AUSTIN -- Bliss it was in that very dawn to be alive. Of course, we all need to behave like grown-ups -- the fate of democracy, great principles and all the money that these people have spent are at stake here. But this episode also has the virtue of being incredibly entertaining, thus providing us with national drama headed for the history books.

Jokes are flying on the Internet. Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat have offered to mediate the election for us. Slobodan Milosevic called to suggest that Palm Beach County become an independent republic of Serbia. The late-night comics are in heaven.

The political high road is clear, for at least a while. Of course, Al Gore's camp was entitled to demand a recount in Florida. The race was so tight that the recount was triggered automatically under state law anyway. For George W. Bush's camp to sigh impatiently and pretend that the D's are out of line is ridiculous.

All the world knows that the Bushies would be the ones demanding a recount and raising Cain had this thing gone 300 votes the other way. Since the Bushies may be in some danger of trying to usurp the presidency, they should drop the pretense that they have unquestionable claim to it. That Gore won the popular vote gives him additional political and moral standing. Trying to spin your way into the presidency is bad form.

The Democratic optimists still think that they can win Florida. In the '96 election, there were 2,300 votes from military personnel overseas. Assume that an equal number this year breaks 60-40 for Bush. Assume another 1,000 Floridians in Israel, who break 90-10 for Gore, and "voila" -- a Gore win.

The media have been most unhelpful in referring to last week's event as a recount -- it was actually a re-tally. An actual recount is more tedious and thorough.

The delicate political point for Gore comes over dragging the Palm Beach mess into court. It's pretty clear that a majority of Floridians set out for the polls on Election Day intending to vote for Gore. That they managed not to do so is not necessarily sufficient legal reason to overturn the result.

Every election features fouled-up ballots -- it just happens. Gore could take the moral high road by withdrawing at that point and then spend four years getting therapy to make him more human.

All parties are huffily claiming to support the highest standards of democracy, so let me point out that the upset voters of Palm Beach have a great democratic right at stake as well: their right to take their grievance to court.

I realize that the mere thought of lawyers, technicalities, nitpicking and weeks of Greta Van Sustern is daunting indeed. A system that managed to acquit O.J. Simpson cannot be counted upon to produce justice.

Nevertheless, the right to seek justice cannot be denied. And there's no question that these folks who accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan feel that their democratic rights were taken away.

There is a political endgame here, a revote in Palm Beach, that may be worth seeking. The leverage that the Gore camp has is an injunction to prevent certification of the Florida result until that's settled. Without Florida, Gore wins the Electoral College.

A revote is not a new election. The only people who could vote in a revote were those who already did so on Election Day. The court can provide only that limited remedy.

Now it is true that this might inspire the Bushies to try for recounts elsewhere, trying to tip Oregon or New Mexico the other way, thus dragging us into an endless legal wrangle with the excellent argument that the other guy started it.

None of us are fond of endless legal wrangles. Just having to listen to the Elian Gonzalez case on television produced Elian fatigue in an entire nation.

The Late Impeachment Unpleasantness was, in my opinion, the most ridiculous waste of time and political energy imaginable, as it was clear from the beginning that there was no chance of convicting Bill Clinton. Nevertheless, the House Republicans thought they had a legal grievance, and they pressed it to the bitter, bitter end and were entitled to do so.

Speaking of the Big Dog, you know he would be in this for the endgame.

The other beautiful part of all this is that there will be no reason for hard feelings no matter how it turns out. If you dislike either Bush or Gore, there's nothing worse you could wish on either of them than becoming president at this pass.

Wouldn't surprise me if they simultaneously wrote letters, each conceding to the other.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.