- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

'Fascinating' election

Foreign ambassadors yesterday called the presidential election historic, fascinating and even frustrating.
Privately, however, many could not understand how the United States could end up with such an electoral mess, one ambassador said.
"Frankly, this is like a banana republic," said the diplomat, who insisted he not be identified. "The candidate leading with more than 200,000 popular votes is about to lose because of 1,800 votes in one state. You elect a dead man in Missouri, and in Oregon, the votes are in the mail."
Such comments drew a prickly response from the State Department, where a reporter asked about reports of criticism from foreign leaders.
"You mean, people in countries where [elections] take days and weeks are asking us that question?" he responded.
"Our democracy is something we're very proud of, and I don't think there's any need to apologize for it or explain it."
Ambassadors stayed up into the early hours yesterday, hoping to learn of a result before they went to bed.
Czech Ambassador Alexandr Vondra called it a night at 2:15 a.m., thinking Texas Gov. George W. Bush had won only "to wake up to my coffee" to find the contest was still undecided.
"I expected it to be close, but I did not expect the historic dimension of this," he said.
Austrian Ambassador Peter Moser "was glued in front of the TV. He was there until 3 a.m., and then he gave up," an aide said.
Cyprus Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, who was up until 4 a.m. with embassy colleagues, said: "It was very exciting. It's was also frustrating, I think, for everybody."
She said she was confused by the television networks, which kept changing their electoral vote count and called Florida early for Vice President Al Gore only to to retract it later.
"I think everyone was confused. All the media was confused," she said.
Nevertheless, the election was "a very, very historic moment, and I was very, very glad to be here," she said.
One highlight of the evening for Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis was the election of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to a Senate seat in New York.
"She is a friend, and I sent her congratulations," she said.
As for the presidential candidates, the ambassador expressed her sympathies.
"I wouldn't want to be in their shoes," she said. "My blood pressure would go through the roof."
Canadian Ambassador Michael Kergin, who recently arrived in Washington, noted that every diplomat in town will have a busy time making contacts with a new administration and new members of Congress.
"We will be working the corridors of power," he told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. yesterday.
Diplomatic lobbyist Edward von Kloberg said many ambassadors he talked to yesterday were "amazed at the system but don't have a grasp of the Electoral College." Some, however, surprised him with their knowledge of the suspicion of Democratic vote fraud in the election of John F. Kennedy over Richard M. Nixon.
"Many commented on Bush trying to hide the DUI arrest," he said, referring to Mr. Bush's drunken-driving charge 24 years ago that dominated the weekend news. They also criticized the "intrusion of the press" into the personal lives of politicians.
"Many think America can't come up with good candidates because of the press and are faced with mediocrity," he said.

Dead wrong in Ottawa

The U.S. ambassador to Canada called the death of Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan a "grave and important matter," as he reprimanded the Ottawa Citizen newspaper for an editorial titled "Dead heat in Missouri."
Ambassador Gordon Giffin said the newspaper was disrespectful to the Democratic candidate for the Senate who died before Election Day but remained on the ballot.
In a letter to the editor, he denounced the editorial for its "superficial, irrelevant" references to the legendary election fraud in Chicago, when Democratic ward healers were accused of casting ballots for dead men.
"The circumstance of the death of a respected public servant … and the resulting impact on the electoral choice available to the citizens of Missouri is a grave and important matter deserving of respectful, thoughtful analysis," Mr. Giffin wrote.

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