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They both looked bad. But Gore looked worse. When George W. Bush
stepped before the microphones to say he would begin his transition from
Austin to Washington, the governor looked like his shoes were nailed to
the ground. His jaw was tight, his speech clipped — this guy was ultra
nervous. He got the words out but he did not look in command of
anything.

Vice President Gore simply looked lost. His defiance in the face of
Florida’s certification of Gov. Bush was grounded simply in “seeing that
every vote is counted.” Mr. Gore knows that is impossible, and he knows
he is going against the American election system. His is now a long
shot legal contest that is guaranteed to hurt the country and tee off
millions of Americans.

The vice president also looked uncomfortable in front of the TV
camera but for a different reason. Mr. Gore is a conformist and wants
to please. He fully understands the war he is waging will not endear
him to anyone but the most fanatical Democratic partisans. Most regular
Americans understand that voting machines are non-biased and in every
election some ballots will be discarded because of non-compliance with
the rules. But these things always balance out. No one is fooled by
the Gore team’s insistence that three Democratic counties in Florida be
allowed to dictate the course of the election. There is no question
that Al Gore has fine lawyers in his employ.

But these men and women are not looking out for the American people
– they are looking out for themselves via a nice payday and they are
advancing partisan interests.

This is sour stuff and it will not play much more than another week.
In my opinion the courts are not going to trash our election system
because Al Gore thinks he has been short-counted. Hell, maybe he has
lost some crucial votes. But I can guarantee you that Gov. Bush lost
some as well. We simply cannot second-guess the election structure we
have in place after the fact. You want to change it for next time?
Fine, change it. But for now the vote is over and so is this election.

George W. Bush will be the 43rd president of the United States and he
had better step up fast. Mr. Bush looks scared. He listens to entirely
too many advisers. The strong guy now is Dick Cheney who looked
authoritative and sharp just a few days after having a heart attack.
Cheney is in charge of “the transition team.” Which means the Bush
brain trust wants to keep the governor out of the public eye.

That’s probably smart as much of the public doesn’t think the
governor is very smart. There’ll be time enough to change that
perception after the inauguration, but any blunder by the shaky Bush now
and some folks will begin listening to Mr. Gore more closely.

The sad truth is that most Americans who voted for either Bush or
Gore weren’t very enthusiastic about their vote. Polls put rabid
support for both men around 20 percent. That’s why Gore can’t get
traction with his legal challenge. Most Americans don’t really care if
things didn’t break his way.

Both candidates botched this election because they failed to seize
the day and communicate directly to the folks who were voting. Instead,
they hid behind spinmeisters and polltakers.

Al Gore is finished as a national politician so he has little to lose
chasing his legal rainbows. But I still think the vice president is a
decent man, and I hope he has just one moment of clarity very soon.
This country is on the brink of recession because it lacks a strong
leader and Alan Greenspan is fighting inflation dragons at the expense
of the stock market and corporate profits. A sudden recession would
doom just about any new president — especially one who needs time to
gain confidence such as George W. Bush. If Al Gore continues his jihad
against the election system we have in place, he will drive the economy
further into the ground, as foreign investment will recede even
further. Gore may be a wealthy guy but 95 percent of Americans are not
wealthy and they need a growing economy or things will get ugly.

The big picture in this election does not include chads or dimples or
butterfly ballots. The big picture is continued prosperity or bad
times. We have not had a strong leader in this county since Monica
Lewinsky became famous. We do not have one now. This better change
fast, or you don’t want to know what comes next. It is time to go, Al
Gore, before you become one of the most despised politicians of the
century.

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