A Joust for the White House?

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The lawyers have lost me. Are they here to rescue the process, or to hijack it?

I don't believe this litigation is a good idea. But what is the alternative? Military coup? War is diplomacy by other means. Post-election lawsuits are democracy by other means.

The American people have been patient. I wonder if they are not losing their sunny disposition. In dragging the matter to court, we have defaulted to the typically American solution. But are there not other typically American solutions — ones that would be more entertaining?. Why not make it an athletic contest? Gore and Bush both seem to be in good shape — although I sense that Al has let himself go lately.

The election could be settled on the field of honor. A punt, pass and kick contest? Basketball, one on one? Or something a little less wholesome. What about chicken? We could put Gore at the wheel of a 1972 Volvo station wagon and Bush in a 1974 Camaro, and point them toward one another at 130 mph down a long straightaway of the interstate in Miami-Dade. The guy who veers off at the last instant loses the election. It would save a fortune in lawyers' fees.

How about an earlier American precedent? Is the OK Corral available? It might be satisfying to see if the teams of lawyers now assembled in $2,000 suits in courtrooms all over Florida would strap on hoglegs like Doc Holliday to back their boy in a dawn gunfight. The man who emerges from the smoke gets to kiss the girl and become president.

We could have a medieval joust, or a prolonged competitive dunking. Our champions could run across burning coals. We could invent a series of ordeals of the kind that mythological heroes passed through.

The test might be intellectual rather than physical. Ask the boys to solve a riddle. (Let's have no captious cracks about how this would stack the game against poor dim W. Remember when everyone said that Gore would mop the floor with Bush in the debates?)

We might as well make this more entertaining than it has now become — all courtrooms and Chris Matthews banging talking heads together like coconuts. I would rather see Al and George duke it out than have to listen to any more of the vicious simplism that is becoming the media style in the war between the Blue States and the Red States.

Commentators are descending to a level of angry stupidity. Thomas Friedman, a normally presentable columnist for the New York Times, has just delivered himself of a scurrilous piece that cartoons Bush Republicans as a collection of evil "elder elite white men and women." Paul Begala, late of the Clinton White House, did an MSNBC online column in which he invited his readers to look at the electoral map on which the Bush states appeared in red: "You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart. It's red. You see the state where Mathew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay. It's red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal building and murdered scores of federal employees. It's red."

One's jaw drops at the ugliness and bigotry and evil intent of writing like that. Are the Republicans being just as vicious about Democrats? It would be hard to match Begala.

To escape, I shut down the television and radio and computer. I take up a book, one that is as far as possible from the noise — Lytton Strachey's essay on the 18th-century philosopher David Hume. It starts with a thought that is utterly alien to the culture we live in: "In what resides the most characteristic virtue of humanity? In good works? Possibly. In the creation of beautiful objects? Perhaps. But some would look in a different direction, and find it in detachment. To all such, David Hume must be a great saint in the calendar.... To have no axe to grind is something very noble and very rare. It may be said to be the antithesis of the bestial."