Florida Puzzle, Part I
July 24, 2001
Today I am living Election 2000 all over again thanks to
three articles all published within the last few days. After
spending a good deal of yesterday pouring over The Evidence
for Ballot Tampering in Escambia County, Florida, (Paul
Jeb Bush's Recount Role Examined, (Los Angeles Times,
July 14), and How Bush Took Florida: Mining the Overseas
Absentee Vote, (New York Times, July 15), I now find myself
consuming the precious hours of what is left of my weekend
trapped in a recurring nightmare.
In my dream I have a puzzle that I have been working on for
the last seven months. The puzzle has a thousand pieces, but
I have been laboring diligently and now I am almost finished.
I reach in the box to pull out the last piece, but to my horror
I discover that the box is empty. I look under the box, but
the piece isn't there. I look on the floor, but come up empty-handed.
I panic. I know that if I do not find the missing piece, something
very bad will happen.
In my mind, I begin re-tracing my steps. I recall opening
the box, and patiently, patiently I begin re-constructing
the puzzle in my mind.
Part I - The Edge Pieces
The picture on the front of the box is of a stolen election,
and the missing piece, of course, is a peninsula-shaped object
that vaguely resembles Florida. The edge pieces and corner
pieces were provided by the L.A. Times, which recently published
a very fine article entitled Jeb Bush's Recount Role Examined.
When viewed in poor light or from the wrong angle, it does
not look like much. During the recount process, it tells us,
Jeb allegedly recused himself, but his phone records show
ninety-five phone calls made from his office to Dubya's coup-meisters.
There is, as yet, no proof that Jeb himself made the calls,
or if he did, that anything inappropriate was discussed.
However, laying the pieces of the article together paragraph
by paragraph, word by word, you get a very fine border indeed.
Here, in the corner, is the first Jeb quote: "I have
no clue what these phone calls were about." Odd, since
toward the end of the article, Jeb is reminiscing about Thanksgiving
dinner, which he appears to remember in detail so vivid that
one has to question its veracity. Does it not seem strange
that while the good governor cannot remember one single phone
call out of ninety-five made from his office, (ten which originated
from his personal office phone, and one which apparently was
placed to Karl Rove), during a history-making event occurring
in his own back yard, he is somehow able to remember the make
and model of his turkey dressing?
Yes, we can lay Jeb's own words right down on the table next
to each other and see the thunderheads building up over pastoral
fields. Here's his next quote: "They most likely were
return phone calls...In the alternative, they could have been
my assistant passing on a request for an invitation to speak
or an autographed picture [author's note: to Karl Rove?
Oh there's a great visual. I'm sure Rove's office is just
loaded with autographed pictures of Jeb]. They might have
been answering a request on where to eat in Tallahassee for
the hoards of Austin folks that made their way here [author's
note: Next time I am in D.C. and need a food critic, I'll
just pick up the phone and call Dubya]. They could have
been for many reasons. I don't remember."
You called Karl Rove, Jeb, and you don't remember why? You
called Mindy Tucker, and the reason escapes you? You dialed
the private line in George W, Bush's gubernatorial office
in Austin and you have "no clue" what the phone
call was about?
Perhaps the people of Florida ought to insist that the governor
pass a medical examination prior to running for re-election.
And if Jeb did not, in fact, place a single one of those calls,
perhaps he should be trying to get a better handle on what
his staff does with Daddy's private office phone when he's
away on a recusal trip. Hell, next thing you know they'll
be calling the Psychic Hotline or something.
Which brings us all the way over to the next corner piece.
The L.A. Times apparently made a public request for Jeb's
cell phone records, visitor logs for the governor's mansion,
his daily calendar, and his phone messages during the recount.
But the governor's staff - the same detail-oriented staff
that returns every freakin' phone call from every freakin'
miscreant requesting an autographed picture of Governor Bush
- maintains that no such records were kept. Is that "kept"
as in "no one keeps track of this kind of stuff?"
Or is it "kept" as in "You poor naive bastards.
That stuff was shredded a long time ago?" And are we
to believe that his cell phone records are no longer available?
I'm sure Jeb's accountant would be very interested in that
Worse yet, are we expected to swallow the idea that the governor
of Florida does not keep a day planner or have records of
his gubernatorial guests? Not even for security reasons? Not
even so he could recollect those things he may have to lie
about in the future?
Now our border is half-completed, and Mindy Tucker sits squarely
in the third corner. Mindy, who claims she has all her notes
from "those hectic days" - all of them, that is,
except the one that mentions receiving a call from Jeb's office.
She has looked and looked, but to no avail. One has to wonder
if these people are actually from the same party that prattles
on so about accountability and responsibility. One has to
wonder how they managed to orchestrate such an organized and
effective post-election campaign. One has to wonder if people
who cannot keep track of phone calls and visitor's logs are
suited for any type of public service at all.
And Mindy, sweet Mindy, when pressed for further details,
states, "I don't remember what the phone call was."
Ah yes. The best and the brightest.
From Jeb to his campaign staff to Mindy Tucker. With our
fourth corner, we are back to Jeb. We join him at the Thanksgiving
Day feast. Nobody home but his family and Frank Jimenez, then
his "chief lawyer." Just Jeb, (in full recusal),
his wife, his kids, and a Miami lawyer. And they surely had
a lot to be thankful for that day because a Viking hoard of
GOP Congressional water boys had just managed to put an end
to that pesky, post-election vote counting stuff. (Where?
In Miami, of course.)
But here's the kicker. You want to know what they talked
about over their turkey carcass and "awesome" chipolte
laced stuffing? According to the Times, Bush says "they
talked about his dog Marvin and cat Sugar as well as the late
Mother Teresa." Picture this Rockwell-esque scene in
your mind, look me square in my beady little liberal eyes,
and tell me that this sounds plausible.
I'll tell you what I picture. I picture the e-mail that might
have gone to George the day after Jeb responded to the Times,
"Dear George, Everything under control. Blamed the staff
for shoddy record-keeping, and when they got real persistant,
I just told 'em that I couldn't remember anything. (Hey -
thanks to John A. for that line, OK bro? Works like a charm!)
The bastards even wanted to know what I talked about at Thanksgiving
dinner. All because I just happened to have my lawyer there
- LOL! You know what I told them? You will love this. I told
them that we talked about Mother Teresa - ROFLMAO! Mother
Teresa! What a hoot! When was the last time that topic came
up during anyone's dinner conversation???!!! Anyway, it's
all cool now. Just thought I'd let you know. Love, Jeb P.S.
I also told them we talked about stuffing. 'Course it wasn't
the turkey that got stuffed, ya know what I mean?"
Coming soon: The Florida Puzzle, Part II - Escambia County:
If the Pieces Don't Fit, Get Out the Scissors.