ABC on Court: "Conservative"; Nets Countered Bush Claims of Hand Count Problems; CBS Gave Uncritical Airing to Re-Vote Demands
2) NBC and CBS ruled the Bush team fouled in claiming any mischief in the Palm Beach County recount. NBC's Jim Avila contended: "Individual counters, interviewed before the GOP made those high-profile charges, told NBC News the system...is working." Avila's expert witnesses: A Democrat and a Green Party member.
3) Time's Jack White compared Katherine Harris unfavorably to the guy who leaked the Bush drunk driving story. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift made herself more partisan than even a Democratic political operative in dismissing Harris's motives as purely partisan.
4) Al Hunt denounced Bill Bennett on Capital Gang for daring to criticize Gore's strategy: "Bill Bennett puts on his virtue hat whether there's not a political election and then he puts on his partisan hat when we have an election. Bill, you got your talking points from Austin on this."
6) "The Woodstein Myth Is Dead: Corruption is king." In a piece for National Review Online, the MRC's Tim Graham suggested: "Those who insist on following the letter of the law are presented as arbitrary and partisan. Those who insist on changing the rules arbitrarily to match their advantage are presented as the forces of fairness and deliberation."
Florida Supreme Court is packed with moderates and conservatives, with
just one liberal, ABC's Peter Jennings assured World News Tonight
viewers on Friday night:
I think his effort to avoid labeling failed last week.
At another point in Friday's show Jennings passed along the interesting numbers that if only men voted, Bush would have won by 437 to 101 electoral votes and if only women voted Gore would have won by 369 to 163 electoral votes.
NBC and CBS ruled the Bush team fouled in claiming any mischief in the Palm Beach County recount. On Saturday night, Jim Avila contended: "Individual counters, interviewed before the GOP made those high-profile charges, told NBC News the system, while slow, is working." Avila's expert witnesses: A Democrat and a Green Party member. The next night, CBS reporter Jim Axelrod assured viewers: "Bob Lemon is a 71-year-old Texas lawyer who paid his own way here to be a Democratic observer. If there's truly bad blood or intentional bad counting, he hasn't seen it."
From Palm Beach County, on the November 18 NBC
Nightly News, Jim Avila portrayed an open process incompatible with the
GOP charges of improprieties and suggested any complaints were a PR stunt:
"TV cameras, even the public watch. Every vote counted in full view.
But today, as if on cue, immediately after that Bush campaign news
conference, Republican observers emerged to make accusations about rampant
human error and worse."
Sunday night on the CBS Evening News Jim Axelrod
showed how orderly and open things are inside the counting room, but
"outside, the ever-hungry press is being fed a steady diet of
rhetoric that is rapidly turning ugly. Jennifer Garcia is a Republican
observer who says the tension is growing and the counters are
Well, if a Democrat committed enough to Gore's cause to pay his own way from Texas didn't see anything, how could anyone suggest otherwise?
Katherine Harris came under some fire from pundits on the weekend talk shows. Time's Jack White declared her more relevant and partisan than the guy who leaked the Bush drunk driving story and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift made herself more partisan than even a Democratic political operative in dismissing her motives as purely partisan.
-- Inside Washington. Time national correspondent
-- McLaughlin Group. John McLaughlin asked: "Are Harris's motives predominantly partisan or is she predominantly following the law as she understands it?"
Eleanor Clift answered: "She's a partisan player and proud of it."
But Lawrence O'Donnell, a veteran aide to Democrats and a current TV commentator who has never been a journalist, had more respect for Harris: "In this drama she's been following the law very carefully and scrupulously. In her life as a politician she supports George W. Bush. It is impossible to find a politician in America who doesn't support either Al Gore or George W. Bush. They can't all vacate their offices."
Things got pretty heated on CNN's special hour-long Capital Gang on Saturday night when Mark Shields and Al Hunt took umbrage at guest Bill Bennett's contention that Al Gore's operatives are "stealing" the election and are employing "thuggish tactics." Hunt pretended to criticize both sides equally, but his emotional reaction to Bennett's conservative views betrayed which side his heart truly favors.
Hunt, Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street Journal, proposed near the beginning of the November 18 show: "I'll tell you this, if Al Gore wins the presidency because he emerges ahead in selective recounts in Florida or if George Bush wins it because his Florida co-chairman, the now infamous Mrs. Harris is able to determine who does and doesn't countdown there, it's going to be an illegitimate prize. And I think what the Florida Supreme Court may try to do is insist on some sort of statewide recount, which would give it a little more legitimacy."
Time's Margaret Carlson soon argued that "Al Gore should have insisted and somehow convinced the Bush campaign to recount all counties" and "the Bush campaign should have insisted and begged Katherine Harris to recuse herself, to have the co-chair of the Bush campaign in the position of trying to call who won the election, so brazenly hurt the Bush campaign and if they had certified the election today on the basis of her say so, the legitimacy would have been undercut from the outset of any Bush presidency."
Moderator Mark Shields piped in: "Last time we saw Katherine Harris politically she was in New Hampshire campaigning for George W. Bush."
That prompted Bill Bennett to contend: "You run
for Secretary of State and she won the election. And Republicans and
Democrats run. And if a Republican runs, she has the authority of the
office; if a Democrat runs, he or she has the authority of the office. Her
decision was so arbitrary, it was backed by a Democratic judge. Let me be
frank, even franker than Bob. This may be the worse thing I've ever seen.
I think you know I praise Democrats when I think they do the right thing,
criticize Republicans when I think they do the wrong thing. Al Gore is
trying to steal this election.
Shields shot back: "Bill, I just cannot
disagree more strenuously. In the first place, Al Gore as we sit here
leads in the nation, popular vote. Al Gore has more electoral votes than
George W. Bush. There is no question that hand counting is more accurate
than machine counting. There's no question about that."
Bennett's points were too much for Hunt, who
jumped in to denigrate Bennett: "Listen, Bill Bennett puts on his
virtue hat whether there's not a political election and then he puts on
his partisan hat when we have an election. Bill, you got your talking
points from Austin on this."
The heated argument continued. Later, Carlson sarcastically remarked: "The character assassination that's going on towards the Democrats and from the Republicans is that these people sworn in to count the votes are considered to be stealing it by, you know, they're thugs, they're fraudulent, they're stacking the deck. There are more video cameras in that room than in a Las Vegas casino. You can't cheat."
+++ Watch an enraged Hunt take on Bennett. Late Monday morning MRC Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer video clip from Capital Gang. Go to: http://www.mrc.org
"Re-vote! Re-vote!" Friday night the CBS Evening News delivered a one-sided story sympathetic to a few Palm Beach County voters who were unable to vote or were too stupid to figure out how to vote. CBS, of course, withheld any negative judgment about them or allowed any time for anyone to point out that voter registration list errors or ballot confusion is no reason to void an election.
Harley began her piece by reporting how in a Palm Beach County
courtroom "Judge Jorge Labarga faced the issue that many Palm
Beach voters say is the only fair way to find out who won: not a
Harley asked some women: "How was the
atmosphere at the polling places, confusion?"
Harley: "For these registered voters, it was worse than confusing. Clara Green stood in line for two hours, only to be told her name wasn't on the voter rolls at her precinct. No one could straighten out her problem because election hot lines were jammed with questions about the ballot."
Green: "This is my voter registration card, been having it for, since 1966. I should have been able to vote."
Harley: "Even a veteran Republican poll
worker, who doesn't support a re-vote, admits it was a nearly
unmanageable scene on November 7th."
Apparently alluding to the butterfly ballot,
voter Lena Rahming complained: "That type of ballot should have
never, never been produced, never."
"The Woodstein Myth Is Dead: Corruption is king." In a piece for National Review Online posted on Friday, the MRC's Tim Graham suggested: "Those who insist on following the letter of the law are presented as arbitrary and partisan. Those who insist on changing the rules arbitrarily to match their advantage are presented as the forces of fairness and deliberation."
Picking up on the same information cited by Bill Bennett on Capital Gang about how the Gore team plans to destroy Katherine Harris, Graham outlined how "the media also cannot be counted on to referee the tone coming out of the Gore campaign."
To read this piece online, go to:
Now the text of the November 17 posting:
Many of us who grew up in the 1970s had it drubbed into our heads that journalism is a heroic profession that roots out corruption and wins the day for democracy. Its popular-culture zenith was the movie All the President's Men, in which our cinematic heroes Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein saved the day for democracy by exposing the corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon. Unstated in this carefully calibrated myth is that corruption never roamed the country when John Kennedy was elected in 1960 with the help of vote fraud in Texas and Illinois, or when Lyndon Johnson brought his vulgar appetites for power to bear on a Democrat-dominated Washington. (Grab a dog-eared copy of Victor Lasky's It Didn't Start with Watergate if you're too young to remember, like I am.)
In the 1980s, the national media once again celebrated itself as the slayer of the "sleaze factor," the guardians of the nation's political ethics. Iran-Contra was to be elevated into a crisis in which Daniel Inouye and Warren Rudman saved the Constitution from Ronald Reagan's depredations. But throughout the 1990s and into the new century, the Woodstein myth is dead, a corpse beaten beyond recognition. Over the last eight years, the media have downplayed every scandalous revelation, mangled every corruption allegation into a morass of moral equivalence, and portrayed undeniably corrupt people (start with Webster Hubbell or Susan McDougal) as sympathetic victims of shadowy prosecutors who sing hymns as they jog. Corruption is king, and the media are a very callous palace court. Woodward and Bernstein buried this myth themselves by responding to the Clinton scandals with Carvillesque derision and lame excuses.
It may dismay us, but it should not surprise us, that the media have treated this current impasse with this same morally upside-down interpretation. Those who insist on following the letter of the law are presented as arbitrary and partisan. Those who insist on changing the rules arbitrarily to match their advantage are presented as the forces of fairness and deliberation.
Just this morning, ABC's Charles Gibson was pressing the case of the dimpled-chad brigades of Palm Beach County as the forces of fairness. He asked Florida Agricultural Commissioner Bob Crawford: "To declare that [the race is certified as a Bush victory], but wouldn't that be terribly awkward if you got into a situation where these counties produced a different result than you've certified over the weekend?" Gibson's question doesn't consider that perhaps the awkward-looking side ought to be the side that's still attempting to recount Gore into the winner's circle ten days after the election is over.
Typically, the media also cannot be counted on to referee the tone coming out of the Gore campaign, even though Gore claimed on Wednesday night that he wants both sides to calm down. Last night on MSNBC, reporter Chip Reid told Brian Williams: "If they do not succeed here, there was some interesting, even chilling talk today, I thought, from the Gore campaign. I talked to some aides there. One said that if George Bush does win, and win with the help of Katherine Harris, and Katherine Harris, they believe, will throw more road blocks in the way, and will do everything in her power to certify the election in favor of George Bush, and do everything in her power to make sure that that happens, they said that if George Bush does get into office with her help, the investigation into her role and this entire situation will make Whitewater look like a picnic. So they are already planning for the possibility that they lose here, and this turns into some kind of massive investigation after the fact. The ugliness would continue long after this is over." This revelation didn't even make the first hour of NBC's Today Show this morning.
The networks aren't buzzing about what conservatives are buzzing about: Gore flack Paul Begala's shameful commentary on MSNBC.com suggesting that Bush states are in red because those are the states where James Byrd was dragged to death, where the gay men Matthew Shepard and Barry Winchell were beaten to death, and where "neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color." Is that Gore's dream of stepping down the rhetoric?
In a typical media laugh line, Ted Koppel began a Nightline last August by complaining that Clinton's low personal approval ratings would mar Gore's reputation. "Al Gore has been perhaps the most active vice president in American history, and there's not a hint of scandal associated with Gore's personal behavior." If media stars like Koppel can tell people to ignore the illegal Buddhist Temple fundraising, the iced-tea toilet excusing, the Warnecke house pot-smoking, the Vietnam-with-a-bodyguard touring, the Tennessee tenant-trashing, the Internet-inventor boasting, the Farrakhan finessing, and the secret Russia-to-Iran arms dealing, to list a few, certainly they can ignore the Harris trashing and the election stealing.
The Chip Reid related threat to Harris and Paul
Begala's tirade are not the only examples of bile from the Gore
camp. In their Thursday, November 16 daily e-mail report, National
Review's John J. Miller & Ramesh Ponnuru relayed:
Night Live comedy writers more perceptive than journalists? Here's
the opening joke from Saturday Night Live's "Weekend
Update" news show, as announced by Jimmy Fallon:
In reality, possibly more reality than joke. -- Brent Baker
Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions
which make CyberAlert possible, by providing a tax-deductible
donation. Use the secure donations page set up for CyberAlert
readers and subscribers:
>>>To subscribe to CyberAlert, send a
blank e-mail to:
>>>You can learn what has been posted each day on the MRC's Web site by subscribing to the "MRC Web Site News" distributed every weekday afternoon. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, go to: http://www.mrc.org/newsletters.