How it ends

December 30, 2004

WASHINGTON — After four years of legal wrangling, George W. Bush was finally
declared the winner of the 2000 presidential election yesterday.

Bush, a Republican, will take the oath of office at noon today and serve
until Jan. 20, 2005, a term of about three weeks. Then he gives way to the
winner of the 2004 presidential election, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham

Facing a drastically shortened presidency, Bush attempted to strike an
optimistic tone last night. “We have a lot to accomplish in the next three
weeks,” Bush said. “Reforming Social Security alone is probably going to eat
up four to five hours. Let’s get to work!” Aides yesterday were calling
temporary employment agencies in a frantic effort to fill Cabinet posts.

Bush’s victory ends a four-year court battle between him and Democratic
candidate Al Gore over the results of the 2000 election.

While the dispute raged on, the nation installed an interim president: New
York Yankees Manager Joe Torre. Torre admitted that running a country and a
baseball team simultaneously has been a strain. “At times, it’s been
difficult to keep the two things straight. Although, in retrospect, trading
Jesse Helms to the Red Sox turned out OK.”

Torre’s four years in office were marked by continued prosperity at home and
relative calm abroad. His most controversial move was appointing Yankees
bench coach Don Zimmer to the Supreme Court. Critics charged that Zimmer
lacked experience. He also spit tobacco juice on Antonin Scalia’s shoes,
angering conservatives.

Torre’s boldest foreign policy initiative was making Cuba the 51st state in
an effort to improve U.S. pitching.

Torre was planning to vacate the White House by midnight tonight, with Bush
moving in immediately. Eager to give an aura of permanency to his three-week
administration, Bush rebuffed suggestions that he sleep on a bare mattress on
the floor and live out of suitcases.

Gore, meanwhile, has yet to concede defeat. The former vice president issued
a statement today saying, “It would be improper and disrespectful to the
democratic process to act hastily before all the facts are known.”

The legal tangle over the 2000 election began with a Gore lawsuit over the
confusing design of ballots in Florida. When the courts sided with Gore, Bush
filed suit, arguing that the Oregon results were invalid because some ballots
were yellow and others pink. Gore countersued, charging that the West
Virginia results should be thrown out because some people failed to receive
“I Voted Today” stickers.

Through the years, various officials proposed compromises to resolve the
impasse. All were rejected, including:

* Establishing a co-presidency, with the two men sharing duties and splitting
the White House. Although never implemented, the idea gave rise to a hit TV
show, East Wing, West Wing.

* Establishing temporarily separate nations, with each candidate ruling the
states he won in the 2000 election. Gore, who failed to carry his native
Tennessee, balked at the idea because it would mean showing a passport every
time he went home.

* Letting Jimmy Carter sort it all out.

Observers said the biggest challenge for the Bush administration will be
working with Congress, which adjourns tomorrow and isn’t expected back until
after Bush’s term ends. “One day may not be quite enough time to overhaul the
tax system,” a Bush aide admitted. “But maybe we can get started and then
finish it later with a big conference call or something.”

Meanwhile, Bush also must work on his legacy and prepare to transfer power to
President-elect Clinton. Clinton yesterday wished Bush well and asked if she
could start moving some boxes into the White House basement.

My mom sent this item to me; I don’t know where she got it, and so I apologize to whoever I stole it from, but I like it anyway.

As for me, if I had Photoshop, I’d be working on a Bush/Lieberman image, because I wouldn’t be surprised to find that’s how this mess really ends.