The Florida Puzzle
by Carole Schiffler

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 Lukasiak,, "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 yesterday 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," Bush added. "In the alternative, they could have been my assistant passing on a request for an invitation to speak or an autographed picture, [Ed 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"[Ed 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 naïve 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 fun fact. 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.