- - Thursday, October 20, 2016

Donald Trump and his regiments marched out of Las Vegas Thursday morning in high spirits. Maybe they were just whistling past that famous graveyard where hopes go to die. Or maybe not. Some post-debate polls show the race still tied, and if that’s true the debate changed very little. There’s still the election, to settle the dispute once and for all, or at least until 2020. (That campaign begins Nov. 9.)

The post-debate yapping in the spin room and on the cable-TV panels of the learned and the sagacious was all about the Donald’s gaffe, that he declined to say that he would “accept” the result of the election. What he should have said is that of course he would, but not necessarily until there’s a fair count. That’s his right, just as it was the right of Al Gore to contest the count in the year 2000, even if it puts the nation through another ordeal of court hearings, hanging chads and talking heads. The Democrats have insisted for eight years that George W. Bush was an illegitimate president.

The loser of any election must accept the result once the result is clear, even if suspiciously arrived at, and we can be pretty sure that neither the Donald nor Hillary Clinton will lead their troops armed with pike poles and pitchforks down Pennsylvania Avenue to put things aright. That’s not the American way and the stability of the republic is important above all else. But the notion that a losing candidate must not, in any circumstance, look for fraud is absurd.

If the mainstream media, which has abandoned all pretense of being more than an arm of the Clinton campaign, is looking for useful work it should examine Hillary’s stubborn refusal to talk about the uncontested fact that her paid campaign operatives were caught on video offering to pay people to disrupt Trump rallies with pushing, shoving and smacking of heads. She might not have known what was being done in her name, but she should condemn such violence as an assault on free and fair elections. Her silence is deafening.

Some of the pundits, who have flowered like nightshade, instead suggest that, like Hillary, the media should not pay attention to such evidence because it was collected by people they don’t consider legitimate journalists. Like it or not, anyone with a laptop or a smartphone can be a journalist now, and whoever obtains such evidence, and how, is irrelevant. The mainstream media is happy enough to take whistleblowers on faith if they collect evidence against the favored. Hillary similarly dismisses disclosures by WikiLeaks because the information was obtained by hacking, though she passes up ample opportunities to confirm or deny the truth of the information.

Donald Trump, a prisoner of his own ego, is not a polished candidate, and he has the unfortunate habit of stepping all over himself. But he is dead right about the way so many men and women in the business of reporting the news have no knowledge of, or interest in, following the long-honored tradition of “just the facts, ma’am.” Readers and viewers are catching on, and they now have many sources of information about candidates and campaigns, some of them, we regret to say, more responsible than others.

If Donald Trump accomplishes nothing more than awakening in the public a demand for the relatively unbiased coverage of an earlier information age, he will have done much to strengthen a free society. For that we all owe him our gratitude, even if not necessarily our votes.

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