December 30, 2004 / Washington, D.C. (Associated Press) -- 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 serves
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
Greenspan (formerly Clinton).
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 or 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
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 counter sued, 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.
Observers said the biggest challenge for the Bush administration would 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 Greenspan. She yesterday wished Bush well and asked if
she could start moving some boxes into the White House basement.