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Presidential Endgame (posted December 6, 2000)

With the end of the 2000 presidential election now in sight, both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush have to exercise caution about how they present themselves to the American public. Much as is true in an actual political campaign, the candidates must think about how they want to be seen.

In Gore's case, the vice president needs to be careful that he does not appear overly litigious or unable to accept a losing verdict. The burden on the losing candidate is to maintain the legitimacy of the electoral process, not to say or do things that undermine the winner, and make sure that the public is encouraged to respect the election outcome. Right now, Gore is dangerously close to dragging the legal contests out too long and in refusing to concede the election. By playing to his Democratic base, the vice president risks undermining the basic legitimacy of previous election rulings and court decisions.

For his part, Bush needs to move aggressively into his likely presidential transition. More than one-third of the time typically available between Election and Inauguration Day has been lost. Staff appointments need to be made with successful efforts to include Democrats in the new Cabinet. Bush needs to recognize that he has to make meaningful olive branches to opponents and that his current political base is tenuous in terms of governing the country. Unless he recognizes the extraordinary nature of the election aftermath and deals effectively with the cynicism, mistrust, and bitterness that exists among substantial parts of the American public, he will not have the support necessary for presidential leadership.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services