A few minutes ago, MSNBC's David Gregory spent about thirty seconds telling viewers about the recount in the Minnesota Senate race. In those thirty seconds, Gregory said very little -- but he did tell viewers the recount will occur "at a total cost of about $86,000 to Minnesota taxpayers."
It's odd that Gregory would focus on the recount's cost, particularly given that it wasn't a detailed report -- the cost of the recount was one of very few bits of information Gregory gave viewers. The cost just isn't newsworthy. Media outlets don't typically emphacize how much elections cost; they certainly don't emphacize how much individual aspects of elections cost. (When was the last time you saw a newscaster announce "election workers rolled voting machines out of storage this morning, at a cost to taxpayers of ..."?)
And that's all this recount is: it is one part of the elections process. Its cost is, simply put, irrelevent. Elections are worth doing correctly no matter how much they cost. Not only that, but $86,000 is, even in the midst of a struggling economy, an utterly trivial amount of money for the state of Minnesota to spend in order to get the results of an election right.
How trivial? The $86,000 cost comes out to 1.7 cents per Minnesota resident. One point seven cents. It's a mere three cents per vote. Anybody out there think making sure each vote is counted correctly isn't worth three cents? Anyone at all?
So why is David Gregory making a point of stressing the cost of the recount, if that cost is completely trivial (and would be worth spending if it were ten times as much)?
What we do know is that Norm Coleman, clinging to a 200 vote lead, has stressed the cost of the recount in arguing that it should not proceed. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reported "Coleman urged Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying that the prospect of changing the result was remote and that a recount would be costly to taxpayers (about $86,000)."
Awfully nice of Gregory to carry Coleman's water like that, isn't it?
Discussing the possibility of Democrats gaining a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Joe Scarborough stated, "So, with [Sen. Ted] Stevens losing, Democrats have 58 [senators and Senator-elects]. They've got this run-off in Georgia, which could get them to 59. ... If Al Franken steals enough votes in Minnesota, they get to 60. I'm not saying he stole any votes, I'm just saying, as a Republican from Florida, I mean, it's a close race. Steal some votes, you get over the top." In fact, Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has repeatedly said there is no actual evidence of fraud in the vote count of the state's Senate race.
Time repeated an "accus[ation]" by Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has " 'breach[ed] neutrality' by saying that the State Canvassing Board will probably consider taking up ... tossed absentee ballots" in advance of a recount in the Senate race between Coleman and Al Franken. But Time did not note that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved of the composition of the board Ritchie named to certify the vote and oversee the recount or that a lawyer for Coleman's campaign reportedly said that the "state should feel good about who's on the panel."
Conservatives have been relentlessly pushing the notion that Democrats in Minnesota are trying to "steal" the recount underway between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. And we mean relentless.
There's been zero real evidence to prop up the "stealing" meme, but sadly that hasn't stopped the mainstream press for doing the GOP handiwork by advertising the conservatives' claim. For instance, last week the New York Times, in a recount news article, wasted everyone's time by quoting Sean Hannity who claimed (surprise!) Dems were trying to steal the election.
The press really needs to walk away from the shiny GOP object that is, they're-stealing-the-election claim. And at the very least, if the press is going to air those hollow allegations, reporters absolutely must include mention of the fact that Minnesota's Republican governor confirmed, yet again, on Fox News Sunday that there's no proof to back up the "stealing" claim.
On Fox News' The Beltway Boys, co-host Fred Barnes echoed the discredited rumor that ballots in the Minnesota Senate race were mishandled, stating: "We've seen, under some questionable circumstances, Franken gaining, you know, 32 ballots from the trunk of somebody's car that had been sitting there for a few days. I mean, I find that a bit suspicious." In fact, state officials have refuted rumors that the ballots were handled improperly, and a lawyer for Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign, who initially raised questions about those ballots, reportedly said afterward that he had been assured the ballots were not tampered with.
Discussing reports that President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton secretary of state, several media figures have responded with smears, including speculation that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's, references to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]," and speculation that Obama is considering the nomination because if Clinton remains in the Senate, she poses a threat of challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 2012 and can "mak[e] trouble" for him in the Senate.
We noted earlier the several blotches that appeared in the Friday Times article about the Al Franken/Norm Coleman recount. We didn't' like the way the article was heavily favored in terms of quoting and referencing Coleman supporters, and how the Times gave a platform to the GOP claim (completely unsubstantiated) that the race was being "stolen." And how the newspaper even quoted Sean Hannity, as if his propaganda had any relevance in the recount.
Now we find out that a person quoted in the Times piece and presented as sort of an Everyman Minnesota voter (who, by the way, came down on the side of Coleman), actually has close ties to the GOP. Worse, the Everyman voter says he explained his GOP connection to the Times reporter and that even the Everyman voter was surprised when his GOP ties were not mentioned in the Times article.
Go read more here. It's not pretty folks.
Chris Matthews echoed the discredited rumor that 32 ballots from Minneapolis were mishandled in the Minnesota Senate race. Matthews asked: "What about these absentee ballots that were found in somebody's back seat and they're now counting them as official -- what is that about? That sounds pretty squirrely or sneaky or what -- I don't know what it sounds like." In fact, a lawyer for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has reportedly said regarding those ballots that "[i]t does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern."
Bill O'Reilly claimed that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) was "actively rooting for Al Franken" in the Senate race between Franken and incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and that "the fix is in." But O'Reilly did not note that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved of the composition of the canvassing board Ritchie named to certify the vote and oversee the recount or that a lawyer for Coleman's campaign reportedly said that the "state should feel good about who's on the panel."
The New York Times reported that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, "who is in charge of the recount" in the Minnesota Senate race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, "lamented the campaigns' 'hand grenades at each other,' " adding: "But as a well-known Democrat, he has not eluded those grenades, with Republicans strongly questioning his objectivity." But the Times did not note that Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that the canvassing board Ritchie named to certify the vote overseeing the recount was "fair" and that a lawyer for Coleman's campaign also reportedly said that the "state should feel good about who's on the panel."
Just before Election Day, we noted that the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in preperation for the final showdown between Al Franken and Norm Coleman, ordered the paper's local columnists, whose work appeared in the news pages, to "refrain refrain from partisan political commentary in their columns on the news pages, at least until after the election."
The editor was quite clear:
For the duration of the campaign, we will not run any columns on the news pages that support or attack one candidate or the other or take a strong partisan stand.
We thought that was a bit odd (aren't pundits supposed to opine about campaigns?), but if that was the ground rule set down, so be it. But the question now is, does the edict still stand? Because technically, the election is not over since Minnesota is about to begin a lengthy recount of the hyper-close race.
And if the Strib editor didn't want to overly influence the public's perception of the campaign, wouldn't that still apply during the contentious recount process?
We ask because we saw that Strib's in-house Dem critic, Katherine Kersten, just published a column critical of Minnesota's Democratic Secretary of State who is oveseeing the recournt. Does the Strib have its thumb on the scale?
Dan Kennedy at Media Nation can't recall a time when pointless speculation for the next presidential election cycle basically began 24 hours after the most recent one concluded.
Neither can we. But it seems to be part of the Beltway press' desire for a truly permanent campaign industry. The press, as you recall, criticizes politicians (and especially a certain former Democratic president) for adopting permanent campaign mode. For obsessing over politics and never fully turning their attention to governing.
But now the press, addicted to the attention that campaign seasons bring them (i.e. TV face time and book deals), and coming off an unprecedented 22-month White House campaign season, seems unwilling to walk away.
And note that this desire for endless campaign coverage runs counter to the interest of news consumers. As we mentioned yesterday, when post-election news consumers were recently asked if they'd miss following campaign news, an astounding 82 percent said no.
The top of this article seems fine as the reporter outlines the extraordinarily close recount race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. But boy, the piece completely falls apart as the Times' Christina Capecchi stuffs the second half of the dispatch with right-wing talk points presented by right-wing talking heads.
*The article quotes Coleman's election attorney who accuses the Franken camp of vote-counting ""shenanigans," but requires the attorney to provide not proof/examples.
*In addressing the fact that the Secretary of State overseeing the recount is a Democrat (last time we checked that was allowed), the Times reports that Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten traced the official's "ties to liberal Democratic groups."
The Times though, doesn't bother to note that Kersten is a right-winger who smeared Franken right before Election Day as a "slanderer of Christianity." She's hardly a source worth citing in the New York Times.
*Speaking of dubious sources, the Times also quotes Sean Hannity who claims there's some "fishy business" unfolding in Minnesota. This has been the right-wing mantra all week: Dems are trying to "steal" the Minnesota election. The proof? There is none, which means there's absolutely no reason for the newspaper to be legitimize that kinds of GOP conspiracy talk.
In total, the Times article quotes or references six Coleman supporters but just one Franken backer.
The Franken/Coleman recount is going to be a lengthy process. Let's hope the Times can improve its coverage.
Several conservative talk radio hosts have accused Democrats of "trying to steal" the Minnesota senatorial election for Democratic challenger Al Franken over incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R). They offer no evidence for the accusation; indeed, the state's Republican governor has said there is none.