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Now it’s unofficial: Gore did win Florida

by Ed Vul­liamy
The Observ­er [1]

As George W. Bush hand­ed fur­ther key gov­ern­ment posts to hard­line Repub­li­can right-wingers, an unof­fi­cial recount of votes in Flori­da appeared to con­firm that Bush lost the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Despite the deci­sion by the US Supreme Court to halt the Flori­da recount in the con­test­ed coun­ties, Amer­i­can media organ­i­sa­tions, includ­ing Knight Rid­der — own­er of the Mia­mi Her­ald — have com­mis­sioned their own counts, gain­ing access to the bal­lots under Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion. The result so far, with the recount­ing of so-called ‘under­votes’ in only one coun­ty com­plet­ed by Fri­day night, indi­cates that Al Gore is ahead by 140 votes.

Flori­da’s 25 elec­toral col­lege votes won Bush the pres­i­den­cy by two seats last Mon­day after the Supreme Court refused to allow the count­ing of 45,000 dis­card­ed votes. But as the media recount was sus­pend­ed for Christ­mas, the votes so far tal­lied in Lake and Broward coun­ties have Gore ahead in the race for the piv­otal state, and hence the White House.

Gore’s lead is expect­ed to soar when count­ing resumes in the New Year and Mia­mi votes are count­ed. In a sep­a­rate exer­cise, the Mia­mi Her­ald com­mis­sioned a team of polit­i­cal ana­lysts and poll­sters to make a sta­tis­ti­cal cal­cu­la­tion based on pro­jec­tions of votes by coun­ty, con­clud­ing that Gore won the state by 23,000.

The media ini­tia­tive is like­ly to bedev­il Bush in the weeks to come, thick­en­ing the pall of ille­git­i­ma­cy that will hang over his inau­gu­ra­tion on 20 Jan­u­ary.

It has already led to a face-off between almost all the news media organ­i­sa­tions in the state and Bush’s pres­i­den­tial team. In the most extreme exam­ple of the Bush cam­p’s des­per­a­tion to avoid a recount, the new direc­tor of the Envi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency, Chris­tine Todd Whit­man, has pro­posed that the Flori­da bal­lots be sealed for 10 years.

Bush’s spokesman Tuck­er Eskew dis­missed the recount as ‘mis­chief-mak­ing’ and ‘inflam­ing pub­lic pas­sions’ while his broth­er, Flori­da gov­er­nor Jeb Bush, accused the papers of ‘try­ing to rewrite his­to­ry’.

Mean­while, Bush made his bold­est ide­o­log­i­cal state­ment yet with the appoint­ment of John Ashcroft as Attor­ney Gen­er­al.

The appoint­ment is espe­cial­ly sig­nif­i­cant, because as head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment Ashcroft would be the man to bring any felony charges against Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton over the Lewin­sky affair. Dur­ing the scan­dal, Ashcroft was among the loud­est and shrillest voic­es for impeach­ment.

There have been many calls to Pres­i­dent-elect Bush to par­don his pre­de­ces­sor as a sign of peace, but he made a point of reject­ing them.

Ashcroft lost his Mis­souri Sen­ate seat to the wid­ow of the state’s pop­u­lar Demo­c­rat gov­er­nor, Mel Car­na­han. From the fam­i­ly of a Pen­ta­costal min­is­ter, he is an out­spo­ken social con­ser­v­a­tive and an ally of the extrem­ist Pat Robert­son.

Ashcroft rep­re­sents a host of mil­i­tant com­mit­tees and activist groups, of which the Chris­t­ian Coali­tion is most promi­nent. He is an oppo­nent not only of abor­tion but even — as he said in one speech — of danc­ing.