- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Finally, the long national temper tantrum is over.This week things are back to normal in an almost odd way. It was quite strange to watch the orderly procession of Electoral College votes being tallied on Monday in state capitals across the country, to see President-elect Bush getting on with the business of government transition the way it has always been done. Incoming first lady Laura Bush went to the White House and had tea with outgoing first lady Hillary Clinton, even holding hands (shudder) for a photo-op, the way first ladies always do. Tuesday, Mrs. Bush's husband followed in her footsteps entering the executive mansion for the first time in his new capacity. Meetings on the Hill with congressional leaders of both parties were civil if not exactly cozy. Suddenly it seemed as though all's well with the world again, a sentiment borne out by opinion polls registering relief more than any other reaction among the greater American public (if not among Gore partisans, obviously).

Now, the long-term repercussions of Vice President Gore's fight to overturn the Florida election result will take a while to measure. This election could be a dire warning of American disaffection with the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral system, spelling disaster for American democracy. Or it could turn out to be an aberration, a symptom and a delayed reaction to the moral sickness of the Clinton administration.

In the short term, however, it is remarkable how quickly we move on. In fact, the whirlwind of events of the past five weeks seem positively surreal by now. This is particularly so given that we are right back where we started on the night of Nov. 8, about 2 a.m., after Florida and the election had been called for Mr. Bush and before Mr. Gore had taken the first of many unprecedented steps by withdrawing his concession.

Before it all vanishes like a bad dream, an impressionistic rundown of the consequences of the events in Florida:

n Butterfly ballots are out. Though no one had suspected just how iniquitous a practice it was to list candidate names on both sides of the punch holes in a ballot, butterfly ballots are now headed for extinction. Forget the fact that it was a Democrat who designed the ballot to accommodate larger print for the sake of older Miami-Dade County voters. Forget that sample ballots were mailed out, printed in newspapers; that instructions were printed clearly on the ballots themselves. Partisans for Vice President Gore contend that butterfly ballots were works of evil.

n Chads are in. Who would have thought that the watchword for the new millennium would be "chad"? Until recently Chad was either a guy, or a country in Africa. No one had any idea that a chad was a tiny piece of paper coming out of a punch card. Now we all know about pregnant chads, dimpled chads and hanging chads.

n Rubber pads are still in which is not as bad as it may sound. In one of the more amazing turns of event, pundits and lawyers had a brief foray into the world of physics. Mr. Gore's lawyers contended during the contest phase of the election aftermath, in the courtroom of now-famed Judge N. Sanders Sauls, that the rubber pads lining the voting machines in less affluent voting districts in Florida had been hardened by use, making it more difficult for minority voters to punch out the above-mentioned chads. In consequence, disproportionate numbers of these ballots were rejected by the machine count.

This astonishing piece of nonsense was demolished by lawyers for Mr. Bush, who forced Mr. Gore's expert witness to admit that it would take something like 15,000 punches per hour to heat the pad sufficiently to make the rubber harden.

n Make-up is in as an election issue. In quite a display of hypocrisy, liberals and Democrats attacked Florida's brave Secretary of State Katherine Harris for her make-up job. It is one thing to disagree with what Mrs. Harris did when she certified the Florida election for Mr. Bush, in accordance with state law, quite another to go on a tear about her application of mascara as did The Washington Post. That is about as condescending and frivolous as you can get when covering a female political figure.

n The Florida Supreme Court is out. The Democrat-dominated court has become the butt of jokes and material for late-night comedians. A lot of anger has since been directed at the U.S. Supreme Court by Gore partisans, but the Florida Supremes demonstrated such disdain for state and U.S. constitutional law that the U.S. Supreme Court had no choice but to try to clean up the mess they had left.

n Ryder trucks are in. Perhaps the most amazing spectacle in the entire Florida election debacle was the seven-hour journey of the contested ballots to Judge Sauls' courtroom in Tallahassee. It looked for all the world like nothing so much as the O.J. Simpson slow-speed chase through Los Angeles in the white Ford Bronco, a similarity even observed by Simpson himself. Floridians meanwhile rushed to have their photo taken with the historic Ryder van.

If this is not the stuff that silly dreams are made of, I don't know what is.

Email: helle.bering@washtimes.com

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