In this edition: Why Colin Powell Will Be President
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CARTOON: Dubya Meets Lady Liberty
Sludge Report #45
The Next US President
In the spirit of irrational optimism that C.D. Sludge is so fond of, the following relatively painless resolution is offered as an effective manner to resolve Indecision 2000 in time for Christmas.
The Heart Attack
According to Sludge’s sources Democratic activists in Washington DC have been having bad dreams lately about the introduction by George W. Bush of the General Colin Powell factor to the Indecision 2000 equation.
On reflection Sludge reckons these nocturnal anxieties could be well founded.
These are, that Dick Cheney’s recent heart attack was a case of the groundwork being set for Cheney to step aside to allow Powell into the vice-presidential slot – thereby undermining the Gore public support base in an extremely effective manner.
After a few more days of pressure, as the court battles deepen and no sign of any willingness by Gore to crumble emerges, the Bush camp will be anxious to complete this maneuver. The main obstacle, presuming Cheney is keen on the idea, looks likely to be getting the General to agree.
But now we have an Iraqi crisis (thanks to Iraq turning off its oil supply Thursday) even Powell may decide - reluctantly - to be called. (Sludge hopes his motivations in this case might be to avoid a repeat of the campaign he so decisively fought in 1991 - hence the description of this as an optimistic scenario.)
Courts Cannot Provide Finality
Meanwhile it is increasingly apparent that the Supreme Courts cannot resolve Indecision 2000.
Even if the courts wanted to have the ballots counted – and it may yet take a week or so more for them to decide - it is not apparent that counting them would resolve the question of who wins Florida and its electoral votes in any event.
In the end Florida’s Legislature may decide to appoint the electors, at which point the media caravan will head straight back to Court in Washington. The Justices will then defer to the Congress. The senate will be deadlocked and the Supreme Court might get it back for round three.
Meanwhile January 20th is looking a little too close for any of this to be particularly politically feasible, for anyone – especially now we have another genuine foreign affairs crisis on our hands.
Therefore we have a situation in which there can only be a political solution.
History records this has happened twice before. In 1824 and 1876 deals were done. A deal will be done again.
What Will The Deal Be?
Which of course leads to the question what will be the deal?
It is clear the voting public are not of a mind to accept either Bush or Gore as President. David Letterman has hit public opinion on the nail with his “Bush is not the President. Gore is not the President. Lets leave it that way,” line.
And in practice given the level of political and public angst it would most probably be too much of a slap in the face to both camps if either Gore or Bush now became president. Fast escalating evidence of OJ Simpson like public opinion polarisation is now unmistakable.
Which leaves us logically with Leiberman vs Powell (Cheney) – as only two feasible alternatives (Hence the importance of the heart attack theory.)
Fortunately since we can rely on the US desire for the instant poll to resolve most important decisions it will not be particularly difficult to find out who stands the best chance.
Ask yourself. If a Gallup or Washington Post snap poll was held tomorrow asking which of Lieberman, Powell or Cheney the public would prefer as President. Who would win? As you answer remember that republicans think General Powell is a war hero, while Democrats think he is black and not Dick Cheney.
Additional factors making this deal likely:
1. Logically it has to be a Republican candidate because the Republicans control the House of Congress, the only part of the election in which the result was clear. In addition they hold the best hand (at present) before the courts.
2. Powell might just be acceptable to Al Gore as President. Being remembered as Al Gore, the candidate who put a black man into the Whitehouse might even be a legacy that Gore would be happy with leaving.
3. Ultimately any deal will be Gore’s to write as he will be the one that will need to make the concession for it to be written. In addition it is his casting vote that is needed to warrant it through the Senate – giving him some moral authority on the question.
4. While Bush is unlikely to willingly concede after trying so hard to get back into his daddy’s old office, he is, like all good conservatives, likely to do as he is told.
5. Both the Democratic and Republican machinery have every incentive to resolve this with some finality before Christmas.
And so there it is. The future according to Sludge. With any luck a deal like this could be done and sealed before Christmas. And then we will all be able to go back to prepare for the 2000th Christmas.
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