- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

Peter's profile

Network coverage of Tuesday's presidential election returns was appalling, says a veteran newspaperman who now heads Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.
Award-winning New York Times scribe Alex Jones calls the network coverage a "carnival of a comedy of errors," adding the anchors displayed "a terrible lack of professional restraint to run headlong into a call on such a critical state" as Florida.
"They were whipsawed by each other to get the numbers up the fastest," says Mr. Jones, underscored by their "lack of guidance and lack of standards."
"They have the pretty faces," he says, "but don't have the rigorous standards."

Absent and otherwise

As crucial votes are weighed all over again in this bizarre presidential beauty contest, Democratic consultant Jennifer Laszlo warns in advance that "Republicans are famous for their successful absentee ballot programs, where they urge senior citizens and others to vote for their candidate in advance of the election."
Some 585,000 absentee ballots were sent out in Florida, with 416,000 returned by late Monday. Still coming in are an undetermined number of overseas ballots, which will be counted for another eight days.
Still, Mrs. Laszlo says regardless who is crowned president, the "human elements of campaigning" proved "most critical" in this year's race between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
She cites, as an example, the "human" experiences of Pennsylvania resident Jeffrey Itell:
"In the past two days, Al Gore called me, Rick Santorum rang me up, Tom Ridge called on behalf of Shrub, so did Shrub's brother Jeb, Al 'Call Me Al' Gore called again, Bill Jefferson Clinton checked in to see how I was doing, MTV asked me to Rock the Vote, and friends of Al called a few times just to reach out and touch. Custom Mortgage also called. Ralph Nader didn't."
Mr. Itell, of course, was referring largely to prerecorded messages the campaigns sent through the phone lines.

Power of one

Hours before voters flocked to the polls, a bit of history resurfaced in Washington. In retrospect, how apropos:
1645 One vote gives Oliver Cromwell control over England.
1649 One vote causes Charles III of England to be executed.
1776 One vote gives America the English language rather than German.
1800 One vote gives Thomas Jefferson the presidency over Aaron Burr.
1825 One vote gives John Quincy Adams the presidency.
1839 One vote wins the Massachusetts governorship for Marcus Morton.
1868 One vote saves Andrew Johnson's presidency from impeachment.
1876 One vote gives Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency.
1933 One vote elects Adolph Hitler head of the Nazi Party.
1941 One vote passes the Selective Service Draft Act before World War II.
1948 One additional vote per precinct would have elected Thomas Dewey.
1960 One vote per precinct gives John F. Kennedy the presidency.
1976 One vote in each precinct in Ohio would have elected President Ford.
1993 One vote by Al Gore approves the largest tax increase in history.
2000 Enough said.

Seeking sanity

If crazy doesn't describe this presidential election, we don't know what does. After all, since when do newspapers publish three "final editions?"
Ironically, a recent conference of the American Society of Political Consultants was titled, "Not Politics As Usual." Stranger yet, participants heard keynote speaker and author Dorree Lynn read from a speech titled "Practice Safe Stress."
She told politicos to take deep breaths on Election Day, and more importantly remember that "there is life after politics."
Pushing the envelope of irony, the society's "Graduate Program in Political Campaigning" is taking place where else, but in the venerable state of Florida.
Finally, barring further ballot recounts, Ms. Lynn will celebrate the publication of her book, "Getting Sane Without Going Crazy," at Teatro Goldoni Restaurant in Washington on Wednesday. Hosts: NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Roll Call's Morton Kondracke.

Florida hangover

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher woke everybody up by announcing at yesterday's press briefing, "Well, I'm not here to make news, but I'm happy to take your questions."

In closing

"Well, we got a lot of strange non-endorsements we got a lot of non-endorsements I should say."
Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, summarizing his campaign upon arrival back home in Washington yesterday.

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