Saturday, November 6, 2004

Although more people voted for President Bush than for any other president in American history, it was still a narrow victory — and a narrow escape for this great nation.

Can you imagine what it would be like with a Massachusetts liberal filling the federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court, with liberal judges who would turn more criminals loose for decades to come, as well as repeatedly overruling the voting public’s right to govern itself on such issues as same-sex “marriage”?

With so many elderly Supreme Court justices, choosing their successors will be of historic consequence. The consequences could be tragic if the present justices are replaced with more justices who think their place is to impose their own pet notions or — worse yet — to be guided by what is in fashion in other countries rather than what is set forth in the United States Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

President Bush has made some excellent judicial nominations that have been stymied by Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Perhaps Mr. Daschle’s defeat at the polls will send a message to other Senate Democrats that partisan obstruction is not what the voters want.

This election’s implications reach beyond the government. The election demonstrates mainstream media have lost their power to control what the public will and will not know. Without alternative media like talk radio, Fox News and the Internet, the public would have heard only pro-Kerry spin disguised as news.

Dan Rather’s forged documents were the tip of the iceberg. Ted Koppel’s contrived “ambush journalism” against John O’Neill of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth was more clever, but no less sleazy. Chris Matthews shouting down and browbeating Michelle Malkin on “Hardball” wasn’t his finest hour, either. Other examples abound.

Double standards in the media have long been applied to everything from reporting unemployment statistics to demanding to see the candidates’ military records.

When unemployment was 5.4 percent during the Clinton administration, it was hailed as a great achievement. But the very same unemployment rate has been treated as a disaster under President Bush.

Unsubstantiated charges that Republicans tried to suppress voters likely to vote against them have been trumpeted through the media. But the documented facts that Democrats tried to stop the Florida count of absentee ballots of military personnel overseas in 2000, and tried to stop Ralph Nader from getting on the ballot this year, received very little mention.

Unsubstantiated rumors were enough to keep the media howling after Mr. Bush for months, demanding more information about his military service, even after he signed the official form releasing all his military records to the public. Sen. John Kerry never signed that form but this was passed over in utter silence.

No one even raised the obvious question as to why Lt. Kerry’s honorable discharge from the Navy was issued during the Carter administration, though his service ended earlier. Was his original discharge not honorable but only made “honorable” retroactively under the Democrats?

We don’t know and we will never know, so long as the media think their job is to filter and spin for their own causes and candidates, rather than inform the public and let it decide.

Some say the Democrats will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what they are doing wrong, if they want to regain public support. The time is long overdue for the mainstream media to do the same.

As the aging anchors on network news retire and are replaced by younger people not steeped in the heady sense of power the media acquired during the Vietnam War and Watergate, maybe there will be more emphasis on news in the newsrooms.

The election results spared us the worst. But it will take some rethinking in a lot of places for us to achieve the best.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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