaps the
Kremlin’s present nervousness has another explanation — buried deep in
Janet Reno’s Justice
Department.

As we sit in recount limbo, waiting for the final verdict, the sound
of a Bush victory might be that of a thousand shredders all humming at
once.

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