Tags: Analysis: | Bush | Cooked | Unless | Acts

Analysis: Bush Is Cooked Unless He Acts

Sunday, 12 November 2000 12:00 AM

The situation for Bush is more than serious – he is in critical condition.

So far, his handling of this first crisis of his would-be presidency is shaking public confidence as to whether he is up to the job.

It has been completely bungled by his team – or should I say a wonderful team of gentlemen that will help keep Bush in Austin. Bush’s own instincts can be very good; he needs to go by his gut instincts and not over-rely on the advice of his father’s circle.

Meanwhile, Gore’s team has handled this almost perfectly.

Bush still has some options and can still save his presidency. But he has to be willing to play hardball.

Some ideas:

1. I watched as state judge Burton, a Democrat, urged the members of the election committee to seek the advice of the Secretary of State before proceeding with a full count. They ignored his pleas. This is a clear sign Gore’s team – who most definitely gave the Democratic commissioners instructions – want NO delay in the recount. They are going for it, as Dick Cheney might say, "big time."

2. PR is key. Keep Bush off the TV. He looks nervous and the band-aid on his face is a bad image to present to the public. He looks concerned and his spokespeople appear worried, too. Gore’s people look confident and relaxed. Gore is doing the smart thing by staying away from the microphone and seemingly letting the process work its way through.

3. Of course, the Gore people are using everything in their arsenal to win this – from Web sites, to Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, millions from K Street lobbyists – you name it, above ground and underground, you can bet they are doing it to win.

4. In my last column I asked, "Where are the Republicans?" Have they yet figured out that this is as much a PR battle as it is an electoral process? They should have, from day one, complained loudly about the vote fraud in South Florida. They should be complaining about vote fraud across the country helping Gore with the popular vote.

They should be rolling out Bill Bennett and others onto the talk programs to expose the rampant vote fraud that has been a way of life in South Florida for decades. Only two years ago the Democratic mayor of Miami was thrown out of office because of the unbelievable amount of fraud that helped elect him. Also the Bush allies should complain loudly about the phony projections that gave Florida to Gore and depressed the vote, not only in the panhandle of Florida, but all across the country. The American people are hearing only one side now and public opinion is swaying to Gore.

5. Call big names in to lend support to the claim Gore should concede for the good of the nation. Call "friend" Colin Powell, ask him to jet down to Austin and have a high-profile meeting. After doing so, have him go to the microphones and say what we all know is true, the election is being stolen in Florida, and for the good of the American people Gore should do the right thing. (My bet is the Colin Powell will not do this, as he wants to hedge his bets just in case Gore wins. Powell will work for whoever wins. You can tell who your friends are when the chips are down.)

6. Enlist the help of Congress. Bush has tremendous power at this moment because he is the head of the Republican Party and the duly elected president in the eyes of most Republicans. The Republicans control Congress. The U.S. government cannot work without their consent. Bush must get the Republican congressional leadership to work behind the scenes, and in public, to remind the Democrats they threaten a constitutional crisis if they continue to demand a manual recount. Gore must be told he risks a major federal upheaval, a stock market collapse and other problems if he continues his present course. Bush needs to tell Lott and Hastert to cancel their Sunday golf games to make this last-ditch effort.

7. Make the right legal moves. Filing suit for an injunction to stop the manual vote was another Bush PR blunder. For starters, the manual count in Florida has legal precedent in close races and will likely go forward. By filing this losing motion, Republicans undermined their high ground by starting legal fireworks and looking like they are afraid of a real vote recount. This looks really bad. The Gore people have much more to gain by courtroom actions than Bush does. Instead of going to court, the Republicans should have demanded hand recounts in all heavily Republican counties. Two can play the game.

8. More bad moves. James Baker threatened that Republicans may seek recounts in other close states like Wisconsin and Iowa where Gore won if the Democrats continue their recount in Florida. Already Republicans have claimed the election based on the result of the Florida vote alone. (This was another strategic blunder.) If they lose Florida, the Bush camp will not have moral legitimacy to seek recounts in other states. It’s over.

Bush doesn’t have much time, because if the manual recount is completed in Miami, Broward and Palm Beach, Gore becomes president. Maximum pressure should be exerted on Gore to concede now. Not tomorrow, now. Each day since the election Gore has grown stronger and Bush has weakened. Still, the process to make Gore president – the manual recount – has not yet made full sail. Before your enemy takes to the high seas, strike. And hard.

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The situation for Bush is more than serious - he is in critical condition. So far, his handling of this first crisis of his would-be presidency is shaking public confidence as to whether he is up to the job. It has been completely bungled by his team - or should I say a...
Sunday, 12 November 2000 12:00 AM
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