Appearance Alert
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CyberAlert -- 11/20/2000 -- ABC on Court: "Conservative"

ABC on Court: "Conservative"; Nets Countered Bush Claims of Hand Count Problems; CBS Gave Uncritical Airing to Re-Vote Demands

1) Peter Jennings on the Florida Supreme Court: "Only one of the judges is considered to be a liberal, the rest are regarded as moderate to conservative."

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."

5) "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 couldn't figure out how to vote.

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."

7) NBC's Saturday Night Live: "Among the types of ballots that will now be counted fore Gore: indented ballots, ballots left completely blank and ballots marked 'Bush.'"


1

The 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:
"We, by the way, tried to avoid labeling people this week but here's a quick take up on the make up of the Florida Supreme Court. There are seven justices. Six were appointed by Democratic Governors. Our legal analyst in Florida tells us that only one of the judges is considered to be a liberal, the rest are regarded as moderate to conservative. The court has been engaged in a running battle with the Florida legislature, which has a Republican majority, over separation of powers, judicial versus legislative."

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.

2

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."
Man: "We have found Bush votes ready to be counted as Gore votes."
Avila: "But individual counters, interviewed before the GOP made those high-profile charges, told NBC News the system, while slow, is working."
Tanya Davis-Johnson, Democratic counter: "We cannot cause mischief."
Avila: "Tanya Davis-Johnson, back for her second shift today as a Democratic counter."
Davis-Johnson: "There's no room for mischief. Your hands are on top of the table at all time. There's no objects at our stations to poke through or to change a vote."
Avila: "In fact, in Palm Beach County, the actual counters and observers make no judgment calls at all. Their job: simply look for cleanly punched ballots with no hanging chads, put those in either a Bush or Gore pile, and move on. Any ballots with swinging, hanging, dimpled or otherwise controversial chads are put in a separate pile for the election canvassing board to decide upon later. Before the Bush campaign allegations, this Republican counter was asked if she saw opportunities for tampering."
Woman: "Four people are looking at every single card, front and back."
Avila: "Green Party observer June Brashares, neither a Gore nor Bush supporter, says she witnessed no skulduggery."
Brashares: "If you stand too near a stack of ballots, people will tell you to step back. So I haven't seen anything as far as tampering."

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 biased."
Garcia: "I know that my Democrat counter was questioning me on my objections and was the one responsible for placing Bush ballots in the Gore pile."
Axelrod countered: "What 'round the clock cameras show inside are two volunteer counters from different parties watched by two observers from different parties. Only after everyone agrees on which hole's been punched is a card placed in a pile that's counted twice, then the pile is held up to the light to make sure no Bush ballots end up in the Gore pile or vice versa....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."
Lemon: "I think this is as near a perfect count as you could have."

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?

3

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 Jack White:
"Republicans made a big deal when the drunk driving story came out right before the election, about the connections to the guy up in Maine who supposedly leaked all that. This woman is a heck of a lot more tied in with the Bush campaign than that fella ever was. She campaigned for him, she was his co-chairman in Florida, she expects an ambassadorship, a lot of people think, or she wants to run for the Senate. Clearly she's a partisan."

-- 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."

4

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.
"Wednesday morning, Bill Daley stood up and said the campaign goes on. And that's what is going on, a campaign. And it's got all the earmarks, not just of Al Gore but of Clinton-Gore -- personal assassination. You want to talk about Katherine Harris, Chip Reid on NBC reports that a high-ranking member of the Gore campaign said if Harris's certification goes ahead, our case against her will make Whitewater look like a picnic.
"I know you guys don't like Bush, I know you don't want Republicans to win, but you have got to call these thug tactics. You can laugh about it. You can say it's illegitimate if George Bush becomes President, I think it's illegitimate if Al Gore becomes President because of what he has done. But if you don't call the kind the thuggish tactics that the Gore campaign is using now for what they are, the notion of objectivity in the media is gone."

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: "I'm sorry. Is that just dogmatic?"
Shields lectured: "You can sit there from your Olympian perch and issue your moral thunderbolts, but the fact of the matter is you and I vote in the same precinct. Do you think the people there are corrupt? Is that what you think they are? Do you think they're corrupt?"
Bennett: "Your arguments are ad hominum."
Shields: "They're not ad hominum."
Bennett: "To attack me being Olympian...The issue isn't the popular vote, Mark. Maybe it sounds Olympian to you. The issue is electoral votes. That's the Constitution. That's the way it works. It's not finished because they won't let them finish. George Bush won that election in Florida. He won it on the recount. Now we are going through the multiple hand counting in different districts and you know what the chaos that that has created, but don't insult me personally.

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."
Bennett: "I don't."
Hunt: "I mean, basically, for you to talk about Mark being ad hominum when you talk about Al Gore stealing, Al Gore's a thug. I'm sorry. Wait Bob I'm going to finish."
Bob Novak: "Let's not insult people."
Bennett: "I can fend for myself."
Hunt: "I'm going to basically say that both these guys have exhibited a win at any cost mindset. And there's no difference and to try to make moral distinctions here is really hypocritical."
Bennett asked: "Let me ask you about that. Where is the character assassination on the part of the Bush campaign? Where is the character assassination?"
Hunt: "Stealing the election -- thugs stealing the election. If that's not a character assassination I don't know what it is."
Bennett: "Who has personally been attacked in the way Katherine Harris has been attacked?"

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

5

"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.

Reporter Bobbi 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 recount-"
Group of protestors: "Re-vote! Re-vote!"
Harley picked up: "But a re-vote. A whole new election here that would almost certainly give Al Gore a victory in Florida. At the center of the argument, the legality of the so-called butterfly ballot. At stake: thousands of votes."

Harley asked some women: "How was the atmosphere at the polling places, confusion?"
Clara Green: "Very, very much."
Another piped up: "Very confusing."

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."
Eleanor Paules: "It bothers me. They took the trouble to come out, you know. They wanted to vote, and I hated them to lose that privilege."

Apparently alluding to the butterfly ballot, voter Lena Rahming complained: "That type of ballot should have never, never been produced, never."
Harley: "Do you think that changed the results of this election?"
Rahming: "It definitely did."
Harley concluded: "Next week, the judge will rule on those lawsuits. If he finds no legal grounds to support a re-vote, he told lawyers today, it will be the most difficult decision of his life."

6

"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:
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment111700d.shtml

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.

END Reprint

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:
"The election is over (sort of), but the race baiting never ends. Here's Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, in today's New York Post: 'In disproportionately black areas, people faced dogs, guns and were required to have three forms of ID. I called the NAACP. They'd already heard this, and they're now on the case investigating. I mean, one day before we were ahead in Florida by three points and we lost? It's like uh-oh, somebody's doing something they shouldn't.'
"People faced dogs and guns? And her evidence for this is...what?
"Brazile doesn't have any. At least none that Cindy Adams of the New York Post shares with readers. It's hard to say who's being more irresponsible: Brazile, for making such an assertion, or the New York Post, for letting it appear without any kind of corroboration."

7

Saturday 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 Florida tonight the hand count continues and Republicans are accusing Democrats of changing the rules. Among the types of ballots that will now be counted for Gore: indented ballots, ballots left completely blank and ballots marked 'Bush.'"

In reality, possibly more reality than joke. -- Brent Baker


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