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Witness 2000: review of the year Philippa Thomas
Philippa Thomas on how America was left asking, hail to which chief?
US Presidential elections montage
In this month:
The Philippine congress began impeachment proceedings against president Joseph Estrada. Ehud Barak resigned as Israelís prime minister to force and early election.
Hard bargaining in the French resort of Nice led to what EU members described as workable plan for expansion to take in new members.
President Bill Clinton paid a fond farewell to Ireland and the UK and was warmly received in Northern Ireland for his efforts to bolster the peace process.
Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace deal ending their border war.
Syriaís President Bashar Assad began a programme of economic liberalisation.
Some 300,000 people marched in Australia to support reconciliation between the indigenous peoples and the white settlers.
In the UK, the government revealed its legislative programme for the year - and was criticised for allegedly only looking as far ahead as the next General Election.
Shops in the heart of Londonís West End propose fines for pedestrians who walk too slowly. Former building society Bradford and Bingley became the latest high street bank.
French internet service provider Wanadoo bought the UKís Freeserve in a £1.6bn deal, creating Europeís second largest ISP. Airbus officially launches its new "super jumbo jet". In sport, Englandís cricket team shocked its own supporters with yet another cricket Test series win in Pakistan.
Scientists predicted that the ozone hole could heal completely within 50 years.
Chrystabel Leighton-Porter, the inspiration behind the Daily Mirrorís wartime cartoon strip Jane - jokingly dubbed by Churchill as Britainís secret weapon, died aged 87.
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The star-spangled cliffhanger
It became the greatest show on earth. Washington correspondent Philippa Thomas witnessed how America was left asking - hail to which chief?

Read the transcript

Well it's been quite something to have a ringside seat at the longest running US election in history - although now it's over Washington is strangely quiet.

Perhaps everyone's just exhausted. Or rather underwhelmed at having watched two grown men fight themselves to a standstill.

So how should I look back on election 2000?

Well it feels as if this show started with high drama and then rather fizzled out over the long summer Campaign.

And then it came back with a surprise final act that confounded every media prediction and had the main actors ad-libbing their way to the finish through counts, courts and cable TV.

What I enjoyed most was the primary season.

Cast your mind back to New Year 2000. Remember former basketball star and liberal idealist Bill Bradley threatening to snatch the nomination from Gore.

Bill Bradley, where are you now?

And Senator McCain, the Vietnam war hero who energised independent voters and enjoyed the media's adoration.

We were all guilty of becoming his groupies.

He was different, he was accessible, he was irreverent, but he was not the choice of conservative Republican voters or the Republican party machine.

By Super Tuesday - the 7th of March - it was all sewn up for the establishment men - Al Gore, son of a senator, and George W, heir to the famous Bush name, the rising star of Texas.

An end to spontaneity, no more challenges, this was when we switched from the ground war to the air war, and watched millions of dollars being spent on nasty campaign ads, a grim fight to the finish across every swing state in the country.

Of course, along with every other campaign correspondent, I watched breathlessly day to day for breaking news.

But in media terms, the campaign itself never really caught fire.

As the American public weighed up Al Gore and George W Bush, the choice was clear - between personal styles, and between policy prescriptions, liberal populism or Republican tax cuts.

For the last six weeks of the campaign, the basic opinion polls never really Shifted and my basic conclusion was that US elections are just far too long.

So what a shock when it all descended into chaos.

On the night of the election, I was in Austin, hoping to report live on the Bush celebrations.

My husband, the BBC's Richard Lister, was hanging out in Nashville, on guard for a Gore victory.

We were competing with each other - each of course eager to be the one who witnessed the winner emerge.

Instead, it was like that old Chinese proverb, may you live in interesting times.

The popular vote, the electoral vote, dimpled chads and hanging chads, palm trees and protests in Florida.

Nobody but nobody could have written this script.

As a journalist I was just hanging on for dear life, hoping to stay one step ahead of the viewers, hoping in fact that the viewers will still out there, not washing their hands of the whole election madness.

So here we are at Christmas, much better educated - whether we like it or not - about the machinery of American elections.

And witnessing now what the Washington Post has called "the rituals of reconciliation" between the two parties.

Sweetness and light on the surface, deep pools of bitterness underneath.

The Bush camp is pushing forward to the real business of government, while as for Al Gore, well I don't know.

Will he run next time or simply fade away, assured at least of a place in America's history books?