"Gore wins!"

Democratic National Committee chairman declares a Gore victory; Bush's Mexico trip puts life back into Buchananites; celebrate Not My President's Day, and Paul Wolfowitz finally gets his closeup.

Published February 15, 2001 12:51PM (EST)

"Al Gore Wins the Election!" That's the triumphant declaration in an e-mail sent to political reporters Thursday by Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

As the Miami Herald continues its audit of Florida's undervotes, and a prestigious media consortium examines the state's overvotes and undervotes, the DNC is keeping track of results from other media recounts across the state. And the news is good for Gore.

According to the certified Florida results, Bush won the state by 527 votes. But Backus says recounts by the Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and the Chicago Tribune Co. collectively show Gore picking up 1,617 votes, giving him a "winning" margin of 1,080 votes.

Last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Gore would have gained more than 200 extra votes if Orange County had conducted a hand recount of all its ballots that machines could not read. An earlier investigation of overvotes in Lake County showed a 300-vote pickup for Gore.

The Chicago Tribune examined more than 15,000 undervotes and overvotes in the 15 counties with the highest rate of rejected ballots, and found a net gain of 366 votes for Al Gore among the uncounted ballots.

An examination of so-called dimpled ballots in Palm Beach County by the Palm Beach Post had Gore picking up 682 additional votes if those ballots had been counted as votes. Palm Beach County Election Commissioner refused to count the dimpled chads, however.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Miami Herald, which once promised on its Web site to release its results around Inauguration Day, now say they are unsure when they'll be finished.

"We have been figuring on a number of weeks from now," said Scott Univer, general counsel for the accounting firm BDO Seidman, which is conducting the recount -- they call it an "audit" -- for the Herald. "I think the process has hit a snag. There was a lawsuit in one of the counties (that) led to the county election officials counting the ballots."

The lawsuit Univer refers to is in Duval County, which uses the punch-card balloting system and where there are roughly 5,000 undervotes. The Herald has sued to get those ballots released.

But the DNC isn't waiting for those results. "The numbers don't lie: Al Gore carried Florida and won the 2000 election," new DNC national chairman Terry McAuliffe said in the statement. "It's too bad that Bush was so afraid of counting the votes that the press had to do it. Bush should keep these numbers in mind as he pushes his radical right-wing agenda."

Meanwhile, the Washington Times blasted the media's recount process in a report earlier this week. "Things are still loony in the land of chads. At least one of those people recounting the Florida ballots was drunk, the Republican Party of Florida claims. According to several witnesses, temporary workers hired by media groups reviewing ballots for a third or even fourth time 'routinely violated their own analysis standards, and in at least one case, have conducted their review while intoxicated.'"

Conservatives also point to another Herald investigation in 25 Florida counties that revealed more than 2,000 illegal ballots were cast by people who signed affirmations swearing they were eligible to vote, but were not.
-- Anthony York [4:15 p.m. PST, Feb. 15, 2001]

Buchanan Brigades are back

After a winter break, Pat Buchanan's Internet crusader Linda Muller is back on the job. In the first real criticism of the Bush administration to come from the Buchanan right, Muller and her Internet Brigade are focused on the issue of free trade on the eve of Bush's visit to Mexico.

Muller is now spamming her e-mail subscribers with assorted news stories critical of NAFTA. She even sent along a press release from Public Citizen, the public interest group founded by Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. During the presidential campaign, Buchanan and Nader staked out some common ground in their opposition to free trade. Still, the irony is difficult to miss, seeing Public Citizen's name attached to a Muller e-mail, which she signs off with her signature "for the cause, Linda."

Much more typical was one Brigade member's note attached to an article on NAFTA by Business Week's Paul Magnusson. In inimitable Brigade style, one member said of Magnusson, "The author would appear to be either a lobbyist for Mexican President Vicente Fox or else someone who has been at the 'tequila' much too long."
-- Anthony York [1:45 p.m. PST, Feb. 15, 2001]

Not my President's Day

Instead of celebrating President's Day shopping or loafing, some Democrats who are still smarting from November's election are planning to spend the holiday showing their disdain for the new Bush administration.

Democrats.com is encouraging its members to participate in "UnPresident's Day" festivities on Sunday. Bob Fertik, co-founder of that Web community, said that dedicated Democrats will meet, greet and eat with their ideological brethren at 5 p.m. on Sunday at more than a hundred "celebrations" across the country. But they won't just be fighting for their right to party. "The object is to move from Internet activism to working with each other face to face," he said. Fertik hopes that the dinners will transform Democratic frustration over the election into an effective grassroots network to promote progressive policy ideas. "We're not trying to send a message to Bush at all," he said. "But we are trying to put Democrats in office.

For other dedicated anti-Bushies, various organizations are sponsoring Not My Presidents Day marches throughout the weekend.

Always a bridesmaid...
On Thursday, Bush sent the nomination of Paul D. Wolfowitz as Deputy Secretary of State to the Senate floor. Before Bush chose Donald Rumsfeld to run the Pentagon, Wolfowitz was a top contender to head the Defense Department.

As is true of many Bush appointees, Wolfowitz is no stranger to government service. He served in various Defense Department posts from 1977 to 1982, and reported to then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney from 1989 to 1993 as undersecretary of defense for policy. Currently, Wolfowitz is the dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He's been well-tested as an educator -- he served as one of the foreign policy tutors who helped Bush prep for debates with Al Gore.
-- Alicia Montgomery [1:45 p.m. PST, Feb. 15, 2001]

Bush's first bill

Shortly after 10:30 Thursday morning, President Bush signed his first bill into law, House Joint Resolution 7, recognizing the 90th birthday of Ronald Reagan. He also signed a birthday card for the former president, and telephoned former first lady Nancy Reagan to give her the news.

"Mrs. Reagan, hi, how are you today?" Bush said. "I'm getting ready to sign a birthday card to the president, my first document I'll sign as the president, which is a joint resolution from the Congress ..."

"Oh, how nice," Reagan said. "... Which expresses our deep gratitude and admiration for President Reagan," Bush continued.

"How nice," she said.

"We honor him with his greatness and his goodness," Bush went on. "And we honor you, as well, for your strength of character and your service. So I'm getting ready to sign right now -- "

"Oh, this is very exciting," Reagan said.

"Well, thank you, ma'am," Bush said. "It's exciting for me as well. It's an honor. And I look forward to sending the document and the pen that I use to you."

"Oh, how nice," Reagan said. "How nice."

"Anyway, it's great to talk to you," Bush said.

"Well, it's great to talk to you, too," Reagan said. "And I can't thank you enough."

"Well, thanks a lot," Bush said.

"It's wonderful," Reagan said. "Wait until I tell Ronnie."

"Give the president a hug and a kiss," Bush said.

"I will," Reagan said.

"Thanks a lot," Bush said.

"Thank you," Reagan said.

"Bye-bye," Bush said.

"Bye-bye," said Reagan.

-- Jake Tapper [11 a.m. PST, Feb. 15, 2001]

Justice takes over Rich probe

Though President Bush wants Congress to move on from Clinton chasing, federal prosecutors are prepared to take up the hunt. Justice Department lawyers plan to look at bank records and Democratic donor rolls to find out whether fugitive financier Marc Rich effectively purchased a pardon from Bill Clinton. Clinton adamantly denies that there was any quid pro quo.

U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, who headed the New York office that prosecuted Rich in 1983, initiated the criminal probe. The last-minute pardon outraged White, particularly because none of Rich's prosecutors was consulted beforehand.

The criminal investigation is forcing congressional Clinton probers to put on the brakes. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., will not press to grant Denise Rich immunity from prosecution, as that would limit the range of admissible evidence in any future criminal case. At a Wednesday Senate hearing, even some Republicans who vigorously condemned Clinton's conduct nonetheless said that investigation of the Rich pardon was better left to the courts.

While ethical probes plague her husband, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has been cleared of wrongdoing in her $8 million book deal. Counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee said there was nothing improper about the former first lady's mammoth advance from publisher Simon and Schuster, and that no further investigation is warranted.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6:15 a.m. PST, Feb. 15, 2001]

Beltway Valentines

Not even the rough-and-tumble world of politics is immune from cupid's amorous arrows on Valentine's Day.

Love was in the air as early as last week, when newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cooed fondly about his past meetings with new U.S. national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. According to an item in Sunday's London Independent, the recollection came as Sharon spoke to reporters from Israel's Channel 2 News:

"His precise confession is a matter of some debate. But when Condoleezza Rice visited Israel last year, Mr. Bush's new national security advisor made a powerful impression on him. At the very least, Mr. Sharon said he found the woman very attractive. According to other sources, he said: 'I have to confess, it was hard for me to concentrate in the conversation because she has very nice legs.'"

Closer to home, one group was making the familiar "nothing says 'I love you' like a tax cut" pitch. That was the word from the conservative Family Research Council, which used the occasion to lobby for an end to the so-called marriage penalty.

"This year, in fact, Congress will introduce several proposals to eliminate the marriage tax, and we say, 'Let a thousand roses bloom,'" FRC president Ken Connor said in a statement Wednesday. "Congress should begin by fixing one of the strangest and most inequitable features of our tax code and restore goodwill toward married couples."

According to a recent account in People magazine, and relayed by Hotline's Howard Mortman, Democrats have also been known to get swept up by the holiday. Denise Rich, ex-wife of newly liberated international man of mystery Marc Rich, once hired "17 umbrella-toting cupids in red hot pants who sang 'It's Raining Men' at a recent Valentine's Day celebration."
-- Anthony York [2:35 p.m. PST, Feb. 14, 2001]

By Salon Staff

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