Only in America.
After months of acrid, partisan campaigning followed by a record close election and more than five weeks of divisive post-election media blitzes, charges, counter-charges and cantankerous litigation, two bitter rivals for the presidency stepped up Wednesday night and made us all feel good again about being Americans.
Al Gore's concession and George W. Bush's acceptance speech were billed as being packed with drama and historical significance. They each rose to the occasion.
Bush's talk was acceptable, but Gore's was statesmanlike. If voters had seen more of the Gore that was on display Wednesday, he might be the president-elect today.
Gone was the woodenness, the obnoxious condescension, the boring policy-wonk. Here was a proud man who fought the good fight, still feeling the pain of losing a lifelong quest and convinced he was the real winner. No one could begrudge his comment that he vigorously disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shut down the Florida recount.
Yet the vice president couldn't have been more gracious toward his victorious foe or done a better job of putting aside partisan animosities and urging the nation to rally behind the new president.
His remarks also sent a message, however subtle, to our critics abroad - namely that we are not a laughingstock nor are we tumbling into banana-republic status. We just have our own way of doings things. We quarrel. We fight. We protest. We contest. But when it's over, it's over. We heal and move on.
The president-elect had a tough act to follow, but he managed quite well to "seize the moment." Striking chords of bipartisanship, he spoke from the well of the Democratic-controlled Texas House of Representatives, paid tribute to his defeated rival and delivered an optimistic message of unity and reconciliation. But his severest test will be in governing, not speechmaking.
Gore's task was singularly difficult because in one talk he had to dispel his "sore loser" image and leave a positive impression on the public so that he might one day return to the presidential fray. He succeeded.