Sunday, November 18, 2001

After a year of sifting through the most confused ballots of the most confused voters in Florida, the major media

have a major announcement to make.

Ahem. Mr. Bush won.

If this weren’t so silly, it might look arrogant. After wasting millions of dollars to document for the nth time what we already knew, is the Bush victory “news” because the major media have decided that they’ve now made it official? Damn the Supreme Court, damn the Electoral College. This election isn’t over until we decide it is.

To be precise, the media’s consortium of clarity paid the National Opinion Research Center to review 175,000 disputed Florida ballots by each county’s election regulations and found that Mr. Bush would win by any of Al Gore’s cherry-picking strategies. Only in a statewide recount (which Mr. Gore never requested) that added “a windfall” of (properly disqualified) “overvotes,” could the consortium declare that Mr. Gore might have won by 60 to 170 votes.

Does this latest recount-to-end-all-recounts finally put the matter to rest? If you believe that, I’ve got some real estate just north of Kabul you might be interested in.

There are some in the press who don’t question Mr. Bush’s victory. They are thoroughly convinced Mr. Gore was the winner, and no recount will ever change their minds.

Even on the week of September 11, Newsweek’s cover story argued Mr. Bush was an “accidental president” selected by jurists, not elected by people. In purple partisan language, Newsweek’s David Kaplan suggested Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, “had long ago become part of the Dark Side. [Sandra] O’Connor appeared beyond compromise.” Only mushy Anthony Kennedy could save America from President Bush, but he caved in.

The day after Newsweek’s cover questioned the president’s dark claim on his office, our enemies killed more than 5,000 Americans. Newsweek should have recalled its issue like a lemon automobile. In their reluctance to “move on” and acknowledge political reality, could the Newsweek editors have been more out of step with America?

There were no apologies nor recalls. Being a journalist means never having to say you’re sorry.

Even after the attacks, the hard-core left wants to undermine this war president by suggesting Al Gore was robbed of his mandate. The day before Halloween, ABC’s insufferable legal expert Jeffrey Toobin appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to promote his book on the Florida battle. Katie Couric read from his opus: “The wrong man was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation’s history. The bell of this election can never be unrung, and the sound will haunt us for some time.” Mr. Toobin added: “This was a process that I don’t think led to the democratic will of the electorate being vindicated.”

Even as many Gore supporters proclaim their support for President Bush (and some publicly acknowledge the obvious: Mr. Gore would have been inferior in the current crisis), Mr. Toobin believes that every undervote and overvote clearly expressed the democratic will for Al Gore. Every Palm Beach County ballot that included votes for Pat Buchanan and Gore are clearly Gore votes. Every dimpled chad that requires a microscope is clearly a Gore vote.

But there are election laws, and clearly any voters who selected in blatant error (whether they voted for two candidates, or one candidate in two places, or no candidate) should be disqualified. Why would ABC employ a legal expert to insist his interpretation of the “democratic will” supersedes all the election laws? Their embarrassment might be behind their failure to let him promote his whiny book on their airwaves.

Count this drawn-out re-recount process as more evidence that the major media are stuffed to the walls with Democrats. Or try this contrast: During last year’s chad chase, reporters obsessed over whether Al Gore botched it by not subjecting more voters to the oily political mastery of Bill Clinton, impeached genius. But this November, Democrats were quietly pleased that President Bush avoided appearances with Republican gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia as if camera crews carried the plague. Republicans were griping that Mr. Bush could make trips to Yankee Stadium or government offices in Northern Virginia, but he couldn’t find time to help Bret Schundler or Mark Earley. The media said next to nothing, since there aren’t any Republicans hanging around in the newsrooms to make these complaints known.

The Bush team knows the ardent partisanship that burns against Republicans in the press corps. In the middle of a war, they clearly put their party colleagues aside to follow the path of the least media resistance. Mr. Bush finally may have won last year’s elections, but the media continue to flex their campaigning muscles.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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