Gore wins! Well, at least sort of. Whether or not Al Gore becomes the next president, last night he went a long way to winning — perhaps already won — the publicity war, the war for public opinion.
Gore’s offer to agree to a statewide hand recount of the votes, and abide by the results with no recourse to the courts, is an eminently reasonable offer — one which George W. Bush will have a really hard time refusing.
Of course, Bush DID reject the offer, just a couple hours after the vice-president made it. But, finally (for once?), the editorial responses were swift and unequivocal against the governor. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times teed off on the governor, granting that Gore’s offer played to his advantage, but also agreeing that it was the only fair and logical way out of this mess. (Talking Points doesn’t mean to indulge in a hideous, East Coast, elite media bias – but he suspects editorials from around the country will come to a similar conclusion, as will most members of the American public with whom he is in a constant and almost mystical communion. (Late Update: USAToday was a little less kind. They called Gore’s gambit “artful political alchemy, not altruism.”))
The Times wrote “Mr. Bush’s swift rejection of the proposal was a disappointment on civic grounds, a political mistake and unsound as to his reasoning that a manual recount would be ‘arbitrary and chaotic’ â¦ Mr. Gore’s proposal was right on the substance and also tactically smart.” The Post made a similar argument and concluded by writing “Mr. Gore’s offer was doubtless in some ways to his own advantage. But it was to Gov. Bush’s disadvantage only if he was clinging to an artificial lead that would not stand up to legitimate review.”
Both papers also took a stern swipe at the increasingly unforgivable stance of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Harris makes a commentator’s task a difficult one. Normally, a bad actor proceeds with sufficient deftness to make their bad conduct require explanation. But Harris’ attitude and actions have been so brazen, so partisan, and so clearly ill-considered as to make any discussion or attack upon them thoroughly redundant. In our modern political culture, so sensitive to conflicts of interest, people commonly recuse themselves from decisions they would likely have little difficulty making fairly. Harris, though, persists not only in making decisions she is clearly not in an appropriate position to make, but makes them in the most transparently partisan way.
When Talking Points thought it over, the most offensive thing he found in Harris’ behavior was not so much her transparently partisan conduct as her brazen willingness to act in such a way in the full light of media attention. She isn’t even trying to hide it. And thus her real message seems to be: I’ve got the power to do this, and I just don’t care what anyone thinks.