And the Loser Is ... 

From the boredom of the Florida marathon, presenting the Chaddys

By the time you read this, the nation may know who will be commander-in-thief for the next four years. At this writing, however, it's all just a blur of irritating talking heads.

I'm reduced to suggesting random awards. Winners are forced to receive a Chaddy, featuring a statue of George W. Bush and Al Gore joined at the hip, sporting equally phony frozen smiles.

· Karl Marx "End Justifies the Means" Chaddy: To the Republican Party, which -- in the crassest, least patriotic, most partisan act on record -- was preparing to hijack the election by having the Florida Legislature (which it controls) select a slate of Bush electors as a safeguard against the possibility that a court-ordered recount would result in Al Gore getting more votes.

· Least Convincing Mantra Chaddy: To the Democratic Party, which keeps saying "count every vote" while it does everything in its litigious power to disqualify, on technicalities, thousands of military and other absentee votes that were likely to have favored Bush.

€ Most Convincing Cardboard Cutout Chaddy: To the likeness of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that replaced Thomas for the most important case of his life. Twice the Bush and Gore campaigns appeared before the justices in this historic epic, and twice eight of the nine justices peppered both sides with searing questions while Thomas watched in silence.

· Best Esoteric Question Chaddy: To the first pundit who wonders aloud what those Supreme Court hearings would have been like if the other eight justices had taken Thomas' dynamic approach to the proceedings.

· Least Likely to Be a Nielsen Voter Chaddy (tie): To Bush and Gore, who -- according to aides for both sides -- occupied themselves with other matters while millions of other Americans were glued to TV and radio coverage of the Supreme Court's unprecedented audiotapes. The two were said to have been "briefed" by others.

· CIA "Americans Can't Handle the Truth" Chaddy: To U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for proclaiming that manually recounting votes in Florida would cause "irreparable harm" to Bush by "casting a cloud on his claims of legitimacy" if it turned out to favor Gore. The tortured theory: Even if the court ultimately threw out the recount as illegal, Americans just wouldn't understand.

· Father and Son Picnic Chaddy: Also to Scalia, for not recusing himself or otherwise noting the fact that Bush lead attorney Theodore Olson, who argued before the justices Monday, is a partner of Scalia's son Eugene in the Washington office of the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Although not technically violating ethical canons, Scalia's failure to recuse himself reinforces the perception that the Supreme Court is about as apolitical as William Daley's dad.

· The Lassie Don't Come Home Chaddy: To Gore, for failing to carry his own state of Tennessee, which he represented as U.S. senator for eight years and which would have put him easily over the top without Florida. Gore received 68 percent of the Tennessee vote just 10 years ago when he ran for re-election there, and the Clinton-Gore ticket easily carried it twice.

· Worst Actress Chaddy: To Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, for the least convincing public performance as an individual making her own decisions. Even B-movie choreographers manage to hide puppet strings or, at the very least, cut from the film the hands of the guys holding them from above.

· "Where Are They Now?" Chaddy: To all the politically correct "liberals" in Florida who voted for Ralph Nader's ego. It is fitting that this race be decided by a divided and partisan U.S. Supreme Court: Do you suppose that future Bush nominees to the court will be kind to the leftist causes held dear by these purists?

· "That Depends on What Is Is" Chaddy: To Bush father figure James Baker, for arguing for a literal interpretation of Florida's seven-day election-certification deadline (even though it renders physically impossible a recount statute) while insisting that some silly little postmark law shouldn't matter when it comes to counting military absentee ballots.

· Least Convincing See-No-Evil Monkey Chaddy: To the Gore campaign, for pretending to "distance" itself from lawsuits in Seminole and Martin counties that would throw out thousands of Republican ballots because of mischief in handling ballot applications. Gore's team purports to be removed from the cases because of its "count every vote" commitment, a stance that "is not a party" to reality.

· Bonnie and Clyde Law and Order Chaddy: To the Republicans, known for their crimefighting passion, who have shown not a shred of remorse for actions by election officials that admittedly flew in the face of the law in the ballot-application cases.

· Ideological Long Jump Chaddy: To the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, for abandoning its commitment to states' rights in favor of a judicially activist intervention through a thread of federal law. If the justices were so enamored of an obscure federal provision said to give almighty power to state legislatures, why were they so eager to challenge and even discard the Florida Legislature's broad and nonspecific standards for conducting manual recounts?

· Best Supporting Actor Chaddy (tie): To vice-presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman, who, respectively, seem to have the brainpower and personality lacking at the tops of their tickets. In any combination, these two would crush any form of a Bush-Gore ticket by a margin of 4-to-1 if the election were held tomorrow -- with or without chads' being counted.

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