- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Journalistic alchemy

“Readers of the New York Times were treated on Sunday to a massive report claiming that hundreds of overseas Florida ballots cast in violation of state law were nonetheless counted by election officials under pressure from representatives of George W. Bush,” Bob Zelnick writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“While even the Times stops short of claiming that inclusion of the ‘flawed’ votes spelled the difference between victory and defeat for Mr. Bush, the report is clearly meant to provide ammunition for those who question the legitimacy of his victory and presidency,” said Mr. Zelnick, a professor of journalism at Boston University and research fellow at the Hoover Institution whose book on the Florida contest will appear next month.

“Considering the vast research that went into the report, there are stunning critical gaps,” Mr. Zelnick said, such as the failure to report that federal law required the counting of virtually all of the military ballots that the Times claimed were “flawed” under state law.

The Times also failed to report that the Gore camp succeeded in blocking 788 overseas military ballots, mostly in counties controlled by Democratic canvassing boards. Compared with that, “the number of voters documented by the Times who cast illegal ballots — e.g., by omitting to include a witness, or mailing envelopes postmarked inside the U.S. — seems positively puny,” Mr. Zelnick said.

In fact, the Bush campaign already had won a victory in federal court, and expected to pick up another 500 military votes, when the U.S. Supreme Court decision made it all moot.

“Through journalistic alchemy, absentee votes required by federal law to be counted have now become ‘flawed ballots’ serving to further delegitimize the victory,” Mr. Zelnick said. “We can expect more of the same in weeks ahead when Sen. Christopher Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, takes his Rules Committee on an excursion through election reform. The myth of a stolen election gallops on, impervious to fact, reason and law.”

A blow-dried curiosity

Many of the Hollywood glitterati “are abuzz over Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a blow-dried, smooth-talking curiosity who has impressed in his auditions” on the Left Coast, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Edwards recently met with Walt Disney Chairman Michael D. Eisner and networked over shrimp rolls during a well-attended political blind date at the Beverly Hills home of Lynn Wasserman, daughter of movie mogul Lew. ‘Very smart, very likeable, very charming,’ offered one of those who observed the senator up close.”

But reporters Faye Fiore and Mark Z. Barabak cautioned that “Hollywood is notoriously fickle and its sentiments fleeting,” and quoted an anonymous Democratic fund-raiser to make the point: “They’ll let people come and do their dance and balance balls on their noses like trained seals. They’ll throw a little money their way — not much — take a lot of their time, then wait and see where things are moving and flock in one direction.”

However, there is one Democratic presidential contender who is viewed with suspicion by the show-biz crowd: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.

“Lieberman is a weird calculation. He clearly thinks he can slam the entertainment industry and still ask it for money,” an anonymous film-industry lobbyist in Washington told the reporters. “It’s worth noting that Bush has been hands-off on Hollywood. I don’t think that lets Bush carry Hollywood by any measure, but it may leave some looking for the Democrat who doesn’t bash.”

Oh, yeah, that guy

Who is the leader of the Democratic Party?

“There is no obvious and natural leader,” Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and 2000 vice-presidential nominee, told inquiring reporters Monday at the Democratic Leadership Council meeting in Indianapolis.

However, Mr. Lieberman went on to mention Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the New York Times reports.

And then he said, “Obviously, President Clinton.”

And then one more name came to mind: “Former Vice President Gore.”

Electrifying revelation

Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the Bush administration’s energy-policy coordinator, wants the Navy to pay the escalating electricity bill for his home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.

The request, a $186,000 item in a spending bill moving through the Republican-controlled House, was denounced yesterday by Democrats, the Associated Press reports. But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer defended the request, saying the effort to get the Navy to shoulder more of the expense was begun when Vice President Al Gore occupied the residence.

And by a party-line 33-29 vote, the House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to let the Navy pay the entire bill. Whatever portion of the electric bill not paid by the Navy has been paid from the vice president’s official budget — not out of his own pocket.

Last year, Congress appropriated $42,600 from the vice president’s budget to pay for electricity at the 33-room mansion, leaving the Navy responsible for the remaining $93,900.

Furthermore, Mr. Fleischer said, the $186,000 estimate for the year was determined by taking the expenses for the first six months of fiscal 2001, which began Oct. 1, and multiplying it by two.

“Dick Cheney lived in the Naval Observatory for one of those six months,” said Mr. Fleischer. “Al Gore lived there for three months.”

Crazy conservatives

“The House Republican leadership is just too conservative for the sensibilities of Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy,” writes Brent Baker of the Media Research Center.

“On Friday’s ‘Washington Week’ on PBS, he pleaded: ‘Is there just no, no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center?’

“Just after a discussion about conservative opposition to Shays-Meehan [campaign-finance reform legislation], on the July 13 show, Duffy asked Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin: ‘The thing I’m curious about is why Dick Armey and Tom DeLay just seem to steam ahead with a conservative approach. They’ve been like this for a couple of years. Is there just no, no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center? Can George Bush do it?’

“Eilperin lamented: ‘Well, it’s hard to see how he can. When you look at the House Republicans, they’re overwhelmingly conservative. In fact, DeLay in particular saw this election as a mandate. He basically feels like the Republican vision won in 2000, regardless of Florida and what people might say about Al Gore, and the fact that Republicans at that time controlled both the legislative and the executive branch gave him carte blanche, in his opinion, to pursue anything he wanted to do.’”

Mr. Baker offered this comment: “I want to know why Time magazine steams ahead with a liberal tilt. Is there just no moderation at all? Is there something that can bring them back to the center?”

The country comes first

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, wants everyone to know how much she loves being a senator — and what a sacrifice she is making.

“I love what I’m doing. I love every minute. Being in the Senate is the most exciting experience in the world for me. I can’t tell you how much I love it,” Mrs. Clinton told New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams.

“The only problem I have is there’s simply no down time. For me. For friends. To maybe have a day with the girls and just laugh or treat myself to a gossipy lunch or go to a spa with them for an afternoon. I’m finding it hard to have any time. I’m at the mercy of schedules. The best I can do is stay in touch by phone,” said Mrs. Clinton, who, according to Mrs. Adams, made the comments in an unsolicited phone call to the columnist.

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