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A Duel to the Finish for Al, George and Chad

November 17, 2000|ROY RIVENBURG and MARTIN MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Fuzzy math and confusion still reign over the presidential election, so we asked a panel of overpaid in-house pundits to answer some of the most commonly asked questions:

Question: Are we experiencing a constitutional crisis?

Answer: Certainly not. Predictably, the media have blown everything out of proportion by recklessly using words like "crisis" and by broadcasting unedited interviews with Katherine Harris' eyelashes. In fact, everything is working exactly as it should, and even if the dispute drags on past inauguration day, don't panic. President Strom Thurmond will work to maintain order and calm.

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Q: Will there be any product marketing spinoffs from the Florida recount?

A: Yes, a host of items are in the works, including T-shirts ("My grandmother voted in Palm Beach County and all I got was this lousy president"), bumper stickers ("I brake for chads") and action figures (a G.I. Joe Lieberman doll that refuses to fight on Saturdays and a Mighty Dick Cheney doll that comes with its own defibrillator).

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Q: What are the latest developments in Florida?

A: In a surprise maneuver to capture the state's 25 electoral votes, Al Gore is now suing to overturn the final vote tally and let the winner be decided by a Magic 8-Ball.

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Q: We seem to be hurtling toward civil war. How can we avoid that?

A: Detach Florida from the continental United States and set it adrift. (Possible bonus for world peace: Miami bumps into Havana and Elian is reunited with his long-lost relatives.)

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Q: While cleaning out my grandmother's attic, I found three ballot boxes from the 1876 presidential election. Inside were 5,183 (machine-counted) or 26,782 (hand-counted) ballots. What should I do?

A: File a lawsuit demanding that the results of that election be thrown out and that Samuel J. Tilden be declared the winner over Rutherford B. Hayes.

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Q: But wouldn't that disrupt the space-time continuum and change history?

A: Yes, but in a positive way. According to calculations by physicists, the only difference caused by a Tilden presidency would be that the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance" never gets made.

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Q: The whole electoral process is so confusing. Who will decide who is the next president?

A: It's really quite simple. First, the voters vote. Then their votes are recounted and thrown out. Then it goes to court, where a judge throws out the throwing out. Then it goes to a higher court, which overturns the lower court, then an even higher court overrules the lower higher court and then . . . ah, who the heck cares? I got bills to pay.

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Q: What's the best way to resolve the standoff?

A: The Gore camp favors a manual count of ballots, because Democrats are more skilled at election fraud. The Bush camp favors a duel, a la Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, because Republicans are more skilled with firearms.

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Q: Please define "a manual count."

A: He was a famous 18th century German philosopher whose treatise on free will was bastardized by Hollywood into a 1993 movie about a 3-ton killer whale and a 12-year-old street kid.

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Q: If the framers of the Constitution had known it were possible to surgically attach one man's head to another man's body, do you think they would have supported the idea of a "two-headed president"?

A: No. But we're on the phone with our agent about an idea we just got for a heart-warming holiday tale starring Rosie Grier and Ray Milland.

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Q: Isn't it time we admitted that the American Revolution was an abysmal failure? I'm exhausted from all this constant voting anyway. Maybe a monarchy is the way to go. If so, the American King should have a gift for phrase-making, a taste for the good life and look fabulous in a robe.

A: We nominate Don King.

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Q: If Bush wins, what might his cabinet look like?

A: In a JFK flashback, George W. Bush would likely appoint his very capable younger brother, Jeb, to be attorney general. Heartthrob nephew George P. would head a new Cabinet post--the Department of Partying, Carousing and Urban Development. Cousin John Ellis, the Fox News election consultant, would serve as director of communications. And father George Herbert Walker would assume a newly created White House position called "First High Consul," which grants him unlimited powers in time of war and peace. Meanwhile, all other Cabinet posts would be eliminated.

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Q: Any other advantages to a Bush presidency?

A: Alec Baldwin has promised to flee the United States.

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Q: What are the advantages of a Gore presidency?

A: More Karenna photo ops.

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Q: Have there been any new developments in Florida since I started reading this story?

A: Yes: 12 more lawsuits, 23 press conferences and 15 more pounds of mascara added to Secretary of State Katherine Harris' eyelashes.

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E-mail Martin Miller and Roy Rivenburg at socalliving@latimes.com.

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