Ah, the traditional
Thanksgiving dinner. Because my Mother didn't have time this year
to cook for the holiday, we instead were dining out in a nice,
intimate restaurant. Squash soup with chestnuts, roast turkey,
stuffing, fresh green beans. Everyone was there: family, loved
ones ... and the two armed sheriff's deputies on my Mother's protective
security detail standing guard out front. Perhaps I'm getting
ahead of myself. Maybe I need to start the story a few days earlier.
My mother, you see,
is Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger (D-FL). As Chair
of the County Commission, it was her turn to serve as a member
of the county's Election Canvassing Board. So, in a period of
two weeks, she went from being an obscure, local politician and
former school teacher (Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens
described her as "every Republican's nightmare of a politically-correct
schoolmarm") to being one of the most recognizable local politicians
in America -- revered by Democrats and despised by Republicans.
In addition to my blood
connection to the recount, I have also maintained friendships
for several years with many of the other participants. These friends
and acquaintances include Broward GOP Chairman Eddie Pozzuoli,
Broward GOP Vice Chairman George LeMieux, Republican attorneys
Bill Scherer and Shari McCartney, County Judge Robert Lee, Circuit
Judge Bob Rosenberg, Larry Davis (Mom's attorney), Broward Democratic
Chairman Mitch Ceasar and a host of the other local politicos
from both sides of the aisle who paraded through the proceedings
at various times. All in all, it made for a rather unique perspective
on the events.
I'm not going to be
making any excuses, explanations or apologies for what transpired.
Instead -- in a series of almost "stream-of-consciousness" snapshots
-- I'm going to try to simply report on the colorful, raucous,
surreal political circus I observed and heard over the course
of the final days of the important Broward County manual recount.
TRAINING SCHOOL. One young lawyer from Broward who volunteered
to work as an observer at the recount told me the story of how
he came to be working for the Democrats at Broward's Emergency
Operations Center (EOC -- normally the county's hurricane management
headquarters). He contacted the local Democratic Party, which
instructed him to attend a "certification" class the next day
at an office in Hollywood before they would permit him to start
working. In the early morning class, he said he and eight others
were instructed on what to look for in the recount and how to
act. "They teach you the challenges and give you ballot situations
where you inspect the ballots as they are quickly held up for
you to see," he explained. "Most were easy, some were tricky,
and you have to yell 'challenge' if you see anything that could
favor Gore, quickly record a note of it for the lawyers -- all
while keeping your attention on the next ballot." He said that
most of his classmates "were dumb: some people kept challenging
ballots that would favor Bush, while another took so long to record
her challenges that she missed several of the following ballots.
I was the only person in my group of idiots to pass the 'test.'"
Some of the otherwise elderly group had insufficient eyesight
to adequately review the ballots. When a group of ladies didn't
pass, they complained that it was their "right to protect our
votes." The trainer explained to them that their challenges were
only protecting Bush votes -- as they missed all of the Gore challenges
-- and he would not allow them to be re-tested. Another lady asked
-- after ten minutes of training if it was a problem that she
was a Republican. She was quickly informed that she should contact
the Republican Party office if she wished to help -- but that
this session was just for pro-Gore Democrats. Once approved, the
lawyer proceeded to the EOC at a designated time and was quickly
selected to observe precinct counts. He described the whole experience
as somewhat "interesting and boring at the same time ... [but]
with lots of political geeks."
DRESSED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO. After being vetted by the respective
parties, the volunteer observers were sent to the EOC -- where
they waited outside in lines to be selected by the Gore and Bush
staffers to be allowed to proceed inside. The campaign staffers
showed a clear preference for younger volunteers and for ones
dressed in a professional demeanor (i.e., concerns for how they
would look on TV), often leaving angry seniors and rabid partisans
waiting outside for lengthy periods before being selected (or
not selected at all). One younger volunteer in a Gore shirt was
covered front and back with a multitude of campaign buttons --
simultaneously demonstrating both his enthusiasm and lack of any
common sense (i.e., how did he plan to sit back in a chair when
he had 20+ campaign buttons pinned onto the BACK of his t-shirt?).
GET THE GOOD FOOD ... REPUBLICANS GET COLD LUNCHES. Volunteer
observers for both camps were commenting that the Democratic break
room in the EOC had much better food than did the Republicans.
The Democrats had hot food catered and donated from area restaurants,
food/drink distributors, etc. (Broward is, after all, a heavily
Democratic county) -- resulting in a cornucopia of delicacies.
The GOP break room, by contrast, had cold box lunches. Republican
volunteers openly grumbled that the Dems had better food.
In the first two days of the count, Republicans lobbed allegations
that Democratic observers -- and even some counters -- were "eating
chads" or otherwise manipulating the ballots to force chads to
drop to the floor. Even 70-year-old Supervisor of Elections Jane
Carroll -- the lone GOP member of the Board (who soon after resigned
because she could not handle the stress) -- discounted these charges.
Carroll noted that the chads routinely -- and intentionally --
fly off when the ballots are sent through the tabulating machines.
She also noted that the chads on the EOC floor could have fallen
from any of the many races on card and would not necessarily have
come from the Presidential part of the ballot. She said there
was no significance to the chads on the floor. Broward GOP Chairman
Ed Pozzuoli brandished a bag of fallen chads in a crime scene
envelope on TV and proclaimed that there was "a blizzard of chads"
flying around inside the EOC ... and that "Hurricane Chad" had
struck the county's hurricane command post. Within another two
days, no one cared anymore about the chads on the floor -- and
Canvassing Board members, campaign workers and attorneys working
for both the Bush and Gore camps all had made souvenirs out of
empty EOC envelopes filled with discarded chads. When I arrived
at the EOC, my mother immediately handed me an EOC envelope filled
with chads (an EOC envelope that I immediately got autographed
by the three canvas board members). As for the eating of chads,
I can attest that I never saw anyone eat them (except for me).
I'm not certain about the best way to prepare chads having never
seen a chad recipe -- I don't even know if you're supposed to
drink red or white wine while eating chads (although I suspect
white) -- but I did learn that you'd need to eat a lot of the
little 1/8" x 1/16" paper chads to be able to even taste them.
I ate a few and can tell you that, despite what you've heard,
they taste nothing like chicken. I've come to the conclusion that
chads -- like tofu, Brussels sprouts and raw oysters -- must be
an acquired taste.
ANSWER: OXYGEN AND TELEVISION CAMERAS. The question: name
two things that Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) cannot live without.
Like a moth attracted to a porch light at night, Deutsch could
not stay away from the glare of the TV camera spotlights. Even
though he had no formal role in the counting process, Deutsch
was a ubiquitous presence throughout the entire two weeks of the
re-count. During the final days of the count, he logged hours
each day in front of the network cameras located downstairs outside
the courthouse ... but spent barely any minutes upstairs observing
the actual proceedings inside Judge Robert Lee's Courtroom 6780.
Even his fellow Democrats were rolling their eyes and cracking
jokes about Deutsch's seemingly narcissistic infatuation with
AWOKE TO YOUR MOTHER IN MY BED." This was the subject of an
email I received last week ... referring to one of her frequent
appearances on NPR radio in the morning. My mother was clearly
becoming an anathema to the Republicans -- but she was not ducking
the fire. A Lexis check showed that she was in over 170 newspaper
stories last week, usually being quoted as saying that Broward
would press forward with the count (and consider "dimples" if
they showed voter intent) unless ordered by a court to stop --
or being lambasted by the Bush campaign for being pro-Gore.
THE EYE OF THE STORM. "Where are you? You need to get here
right away or you're going to miss it," my mother instructed me
via my cell phone. I was sitting down to eat a quick lunch
having just gotten off the plane in Fort Lauderdale. She explained
that high-powered Democratic attorney David Boies of New York
was going to imminently face-off against local GOP attorney Bill
Scherer at the EOC to present legal arguments about whether or
not to count dimpled chads. I stayed to finish my lunch at CPK
before heading out to the EOC. When I arrived -- about an hour
later than planned -- the legal face-off had yet to occur. As
I made my way into the small Canvassing Board meeting room inside
the EOC, I saw Peter Deutsch giving yet another interview on the
other side of the glass in the adjacent media room. Former Florida
Congressman Larry Smith (D), some local Democratic officials,
Gore campaign attorneys Charles Lichtman and Chris Sautter, former
Dukakis campaign manager John Sasso and Gore consultant Paul Pezzella
milled about in the big room waiting for the meeting to start
inside the smaller interior room next door. The Democrats bitterly
complained that Rosenberg, after just half a day of service, was
already "doing everything the Republicans want him to do." The
Republicans -- led by Montana Governor and likely Bush Cabinet
member Marc Racicot (R) -- had grabbed the glass-enclosed "good
conference room" 20 feet away and were huddled in a strategy session
with Scherer and several other attorneys from Scherer's firm.
A few of the men in the GOP room each sported a large paper "W"
tied to pink strings around their necks, identifying them as Bush
campaign staffers. Soon Boies arrived with US Senator Carl Levin
(D-MI) in tow -- although Levin said nothing and seemed there
only to lend an appearance of Congressional Democratic support
for Gore's re-count actions. Scherer argued first, using a series
of huge posters with excerpts from Board transcripts and affidavits.
In the small, crowded room, Scherer's gigantic exhibits were much
too large. Boies followed -- in rumpled blue suit and black sneakers
-- using one of Scherer's own exhibits and providing none of his
own. After both sides made their arguments -- or mutual soliloquies
-- the board simply said "thank you" to both sides. While he had
a captive audience, Judge Lee took the opportunity before adjourning
the meeting to give a veiled lecture to Racicot for impugning
his integrity in a televised interview the day before. The Board
then recessed for a few minutes -- which gave several of the participants
from both sides time to get some autographs from Boies. Rosenberg
-- whom I've known for over a decade -- came up and asked me if
I think he's "doing okay ... I just don't want to look stupid
up there." When leaving for the day, I saw Peter Deutsch giving
yet another interview.
IDEA #1. Several people sent variants on the following email
suggestion to the Board and campaign officials: "I don't understand
why you people are sitting there trying to guess the intent of
the voters. If a ballot is unclear, you should just call up the
voter and ask him who he meant to vote for!" Umm ... with a secret
ballot and all ... that would seem to be a bit impractical as
we don't exactly write our names on our ballots.
At breakfast at the Floridian diner on Thanksgiving morning
-- before we all headed over to Courtroom 6780 of the Broward
County Courthouse -- my friend Dana and I were joined for a while
by GOP Chair Ed Pozzuoli. After we joked for a little while about
the whole mess, I told Eddie that I still believe that all Americans
need to unite behind the winner -- whomever it ultimately is --
for the sake of giving legitimacy and moral authority to our next
President. Eddie's answer: "I agree 100% -- so long as it's Bush."
What if Gore becomes President? "I will not accept Al Gore as
President and I don't care what damage it does to the country."
DAY. The Broward Canvassing Board decided to meet on Thanksgiving,
knowing they would need to work through the holiday if they hoped
to finish in time for the Florida Supreme Court's imposed deadline
of Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Throughout the day, the Gore team constantly
griped about how "lazy" and "irresponsible" the Palm Beach County
Canvassing Board was for taking the holiday off (which ultimately
caused them to miss the deadline by a few hours). Mother welcomed
everyone with a message of "Happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to the
parade." Noting that I was present, she joked that -- in the family
spirit -- she was spending the holiday with her family. Just a
normal celebration of family values! I even got to spend a few
minutes as her co-counsel (pro bono, of course) at the
table on two of the days, briefly filling in for attorney Larry
Davis while he got pulled out to handle some other matters.
IN THE STREET. In front of the Broward County Courthouse,
and Gore supporters hammed it up for the TV cameras. The 150+
Bush supporters easily outnumbered the approximately 40 Gore folks
-- so much so that the police had to keep them segregated into
two separate roped areas with a wide divide in between. The Gore
backers looked fairly disorganized while the Bush supporters had
a nice supply fresh t-shirts and signs ("Sore-Loserman" and "George
W. Bush IS President!" among the most popular). The Bush shirts
and signs seemed to be coming from the recreation vehicle parked
down the street, as a steady stream of Bush backers kept entering
and exiting the RV with new supplies. Inquiries to these Bush
folks about planning and financing of the event produced the repeated
stock response: "I'm just a volunteer." The Bush supporters also
were on the better side of the street -- as all of the media interview
tents had already been erected on what became the Bush side of
the police ropes. When CNN and others tried to interview -- yet
again -- Peter Deutsch, the Bush people tried to shout him down
with calls of "Peter the Cheater" to drown out his remarks. Police
intervened at one point to rescue a group of Democratic state
legislators who tried to hold a press conference for the television
cameras -- which were located on the Bush side. Hey, the early
bird gets the better side of the street. Other sights: the guy
paid to walk around waving a NewsMax.com sign in the background
during TV interviews ... and the Bush supporters who each walked
up to me and asked if I wanted to interview them for their thoughts
on the recount process.
"I'M READY FOR MY
CLOSE UP, MR. DeMILLE." If you can remember the courtroom
scenes from the satirical comedy movie "Serial Mom" a few years
ago (i.e., the part when Suzanne Summers walks into the courtroom
-- playing herself -- as the celebrity who will play the serial
killer Mom in the made-for-TV movie within the film), then you'll
what a lot of the recount felt like everyday in Courtroom 6780.
Both parties paraded in political celebrities for brief appearances.
The Democrats sat their folks off to the side in the jury box,
while the Republicans tried to give each of their people a turn
as an official recount observer at the main table with the Board.
A succession of GOP bigwigs -- many seemingly auditioning for
Cabinet seats -- marched through the courtroom: Oklahoma Governor
Frank Keating (possible FBI Director or Attorney General), Montana
Governor Marc Racicot (possible Interior Secretary), Michigan
Governor John Engler (possible Labor Secretary), New Jersey Governor
Christine Todd Whitman (Roll Call reported today she is
a potential Bush Cabinet member), Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer
(possible Veterans Affairs Secretary) ... plus South Dakota Governor
Bill Janklow, California Congressman Duncan Hunter, Arkansas Congressman
Asa Hutchinson and 1996 GOP Presidential nominee Bob Dole. Democrats
brought in a parade of largely local officials -- mainly Broward
School Board Members, local elected officials and Florida state
legislators -- plus US Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Carl
Levin (D-MI), Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Congressmen
Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Peter Deutsch (D-FL) and Jerry "Hint of
Fascism in the Air" Nadler (D-NY). The rotund Nadler had trouble
squeezing his immense frame into one of the jury box chairs along
side the main table -- and said little during his very brief visit
to Courtroom 6780.
IDEA #2. Some people emailed variants on this comment to Board
members and the campaigns: "I voted for Al Gore but I now want
to change my vote to Bush. Tell me what I need to do to change
my vote?" One top GOP operative joked that "those people should
lose their right to vote." A Democratic state representative added
that maybe Florida should simply "impose some kind of intelligence
test" for voters.
PATTERN ... AND THE PERCEPTION. While the perception was that
the three board members were often split 2-1 (my mother and Judge
Lee viewed as pro-Gore and Judge Rosenberg viewed as pro-Bush),
the reality was that the board voted 3-0 on at least 80% of all
of the ballots. Still, the Republicans constantly complained --
and still do -- that my mother was clearly pro-Gore ("I see a
very slight but clear indent at #3 with one corner partially dislodged
and light coming through just slightly at the corner if you hold
it up. This is clearly a Gore vote."). The Democrats, meanwhile,
complained that Judge Rosenberg was taking instructions from the
GOP and intentionally trying to delay the process with his lengthy
examinations of each individual ballot in order to miss the Secretary
of State's new certifying deadline for the revised totals ("[look
at ballot, remove eyeglasses, look at ballot up close again] this
ballot appears to be a ballot that has been voted successfully
in other races on the ballot ... [long pause, use magnifying glass]
... no vote in the Presidential race ... [long pause, hold the
ballot up to the ceiling light again] ... no reasonable certainty
so this is a 'no vote' [put eyeglasses on again]"). Judge Lee,
who as chair would vote last, usually just remarked quickly during
splits: "I agree with the Commissioner" or "I agree with Judge
CHINESE MENU. A Republican joke: "It's getting near dinner
time and they hand Sue Gunzburger a Chinese restaurant menu. She
studies it for just a second and then pronounces 'I see a bump
at #3. It's a Gore vote.' One of the other board members tells
Gunzburger that #3 on the Chinese menu is Orange Crispy Chicken.
'I don't care, I still say itís a Gore vote,' she responds." Mom
thought this one was pretty funny.
BODYGUARDS. Because of some rather threatening and hostile
phone messages, Internet postings and emails, all three of the
canvassing board members had bodyguards from the Broward County
Sheriff's Office with them around-the-clock until the day after
they finished working. Thus, we came to have the two gentlemen
accompany us to our Thanksgiving dinner at a nice, local restaurant.
My mother, as you can imagine, did not have time to cook this
year. One Republican emailed me that the Board members were "too
busy stuffing the ballot to find the time to stuff the turkey
this year." And, yes, we also made sure the deputies ate a nice
FOR PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S "100 SEXIEST" LIST? Jay Leno on the
"Tonight Show" used a news clip of Judge Rosenberg squinting at
a ballot and using a magnifying glass as a mock TV commercial
for laser corrective eye surgery. Back in Courtroom 6780 the next
day, one news photographer tells the paunchy, balding jurist:
"Next to Brad Pitt, you're probably the most photographed man
in America right now." Judge Rosenberg, generally a very private
man, sarcastically responds: "Great, that's just what I need."
IN THE STREETS ... The Bush and Gore crowds out front are
yelling nasty chants back and forth. Of course, they're all too
far removed in distance to be heard or seen by anyone in or around
Courtroom 6780. "Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey, Hey, Goodbye,"
the Bush people chanted towards the Gore side. The small band
of Gore partisans vainly tried to drown out the word "goodbye"
by shouting "D-U-I" at key moments in the GOP chant. The Gore
people shouted: "Bought and paid for!" at the Bush camp -- and
the Bush crowd loudly responded: "No we're not!" That one was
a reference to the Democratic jokes about many in the GOP crowd
being paid operatives flown into Florida just to create a presence
in the street ... "because there are no Republicans that actually
live in Broward County." Democrats have referred to the well-dressed
crowd as the "Brooks Brothers demonstrators" ... and made fun
of the nearby valet parking being used by some of the Bush people
("Valet parking for a demonstration," sneered a top Gore operative).
A few of the Bush staffers in the street and in the courtroom
sported blue baseball caps with a large "W." and a smaller "Bush
Recount Club" stitched in orange across the front. The Bush people
happily noted that many of the key Gore staffers on the scene
were also flown in from other states.
COULD USE A DRINK. Broward Public Defender Al Schreiber (D)
-- recently re-elected to a seventh term -- stopped by the recount
dressed in shorts and a colorful Hawaiian shirt. His office, although
closed for the holiday weekend, is in the same new wing of the
courthouse as Courtroom 6780. Schreiber has always been a rather
refreshingly outspoken guy (1992: "They say Clinton is a draft
dodger, a pot smoker and a womanizer -- I like those qualities
in a man!") -- and he also commands a rather large machine of
efficient Democratic workers. Schreiber made a few wry observations,
then invited some friends and reporters to come down to his third
floor office for drinks from his legendary frozen daiquiri machine.
CAN HELP! Another joke circulating was that new Miami resident
O.J. Simpson was offering to help Gore. According to the GOP joke,
O.J. invited Gore to join him so together they could search the
state for Nicole's "real" killers ... and all the "missing" Gore
AN EFFORT. Most of the "celebrity" observers took the second
or third GOP chairs at the table, leaving the task of actually
reviewing each ballot to one of the GOP lawyers in the first seat.
One exception was Governor Keating, who dutifully took the main
chair and leaned in for a close look at each ballot. He was a
gentleman throughout the proceedings, making an effort to keep
the atmosphere civil. During one of the breaks, Keating told me
that the Board members appeared "to be three good people trying
to make the best of a very bad process." He said his objections
were "entirely systemic" -- that it was wrong to recount just
selective Democratic counties. When asked if the Bush campaign
should have asked for a hand recount of the entire state, Keating
said "the [Bush] campaign let the clock run out on that one. I
wasn't a part of that decision ... but a statewide hand count
might have solved some of these problems. Maybe the people would
have been satisfied with the fairness ... but, with this way,
they're stretching to find votes for Gore or Bush."
YOU CAN LEARN ON THE INTERNET. After Matt Drudge pasted Mom's
picture on the lead story of his DrudgeReport.com site all last
weekend ("Gunzburger's Gall: Transcripts
from Broward Recount Show Hunt for Gore Votes as Race Tightens"),
enraged conservatives let loose a volley of attacks against my
mother on various sites. On FreeRepublic.com, there were at least
six message threads dedicated to bashing her -- and there were
more on Lucianne.com (including one irresponsible posting containing
an actual death threat ... subsequently removed) and other sites.
From those message boards, I learned a lot about Mom that our
family had never known before. Among these revelations were that
Mom is a communist, a socialist, a "descendant of Adolf Hitler",
a crook, a lesbian, the lesbian lover of Palm Beach Canvassing
Board Member Carol Roberts, and lots more stuff. There were also
some folks who impolitely called her various nasty names. One
person called her a "wrench" and another called her a "winch"
(note: while both of these items may be useful in an auto repair
shop, I think the word these two illiterate folks meant to use
was "wench"). And -- FYI -- I also learned on FreeRepublic that
I was apparently having a secret sexual relationship with openly
gay Judge Lee (thus seemingly explaining why he was siding so
often with my mother on the split 2-1 votes). Candid note: apparently
the relationship was so secret that neither Judge Lee nor I even
knew about it until we each read it online. The black helicopter
crowd was also at work on the net, noting in one posting that
my Politics1 Report newsletter was "eerily accurate" with the
recent election predictions "as if he [ME!] had some advance
knowledge of how the votes were going to go." It must all be true
because I read it online. Just ask Pierre
Salinger ... because how could anything on the Internet possibly
ORDERING THAI FOOD FOR THIRTY PEOPLE! Friday night and my
mother and Judge Lee and tired of pizza or sandwiches for yet
another meal. They told Deputy County Attorney Norm Ostrau that
they wanted Thai food for dinner. Ostrau -- who apparently dislikes
Thai food -- disgustedly walked up to me and pleads that I talk
my mother out of the idea because it will be too complicated.
When the board takes a break, my mother and Judge Lee still want
Thai food. Judge Rosenberg adamantly doesn't want Thai or Chinese
food, saying that he can't eat anything with MSG. Ostrau then
tells me to handle the food order if my mother still insists on
Thai food. Fine, so I handle it. The restaurant says they don't
use any MSG. Judge Rosenberg says he'll still eat the sandwich
he brought from home. I then find a way to order Thai food for
30 (ten servings each of a beef dish, a chicken dish and Pad Thai
noodles ... plus spring rolls and steamed rice) for the board,
staff and deputies. The restaurant had to check with the owner
before agreeing to make the food -- and then we put the charge
on a county credit card. Of course, since it's the Thanksgiving
holiday weekend, no place was willing to deliver to the courthouse.
I asked a Democratic activist standing nearby if he would volunteer
to pick-up the food -- and I even tried to find a GOP volunteer
to go with him (hey, I was trying to keep everything balanced).
The Republicans rudely refuse to help the guy (they even call
him a few nasty names), so the guy is forced to go out on his
own to pick up the food. A few minutes later the Republicans come
back to me and apologized, saying that they would have been willing
to help ... but not with that particular Democratic activist.
The deputies later help the guy get the food to the courtroom
... only to realize they have no plates for the food. After a
scramble, some plates are finally located -- so they don't have
to eat out of paper coffee cups (the initial suggestion). See,
nothing is easy with the recount. The New York Times asked the
Board if they could photograph them eating dinner during the meal
recess, but the board rejected the request. By the way, Judge
Rosenberg ended up eating the MSG-free Thai food (and he didn't
get ill). And Ostrau was still griping about the meal the next
STRANGE. Maybe she was auditioning for a role as an Ewok in
an upcoming Star Wars movie (note: Ewoks were the little guys
in the "Empire Strikes Back" movie) ... because how else can one
explain this story? When the Board recognized US Senator Barbara
Mikulski (D), the diminutive Mikulski responded with a booming:
"God bless you. May the force be with you!" Huh? Governor Christie
Whitman's "It's a pleasure to watch democracy at work" comment
earlier that day somehow seemed a bit more dignified.
DOLE'S EVIL TWIN. Bob Dole stopped by the recount to be a
GOP observer on two separate days. On the first day, Dole looked
great -- appearing tanned, smiling and wearing a dark blue suit
and red tie. On the second day, Dole looked like Bela Lugosi's
corpse ... looking surly, wearing a powder blue polyester jacket
and open shirt, with his hair dyed too dark for the very pale
tint of makeup he was now wearing from his earlier TV appearances.
After Dole was ready to leave again, the Board took a recess and
lawyers from each side posed for separate photographs with Dole.
Dole then walked out and told cameras that the Democrats were
trying to steal the election -- and singled my mother out for
specific criticism as a hardcore Gore partisan.
TOURS. Members of the public were also allowed to squeeze
into two rows of benches in Courtroom 6780. They had to sign up
on waiting lists to get their ten-minute turns in the courtroom.
On Thanksgiving Day, a German tourist in a t-shirt and sandals
slipped into the part of the courtroom reserved for the media
-- and minutes later was standing on the benches taking souvenir
snapshots with his plastic pocket camera. At one point an older
guy wandered in during a break on the final day, sporting mussed
hair, chewing gum, sipping from a Coke cup in his hand and wearing
a South Dakota State University tracksuit. It turns out the guy
wasn't a tourist -- as the "tourist" was actually South Dakota
Governor Bill Janklow (R). The Republican team found Janklow a
chair along the back rail -- but did not invite him to sit at
the main table.
SNIPPY. "No clear voter intent. No vote," says my mother.
The ballot was then passed to Judge Rosenberg, who removed his
thick eyeglasses and slowly studied the ballot with a large magnifying
glass. After about a minute, Rosenberg pronounced that he can
see "some dimpling" and "marks around #2 [the Bush ballot spot]
... It's a Bush vote." The ballot was then handed to Judge Lee,
who quickly said: "I don't see any marks. This is a 'no vote.'"
Rosenberg tries to appeal this decision, asking Lee if he'd like
to use the magnifying glass to examine the ballot again. "If I
have to use a magnifying glass just to see something, then there
is obviously no clear voter intent demonstrated on the ballot,"
Lee snaped back. Lee, normally exceedingly polite and easygoing,
just wanted to keep the count moving so they can all get finished.
PRAISE INDEED. Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) stopped
by the show for the final two hours of the recount late on Saturday
night -- with three aides in tow. Taking a break from one of her
frequent cell phone calls to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Palm Beach
County ("Jesse says that Bob Dole is talking crazy on TV tonight
because he's overdosing on Viagra"), Brown turned to me and said:
"Your mother is doing a great job. She's a real hero." Considering
Brown's ongoing problems with the FBI, I don't think we'll be
seeing that comment appearing on Mom's next re-election campaign
brochures in 2002.
SEASON. Everyone was getting kind of punch drunk towards the
final hours. When Governor Whitman returned to the count later
in the evening for a second shift at the table -- after doing
the TV news show circuit -- she pointed to the bag of Dove chocolates
on the table and commented "I came back for the chocolates. They
don't have any good candy in Palm Beach County." "I brought the
chocolates," Mom volunteered, "it was my husband's idea." Judge
Lee quickly joked that "we also have Altoids ... the 'curiously
strong mint.'" "I wonder what these free commercials on national
TV are worth to Dove and Altoids," the judge mused.
WISE MAN ONCE SAID ... About an hour before the end of the
recount, my mother inexplicably stopped the recount for a brief
moment to read aloud from the sappy message printed inside of
her Dove candy wrappers: "The best reward for a good deed is to
have done it," she giddily exclaimed. Congressman Steve Buyer
-- a GOP observer at the table -- then responded in kind: "My
wrapper says 'Love is like a sheltering tree.' Gee, canít we all
feel the love here," he mockingly asked in a deadpan voice.
END. "The last ballot," announced Judge Lee as he held up
the final ballot just before midnight on Saturday night. This
prompted a loud round of applause from the audience. "It's a Gore
vote," my mother loudly announced and smiled. Rosenberg disagreed,
but Lee agreed it is a Gore vote. With that, the manual recount
in Broward was finished. Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) quickly
stepped forward to ask the three board members to sign a voided
ballot he obtained from a county attorney -- and they happily
obliged him. Within moments, requests for autographed voided ballots
came from many of the participants on both sides. The three board
members -- using a single pad of about fifty official ballots
(each previously stamped "Void") -- autographed ballots for a
few minutes as the accountants verified the final vote tally and
County Attorney Ed Dion prepared the certification papers. Gore
attorney and published novelist Charles Lichtman inscribed gift
copies of his latest book to each of the Board members and several
of the others involved in the process. The Democratic and Republican
teams of opposing attorneys shook hands with each other, some
even exchanged hugs, and then they all posed for a few souvenir
group photographs. After a few minutes, the Board then signed
the official papers and the Broward recount was history. A county
attorney flew the papers to Tallahassee the next morning. Hmmm
... how long will it be until one of those signed ballots surfaces
in an Ebay auction? And, if you're wondering, Judge Rosenberg
kept the large magnifying glass (but says he'd give it to the
Smithsonian if they want it).
... YOU'RE A LITTLE LATE. On Sunday morning -- the morning
after Broward had completed its recount -- MSNBC found just two
women with Bush signs standing in front of the closed courthouse.
The older woman, resplendent in elegantly-styled white hair, dark
blue blouse and large pearl necklace, explained she was out-of-town
for the past few days but still wanted to come down to the courthouse
now to show her support for Bush. She mentioned she also brought
a "friend" with her. The "friend" -- a middle-aged Venezuelan
woman who could have easily been the older woman's housekeeper
if this were a TV sitcom -- explained in her heavily-accented
English that she was angry because she "came to the United States
from Venezuela twenty years ago just to vote for George W. Bush
and they are stealing my vote!" Twenty years ago?
CHECKOUT LINE AT PUBLIX. A trip to the supermarket quickly
showed Mom how fleeting her fame was (excluding the 50,000+ angry
emails that awaited her at the office on Monday). Twelve hours
earlier, she was viewed live on national TV and then gave a 1:00
a.m. interview to CBS's "60 Minutes" show. Now, she was pushing
her shopping cart through the aisles at the Publix supermarket.
At the checkout, she used the lane staffed by a woman who has
worked at the store for years. "How was your Thanksgiving, Sue,"
the woman asked my mother. "I had to work," responded Mom. "Oh,
that's too bad. I got the day off," said the cashier. Life returning
to normal. Mom and Rosenberg proceed to reject invitations for
some TV interviews over the next few days, with Rosenberg explaining
that he just wants to "go back to being anonymous again."
Ah ... back in DC ... away from the TV for the night ... and away
from the recount and court contests ... and doing something I
love: attending an NHL hockey match. Sitting in the MCI Center
last night, watching a hockey game -- the Caps versus Tampa Bay
(although I'm a Florida Panthers fan). The recount seemed like
a long way away ... and far from my mind ... until a nearby fan
(obviously a disgruntled Democrat) angrily yelled at one of the
officials: "Hey, Ref, what kind of call was that? You're as crooked
as Katherine Harris!" Oh well.
Okay, so the South Florida ballots are being driven up to Tallahassee
right now under police escort for the upcoming court hearing.
Presumably -- in true South Florida tradition -- they tied one
of those fuzzy things to the truck antenna and will make the slow-speed
drive with the left turn signal blinking throughout the many hours
it takes to get to the state capital. The long drive to Tallahassee
is being covered live on TV from overhead helicopter shots --
prompting O.J. Simpson to weigh in today with a comparison to
his nationally televised police chase of his white Bronco truck
[note: I'm not making this part up!]: "In my case it may have
been a little more intriguing because people didn't know what
was going to happen. Here they know the ballots are going to get
I agree with Governor
Keating. I think the Broward Canvassing Board consisted of three
honorable, hard-working people who each tried to do their best
under very difficult circumstances. Each applied somewhat different
personal standards when reviewing the ballots (i.e., one of the
GOP objections) but collectively did what they thought was correct.
Personally, I probably would have applied a more conservative,
restrictive personal standard when reviewing the ballots (but,
then again, I wasn't one of the three people sitting on the board).
All in all, I think
I did a fairly good job of staying somewhat balanced during these
rather surreal events. I felt at times like an extra in a crowd
scene of some bizarre Fellini film of patients in a mental ward
(this is NOT a reference to the Board... but a reference to EVERYONE
involved, including the media!). The next issue of the Politics1
Report will return to our customary format ... with political
developments from around the nation. No more recount stuff. I
Until next time,
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