- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

'Media bias'

"Let me give you an example of media bias," former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole writes.

"Realizing that it is losing on the message, the Gore campaign has now resorted to attacking the messenger. In this case, it is assaulting the integrity of the secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, in the hopes of blurring the fact that she is simply upholding the law.

"Never mind that she was elected by the people of Florida. Never mind that she has been praised by Democrats and Republicans for her work on the state's behalf. And never mind that she does not have a partisan reputation," Mr. Dole said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

"Ms. Harris has said that she will uphold the election laws in Florida, and for that her character is questioned. Vile comments made by Alan Dershowitz (and reported in the press) referring to Ms. Harris as 'a crook' only serve to remind us of the poisonous rhetoric directed at some women by this administration over the past eight years.

"But it's one thing for the Gore campaign to question her integrity. It's another for the mainstream media to follow suit. [Wednesday's] banner headline in the New York Times proclaimed, 'Judge Upholds Hand Recounts in Florida.' No fair and balanced reading of that ruling would come to that conclusion.

"Staying with the Times: In a front-page story about Ms. Harris in Tuesday's edition, the lead sentence called her a 'Republican Party stalwart who serves in Governor Jeb Bush's Cabinet.' The story went on to discuss her role as co-chair of George W. Bush's Florida campaign. It would be OK if the Times wanted to label this as an opinion piece. But the front page? This was not serious news. It was an editorial posing as a front-page story."

The endgame

"At midnight [tonight], the overseas absentee ballots will be counted" in Florida. If Gore picks up some 300 votes and thereby wins the Florida machine-plus-absentee total, Bush should give up and make an immortal concession speech," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"Assume, however, that [tonight's] overseas vote favors Bush. Gore will not concede. He will insist that manual recounting in his strongholds continue and thereby move the finish line further ahead," Mr. Safire said.

"But Florida Secretary of State Harris may well say she has duly considered the counties' requests for hand re-recounts, and following the court's guidelines non-arbitrarily turned them down. And she could then declare Bush the winner.

"Then what? The Florida Supreme Court, in a ruling [Wednesday], tipped its hand about what side it would take. Its Democrats would probably continue to allow the hand re-recounts to go forward, hoping that Gore would come out ahead.

"How could Bush counter that count of selected Democratic counties? He is unlikely to take up Gore's offer to throw open all counties to manual recounting because Bush's finish line is midnight [tonight], not a month from now.

"The answer for Bush would be to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that a manual recount would introduce more human error or possible mischief and stretch out the decision for weeks. If the high court disagreed, all would not be lost for Bush: Nobody knows what result a statewide manual recount would bring."

Confidential funding

"That a full-scale army of lawyers has invaded Florida raises an interesting question: Who's paying for these guys?" the New York Post asks in an editorial.

"Think Warren Christopher, superlawyer David 'I slew Microsoft' Boies and Alan Dershowitz are all working pro bono?

"Right!

"Though hard to believe, the campaign season is officially over. Which means that funds available to both candidates in the months building up to Election Day cannot be used now.

"Federal law does permit the creation of an official 'Recount Committee.' But: There's no requirement that contributions to such a committee have to be reported.

"What a gift for Al 'No Controlling Legal Authority' Gore.

"The law gives him the opportunity to raise megabucks to help his illegal 're-election' campaign without having to reveal where the money is coming from.

"Indeed, no sooner was the election put into suspended animation last [week] than longtime Gore crony Peter Knight went and raised a quick $3 million for Al's recount war.

"Now the Gore folks say they will 'voluntarily' reveal the names of people contributing to his recount committee but not until January, well after the election is likely to have been decided.

"By comparison, the George W. Bush effort will accept no contributions over $5,000 and will post all contributions on its Web site, as soon as they are processed.

"Sure seems like we've been down this road before: The Republicans offer openness and straightforwardness; the Democrats keep everything quiet and out of sight until it no longer matters.

"Oh, remember: Al Gore says that he would make campaign-finance reform the first achievement of his presidency.

"Give us a break!"

Hastert and Gephardt

Their relationship fractured by election-year partisan posturing, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt met Wednesday for the first time in several months as they prepared for a new Congress in which Democrats and Republicans will be almost evenly divided.

"It was a beginning of trying to do better here communicating with one another, working together, trying to do whatever we can in a bipartisan way," Mr. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, said after the half-hour session in Mr. Hastert's office.

"I think we have a better understanding of where each other is coming from," Mr. Hastert said later. "Sometimes a relationship takes some time to grow. It's an important first step."

The men said they hoped to have future meetings, the Associated Press reports.

Eye of the hurricane

The lead item in yesterday's "Heard on the Hill" column in Roll Call featured our own Dave Boyer. Here's what columnist Ed Henry wrote:

"You think you're tired of the presidential recount fiasco?

"Put yourself in the shoes of Dave Boyer, Capitol Hill bureau chief for The Washington Times, who's been on the campaign trail with Texas Gov. George W. Bush for most of the year.

"At the tail end of the campaign, Boyer promised his wife that they'd get some quality time together right after Election Day. He booked a non-refundable trip to a beautiful resort for a luxurious treatment this week.

"The only problem is that the resort, known as the Breakers, is located in … Palm Beach. Yes, the one in Florida.

"So the couple is bound to run into screaming voters, satellite trucks and all of the flacks, strategists and lawyers Boyer has been trying to avoid.

" 'My wife and I had this getaway planned, figuring we'd be safe,' Boyer sighed to HOH. 'Now we're going to the eye of the hurricane.' "

Bipartisan Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker Democrats still love to hate, used Wednesday's unveiling of his official portrait to encourage bipartisanship, the Associated Press reports.

If Republicans and Democrats do not cooperate next year, when Republicans will hold bare majorities in both the House and Senate, "We will simply drift deeper and deeper into two warring camps, each fearing and loathing one another," Mr. Gingrich said at the Capitol ceremony.

Mr. Gingrich, who orchestrated the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and resigned after a disappointing Republican performance in the 1998 House elections, also offered advice to the two parties.

He suggested Republicans need to do a better job wooing the growing Hispanic population while Democrats must reach out to a working-class base that Mr. Gingrich says is eroding.

The Gingrich portrait, done by an artist from his former Georgia congressional district, depicts a slimmer Mr. Gingrich smiling broadly and holding a copy of the "Contract With America," the policy document that the Republicans used to win a majority in 1994.

Selma 2000?

Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile tells Cindy Adams of the New York Post: "In disproportionately black areas [of Florida], people faced dogs, guns and were required to have three forms of ID. I called the NAACP. They'd already heard this, and they're now on the case investigating."

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