Split Ticket?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 6 2000 7:25 AM

Split Ticket?

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times leads focus on Al Gore's persistent hopefulness. The second tier of the New York Times top headline also refers to this, but the top tier announces "CONSERVATIVES TO LEAD SENATE," which is what the NYT lead is about. (The main news: Yesterday the Republicans quickly rebuffed Democratic suggestions, made in view of the new split-down-the-middle Senate, of power-sharing in the form of committee co-chairs.) The paper breaks out a separate Gore update, under a headline, which, besides noting his optimism, adds that he "WON'T PUT A TIME LIMIT ON QUEST."

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Everybody notes that yesterday at a press conference outside the White House, while his legal cases were moving forward at the Florida Supreme Court, Gore reaffirmed his previous assessment of his chances as 50-50. The WP lead and the NYT Gore piece tease out a difference between No.1 and No. 2 on the Democratic ticket on this point. Both papers note that yesterday Lieberman said that the cases now before the Florida Supreme Court would make or break the Gore-Lieberman cause but that Gore appeared interested in an additional line of attack: the Florida lawsuits alleging improper qualification of Republican absentee ballots currently being pursued by private citizens not associated with the Gore campaign. The Post notes that it's clear Gore is following the cases closely. Both the Post and LAT leads quote Gore on the application procedures at issue in the cases: "Now, that doesn't seem fair to me." The NYT refers to Gore's "eagerness" to delve into these cases, contrasting it with Lieberman's failure to mention them yesterday. The paper also finds Lieberman's tone during a visit to Capitol Hill "muted" and even at times resembling a concession speech. The Wall Street Journal piece on Gore puts his interest in the absentee cases in its first sentence.

The LAT lead calls Gore's current stance on the absentee cases a "subtle evolution of his position," reminding that he chose not to be a party to these lawsuits because he didn't want to appear to be trying to throw out legitimate votes on technical grounds. The NYT lead editorial endorses Gore's original position, calls the cases a "sideshow," and says Gore's stance yesterday was "unfortunate." The editorial makes an important fresh point about the cases: Even if it were right to reject the votes cast via an improperly rectified absentee ballot application, there is no way to remove those votes without removing all a jurisdiction's absentee ballots from its tally because there's no way to tell which absentee ballots came from which applications. And this is unacceptable because it would disenfranchise voters who did nothing wrong.

The LAT lead, leaning on discussions with named and unnamed Gore associates, delves into Gore's current mental state. The story's headline assesses him as "serene." It goes on to say Gore has privately expressed disappointment with some Democrats who did not support him as strongly as expected, such as the mayor of Miami-Dade County and New Jersey Sen. Robert J. Torricelli. The paper says Gore has not discussed what his next job might be if he loses--although it reports that when he was asked by an aide about speculation (started by Slate's Timothy Noah in his "Chatterbox" column) that he might become president of Harvard, Gore mock-objected to how much fund raising the job entails.

The papers refer to continuing Bush transition planning. The first paragraph of the WP lead sees this as more PR than nuts and bolts, saying that it's "a Republican effort to put more pressure on Gore to concede soon." An inside WP story says that yesterday the Bush campaign announced its official transition slogan, "Bringing America Together." (Imagine what they could have come up with if they hadn't been robbed of four weeks of valuable transition time.)

Everybody reports inside that Ken Starr's successor Robert Ray is seeking to interview Monica Lewinsky again soon. The general take is that this suggests that Ray is still considering indicting President Clinton after he becomes a private citizen. The LAT lead editorial harshly condemns such an indictment, seeing it as not justice but spite.

Professional courtesy? The WP runs this correction: "A photo caption with a Nov. 30 article misidentified the clown entertaining children at Thomas S. Stone Elementary School in Prince George's County. He was Smiley D. Clown."