- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

At long last, adjectives.

Reporters and pundits finally got to satisfy their creative urges yesterday after subsisting for days on tepid campaign events. The McCain victory in New Hampshire gave them clear-cut characters, some drama and a surprise ending.

Interpretations varied.

Cast as heroic victor, Sen. John McCain was called, among other things, "triumphant" and "elated"; his win over Texas Gov. George W. Bush was compared in at least three cases to the sinking of the Titanic.

Mr. McCain "crushed," "stunned," "thrashed" and "poked" Mr. Bush in other reports. The New York Daily News, with typical Gotham bluster, was less delicate in its Page One headline: "McCain Kicks Bush's Butt."

Some were swept up in it.

"They are absolutely flabbergasted. They are ebullient here," gushed an ABC reporter, live from Mr. McCain's raucous headquarters, where the folks had "blocked the coronation process."

"They'd like to say that George Bush has hit an iceberg," the reporter said.

Mr. McCain himself sat astride his victory nonstop, aggressive in the heat of the moment, attractively humble the morning after.

"We have sent a powerful message to Washington that change is coming," he told supporters at his victory rally. "Republicans have recovered their heritage of reform, and it's the beginning of the end to the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore."

In one early interview, NBC's Tom Brokaw said to the senator, "Some of the Bush people have been saying tonight that you're really now the president of New Hampshire."

Yesterday morning, a kinder, gentler Mr. McCain managed to appear simultaneously on three broadcast networks through pre-taped interviews.

"This is the greatest moment of my political life because whatever happens after this, we will have had this really wonderful moment," he told ABC.

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was portrayed as a chipper but chastened also-ran, gamely offering public congratulations to his opponent and turning down offers to appear on talk shows.

"This is a very difficult night for George W. Bush, who was, coming in here, seen and widely advertised as being the inevitable victor and the invincible victor in the long road," said ABC's Peter Jennings, affecting his gravest tone and offering the inevitable cliche: "But it is a long road ahead."

Media descriptions were less valorous of the Gore victory. There was a whole lot of squeaking and eking going on. The vice president "squeaked" by in some broadcast reports, and "eked" by in others.

His sartorial demeanor the "earth tones" prescribed by one feminist consultant was also noted, specifically his tight blue jeans. ABC's Ted Koppel said Mr. Gore looked "buff in a particularly snug pair of jeans," during a weekend MTV event.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called the vice-presidential trousers "weirdly tight," while on-line gossip Matt Drudge saw fit to compile all the comments into one unsavory package yesterday at his Drudge Report on the World Wide Web.

Mr. Bradley, meanwhile, "faced a near-death political experience," according to the Trenton Times in New Jersey.

After the New Hampshire victories, most journalists are on mop-up duty, questioning the validity of erroneous polls, of candidate style over substance, of Mr. McCain's desperate need for a brand new trick.

"Expect a very competitive contest between Bush and McCain," wrote Scott Hogenson of the Conservative News Service. "But don't be shocked if the contest is mathematically decided by April Fools' Day."

A few media mavens are abstaining altogether.

Former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry so garrulous in his Clinton days was particularly particular about where and when he can be expected to comment. Said he to USA Today: "I have a firm belief that you can overexpose yourself in pundit land."

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