WHEN THE New York Times reported last month that George W. Bush was a 15-minute governor, a chief executive so uninterested in details that he schedules less time than a parent-teacher conference to make his decisions, one was left to decide if he was incredibly efficient or a lazy frat boy.
Now that Bush wants a 15-minute election, it is much more sinister. The speed with which Bush wants to end the Florida presidential recount is the sign that the party animal is now a political gangster. He has gone from Eddie Haskell to Al Capone. Voters are wailing in Florida for someone to count their votes. Bush has decided to silence them with the gatling gun of raw power.
On Tuesday Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris forced all 67 counties to report their recounted results. This was even though Palm Beach County, riddled with 19,000 double-punched ballots, clearly needed a hand recount. A state judge ruled that Harris had the right to do so, but added that she could consider late filings with a ''sound exercise of discretion.''
On Wednesday, we found out what Harris considered ''discretion.'' She is a co-chair of Bush's Florida presidential campaign (a subtitle that should be on the TV screen every time she speaks). She campaigned for Bush in New Hampshire. She was a Bush delegate at the Republican National Convention.
Given Bush's many allusions to the immoralty of President Clinton, it is of note that Harris accepted $20,000 in campaign contributions in her victorious race for the Florida Senate in 1994 from an insurance executive who was later convicted for conspiracy. Harris was never charged with any crime, but she did support legislation that would have helped the executive. Harris gave the money back four years later. She cannot give back the title of political hack. She should have recused herself from the recount as did Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
With all that, it was of no surprise that Harris stormed onto the TV screens with all the diplomacy of Cruella DeVil, seeking to skin 101 Democrats. With Bush clinging to a 300-vote lead over Al Gore out of 6 million votes cast, Harris said she would absolutely not consider late filed hand counts. The only surprise was that she was not flanked by James Baker, the former secretary of state who is now Bush's chief representative in the recount.
On Tuesday, Baker moaned that hand recounts would take much too long. ''It took 15 hours to count four precincts in Palm Beach County,'' Baker said. ''There are 6,000 precincts in the state of Florida. It would take an inordinate amount of time to count 6,000 precincts manually.''
So the 15-minute governor thinks 15 hours, let alone 15 days, is too long to settle our messiest modern election. Hah! These are the same Republicans who paralyzed America for more than 15 eons investigating a thong.
On Wednesday, Bush said that he wants the election results in Florida to be ''fair, accurate and final.'' The meaning of ''final'' is in the eye of the beholder - or who is eyeing the ballots. The same Bush who wants to deny a hand recount of the tremendous number of fouled ballots in heavily Democratic South Florida is the same Bush who was greatly aided throughout the state by election officials who corrected botched GOP mailings for absentee ballots.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported this week that thousands of Republican-mailed requests for absentee ballots came back to election offices with no voter registration identification number. The GOP forgot to include it. But a Republican official armed with a database was allowed to go through botched requests in Seminole County to add the IDs. Other counties corrected GOP absentee ballot requests by looking up Social Security numbers.
Orange County ended up with a record number of absentee votes, with Bush beating Gore, 21,349 to 16,946. ''We honored them and worked with them,'' said June Condon, a deputy elections official in Orange County.
There is no honoring or working with the double punchers of Palm Beach. They get Cruella's sneer. They do not get 15 days, 15 hours or 15 minutes of Bush's time. They get 15 rounds from his gatling gun.
All that remains is for Bush to dump the bodies without being caught for ditching democracy.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company