Creative Suggestions For Settling The Non-Election
Viewers Have Inventive Solutions
Dan Bernard, Staff Writer, The Pittsburgh Channel
November 29, 2000, 6:46 p.m. EST
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Editor's note: Since we first published this column Nov. 11, viewer suggestions keep coming in.
It's a shame that the heart of this constitutional crisis is not located in, say, Duluth, Minn., where they enjoyed lows in the 20s and occasional light snow over the weekend.
But I must go where my political journalism duties take me. So I will endure the sunshine and high 70s of Palm Beach while the leaders of this county and the nation struggle to sort things out.
How long will it take? On Saturday, it appeared that as many legal arguments as Al Gore's campaign could raise, George W. Bush's people were prepared to rebut -- all while yet more ballot goofiness was discovered around the state of Florida and beyond.
Of course, there are ways to settle this thing quickly. I recall when I was a young boy and my brother and I were fighting over a toy. Savagely. Viciously. My brother was older and taller than I and only slightly less scrawny, but I was able to hold my own by fighting dirty.
When our dad would come into the room, we would cease hostilities and begin presenting our arguments -- much like the Bush and Gore camps are preparing to do in court. "But I had it first," I would whine, not unlike Bush arguing that he won it the first time, so don't bother recounting. "But I want it," my brother would counter. Which sounds like Al "Retractable Concession Speech" Gore.
You know what my dad did? You can guess, can't you? Neither of us got the toy. Nope. In fact, he didn't even want to hear our skillfully assembled arguments about who truly deserved it. He was so sick of us squabbling that he wanted to make the point to us that, after what we had done to each other, neither of us deserved it anymore.
So the only question that remains is: Who becomes president-elect once we send Bush and Gore to their rooms?
We do, of course, already have a fully functional president already broken in, no job training required. And, admit it, even you rabid Clinton conspiracy kooks: In those days leading up to Election Day, didn't you sort of start to warm up to the guy, start feeling like you were gonna miss him?
But I think this is probably the same way a young woman feels about her high school boyfriend as she goes off to college. It's "you can love 'em because you're leaving 'em."
In my book, in all fairness, the replacement president-elect has got to be either Bob Dole, John McCain or Ross Perot -- for humor value and because they came close.
Another nomination was sent in by Larry A. Mack of Minneapolis:
"We need to have a President whose popularity is without question. I therefore suggest Martin Sheen, who has been playing the part for over a year. He has performed his duties quite well, being able to resolve world and national problems within the 50 minutes of each episode ... At least we would have a President who hopefully would have a better memory than the last President who was an actor who tried to play the part."
Viewers Have Their Own Ideas
It's clear that many of you want to find a way to resolve this thing quickly. Ramiro Cuellar, a Sacramento native who lives in Los Angeles, sent in the following e-mail:
"Is it really voter misinformation or voter fraud that is occurring in South Florida? This would probably not be an issue if the governor of Florida was not related to the Republican presidential nominee.
"I have an idea, let's get a quarter and flip it; whoever calls heads or tails wins!"
Support seems to be building for this approach from coast to coast. This e-mail came in from Vincent Amatrano of Chichester, N.Y.:
"Why can't Bush and Gore face Ralph Nader, who will then flip a coin and have it called in the air ..."
You clearly have a good head on your shoulders, Vincent. I must say, however, that I don't think it would be fair to give it to Ralph Nader, since his siphoning of votes from Gore contributed to this near-tie situation. The same could be said of Pat Buchanan, whose confusing location on the Palm Beach County ballot flummoxed some Gore supporters there who say they voted for Buchanan accidentally.
No, I think these third-party boys should get out of our sight for a while, too, for their own good. Patrick J. Buchanan! You go back to "Crossfire," boy, and don't let me catch you reading "Mein Kampf" under the covers!
Ralph! Iron that suit, for God's sake.
Games Of Skill
If a coin toss would seem to leave this grave matter to random chance, Deborah Dodge of Portland, Ore., suggests:
"Three words, my friend: rock, paper, scissors."
Still too much a game of chance instead of skill? Hear Kevin "Thinks Dan is going to publish his commercial Web site name just because he pretended it was his nickname" Kintzi of Gaylord, Minn.:
"Since they both claim to be joggers, let them race for it. One mile on a track and no tripping each other. Winner gets the prize and the loser moves to Cuba to straighten out that country."
"If they won't agree to that, then let them assume their Vietnam duties. Give Bore a pencil and Gush a jet fighter and have them go at it ... OK, that's a little unfair, so give Bore a bodyguard, and I nominate Hillary Clinton ..."
OK, Mr. Kintzi, that's quite enough.
Dan Grotjan of Anoka, Minn., wanted our boys to direct their aggression at each other, suggesting:
" ... a WWF cage match. The winner could easily intimidate the loser from any further appellate litigation. ...
"More appealing after another week or so of the political quibbling ... a good old-fashioned pistol duel. Imagine the drama. And there would be no appeal."
While Grotjan was thinking backbreakers, Mike Parker of Henderson, Nev. was thinking knee-slappers:
"Both candidates have laid some real horse laughs on us -- Gore inventing the Internet and being the model for 'Love Story,' Bush telling us he's compassionate while refusing to stay the execution of a man whose lawyer slept through most of his trial ... Clearly, what's needed here is a 'laugh-off.'
"Have Bush and Gore alternate for four nights as guest hosts on the Jay Leno show. Let's compare monologues and interviewing techniques to see who really is the funniest and most compassionate guest show host. Roger Ebert could then give the 'thumbs up' or thumbs down,' and we would be done with this mess."
Moving the debate fully out of the political process and into pop culture, Richard "Rico" Waldvogel of some Minneapolis suburb, I think it's Edina offered a multiple-choice solution:
"'Survivor' style: Bush and Gore, caked in mud on a beach, walking over burning coals ... Their fallen opponents (Buchanan, Nader, McCain, etc.) waving palm tree branches in an arch for them to pass under. They both walk up to the pole; they each grab on at the same time; last one to hang on is the new president.
"'Friends' style: We could do like Monica did when trying to decide who she should choose for her bridesmaid between Rachel and Phoebe: Put Gore and Bush in a room and make them decide between themselves who gets to be president.
"'Over The Top'style: A classic arm-wrastlin' match ... or even Indian leg-wrestlin' would be cool. Two out of three."
Your e-mails made it clear to me that, for a significant number of you, the matter of which candidate gets in is less important than getting this over with.
There's a germ of a solution in this e-mail from Dee Walker of Pittsburgh:
"Why are we so surprised that the presidential election was so close? Both men gave the people what they wanted -- a good show. Actually, I think that it would have been good if Bush and Gore would have been on a ticket together -- you know, like bad cop, good cop. Maybe then we would see something done for the country."
A variation on that thought came from Karen Jacobs of Bryson City, N.C.:
"Why not have the two vice-president candidates withdraw and let Gore and Bush serve as co-presidents. Then maybe they could unite the country and get an agreement out of the Congress. Both claim to have a desire to unite the country."
"Lady Dianna" posted a somewhat more complicated proposal in our online discussion board on the presidential tie:
"I tell you what we can do to resolve this whole fiasco. Let Bush be the president of 25 states, and let Gore have the other 25. Just as long Bush isn't the president for Texas."
Split the space, split the time -- whatever, said Scott Silas of Chanhassen, Minn.:
"THIS IS A TIE. It is like two runners crossing the finish line with only 3/100ths of a second's difference. ... In the Olympics, they would give out two gold medals.
"Somebody just choose a winner or decide to have them both. Give them each two years!"
And a variation on the theme comes from John Ciolina, who listed himself as a retired Navy guy from Suisun City, Calif., and said he first registered Republican in 1959:
"(I) suggest we get the vice president candidates for the office and run the country with a split presidency for four years. The Democrat ... gets president, with the Republican as VP the first two years. (Then) the Republican switches the second two years with a constitutional appointed VP."
I'll support that, sailor, although I'm sure I don't understand what you're talking about.
Do The Math
How to break the tie? Dolores Clinton
of Portland, Ore.
put her mind to it and came up with this:
"I would like to suggest that to clean up this election mess and get it over with quickly -- proportionately divide the electoral votes for the candidates!
Uh ... but ... you've still got two candidates tied there, Dolores.
"You MISSED MY POINT entirely. My point was that maybe we should divide up the electoral votes in proportion to the popular votes. I now understand that it may not be possible to do that, but it was a thought. -- Dee."
Ah, I see. But since the point of the Electoral College is to distort the popular vote -- giving more weight to low-population states -- if you're going to undo that feature, you might as well do away with the whole thing, like the First Lady Senator says.
Calling The Question
And now, this question from Steve Stennes, who identified himself as an attorney from Montevideo, Minn., where they had highs in the low 30s this weekend:
"I've always wondered why Democrats are so much better at this sneaky, manipulative and underhanded politicking that Republicans are. Does it go back to the Daley machine/Chicago mob connection, or is it just because they know they will get away with it because the public never gets the full story? Clinton was able to make night turn into day, black turn into white and up turn into down and the public never challenged him. Is this nurture or nature on the part of Democrats?"
Counselor! That was not an actual question; that was a thinly veiled, partisan condemnation!
Go to your room!
A Capital Idea
This final note from Bobbie Anderson of San Antonio, Texas:
"THE PROBLEM SEEMS TO BE THE PUNCH CARD. IT IS MY UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE WERE OTHER COUNTIES ALSO THAT VOTES COULDN'T BE COUNTED AND WERE TOSSED ASIDE.
"IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW THE INTENT OF THE VOTERS IN FLORIDA, WHY NOT HAVE A WHOLE NEW ELECTION FOR THAT STATE WITH JUST TWO NAMES ON THE BALLOT. OF COURSE, NO PUNCH CARDS, JUST FILL IN THE CIRCLE (LIKE A MULTIPLY QUESTION IN SCHOOL)
"IF THE PEOPLE IN FLORIDA CAN'T DO THAT RIGHT, THEY SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO VOTE."
Madam: Should people be allowed to type if they can't find the caps-lock key?
The suggestions keep coming. This column now has a sequel. Click here
E-mail your questions -- loaded or not -- about the non-election to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your full name, city and state, and he'll reply to some of them in this column.
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