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Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2000 / 23 Kislev, 5761

Roger Simon

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It ain't over just yet -- WHEN AL GORE DANCES, he dances like nobody is watching. Sometimes smiling, sometimes biting his lip, his arms flapping, his hips swiveling, his eyes usually gazing deeply into Tipper's, he dances with the same concentration that he brings to just about everything else he does in life.

When Al Gore has fun, in other words, he has fun intensely. And last week, not long after he went on TV and conceded the presidency to George W. Bush, he went home and had him some fun.

He threw a party for about 100 people and danced until 2:30 in the morning. "And the bar was drunk dry," a senior aide said. "There was not a drop left."

Even his fiercest opponents might agree that Gore deserved it. He had been in the bunker of indecision for 36 days as the presidency of the United States swayed back and forth in the balance.

And his campaign went through the five stages usually associated with impending death: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Acceptance was now upon them all, and even though some of the guests had cried watching Gore concede on TV, there were few tears when he got back to the vice president's residence to party.

"There was no feeling of loss or dejection," one aide in attendance said. "Just closure. Just finality. And people came up to him all night and said the same thing: 'You won! You won!'"

His campaign spokesman Chris Lehane said of Gore, "He is bigger, has more stature and more moral authority going out of this election than he had coming in."

Whatever he has, however, he is not going to have the Oval Office. Not next year, anyway.

But while Bush may think a difficult and drawn-out election is behind him, Jesse Jackson and other civil-rights leaders are determined to make sure it is not.

Calling what happened to the vote count in Florida "the most dramatic moment" in the history of voting rights "since Selma," where black citizens trying to register to vote in 1965 were punched, clubbed, whipped, tear-gassed and arrested, Jackson said Bush now lacks "moral authority and legitimacy" because of the manner in which the votes were counted -- or not counted -- in Florida.

Admitting, however, that Bush has the "legal authority" to hold the job of president, Jackson placed a phone call to him Thursday and Bush promptly returned the call.

Jackson told me that he asked Bush to appoint a presidential commission to investigate what happened to the Florida vote.

"The commission should be credible and bipartisan," Jackson said. "It could have Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Andy Young on it. We need to know the count; we need to know if there was racial targeting; we need to know if people cannot read instructions well; we need to know what happened in Florida."

Jackson believes he already knows the answer, however: "When the dust clears, it will be known that Al Gore got the most votes in America and Florida. That will be common knowledge among the media, scholars and politicians. And when the loser wins and the winner loses, that stands democracy on its head."

Jackson described the phone call as "congenial" but said Bush made no commitments.

No kidding.

Bush, and his party, though flush with a victory they worked hard and skillfully to achieve, still have some things to worry about. For some weeks, conservative analysts have been looking at the national voting results and finding some disturbing patterns.

Exit polls found 2 percent more voters identifying themselves as liberals than in 1996 and 3 percent fewer calling themselves conservatives. There were also 5 percent fewer voters calling themselves Republicans and 2 percent more calling themselves Democrats.

"The election revealed more negative than positive trends for Republicans," Fred Barnes wrote in The Weekly Standard, pointing out how "Latinos are still basically a Democratic constituency" and "more than ever, blacks are a monolithic voting bloc."

Barnes also noted that Bob Dole, who in 1996 didn't campaign nearly as hard for the black vote as Bush did, got 12 percent of the black vote compared to the 9 percent Bush got this time.

David Brooks, writing in the same magazine, noted, "The geographic picture, on the whole, is ominous for Republicans" because, among other things, "information age elites are trending Democratic."

He also quotes analysts saying, "The Democrats have a huge issue advantage" and "the only reason Bush was able to tie the election is that he blurred policy differences and thus could highlight Gore's personal weaknesses."

None of which made Gore president. Not this time, anyway.

As to the future, he is not tipping his hand, though he will have to work for a living (even if it is just writing a book). The Gores had an income of about $240,000 in 1999, but $175,000 of that came from his salary as vice president.

The possibility that Gore might wish to be president of Harvard University has been widely spoken of in the press, but that would leave him little latitude to do political work.

Some aides talk about him starting a think-tank, especially one with an environmental slant, while others have more concrete political plans: "After two years of campaigning, he has actually become a great candidate," one senior aide said. "And the major constituencies -- labor, women, minorities, enviros -- are invested in him. I mean John Sweeney (president of the AFL-CIO) showed up at the party at his house. If Gore holds on to even one half of the support he has now, he could run against three or four Democrats in 2000 and easily win. The way I see it, he goes to Iowa, Lieberman goes to New Hampshire and they just camp out. And even if there is a slight economic downturn, people are going to see Al Gore as the second coming."

While Jackson was not willing to say that Gore has a lock on the 2004 nomination if he wants it, he did say: "In many ways Gore has been martyred by this process. And people are starting to see Al Gore differently already, just as they are starting to see Bush differently, Two different images of these guys are already beginning to emerge, and Gore's future is bright."

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