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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

What Gore and Bush Really Mean

November 17, 2000|MIKE DOWNEY

Like you, I don't believe everything I read. I don't even believe everything I see with my own eyes or hear with my own ears.

For example, when I saw George W. Bush with a Band-Aid on his face, I didn't automatically believe the story that it was covering an ingrown hair. Bush isn't the brightest guy in the world. I thought maybe he cut himself, voting.

And when I saw Al Gore playing touch football in Washington with his daughters, I didn't believe he was as relaxed as he looked. I figured Bill Clinton must be out of town, making it safe to have women present for a game of touch.

By and large, though, we take people at their word. Even politicians.

Therefore, when our wannabe presidents step forward to say they're willing to settle this thing, once and for all, some of us are willing to believe them.

Because we're all a little squirrelly by now--even Gore's campaign chairman, Bill Daley, who told Newsweek: "We don't need a new guy until January. What's the rush?"

(Thanks, Bill, but there's more to do at the White House between now and January than to put fresh mints on the pillows and change the bedsheets.)

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If we don't get those absentee ballots counted up pretty soon, we may indeed end up with an absentee president.

Everything still depends on Florida, where the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, is fast becoming the Sunshine State's most controversial right-wing woman since Anita Bryant. I see big things in Harris' future; perhaps she can be appointed ambassador to Chad, or co-host with Regis.

Al Gore might or might not win America's popular vote, but if they ever hold an unpopular vote, Katherine Harris is a cinch.

Meanwhile, to break up the logjam, Bush and Gore both spoke Wednesday to assure us that they do want this election to end before President Nader can take office in 2005.

Bush said: "The election must be fair." Gore said: "We need a resolution that is fair." Pretty gutsy of both, to go out on a limb that way.

As a public service, we now happily bring you What Else They Said and What They Really Meant:

George W.: "This process must be fair, this process must be accurate, and this process must be final."

(What I really mean is: "If I'm still winning, Al, it'll be accurate, it'll be final, and I won't sue anybody.")

Al: "A test of our democracy is underway. It is a test we must pass, and it is a test we will pass, with flying colors."

(What I really mean is: "Anyone you can sue, I can sue better.")

George W.: "Everyone in Florida has had his or her vote counted once. . . . In some counties, they have been counted a third and even a fourth time."

(What I really mean is: "How many times do I have to beat him before that dadgum Gore gives up?")

Al: "Machines can sometimes misread or fail to detect the way ballots are cast. . . . Checking the machine count with a careful hand count is accepted far and wide as the best way to know the true intentions of the voters."

(What I really mean is: "I might have invented the Internet, but I don't honestly trust that technology bull.")

George W.: "This process must have a point of conclusion, a moment when America and the world know who is the next president."

(What I really mean is: "I need to say something here that sounds pithy, but is in reality so obvious that a village idiot would know it.")

Al: "First, we should complete hand counts already begun in Palm Beach County."

(What "I really mean is: "There sure are a whole bunch of Democrats in Palm Beach County.")

George W.: "This is precisely why the laws of the state of Florida have deadlines for certification of the election vote."

(What I really mean is: "Katherine Harris, HELP!!!")

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Al: "I propose that Gov. Bush and I meet personally, one-on-one, as soon as possible, before the vote count is finished . . . to improve the tone of our dialogue."

(What I really mean is: "If I'm ahead by one vote, back off.")

George W.: "Once this election is over, I would be glad to meet with Vice President Gore."

(What I really mean is: "As long as you're not President-Elect Gore, you snippy son of a gun."

I'd just like to take this opportunity to say: "May the better man win." (And for once, I mean it.)

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Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to: Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. E-mail: mike.downey@latimes.com

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