2. Lauer and Stephanopoulos Urge Bush to Govern from "the Middle"
3. Incoming Senators: "Ultra-Conservative" and "Hard-Right"
4. Jennings: "We've Not" Called Ohio; Reynolds: "Everybody Else Has"
5. Night of Danisms: "Race is Hotter than a Times Square Rolex"
6. Letterman's "Top Ten John Kerry Excuses"
Out of touch media. Many in the media admitted their "surprise" at how the exit poll discovered that the most called "moral values" the "most important issue" in determining their vote. On Wednesday's Good Morning America, ABC's Diane Sawyer asserted that the exit poll had "some surprises" and Robin Roberts began with how "our polling unit was out asking thousands of voters what mattered most to them, and the number one response from voters across the country, cited by 22 percent, 'moral values.'" Over on CBS's Early Show, Julie Chen asked: "What was the surprise of the day?" John Roberts replied that the moral values finding was "the real surprise of the day." Dan Rather teased the CBS Evening News, "Moral values. We'll give you a look at the surprise issue that trumped the war, terror and the economy..." ABC's Peter Jennings insisted that "this question of moral values is a surprising one to show up on exit polls" and George Stephanopoulos described it as "an amazing result."
In the afternoon, just before John Kerry's concession speech, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin acknowledged how many journalists are out of touch with the values of Bush supporters:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. About 14 minutes into the 6am EST hour on a GMA which started an hour early, Diane Sawyer noted: "We wanted to know why Americans voted the way we all did at the polls? What are the reasons? What about those issues like moral values? Was it on terrorism? Was it on the economy? We got Robin Roberts. We're going to bring her in now. She's been looking through the exit polls and she's got some surprises. Robin?"
After Roberts recited how single woman backed Kerry while married women voted for Bush, Sawyer opined: "Interesting about the number one issue there. Okay, let's head off to the weather and Tony Perkins."
John Roberts, standing in front of a video screen with a bar graph, answered as if it were still night and restricted his numbers to those in the "Midwest" though they were identical to the overall numbers: "The real surprise of the day actually was the fact that the war or terror and the economy was not the top issue for people in the Midwest. 22 percent of them said 'moral values' was the top issue, two percent more than the economy or jobs and three percent more than terrorism. Some folks around our election data center tonight were saying that the Midwest is shaping up to be the new South in terms of the alignment of both religious and moral attitudes."
Rather introduced the subsequent story, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "An estimated 120 million Americans voted in this election, the highest number ever. There were many issues that motivated people to go to the polls. CBS's Lee Cowan reports on the number one issue."
Cowan explained: "In the end, it wasn't the clatter of the war, it wasn't the thud of the economy, it wasn't even the rantings of the world's most wanted terrorist. In the end, what voters say brought them to the polls was much more quiet [video of people in church]. The number one voter motivator: Morality."
Stephanopoulos, at the anchor desk with Jennings, agreed though the term confused him: "It sure did. It showed up at the top. But, Peter, it's hard to know exactly what it means, moral values, when it's stacked up against other concrete issues like jobs and taxes and health care and the war. But I do think that one of President Bush's strengths was his ability to frame issues in moral terms, right and wrong, good and evil, as Terry Moran just said, using the language of faith."
Jennings: "I don't think at the end of the campaign, George, that this notion of 9/11 and the President's greatness -- I think everybody would agree -- at the time of 9/11, was resonating as loudly in the community as it turned out to."
Jennings soon wondered: "...There is some question, I know, as we talk about, you know, what led to this defeat for Mr. Kerry and this victory for Mr. Bush, as to whether or not we've got this whole notion of moral values right. And today and in the days ahead, we're going to have to be very careful, I think, to try to enumerate what it is we think it means so we don't mislead people with something that it turns out not to be."
Or is simply too foreign to out of touch journalists?
For a rundown of the exit poll numbers: www.cnn.com
Time to move to the center? The President, largely running on conservative issues, won a majority of the vote for the first time in 16 years in presidential elections, Republicans gained Senate and House seats while eleven states passed constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages. A conservative mandate? Not to some members of the media. NBC's Matt Lauer relayed how "a lot of people say" George W. Bush "has governed from the right when he had an opportunity to govern from a more central position. Will he do that? Is there any chance that he'll do that?" ABC's George Stephanopoulos touted how Bush now has "more of an opportunity to go to the middle." Katie Couric, on Today, acted as if Kerry had won as she pressed Senator Bill Frist with one of Kerry's talking points: "Many people feel there's a serious healthcare crisis in this country. What do you as, as Senate Majority Leader and the Bush administration, what would you ideally like to do to make healthcare more available to all Americans?"
At about 6:45am EST on Today which started early, Matt Lauer proposed to Chris Matthews as they broadcast from NBC's "Democracy Plaza": "Well he hasn't convinced them because a lot of people say over the last three and a half to four years he has governed from the right when he had an opportunity to govern from a more central position. Will he do that? Is there any chance that he'll do that?"
Then, as if the election hadn't occurred, Couric took up a Kerry talking point: "And Senator Frist since you're a doctor as well as a Senator I'm just curious about health care. There's still 44 million uninsured Americans. Many people feel there's a serious health care crisis in this country. What do you as, as Senate Majority Leader and the Bush administration, what would you ideally like to do to make healthcare more available to all Americans?"
Following President Bush's 3pm EST acceptance speech, ABC's George Stephanopoulos yearned for Bush to veer away from conservatism: "I think, and perhaps it's counter-intuitively, you hear Vice President Cheney talk about the mandate that came out of the first term even though President Bush didn't win the popular vote. In the second term now that President Bush you would think would be unleashed by this huge outpouring of support in this election, could actually have more of an opportunity to go to the middle."
Plenty of conservative labeling, and some of that of the extreme kind, but nary a liberal could be found by network anchors and reporters in recounting candidate victories and losses. NBC's Tom Brokaw claimed that incoming Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are "very conservative, and very proud of their hard-right credentials." ABC's Peter Jennings didn't tag Tom Daschle, but he described John Thune, who beat Daschle, as "a very conservative member of the now-Republican establishment." On CBS's Early Show, in a round up of Senate and House races, Tracy Smith avoided the liberal label, but four times applied variants of conservative, twice each to members of each party. She dubbed Republican DeMint an "ultra-conservative Republican" before referring to "conservative Democrat Ken Salazar."
A few examples of the many instances of one-sided ideological labeling I observed from Tuesday night and Wednesday morning:
-- NBC, about 10:45pm EST on Tuesday night. Tom Brokaw to Senator John McCain: "It appears tonight that your side of the aisle -- in the Senate, at least -- will be more conservative with Jim DeMint coming in from South Carolina, and Tom Coburn coming in from Oklahoma, very outspoken, very conservative, and very proud of their hard-right credentials."
-- ABC's Peter Jennings, Wednesday morning at about 4:18am EST, as tracked down by the MRC's Jessica Anderson: "And by the way, as ABC's Linda Douglass on Capitol Hill reminds me in an e-mail just a moment ago, John Thune in South Dakota ran on all the moral issues. John Thune's a very conservative member of the now-Republican establishment, but he ran on the moral issues and constantly against Senate Daschle as the principal obstructionist to President Bush's policies as he tried to pass them through the Congress. What South Dakota now comes to grips with, and we'll what happens when the Senate reconvenes, or when the new Senate convenes, as to whether or not the historic influence that the leader brought to the people of South Dakota in terms of assets for the state will be delivered by Mr. Thune."
One of the most humorous moments of election night came after ABC's Dean Reynolds speculated from Boston, at about 1:50am EST Wednesday morning, that the Kerry campaign "must be well and truly shocked tonight, especially about the loss of Ohio." Peter Jennings then gently chided him: "I hate to put you in an embarrassing position here -- we've not projected Ohio." To which, Reynolds, outside in a rainy Boston, shot back: "No, but everybody else has, and I think they can watch television as well as everybody else."
Indeed, by that point, FNC (and Fox) and NBC (and MSNBC) had already called Ohio for Bush and any TV watch could tell by comments from analysts on CNN that Ohio was a lost cause for Kerry.
The MRC's Jessica Anderson tracked down the early morning Wednesday exchange between a warm and dry Jennings and a cold and wet Reynolds:
Reynolds: "Well, Peter you know, when one side in a very close election has to keep asserting its confidence, it tells you something about the level of its confidence, and frankly, the Kerry campaign -- and it's now raining, drizzling here [in Boston], which further dampens the mood -- has been trying to buck itself up for the last, oh, I'd say about six hours. It was only about 12 hours ago that they were feeling really good and earlier this morning when we arrived in Massachusetts, I couldn't find any Kerry campaign folks who didn't think they were going to win. They must be well and truly shocked tonight, especially about the loss of Ohio. If there was one state in the whole country where they thought they could make the economic argument stick, it would be Ohio, which has lost more than 200,000 jobs during George Bush's presidency."
After pleading with viewers to vote ("We've got guys fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan. If they can do what they do, you can get off your duff and go vote"), on election night Dan Rather delivered another night of "Ratherisms" or Danisms," such as: "George Bush is sweeping through the South like a big wheel through a Delta cotton field," "This presidential race is hotter than the Devil's anvil," "The race is, you know, it's humming along like Ray Charles," "This race is hotter that a Times Square Rolex," "Situation in Ohio would give an aspirin a headache" and "John Kerry, his lead is as thin as turnip soup."
At about 7:48pm EST, Rather pleaded: "The polls are still open in many, many states in our great United States of America. If you've not yet voted, we urge you to go to the polls and vote. You may say 'Well, I'm too tired' or what have you. No excuses. We've got guys fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan. If they can do what they do, you can get off your duff and go vote. Then come back and watch us."
The MRC's Brian Boyd on Wednesday went through the Tuesday night video and took down some of Rather's odd observations:
From just past 8pm EST:
-- "In Missouri, the Show Me State, show me insufficient data."
-- "George Bush is sweeping through the South like a big wheel through a Delta cotton field."
-- "This brings us to our projection of right now George Bush with 80 electoral votes, John Kerry with 77. This presidential race is hotter than the Devil's anvil."
From a little past 9pm EST:
-- "New Mexico, Land of Enchantment. Each of the candidates was hoping it would be their land of enchantment."
-- "George Bush is sweeping through the Midwest now like a big combine."
Interview with Joe Lockhart at 12:14am EST:
-- "What about Michigan? It's been out there a long time. Is that making your fingernails sweat?"
Wednesday's Late Show with David Letterman ran a compilation of Rather cracks, including:
-- "This presidential race, you know, it's been crackling like a hickory fire for at least the last hour and a half."
-- "This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex and it has been all night long."
-- "Situation in Ohio would give an aspirin a headache."
-- "John Kerry, his lead is as thin as turnip soup."
From the November 3 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten John Kerry Excuses." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Voters were in a fever-induced haze because they couldn't get flu shots.
9. Floridians confused by shockingly unconfusing ballots.
8. Maybe it wasn't best idea to begin speeches with "yo mama is so fat" jokes.
7. The endorsement from Osama Bin Laden didn't exactly help him.
6. "Dude -- it's the Curse of the Bambino."
5. Should've campaigned more in New Mexico, less in regular Mexico.
4. Turns out voters think it's hot that Cheney has a lesbian daughter.
3. Thought America was ready for a lunatic first lady.
2. Voters seem to really like a weak economy and a badly-run war.
1. Was distracted by late night erotic phone calls from Bill O'Reilly.
-- Brent Baker