Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

End of the Endless Election

Dec. 12, 2000

At about 10 o'clock on the night the Supreme Court handed down the 5-4 decision that put him in the White House, George W. Bush was already in bed, keeping his usual early hours. In Virginia, his top political adviser, Karl Rove, was also in pajamas, monitoring the cable news channels. Hearing the news on one station, he raced to phone the Governor's mansion. "It's over," Rove said.

"Congratulations, Mr. President." Bush turned on his TV. After 35 days of court reversals, hanging chads and false endings, the Texas Governor wasn't ready to start receiving salutes. "What are you talking about?" he said. Analysts on CNN seemed to be saying Al Gore still had a chance. "I'm not hearing the same thing you're hearing," Bush said. "I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to call a lawyer." Bush dialed Jim Baker, his father's Secretary of State, who was leading the recount battle in Florida. But even the seasoned lawyer couldn't provide a quick answer. The Supreme Court opinion could be fully understood only by reading the back pages of the filing. When Bush called, just the first pages had dribbled out of the fax machine. After agonizing moments, Baker got the full ruling and confirmed that George W. Bush would be America's 43rd President.