As our television screens enumerate the elongating days of this never-ending election - Day 29, Day 30, like an Iranian hostage crisis - will there ever come a point when the media will turn out the lights for Al Gore? With every passing day, it becomes more obvious they are nothing but an extension of his campaign and will not concede until he does.
First came November 26, when even the extreme liberal overreaching of the Florida Supreme Court couldn't save Gore's bacon in the extremely selective manual recounts in Democratic counties, and the Florida Secretary of State certified the state's 25 electoral votes for George W. Bush. Was it over? A thousand times no, proclaimed the media. It meant nothing.
The next day, Dan Rather was suggesting to Republican lawyer Ben Ginsberg the argument that the GOP was, believe it or not, in grave danger of losing, and "the proof of that is how hard you and others are fighting on behalf of George Bush to stop the counting." That same night, CBS reporter Byron Pitts whipped out a blackboard of Gore's recount fantasy math. "By the Democrats' math, Al Gore should have finished at least 1,288 votes ahead of George W. Bush."
And the cow should have jumped over the moon.
Even if the press didn't like Gore's math, they could just like Gore. As they waited to air a conference call between Gore and Joe Lieberman and Democratic leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle - an obviously staged public relations event if there ever was one - MSNBC afternoon anchor Ashleigh Banfield completely embarrassed herself. "The last time I was this excited about a two-minute warning for a telephone call was when I was waiting for my prom date to call and invite me to the prom." All this anchorwoman lacked was pom-poms.
The next death blows came on December 4, when the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Florida Supreme Court's ruling until that court could explain itself. In Florida, Judge Sanders Sauls threw every single Gore complaint into the garbage heap for lack of evidence. Was it over? A thousand times no, said the media. That night, ABC and NBC didn't even bother reporting that the Supreme Court vacated the Florida court. Who needs bad news for Gore?
James Warren, the Washington Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune, explicitly said on MSNBC that night that some people might be misled into thinking it was over, but "It's going to be the job of papers like us and news outlets like yourself to remind them that Wednesday, there's a significant trial in Seminole County; that last Friday, there was an interesting suit filed in Martin County; and this may not end with possibly the Florida Supreme Court reverses in some fashion..." And maybe we can all talk ourselves blue in the face until the people rise up as one and say "Fine! Prop up Gore in the White House and shut up!"
With the Democrats' efforts to force endless recounts until the numbers finally work for them, they did something an objective journalist ought to consider interesting. After almost a month of daily demands from endless Democrats (Gore being the primary one) saying that "every ballot must be counted," they reversed themselves completely. Now they're in a courthouse in Tallahassee trying to forbid thousands of votes from counting. If Gore is sincere now, then he and his henchmen were lying all last month. If he was sincere then, he's a hypocrite now. Somehow the media have missed that one.
But wait, some protest. This isn't about serving Gore. Prolonging this means prolonging a story that's producing boffo ratings for news outlets. Yes, they are profiting handsomely from dragging this out. But does anyone really believe they'd do the same if it was Bush that was down by 900 votes? If so, they should listen to Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman.
When Don Imus asked if the media would act the same if roles were reversed, Fineman responded, "Are you kidding?" He said they'd be saying "that George Bush was a crybaby, that he was the spoiled son of a failed President. You know, you could just hear, the personal attacks on Bush would be just absolutely vicious."
It's never going to be Crybaby Time for Al Gore. His crying fits are all the news that's fit to print.