Gore's "Moral High Ground" vs. Bush's "Hardball"; Voter Victim: "My Arrows Didn't Line Up to My Buttons"; Franken: Bush "An Idiot"
-- Weekend Edition
1) Peter Jennings asserted:
"It is a war out there. The presidential campaign only paused for
election day." The networks suddenly found Pat Buchanan newsworthy as he
made prime time.
2) CBS put the Gore camp on the moral and tonal high ground.
John Roberts asserted that "leading in the popular vote, the Gore
campaign believes it has the moral high ground." But Bill Whitaker
asserted that though "the Bush camp wants to be seen as taking the high
road....behind the scenes" they are "playing hardball."
3) ABC and NBC put the burden on the Gore team for escalating
the rhetoric. ABC's Erin Hayes observed how Gore's "campaign generals
today declared war" and reflected "outright disdain for George
Bush." NBC's Tom Brokaw saw the Gore camp's "unmistakable and
uncompromising language: We will not give an inch."
4) NBC's Bob Faw saw victims who "complained they too
were tricked" by the ballot, showcasing a woman who whined: "I was
thoroughly confused because my arrows didn't line up to my buttons."
CBS highlighted a man who filed a lawsuit because "it was extremely
difficult to figure out in fact which way to vote."
5) ABC's Cokie Roberts used the "S" word on the
Late Show to describe the confused voters. CBS's Eric Engberg talked to a
voting machine maker who observed: "You cannot make them idiot
6) Al Franken on NBC's Late Night: "If it's Bush we
should get behind him even though he's a business failure and a drunk til he
was 40 and clearly did coke....The people will have spoken and...I hate him
and he's an idiot."
7) Letterman's "Top Ten Ways the United States Would Be
Different Without a President."
8) "As nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking
chairs." Nope, Dan Rather didn't say it, but another network anchor
ongoing presidential election saga again consumed nearly all of the
broadcast network evening newscasts Thursday night while ABC and CBS
dedicated prime time hours to the situation. CBS's 8pm ET/PT 48 Hours
was devoted to the election as was ABC's 10pm ET/PT Prime Time Thursday.
It was also a big night for Pat Buchanan as his
comment on Thursday's Today, that he believed most of his Palm Beach
County votes were intended for Gore, suddenly made the networks interested
in him after ignoring him for months. During the 9pm ET hour he appeared
on CNN's Larry King Live, during the 10pm ET hour he popped up on
ABC's Prime Time Thursday and MSNBC brought him aboard during its 11pm
On the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather highlighted what
Buchanan had said on Today: "Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan said
today he too believes most of the 3,000 votes he got in Palm Beach County
were probably meant for Al Gore and Buchanan said he thought it was due to
quote, 'ineptitude in the ballot design.'"
For a flavor of the network spin on the day,
here's how ABC, CBS and NBC opened their Thursday, November 9 evening
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
announced: "Good evening everyone. It is a war out there. The
presidential campaign only paused for election day and while we're long
way yet from a constitutional crisis, the whole nation is now engaged in
debate about the election results...."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather observed: "Good
evening. The deadlocked presidential election is still in limbo tonight.
It could be more than a week, perhaps longer than that, before we know
whether we know Texas Governor George Bush or Vice President Al Gore is
the next President."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw declared: "Good
evening. It has never happened before, and it is a long way from over. An
American presidential race that has now entered a new round of campaigning
after election day because there still is no clear winner, and there are
still votes to be counted in Florida and beyond. Here are the latest
numbers from Florida as reported tonight by the Associated Press as it
canvasses county by county. They say that George W. Bush has a lead that
now has been reduced to 362 votes. However, the Secretary of State in
Florida has just reported based on the returns that they have gotten so
far that the George W. Bush lead is now more than 1700 votes."
the Gore camp on the moral and tonal high ground Thursday night. John
Roberts asserted that "leading in the popular vote, the Gore campaign
believes it has the moral high ground and they are casting the Bush
campaign as so hungry to win that they will ignore the American
voters." But in the very next story, Bill Whitaker stressed how
"when top Bush aides came out today they came out firing" and
though "the Bush camp wants to be seen as taking the high
road....behind the scenes the Bush camp is playing hardball."
Dan Rather set up the back-to-back stories from
Nashville and Austin: "With his lead holding, more or less, in the
national popular vote totals, Vice President Al Gore is not giving up
until there is a much closer look at the votes in Florida. And news from
the Gore camp indicates that he's prepared to fight for at least another
month. Gore campaign headquarters in Nashville keeps getting tuned up to
more determination as the hours go by." [Yes, he said "tuned up
to more determination"]
John Roberts portrayed a Gore team on the moral high
"Gore's challenge of the re-count takes the country further into
uncharted constitutional waters. But leading in the popular vote, the Gore
campaign believes it has the moral high ground and they are casting the
Bush campaign as so hungry to win that they will ignore the American
Bill Daley: "In
response to this clear injustice what does the Bush campaign say? They
blithefully dismiss the disenfranchise of thousand of Floridians as being
the usual sort of mistake made in elections." [Again, what he said]
Rather jumped to Bill Whitaker by simply
acknowledging: "There's a different view in Austin." CBS had
some problems with the tape for Whitaker's report jamming, but it began
with him saying, "Since election night this Texas campaign has
circled the wagons" and "when top Bush aides came out today they
came out firing." After a tape re-cue, Whitaker explained two points
from Karl Rove:
language, chief strategist Karl Rove claimed the number of spoiled ballots
in Palm Beach County Florida and the high number of votes for Pat Buchanan
there were not unusual. And those controversial, confusing butterfly
ballots, similar to those used in the home county of Gore's chairman
Karl Rove: "And
it's historically been used in Cook County Illinois. Maybe Mr. Daley's
in a better place to decry democracy and confusion in Cook County than he
is in Florida."
"The Bush camp wants to be seen as taking the high road-"
"The country should look at the way the two campaigns are approaching
this. We have approached this in a calm, in a thoughtful, in a responsible
behind the scenes the Bush camp is playing hardball, threatening to
challenge Democrats in Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico, states where they
claim voting irregularities helped Gore."
contrast to CBS, ABC and NBC put the burden on the Gore team for
escalating the rhetoric and lowering the tone. ABC's Erin Hayes
observed how Gore's "campaign generals today declared war"
and reflected "outright disdain for George Bush." NBC's
Tom Brokaw saw the Gore camp's "unmistakable and uncompromising
language: We will not give an inch."
Erin Hayes checked in from Tallahassee on
ABC's World News Tonight: "For now, Al Gore is not only
unwilling to concede, his campaign generals today declared war. They
are making plans and raising money to fight on the legal front."
Hayes played clips from Bill Daley and Warren
Christopher about alleged voter disenfranchisement in Palm Beach,
before she described the atmosphere: "The tone was unmistakable:
Outright disdain for George Bush."
response to this clear injustice what does the Bush campaign say? They
blithefully dismiss the disenfranchise of thousand of Floridians as
being the usual sort of mistake made in elections."
response from the Republicans, at first measured, former Secretary of
State Baker seeming to pay little heed to the Gore camp's
charges....Later today though, back at the Bush camp, a tougher
Viewers then saw
a clip of Don Evans complaining you can't keep the vote going until
your guy wins.
Up next, Terry Moran with Gore found a group
"girding for battle" as "the rhetoric has escalated,
there's a combative tone." Moran described a candidate doing
what he has to for the best of motives: "They [aides] also say
that he feels he owes it, as part of his duty and that's a very
important concept to this candidate, to fight for the people who tried
to vote for him."
Dean Reynolds with the Bush campaign found:
"They're clearly worried, Peter, that these arguments about
ballot box irregularities have been gaining some traction with the
public. So today, as you heard, they went out and they denounced the
Democrats as being shrill, distorting the political process. They said
that the problems in Palm Beach County, for example, really aren't
problems at all, that Democratic elected officials are the ones that
ran that election. They looked at the ballots, they approved the
ballots, they oversaw the voting..."
Referring to the Democratic lawsuits, later in
the show Peter Jennings asked George Stephanopoulos: "I wonder if
you think that the Democrats may not be on the verge of opening a big
replied: "We're not there yet, but it's certainly
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw
portrayed the Gore team as the ones lowering the tone: "The Gore
campaign set the tone for the day when it's heavyweights appeared in
Florida to make that legal and political case in unmistakable and
uncompromising language: We will not give an inch."
Claire Shipman acknowledged the role of the
media in Gore's plans: "Effectively starting a second campaign
for the White House, this one in the court of public opinion."
again, the networks Thursday night reinforced Democratic rhetoric
about how many Palm Beach County voters are victims not responsible
for their own incompetence, as reporters relayed their protests
without critical comment.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
announced how Democrats say the "will of the people was
thwarted." Steve Osunsami highlighted a protest march over the
supposedly confusing ballot, adding as proof: "Buchanan won more
votes here than in surrounding counties."
ABC then showed
a man in the protest complain: "I may have voted for Buchanan,
not realizing because of the confusion on the ballot."
Osunsami passed along how Democrats are upset
that 19,000 double punched ballots were invalidated, "but Bush
campaign officials point out that's similar to the 14,000 ballots
thrown away in 1996."
Toward the end of his piece, some reason snuck
in as during video of a clash between Bush and Gore supporters a man
holding a Bush-Cheney sign yelled: "What happened here is
-- CBS Evening News. During his story on the
re-count, Byron Pitts reported, without any context or comment about
why: "The President of the NAACP wrote to the U.S. Attorney
General requesting she send federal marshals into Florida to oversee
Reporter Bobbi Harley got time for a full story
on the protest and Jesse Jackson's call for a massive march. Out of
all the people in the protest, she picked out the same guy as had ABC
to showcase, this time with a name on screen. Jim Dwyer displayed his
ignorance: "I really don't know who I voted for. When I went in
I may have voted for Pat Buchanan who I did not want to vote
him up: "In fact, Buchanan's vote totals show him spiking in
Palm Beach County [3,407] as compared to Florida's other 66
counties. Democrats charge that it wasn't just a confusing ballot,
it was an illegal one. Florida law states to quote, 'mark in the
blank spot at the right of the name of the candidate for whom you
desire to vote.'"
Coffey maintained the ballot must be structured to avoid
"confusion which resulted in the disenfranchisement of thousands
and thousands of voters."
Harley found a
victim: "One of those voters is Ron Lickman, who plans to file
suit in state court asking for a new vote."
Florida voter: "And it was extremely difficult to figure out in
fact which way to vote. Once you placed your vote it was too
in a few seconds for the other side: "Republicans say the ballot
was approved by both parties and overseen by Teresa LaPore, the county
elections supervisor, and a Democrat. This afternoon as civil rights
leader Jesse Jackson rallied a crowd outside."
"Every vote counts!"
was bunkered behind closed doors."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "And while all of
Florida does remain in play, one county is getting most of the
attention. Palm Beach County, a wealthy enclave on the East Coast
where Gore voters insist they were confused by what they call an
illegal ballot. As a result, 19,000 ballots were tossed out because
they contained a double punch, or double votes, for presidential
candidates. It is the center of what will surely be a historic
political and legal dispute."
Bob Faw began: "In West Palm Beach,
Florida, today, hundreds of voters take to the streets."
"The Republicans, they want to steal the presidency. This is no
longer democratic action anymore."
Faw found some
victims: "These voters want a new election in Palm Beach County,
where election officials have tossed out those 19,000 ballots punched
twice, cast by voters like Robert Hearst."
holding sign "My Vote Got Nixed": "I cast a vote for
Gore, but at the same time I must have punched the Buchanan column as
candidate Buchanan concedes those votes shouldn't be his."
from Today show: "If the two candidates they pushed were Buchanan
and Gore, almost certainly those are Al Gore's votes and not
"Election officials have not announced how many of the double
punched ballots went to Gore or Buchanan. Hundreds of other protesters
also complained they too were tricked, that the ballot was so
confusing when they tried to vote for Gore they actually voted for
protester: "I was thoroughly confused because my arrows didn't
line up to my buttons."
Sounds like a personal problem to take up with
her boyfriend, not the election commission.
Faw elaborated: "Buchanan received 3,407
votes in Palm Beach, County, three times as many as other Florida
counties, including Pinellas, with the next highest Buchanan total.
Lawyers for the Vice President say the whole process here was
Christopher: "We've come to believe that there are serious and
substantial irregularities resulting from the ballot used only in one
"Lawyers for Governor Bush argue the ballot was not confusing and
that it met all legal requirements."
James Baker: "It
is a ballot that was approved by an elected Democratic official. It is
a ballot that was published in newspapers and hey, guess what, there
were no complaints until after the election."
"The question here is not how much noise disgruntled voters can
make. It's how far the demands for that re-vote will be taken. One
lawsuit was dismissed today as election officials said they'd start
a new re-count here Saturday, with angry voters insisting they'll
keep protesting till every vote counts."
As for how illogical the vote was, FNC's Jim Angle,
on Special Report with Brit Hume, explained and assessed the Gore
the argument, Brit, that they would get more if there were a re-vote,
that somehow the current vote is illegitimate because they should have
gotten more. They have two basic arguments about what happened in Palm
Beach County. One is that 19,000 ballots were disallowed because
people double punched or didn't punch the right place, that some way
they cast a bad ballot. They're saying that is proof in itself that
there was something wrong with this ballot. Now the only problem with
that is that in 1996 there were 15,000 disallowed ballots and Pat
Buchanan, this was not a problem with Pat Buchanan being on the
ballot, so there's clearly something going on which is the number of
disallowed ballots in every election.
point is that they say, 'Look, Pat Buchanan got more than 3,000
votes in Palm Beach County. That is inconceivable. Clearly some people
were confused because they couldn't possibly have intended to vote
for Buchanan.' Well, the fact is Buchanan got 8,788 votes in that
county in the Republican primary in 1996, so he does have support
there, and the Reform Party candidate for Senate got the same number,
about the same number of votes he got here this time, so it is
conceivable that Pat Buchanan got that much support, but that's not
the Gore campaign's argument. They're arguing they would have
gotten enough votes to win if this vote had been different, and they
would like it to be different."
Cokie Roberts used the "S" word on the Late Show to describe
the confused voters, a thought that has yet to make it onto ABC News
while CBS's Eric Engberg talked to a voting machine maker who
observed: "You can make voting systems that are idiot resistant.
You cannot make them idiot proof."
Roberts appeared on Thursday's CBS Late Show.
When David Letterman asked her about people complaining about
confusion about how to vote for Gore, Roberts maintained: "The
sample ballots had gone out. The election officials had looked at
them. People in both parties had had the opportunity to say we don't
like this ballot, this ballot's confused."
"Everybody signed off."
"Everybody signed off on them. And at some point stupidity is not
really an excuse."
The audience applauded her answer.
Earlier, on the CBS Evening News, Eric Engberg
looked at how voting is mostly done utilizing old technology. He
talked to John Seibel of True
Ballot, Inc. about newer and better systems, including one which uses
a computer screen, but Seibel cautioned: "You can make voting
systems that are idiot resistant. You cannot make them idiot proof. As
a very wise man once told me, if you make something idiot-proof
they'll come up with a better idiot."
They certainly did in Palm Beach County.
some voters being stupid or idiots, left-wing actor/writer Al Franken
still sees George W. Bush as America's leading "idiot."
Thursday night he sat down with Conan O'Brien
on NBC's Late Night and immediately pronounced: "We don't
know who's going to be our next President. But when it's decided,
whoever it is, we should all get behind that man. You know I'm for
Gore, but if it's Bush we should get behind him even though he's a
business failure and a drunk til he was 40 and clearly did coke, you
know. The people, you know, the people will have spoken and you know,
just, you know, I hate him and he's an idiot."
O'Brien's audience cheered his snide
the November 9 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top
Ten Ways the United States Would Be Different Without a
President." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Supreme Court justice selected by being 100th caller to Z-100
9. "Hail to the Chief" only played for winner of Pillsbury
8. Instead of going to Iowa and New Hampshire every four years, no one
would go to Iowa and New Hampshire ever
7. With no presidential fitness test, kids would be even fatter and
6. White House interns would be reduced to having sex with each other
5. More time on news for banter between anchor and fat weatherman
4. The position of vice president would be even more insignificant
3. Entire country would operate as inefficiently as the state of
2. Only her friends, family and an occasional guy from T.G.I. Friday's
would know the name "Monica Lewinsky"
1. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be the grandest Blockbuster Video
And from the Late Show Web page, some of the
proposed items for the list which did not make the final cut:
-- To launch political career, Hillary forced to marry King of Norway
-- Teachers would say, "America is a place where any child can
grow up and be...an accountant"
-- Instead of being on "The West Wing," Martin Sheen would
be stuck playing a dead guy on "Diagnosis Murder"
-- In time of international unrest, soldiers ordered into combat by
guy who played Colonel Potter on "M*A*S*H"
-- Goodbye President's Day mattress sale, hello Cher's Birthday
-- Bill Clinton would get no action whatsoever
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams trying to mimic Dan Rather on election
night? Just before midnight ET Tuesday night, MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth recalled, Brian Williams declared: "To quote a great
man, both major presidential campaigns tonight as nervous as a cat in
a room full of rocking chairs. Long tailed cat story."
If Dan Rather ever retires, CBS could hire
Williams. -- Brent Baker
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