- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

And now for some comic relief.
Political hand wringing and media angst have sent the world's wags into overdrive. The gloom of vote recounts, constitutional crisis and rumors of conspiracy has inspired much mirth here and abroad.
The past 48 hours have given everybody poetic license, it seems.
In the course of endless coverage, CBS anchor Dan Rather called Al Gore a snapping turtle and George W. Bush a rained-on rooster. The oft-staid newsman compared the race itself to ice cream, Jell-O, a squirrel in a cage, an elevator and a parking lot at various points.
Mr. Rather's language got so inventive after a while that two news organizations felt compelled to track it, offering complete lexicons of odd "Ratherisms."
Variety suggested yesterday that the movie rights for the electoral miscue already were being negotiated out in Hollywood, while the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette suggested a few alternative headlines for the impasse.
"The obvious 'Bush Gored' lacked originality," an editorial pointed out. "Our favorite was 'Lucky Stiff.' " When the pendulum swung, we preferred 'Both Sides Bushed.' "
Cable channel Comedy Central was on top of things late yesterday.
The 19,000 lost Florida ballots were not counted "because of a shipping mix-up that had both candidates tied with a donor liver," the channel reported. "Plus three voters are suing, asking for a revote and perhaps a better cookie assortment on the sign-in table."
Late night TV, of course, was wall-to-wall political hoots, though refreshingly void of the titillating references of the Clinton era.
"George W. Bush is not president of the United States. Al W. Gore is not president of the United States," observed CBS' David Letterman. "What do you say we just leave it that way?"
His infamous "Top Ten List" included theoretical asides heard at the Florida Election Commission.
"The first vote goes to Gore call CNN and tell them Gore won," read the first entry.
"Heads Bush. Tails Gore," read the last.
At NBC, meanwhile, Conan O'Brien announced that "there hasn't been this much head-to-head competition in Florida since 'Murder She Wrote' went up against 'Matlock.' "
In a final moment of gusto, Mr. O'Brien's guest Regis Philbin made a rubber mask of Mr. Gore kiss a rubber mask of Mr. Bush.
On his own show, late-night NBC host Jay Leno noted, "I dreamed these aliens from outer space landed and they said to me, 'Take us to your leader,' and I didn't know what to do."
"The rest of the world is getting nervous," he continued. "Like today, the Chinese said, 'We don't know who to write our checks to.' "
The rest of the world, meanwhile, is using our electoral travails as an excuse to bash the United States with glee.
The British tabloid Mirror declared the candidates "Forrest Chumps," adding, "This election's like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're going to get."
"Washington, we have a problem," said Switzerland's news daily 24 Heures.
The Rome newspaper La Repubblica called our democratic process "A day worthy of a banana republic" and "A fistful of votes," playing off the old Clint Eastwood film, "A Fistful of Dollars."
Another Italian paper built up a narrative worthy of Boccaccio's "The Decameron."
"The other night when I went into a restaurant in Santa Monica, there was one president Clinton," Bepe Severgnini wrote in a Milan newspaper.
"When I ordered a pizza there was another one Gore. When I paid the bill there was a third president Bush. When I walked out on to Ocean Boulevard there was no president, because Bill is now the husband of a senator from New York."
A Russian news Web site, in the meantime, suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin actually led the U.S. presidential race.
Back home, National Review took a moment to criticize the "19th-century" voting process itself.
""When I go to the polling station, I need an old lady in a 'Leave it to Beaver' dress to look up my name in a book that looks like it should have a map from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in it," wrote editor Jonah Goldberg.
Some used comedy with grace.
The Rockford Register Star in Illinois summed up the situation with a single punctuation mark.
"Bush Wins!" the paper declared early on. An hour later, the headline read, "Bush Wins?"

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