Series-Skipper: The Post's Deadly "Deadlock"

Political commentary and more.
Feb. 14 2001 2:22 PM

Series-Skipper: The Post's Deadly "Deadlock"

(Continued from Page 1)

Larger problem these holes reveal: Nobody important ever makes a dumb mistake in this series. Nobody cuts corners, or cheats, or lies, or is otherwise an asshole. Nobody described in the story will read this series and get mad at the Post. All the players--that is, all the Post's sources--come off as smart, honorable, sincere loyalists doing their parts as best they can. That especially goes for Klain, who must be a great source because he's portrayed as a hero despite seemingly having made a number of whopping blunders. (He actually thought Gore's best chance was not a recount at all but the remedyless lawsuit about the confusing "butterfly ballot.")

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Other actual news in the series: Not much. 1) The Bush team was "shocked" when the networks called the state for their candidate, because their numbers showed it too close to call. 2) When they were kicking around possible theories to take to federal court, Bush's lawyers considered the "equal protection" argument (which the U.S. Supreme Court eventually bought) to be a "fairly lame case." 3) In the initial post-election hours, Jeb Bush's lawyer, Frank Jimenez, quietly locked up many of the state's top law firms to keep them from representing Gore. 4) Gore spent a lot of time "seething to friends" about those "he believed were betraying him," including ex-Clinton aide Leon Panetta, Sen. Robert Torricelli, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, and Miami Mayor Alex Penelas. 5) The Florida dispute "always felt like a lost cause to Gore campaign chairman William Daley."

Entertaining anecdote: Jeb Bush's lawyers try to figure out how to get the governor's "certificate of ascertainment" to Washington without getting served with a Gore subpoena. They cleverly decide to entrust it to a low-level staff member the Gore team "would never think of serving." But she makes the mistake of sending it Express Mail. The Bushies actually go to the post office and get the U.S. Postal Service to pull the package.

Good Gore micromanagement example: "In the days after the Miami-Dade canvassing board's decision [to stop counting], Gore would check in regularly with Democratic National Committee researchers, trying to identify the Republican congressional aides-turned-demonstrators who had helped shut the board down."

Mildly disconcerting image of Gore at work: "When Daley arrived for lunch at Gore's house, he found the vice president with his familiar marking pens and easels." ...

Spin the Post lets go by unchallenged: 1) George W. Bush denying that prior to the recount "there was an issue between Baker and--not me but the Bush family." 2) At 5 p.m. on a Sunday, Katherine Harris "felt she had no choice but to certify" the first, pro-Bush tally from Palm Beach rather than give the local canvassing board until 9:00 Monday morning to finish its recount. ...

Intriguing but unexplored incidents: 1) Why did Harris urge consolidation of all the recount cases under the (Democratic) Florida Supreme Court, a move that "angered the Bush lawyers" and would have helped Gore? Was she really independent? 2) Why were former U.S. Supreme Court clerks "more confident" than the Bush legal experts who hadn't clerked that the federal justices would take the Florida case? Was it because the ex-clerks knew how partisan the justices really are? 3) Was Bush winning the recount before it was stopped or wasn't he?

Most dramatic scene: Warren Christopher telling Laurence Tribe that Gore wants to replace him with David Boies for the final oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Worst quote: "This has been an amazing experience"--Judge Charles Burton of Palm Beach.

Best quote: "Okay, we're in a battle here, and five senior people are sitting here sucking each other's toes"--Mindy Tucker, Bush press secretary.

Problem with best quote: It's wrong, the result of a transcription error, says the Post's Dan Balz. Tucker said "stepping on," not "sucking."

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