- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

So much for the era of comity and bipartisanship coming to Washington. It was pleasant while it lasted, which is to say about a day or two after Vice President Al Gore's reluctant concession speech. In it, Mr. Gore called for his supporters to rally behind President-elect Bush, and Mr. Bush graciously stressed that he wanted to be president for all Americans, not just those who had voted for him. Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, who realized that they faced the nightmare of losing both houses of Congress and the White House, sounded tones of reconciliation. Talking heads all over television opined that with an election this close, bipartisanship was the only way Washington could work. (Does anyone recall similar demands in 1992 when Bill Clinton won with far fewer votes that Mr. Bush?) Americans want government of the center, so we were told. Well, one would have to be a thorough cynic to scoff at such decorum on display. And yet, how much time do you have to spend inside the Beltway to become just that? Not very much.
The cracks in the veneer, which started appearing the moment Mr. Bush made the truly inspired choice of Sen. John Ashcroft for attorney general just before Christmas, became gaping holes last week and over the weekend. Liberal groups of every stripe are gearing up to oppose Mr. Ashcroft with the Rev. Jesse Jackson leading the charge. Democrat Sens. Joseph Biden and John Kerry told Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that they had severe reservations about their longtime Senate colleague. Their premature denunciations of Mr. Ashcroft were described as "outrageous" by Sen. John Kyl, also on "Meet the Press." "I guess we can say so much for bipartisanship. My two Senate colleagues here have already begun the attack on John Ashcroft, it sounds like."
The nomination of Linda Chavez to head the Department of Labor has attracted, if possible, even more furor than that of Mr. Ashcroft. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has already stated that in his view her nomination was "an insult to American working men and women." Yesterday on "Face the Nation," Mr. Daschle issued the warning that if reports that Mrs. Chavez had had an illegal alien living in her home in the early 1990s were true, "I think it would present very serious problems."
Meanwhile, the final count of the electoral votes in the Senate on Saturday, 271-266 in favor of Mr. Bush, became quite a piece of performance art in its own right. Ironically, Mr. Gore, as the president of the Senate, had to preside over his own defeat. The proceedings, however, were delayed by protests from the Black Congressional Caucus. Here was Rep. Alcee Hastings objecting "because of the overwhelming evidence of official misconduct," and here was the inevitable Rep. Maxine Waters, rising to "object to the fraudulent 25 Florida electoral votes." As her objection had not been signed by any member of the Senate, as mandated, it was rejected by Mr. Gore "The chair will advise that the rules do care." That's something at least.
After losing all, Mr. Gore can afford to care about the rules of the U.S. electoral system. With good will out the window it is likely that enforcement of the rules is all that Mr. Bush will be able to count on.

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