Tags: Networks | Stole | Bush's | Popular | Vote

Networks Stole Bush's Popular Vote

Friday, 10 November 2000 12:00 AM

"What's wrong?" he asked. Between sobs the little boy managed to tell his father there was a naked man in the master bedroom closet.

"That's ridiculous," said the father.

"No, really," insisted the boy. "There's a naked man in there."

The conversation went back and forth with no change until the father grabbed the boy by the hand and said, "Look. Come on upstairs with Daddy. I'll SHOW you there's no naked man in the closet."

Up the stairs they went and into the bedroom where his wife was sleeping soundly. The father marched over to the closet door, threw it open, and there – to his amazement – was, indeed, his best friend completely naked.

"For crying out loud, Harry," said the father. "Haven't you got anything better to do than go around scaring little kids?"

So what resemblance does the American people have with that man? There's a word for both of them in most languages: "sap," "jerk," in Spanish "tonto," Norwegian "tullekop," Yiddish "schlemiel (shle-MEEL)." It's somebody who can be slammed frontally with the most grievous assault and stupidly dismisses it as little more than a prank.

On election night at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time the TV networks drummed and trumpeted the state of Florida right off the map, poured cognac upon it, ignited it into a blue, flaming feast, and presented it on a silver platter to Al Gore. And it was only 7:30 p.m. And now the network chiefs are deep into prayer, fasting and meditation trying to pin-point where they "made a mistake." They're joking about, "Not eggs, but OMELETTES on our face!" and "Oh, waiter. One order of crow, please."

Those networks no more made a mistake than friend Harry was merely trying to scare little kids. This was a venal, vicious attempt to cut the heart out of the Bush campaign – and it was bitterly successful. For weeks the networks had been setting the public up by hammering home the message that "Florida is crucial to Bush's hopes." "Without Florida it would be almost impossible for Bush to win." Over and over and over.

So now, while the American people breathlessly watch recount tallies in Florida, study confusing "butterfly" ballots, watch the first-ever street demonstrations of senior citizens, and await the absentee ballots from overseas, the networks get off merely by saying, "Whoops!"

Collect all the Democrats' complaints about Florida. Take their word for everything. Add up the harm they claim was done to Gore. Then multiply by the number of states in the union and you STILL won't come near the damage done by the network's sneak attack on Bush.

On election night itself Dick Cheney complained that the minute TV announced that Gore had won Florida, the entire volunteer corps at one of the Republican phone banks got up and went home. The announcement of a defeat like Florida cuts the heart out of campaign workers, voters in Western states where the polls are still open, and everybody associated with the final scramble to maximize the Bush turnout. Bush supporters in three time zones plus many even in the Eastern time zone where polls stay open later than 7:30 were demoralized. Talk radio bristles with first-hand reports of people in the West who were listening to the car radio en route to the polls, heard that Gore won Florida, and turned right around and went home.

It is irrelevant to the Florida outcome that Gore was ahead in the popular vote nationally. Irrelevancy, however, doesn't keep Bill Daley and other Gore spokesmen from trying to tincture the American air with the notion that all resistance to Gore's annexing Florida should obligingly cave in on grounds that it's "the will of the American people."

There can be doubt about how many Palm Beach County voters really thought they were voting for Gore when they actually voted for Buchanan. There can be doubt over how many of whose votes got somehow thrown out. There can be doubt over whether or not the ballots were legally designed and there MAY actually be doubt (though I doubt it) over whether the questionable ballots were deliberately intended to bewilder those particular Haitians and elderly Jews in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Of one thing there can be no doubt. If the networks had not handed Florida to Gore so early in the evening, Bush's popular vote would right now be larger than Gore's.

Obviously the Florida announcement was a psychological blow to all who favored Bush. Likewise, the announcement that Bush had carried Gore's home state of Tennessee and Clinton's home state of Arkansas would have been a psychological blow to all who favored Gore.

I would love to be in the congressional hearing room when the TV execs are asked, "Why was the blow to Gore concealed until much later in the evening while the blow to Bush was paraded promiscuously prematurely?"

What do best friend Harry and the "mistaken" networks have in common?

Well, both knew very well what they were doing.

Both were presumed by their innocent victims to be doing something else. And both were completely naked.

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What's wrong? he asked. Between sobs the little boy managed to tell his father there was a naked man in the master bedroom closet. That's ridiculous, said the father. No, really, insisted the boy. There's a naked man in there. The conversation went back and forth...
Friday, 10 November 2000 12:00 AM
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