MEDIA BLOW YET ANOTHER RECOUNT. Former vice president Al Gore would have picked up 49 votes in Miami-Dade County if the hand count of ballots ordered by the Florida Supreme Court had been completed and "dimpled" chads had been counted, according to a study done for USA Today, the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder Newspapers. But the Feb. 26 reports called the results a blow to Democratic claims that Gore would have won the election if a hand recount had occurred, ignoring reviews of ballots in other counties that show Gore leading Bush by more than 1,000 votes.
The mainstream media, eager to bring closure to the election, embraced the Miami-Dade County findings as endorsement of Bush's victory. "Review Finds Bush Won Despite Miami Recount," the Washington Post headlined. The Wall Street Journal noted, "A review of Florida ballots suggested Gore wouldn't have gained enough in a recount to win the presidency, the Miami Herald said.'' TV followed suit. They ignored the Jan. 27 Palm Beach Post finding that, had dimpled ballots in Palm Beach County been counted, as Democrats wanted and state law allowed, Gore would have picked up 682 votes in that county alone, which is more than Bush's official 537-vote statewide margin of victory. Also unnoticed was the Orlando Sentinel's Feb. 11 report that Gore would have gained 203 votes in Orange County if ballots that were rejected by scanners but clearly showed presidential preferences had been counted.
A tally at Democrats.com showed Gore leading by 1,017 votes after various "recounts" so far. A media consortium also is still examining under-votes and over-votes in all of Florida's 67 counties.
BRITS FIND FLA VOTE PROBLEMS. Thousands of mainly black voters in Florida were disenfranchised improperly because of wholesale errors by a private data services company, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. Information supplied by Database Technologies (DBT) led to tens of thousands of Floridians being removed from the electoral roll on the grounds that they had felonies on their records. However, the BBC found that the list was riddled with mistakes that led to thousands of voters -- a disproportionate number of them black -- being wrongly disenfranchised. The Florida state government, where George W. Bush's brother Jeb is governor, did nothing to correct the errors, and may have encouraged them, the BBC reported, as the London-based Guardian noted Feb. 17.
DBT compiled the list by looking for rough matches between names and dates of birth of people on the voter list and convicted felons. Thus, a Christine Smith could have been disqualified if there had been a Christopher Smith of the same age with a felony record somewhere in the US. Race also was a matching criterion, skewing the impact of the errors even more against black voters, of whom 90% voted for Democrat Al Gore.
BUSH CONTINUES EXTREMIST PICKS. While Democrats were preoccupied with Bill Clinton's controversial pardons, George W. Bush nominated right-wing lawyer Ted Olson, who helped Bush win his 5-4 victory at the US Supreme Court, to be his solicitor general. Jake Tapper of Salon.com noted that Olson was also one of Clinton's chief antagonists, as head of the "Arkansas Project," the multimillion-dollar investigation into Clinton's pre-White House days as funneled through American Spectator magazine. He represented Whitewater witness David Hale, and coached Paula Jones' attorneys before their Supreme Court argument. "Bush is acting like he won 60% of the vote and 340 electoral votes on top of it," former Sen. Bob Kerrey told Tapper. "He's pressing way beyond his mandate." But who's to stand in his way? Tapper asked. "They're trying to get their sea legs," Kerrey said of his former colleagues.
TELEVANGELIST BLASTS CHURCH AID. Even some of George W. Bush's political allies are having second thoughts about his "faith-based" initiative, as TV preacher Pat Robertson Feb. 21 describing the plan to provide public funding of to minority religions as "appalling" and would open a "Pandora's Box."
"This means Bush's plan is in enormous political trouble," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "When staunch Bush allies like Robertson start jumping ship, the plan clearly appears to be sinking."
BUSH ENDORSES HOMELAND GUARD. George W. Bush Feb. 14 endorsed an expansion of the National Guard's responsibilities to fighting "domestic terrorism," an idea that was recommended Jan. 31 by a congressionally appointed commission on national security led by former senators Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.). "As threats to America change, your role will continue to change," Bush told Guardsmen in Charleston, W.V. "The National Guard and reservists will be more involved in homeland security, confronting acts of terror and the disorder our enemies may try to create." The commission also recommended establishing a homeland defense agency that would consolidate several agencies now involved in such duty.
DEMOCRATS QUESTION RULE SUSPENSION. Three Democratic senators said Feb. 20 that the Bush administration may be breaking the law by suspending a new federal rule that prevents the government from awarding contracts to bidders who have broken environmental, labor, tax and other laws. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Richard Durbin (Ill.) asked Budget Director Mitchell Daniels to "halt the administration's unwise and possibly unlawful efforts to suspend the requirement that the government not do business with chronic lawbreakers.'' The "contractor responsibility'' rule, which took effect on Jan. 20, President Clinton's last day in office, requires consideration of a potential contractor's compliance with tax, labor and employment, environmental, antitrust, and consumer protection laws before making an award. A Bush administration official authorized federal agencies to suspend the new rule until July 19. Labor unions favor the rule, but business groups filed suit against it, arguing that linking contract awards to violations of laws unrelated to federal procurement is unfair.