Times Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore | The Nation


Times Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore

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The late Murray Kempton once noted that although the New York Times likes to pose as being above the battle, this position has never stopped the Times, once the battle's fought, from sneaking onto the field and shooting the wounded. November 12, krauthammers at the ready, Times persons swept through the electoral swamps of Florida, shooting those survivors who questioned "President" Bush's alleged plurality.

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Gore Vidal
Nation contributing editor Gore Vidal is a prolific novelist, playwright and essayist, and one of the great stylists...

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In the old Soviet Union, various Russian friends were often surprisingly well informed about the world despite the fact that their view of it was largely shaped by their New York Times, Pravda. When asked how do you find out what's really going on, they would give secret smiles: "You must know how to read Pravda." Now the USSR is gone and we are on our own, trying to sort out our Pravda's often contradictory mendacities, on such lurid view a few weeks ago in an edition that contained three or four not exactly synoptic tales of the findings of a "ballot review conducted for a consortium of news organizations." Apparently, 175,010 ballots from throughout Florida were examined. As always, when the Times's dread sharpshooters are slithering across a bloody no-man's land, one must first deconstruct the headline for clues. "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote." So much for those conspiracy theorists who dared attack the Court's interference in the election when the Court was, simply, as always, anticipating the will of the majority of those people that the Court has, from the very first admiralty suits of the original Republic to now, cherished--property owners. Wall Street Journal headline: "In Election Review, Bush Wins Without Supreme Court Help." Conspiracy? No. They all think alike.

The story: Paragraph one: "A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward." That's pretty plain. State was always for Bush. No point in wading any farther into the joint prose of sharpshooters Ford Fessenden and John Broder (the second name suggests that the hereditary principle is at work not only at the presidential level but even at the humblest journalistic one--but since John M. is not related to David M., was he, like a pope, obliged to change his name from...whatever?).

Paragraph two: "Contrary to what many partisans of former Vice President Al Gore have charged..." Note "partisan." Ugly word. Do anything to win. We know about them. Bushites compassionate. Dumb maybe but real nice. Sincere. "...close examination of the ballots" found that Mr. Bush would have won if the Florida court's order to recount had not been reversed by the Supreme Court. This is bald, bold. True? Keep reading the Times.

Paragraph three: Gist: Even if Gore had got his four-county hand count, which the Supreme Court denied him, Bush would have kept his lead. Get that, sore losers? Real Americans hate a sore loser. You may stop reading this story now because...

Paragraph four: The Times's two scouts step on a landmine. Watch two scouts explode. "But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions...found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots.... The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory...." Only someone truly slimy "ekes." A real man wins big with a 5-to-4 vote. "...if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to 'count all the votes.'" So after paragraph three's firm Bush wins without Supreme Court, the Times, on further evidence, finds Gore "eking" out a victory. What next?

Paragraphs five and six: "In addition, the review found statistical support for the complaints of many voters, particularly elderly Democrats in Palm Beach County," that the ballot was so confusing that "more than 113,000 voters cast ballots for two or more presidential candidates. Of those, 75,000 chose Mr. Gore and a minor candidate; 29,000 chose Mr. Bush and a minor candidate." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, no fan of the inept lower orders, went on record: The butterfly ballot certainly seemed clear to her. But the Times story has now gone off the rails, and I suspect that at this point good Howell Raines, the new executive editor, must have realized that his gunmen were shooting themselves in the feet. So this sentence was added to...clarify? annul? any suggestion that the ballot design was deliberately flawed, leaving the bewildered consortium to conclude that since "there was no clear indication of what the voters intended, those numbers were not included in the consortium's final tabulations." So here we are in paragraph five of what paragraph one told us was "a comprehensive review," only to learn that a significant number of ballots were not counted because the voter, confused by the design of the ballot, voted for both Gore and the Vegetarian candidate! So there is, we are assured, no way of knowing which of the two was wanted. No way? Surely the fact that Gore's name was listed first suggests that he was the voter's choice, unless, maddened by a surfeit of broccoli, his name was so placed as a tease.

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