The honeymoon's over

The "Bush recession" builds steam. Plus: Rush Limbaugh takes on the Free Republic!

Published March 15, 2001 7:50PM (EST)


Drudge Report: "Julia Roberts unloads on Bush"
Andrew Sullivan: "John F Kennedy's actions as president are not owned by his family." ready - here comes the fight over abortion limits
Opinion Journal: Bush's Treasury secretary gets off to a bad start "Democrats to Bush: Stop trash talking the economy!"
Modern Humorist: "W is for Writer: The president discusses his new book and literary life."
Peggy Noonan: "The Clinton administration produced few books worth reading. Bush may be different. "

Big buzz

Beware the ides of March indeed. Today's news is not good for President Bush. World markets are tumbling, there is an increase in media mentions of a "Bush recession" and the president is getting his first real dose of bad press for reneging on a campaign promise to reduce greenhouse gases. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz puts it this way: "For the first time in his young administration, George W. Bush has run into a blizzard of negative headlines, with the strong likelihood of more to come. In market terms, the Bush futures are down."

Liberals, of course, are heartbroken at the news. "The first 100 days are passing fast and it looks like endless reruns of the Keystone Kops. It is a failing appointment (not a presidency). This would be funny if not so tragic to so many," writes one Table Talk poster.

While that sentiment was echoed with many an "amen" on Table Talk, the natives are a bit more restless over at the Free Republic, where the Bush maneuvering is playing to mixed reviews.

"Read my lips?" writes one Freeper.

That sarcasm does not seem to be appreciated by some Bush loyalists at the site. "So you would rather Bush implement the Kyoto accords? Some Bush critics will bash him no matter what, not realizing that they end up muttering only to themselves."

Others are reduced to the "he did it first" defense. "So?? Clinton broke his campaign promise of a middle class tax cut. We're even. Glad [Bush] broke a 'promise' we didn't want him to make (or keep) in the first place."

Anger management

There's a tiff growing between right-wing radio and right-wing bulletin board. Apparently, there are some creative differences between Rush Limbaugh and the Free Republic. Freepers accused Limbaugh of taking marching orders from the Republican National Committee, and failing to criticize the appointment of Paul Cellucci as ambassador to Canada. Here's a transcript of a call to Limbaugh's syndicated radio program, posted by someone on the Free Republic site (we can't vouch for its accuracy):

Limbaugh: I'm minding my own business last night, I'm working hard preparing for today's program and I'm going through the general e-mail box. I don't have time to do that a lot but last night I made time to do it -- and all of a sudden I'm getting spammed. I'm getting spammed by people on a single topic. And all it says in the subject line is "Cellucci." And I said "What the hell is this?" I hate getting spam. It bugs me, because it means that people aren't writing of their own volition and it means a bunch of robots are being programmed to do it by some controlling figure. Some Pied Piper is telling these people what to do so I figure it's gotta be the Freepers.

So I read the notes and sure enough one of the notes sent me a thread from Free Republic. And you know what the thread said? The thread said that I had been asked by the RNC or the White House to shut up about the Cellucci nomination. Now I hate to tell you this and I wrote this guy back, and I hate to admit this to you Jim, I hate to admit it but it's the truth ... I couldn't even figure out who Cellucci was last night, much less what the Cellucci nomination was. So I went and read the thread, and okay Cellucci is Paul Cellucci, the former governor of Massachusetts. And then I learned he's been nominated as ambassador to Canada -- a real top drawer appointment and issue. And then I see that there are some accompanying notes that there's some issue associated with fisting.

Needless to say, the criticism did not go over well at F.R. among some of the more thin-skinned posters:

After hearing your diatribe against Freepers today, I stopped being a lurker and joined their group. So thanks, you did for Free Republic what Rosie O'Donnell did for the NRA, caused people to join them. Guess you have so many listeners that you can afford to tick off a few thousand, huh? Wonder if your sponsors would agree with that scenario?

So thanks for the memories.


Someone get me a hankie!

Others demonstrated more resolve, accusing the Limbaugh-bashers of melodrama: "I'm amazed. I heard the same show you heard, and yet, I have every intention of listening to Limbaugh tomorrow, just like always. Why is he not entitled to the same freedom of speech and opinion that we advocate?"

With renewed calls for Freepers to spam and call Limbaugh's show today, this war continues at the Free Republic. And Limbaugh seemed to be taking it all in stride, even posting a doctored graphic on his Web site from a Freeper taking a little potshot. "Thank goodness someone out there has a sense of humor," he writes.

Florida: The running tally

The official, certified, Supreme Court-approved presidential Florida vote tally gave George W. Bush the state -- and the election -- by a mere 537 votes. But a number of newspapers have begun recounting the contested ballots, scrutinizing the overvotes (those with more than one punch per race) and undervotes (with all of their dimples and hanging chads), and coming up with their own totals. Some newspapers have formed consortiums (the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press are one; the Miami Herald, USA Today and Knight Ridder are the other) and will be releasing their findings within a month.

But early results are trickling in, bringing bittersweet good news for Al Gore. Though reaching one final number is difficult because different papers came up with different vote tallies in reviewing Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, one thing is clear: Gore would have gained anywhere from 7,658 to 7,800 votes in a statewide recount of overvotes and undervotes, more than enough to wipe out Bush's 537-vote advantage. Even using only undervotes, Gore would have picked up anywhere from 850 to 960 votes depending on which paper's numbers are used, still enough to carry Florida.

Here's a guide to the recounts in each county. The newspaper doing the recount is noted in parentheses:

Bradford County over- and undervotes: Gore +4 (Orlando Sentinel)
Charlotte County over- and undervotes: Gore +30 (OS)
Collier County undervotes: Bush +226 (Naples Daily News)
Franklin County over- and undervotes: Gore +3 (OS)
Gadsden County over- and undervotes: Gore +16 (OS)
Gulf County over- and undervotes: Gore +5 (OS)
Hamilton County over- and undervotes: Gore +2 (OS)
Hendry County over- and undervotes: Gore +4 (OS)
Hillsborough County undervotes (includes dimples): Gore +120 (Tampa Tribune)
Jackson County over- and undervotes: Gore +12 (OS)
Lafayette County over- and undervotes: Gore +1 (OS)
Lake County over- and undervotes: Gore +121 (OS)
Levy County over- and undervotes: Bush +2 (OS)
Miami-Dade County undervotes: Gore +49 (Miami Herald consortium)
Miami-Dade undervotes: Bush +6 (Palm Beach Post)
Okeechobee County over- and undervotes: Gore +25 (OS)
Orange County undervotes: Gore +203 (MH)
Osceola County undervotes: Gore + 25 (OS)
Palm Beach overvotes: Gore + 6,600 (PBP)
Palm Beach County undervotes (includes dimples): Gore +682 (PBP)
Palm Beach undervotes: Gore +784 (OS)
Seminole County undervotes: Gore +13 (OS)
Suwannee County over- and undervotes: Gore +5 (OS)
Taylor County over- and undervotes: Gore +9 (OS)

Ongoing totals, by newspaper, with revised running total in parentheses:
Naples Daily News (Collier County): Bush +226 (Bush +763)
Tampa Times (Hillsborough County): Gore +120 (Bush +417)
Miami Herald (Miami-Dade County): Gore + 49 (Bush +488)
Palm Beach Post under- and overvotes (Palm Beach County): Gore +7,288 (Gore +6,751)
Palm Beach Post undervotes only (Palm Beach County): Gore +682 (Gore +151)
Orlando Sentinel: 1,264 (Gore +727)

For more Red vs. Blue, click here.

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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