The Recount Long Count

  • Share
  • Read Later

William Daley and James Baker make the case for their respective candidates

It's like really noisy chess.

George W. Bush on Friday decided to try to make a virtue of his Cabinet musings, calling preparedness for office "the responsible course of action." "If the result is confirmed, he said, "we'll be ready." He said this as he sat for the cameras in Austin surrounded by the likes of "loyal friends" Lawrence Lindsey and Condy Rice. Update: The presumptive President-elect has a big Band-Aid on his jaw, and he looks a little tired and tense.

Al Gore has gone to Washington and allowed himself to be filmed tossing a football around with his family. Very Kennedyesque.

Punch: James Baker, turning out to be the more outspoken of the former secretaries of state in Tallahassee this week, let loose on Friday with some pretty strong stuff about the Gore campaign's demands for continued recounts in several other Florida counties.

"Now, the Gore campaign is calling for yet another recount in selected, predominantly Democratic counties where there were large, unexplained swings in the their favor in the recount," Baker said. The Bush campaign, he said, will "vigorously oppose" them.

"I understand personally that it is frustrating to lose presidential elections by narrow margins," Baker said, and telling reporters that both Richard M. Nixon in 1960 and Gerald Ford in 1976 put the "nation's interests first" and did not request recounts. Your turn, Al.

Counterpunch: Bill Daley, for the veep, was onstage just minutes later, saying that the legal process should take its course. First Palm Beach: "We continue to explore the possibilities of what can be done to remedy the unfairness of thousands of residents of Palm Beach County who believed they were voting for Al Gore... Our legal team has determined that the ballot in Palm Beach County was unlawful." Then the recount(s): "Waiting is unpleasant for all of us, but suggesting the outcome of a vote is known before all the ballots are properly counted is inappropriate."

Outlook: The weekend seems likely to be spent in much the same fashion, with glares and veiled threats and concurrent homages to the "will of the people" (Democrats) and the "national interest (Republicans)." And the Sunday talk shows could be a real circus. On Tuesday — maybe Friday — the only secretary of state in Tallahassee that matters, Katherine Harris, will kick this thing up a notch with the certified results of the recount.

The verbal vollies of the Gore and Bush camps have been relatively straightforward, but barbed. The subtext of Jim Baker's remarks was, "Al, you lost, give it up, don't put the republic through this." The subtext of Daley's remarks was, "Something's rotten in the state of Florida. Let's find out what it is."

The next turning point is when Florida's ballots are officially announced next week. Then the campaigns — and the candidates — will have to decide how far they're willing to go.

And how patient or impatient the American people are.