Count me out ...

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

We've got a new Think Again column called "There They Go Again: The 'Pro-military' Conservatives" here. And the TPM Café Book Club discussion of Why We're Liberals continues here.

This just in: My friends at the American News Project just launched their site. They're taking the broadcasting potential of the Web seriously and trying to raise the bar with online video by marrying up solid production values with meaty stories. Think of it as a kind of 60 Minutes in six, with an edge, and on the cheap. Go say hello here.

You need to be made of stronger stuff than yours truly to watch Recount. I'm sure it's great, but I'm going to hold off until we inaugurate President Obama and I can stand to look back on it. In the meantime, Alessandra Stanley writes in Today's Times, here: "In 2001 painstaking postmortems of the Florida count, one by The New York Times and another by a consortium of newspapers, concluded that Mr. Bush would have come out slightly ahead, even if all the votes counted throughout the state had been re-tallied. But both studies also issued caveats about the varying standards used in different counties to count and reject ballots, including late-arriving votes from abroad, noting that had they been included and counted accurately and by the same standard, they probably would have given Mr. Gore the edge."

The following is from What Liberal Media?:

Following the court's announcement, a group of eight newspapers invested nearly a million dollars to hire the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to undertake a detailed study of the Florida vote, to discover, if possible, who really won. The Bush administration always opposed this action and treated the ultimate correctness of the court's intervention as all the legitimacy it needed. And, during the long period before the results of the count were announced, the news outlets who funded the study communicated a decided impression that they were not terribly eager to call the president's (and hence the system's) legitimacy into question either. September 11 made this impression unmistakable. Top New York Times correspondent Richard Berke admitted as much when, shortly after the attacks, he declared the outcome of the recount to be "utterly irrelevant" and worried that its release might "stoke partisan tensions."[1]

Berke was right to be concerned. Shortly before the September 11 attacks, a Gallup Organization poll found that nearly half of Americans surveyed remain convinced that President Bush either "won on a technicality" or "stole the election." They were right, though this would have been difficult to discern based on the coverage the eventual release of the recount report received. The headlines read: "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote" (New York Times) and "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush" (Washington Post). These were misleading at best. What the NORC researchers really discovered was the Gore legal team's incredible incompetence. The lawyers happened, it turned out, to choose just about the only counting argument that would have lost Gore the election even had the court ruled in his favor. Lead member David Boies had explicitly ruled out a more inclusive recount of Florida's votes -- one that not only would have elected his man, but would have been immeasurably more fair to the people of Florida. Instead Boies asked the court to count "undervotes" but not "overvotes." Using that method, Bush did indeed outpoll Gore and the court's intervention did not ultimately make a difference. It was, perhaps, a perfect coda to a perfectly awful campaign.

But buried beneath the misleading headlines was the inescapable fact that Al Gore was the genuine choice of a plurality of Florida's voters as well as America's. As the AP report put it, "In the review of all the state's disputed ballots, Gore edged ahead under all six scenarios for counting all undervotes and overvotes statewide." In other words, he got more votes in Florida than George Bush by almost every conceivable counting standard. Gore won under a strict-counting scenario and he won under a loose-counting scenario. He won if you count "hanging chads" and he won if you counted "dimpled chads." He won if you count a dimpled chad only in the presence of another dimpled chad on the same ballot -- the so-called "Palm Beach" standard. He even won if you counted only a fully-punched chad. He won if you counted partially-filled oval on an optical scan and he won if you counted only a fully-filled optical scan. He won if you fairly counted the absentee ballots. No matter how you count it, if everyone who legally voted in Florida had had a chance to see their vote counted, Al Gore is our president. [2]

But by the time of the release of the report, the mainstream media had grown so protective of President Bush's legitimacy that many were willing to tar as crazy anyone who took the trouble to read the report carefully. To this reader anyway, they put one in mind of a husband who is doing everything he can to try to get his wife not only to forgive, but also to forget a past infidelity. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reported, "The conspiracy theorists have been out in force, convinced that the media were covering up the Florida election results to protect President Bush.... That gets put to rest today." Kurtz scoffed as well at the notion that anyone still cared about whether Bush had stolen the presidential election. "Now," he wrote, "the question is: How many people still care about the election deadlock that last fall felt like the story of the century -- and now faintly echoes like some distant Civil War battle?" [3] Following suit, the Associated Press even rewrote its own history. In September 2002, the news service carried a story from Florida that read: "Some unofficial ballot inspections paid for by consortiums of news agencies showed Bush winning by varying margins." But when the recounts were initially released in November 2001, the news service's editors acknowledged, "A full, statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes could have erased Bush's 537-vote victory and put Gore ahead by a tiny margin ranging from 42 to 171 votes, depending on how valid votes are defined." [4] Meanwhile CNN's Candy Crowley fell back on that old reliable, "Maybe the best thing of all is that messy feelings at the Florida ballot have only proved the strength of our democracy...."

In fact, had the Supreme Court not intervened for Bush, it seems quite likely that Gore would have won the count despite his own side's incompetence. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis informed an Orlando Sentinel reporter that he had never fully made up his mind, but he was considering the "overvote" standard that would likely have given the count to Gore. [5] Newsweek's Michael Isikoff also discovered a contemporaneous document demonstrating exactly this intent. [6] Hence those newspapers who reported even the narrowest victory for Bush without a Supreme Court intervention, may have been wrong. Once again, the so-called liberal media was spinning itself blind for the conservative Republican. But to point this out was to be termed a "conspiracy theorist" by the same "liberal media." Let's give the last word to the editors of the conservative London-based Economist, who, unlike their American counterparts, managed to read the results of recount with a clear eye, and hence, felt duty-bound to publish the following correction of its earlier coverage: "In the issues of December 16, 2000 to November 10, 2001, we may have given the impression that George W. Bush had been legally and duly elected president of the United States. We now understand that this may have been incorrect, and that the election result is still too close to call. The Economist apologizes for any inconvenience."

[1] Richard Berke, "Aftermath; it's not time for a party but for how long?" The New York Times, September 4, 2000, Week in Review, 3

[2] Eric Alterman, "Florida Speaks, Media Spins, World Turns," MSNBC.com, November 12, 2001

[3] Howard Kurtz, "George W. Bush; Now More than Ever," The Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2001, C1

[4] "Katherine Harris: Gore's 'Dogs of War' Bit Him," CNN.com, August 26, 2002

[5] David Damron and Roger Roy, "Both Sides Guessed Wrong," Orlando Sentinel, November 12, 2001

[6] On December 9, just as the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the counting, Lewis authored a memo instructing canvassing boards to isolate "overvotes" that demonstrated clear intent. "If you would segregate 'overvotes' as you describe and indicate in your final report how many where you determined the clear intent of the voter," he wrote "I will rule on the issue for all counties." Overvotes were clearly legal under Florida law, as a few counties had already included them in their counts. www.msnbc.com

This week on Moyers:

There may be a potentially dangerous chemical leaching into our food from the containers that we use every day. Bill Moyers Journal and Exposé: America's Investigative Reports examine why, even though studies show that the chemical Bisphenol A can cause cancer and other health problems in lab animals, the manufacturers, their lobbyists, and U.S. regulators say it's safe. Also on the program, Jeffrey Toobin, one of the most recognized legal journalists in the country, discusses what the Supreme Court might look like if John McCain is elected President. And Bill Moyers on honoring our veterans this Memorial Day.

From TomDispatch:

Unexpected resistance to imperial dreams doesn't necessary get much attention in this country. All those ordinary citizens, tens of millions of them, who poured onto the streets of cities and towns worldwide on February 15, 2003 for "the biggest and most widespread collective protest the world has ever seen" -- recognizing, as they did, that the impending invasion of Iraq would be a catastrophe -- are now summarily forgotten. And the equally unexpected Iraqi resistance -- at all levels of society -- to the plans of the Bush administration has hardly been given its due.

Michael Schwartz, author of the upcoming book War Without End and TomDispatch regular, offers a striking reconsideration of that resistance in Iraq from the Sunni insurgency to Iraq's oil workers (who aborted a plan to transfer management of the port of Basra to then-Halliburton subsidiary KBR), from the Sadrists to the national parliament.

"Think of it this way," he writes. "In a land the size of California with but 26 million people, a ragtag collection of Baathists, fundamentalists, former military men, union organizers, democratic secularists, local tribal leaders, and politically active clerics -- often at each others throats (quite literally) -- nonetheless managed to thwart the plans of the self-proclaimed New Rome, the 'hyperpower' and 'global sheriff' of Planet Earth. And that, even in the first glancing assessment of history, may indeed prove historic."

This piece traces just how the "new American century" went missing in action in Iraq and ends on a call to Americans to once again "shoulder at least a small share of the burden of resistance." Schwartz concludes: "Just as the worldwide protests before the war were among the upstream sources of the Iraqi resistance-to-come, so now others, especially Americans, should resist the very idea that Iraq could ever become the headquarters for a permanent United States presence that would, in the words of Bush speechwriter David Frum, "put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans." Unlike the Iraqis, after all, the citizens of the United States are uniquely positioned to bury this imperial dream for all time."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Garland Waller
Hometown: Boston

Hi Eric:

You met me and you met Barry Nolan last year at Sundance. Barry interviewed you for Backstage. Now he's been fired by them and it seemed you should know the story. Barry, as you may recall, has been a reporter on "Extra!" or "Hard Copy" and a panelist on NPR's "Says You." I am Barry Nolan's wife and I wanted you to know about something I consider pretty outrageous.

Barry was fired by Comcast on May 20th because he led the charge against Bill O'Reilly getting the Governor's Award from the New England NATAS organization in May. It's a long and winding string of events, but if you are interested in the story, one of us can give you more details.

Let me give you a back story, but start with yesterday's headlines....

Barry and I were reading in the paper yesterday about the case in Philly where 15 policemen beat 3 unarmed men. Turns out that four of the officers will be fired and four of them were suspended. What was the longest suspension? 15 days. While you are thinking about that.....consider the Comcast rule of law regarding free speech.

For simply speaking aloud an opinion that was shared by so many including the former president of NATAS and other former Governors of NATAS as well as former recipients of the Governors awards, Barry just got fired. We knew it was coming by the way Barry has been treated in the past few days and weeks, but to be honest, we ...or at least I ....was still unprepared for the axe. The whole magilla centered around Bill O'Reilly, who was being given the Governor's Award by NATAS the first week in May. Barry, being of sound mind and body, thought it was outrageous and said so. When a reporter from the Boston Herald called him, he answered and said he was answering, not as a Comcast employee, but as a journalist. Barry got a visit from a VP at Comcast telling him not to cause trouble on the night of the award. It is true that the night of the NATAS event, Barry placed one-sheeters with quotes from O'Reilly, nothing but O'Reilly quotes and a few stats from his sexual harassment settlement, on a few tables. At first they told him he couldn't "solicit" and then they told him he couldn't leave "information" on tables....um...at a news gathering.

Anyway, his punishment was swift. For speaking out, for saying what most thoughtful people in TV and media believed to be the truth, he was to be fired. (Details of the suspension first and then the firing if you wish.)

So Barry gets fired for defending the integrity of the Governor's Award and speaking to the press one time and for speaking his mind and heart, and those police officers in Philly get fired for the savage beating of unarmed men. Now that's fair, right? I am shocked and appalled that Comcast would do this. Barry has created two wonderful shows for them -- Backstage with Barry Nolan and Nitebeat.

He has been an incredible team player and leader, given guidance and friendship to those with whom he worked, and this is how Comcast responds.

I am just now sitting with this and not sure what I am going to do, but I am angry and feel that Barry has been treated so very badly by a company that he worked so hard for. I just wanted you to know.

Isn't it ironic that yesterday on NPR/WBUR, there was a main segment on Day to Day titled "Olbermann-O'Reilly Battle Climbs Up the Ranks."

Of course, you have all seen one of the most talked about stories these past few weeks...O'Reilly going nuts on Inside Edition.

Doesn't matter. Comcast will say Barry's sin was talking to the press a month ago when they called. They might also say he did a standup for EXTRA yesterday without their permission, but that isn't true and we have the e mail to prove it.

A little shaken, but also stirred....up.

Eric adds: Here are a couple of stories that appeared yesterday.

Boston Herald, May 22

Boston Globe, May 22

Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA

Hey Doc --

"I's buffaloed in Buffalo and entertained in Houston/New York, yew nork, you gotta choose one/Tripe face boogie, gotta boogie my sneakers away."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: "Passion Dance" (McCoy Tyner) - Once again, I failed to engage the service of a Navajo shaman and enough first-class peyote to cause Lou Dobbs to start raving in fluent Creole how much I love New Orleans.

Short Takes:

Part The First: Just when you begin to lose faith in The New Republic because it is run by a crazy person, they publish a takedown like this one. Of all the people connected with the Avignon Presidency, that superstitious omadhaun Leon Kass can move right to the head of the line of people who can kiss my ass.

Part The Second: Some pundits just sort of appear out of thin air, don't they? Sad as it is, I follow this stuff pretty closely, and I never heard of Eugene Robinson before this cycle started, and now he's on my TV about 23 hours a day. Of course, in the case of CNN's Mr. Castellanos, some pundits emerge fully formed from history's compost heap.

Part The Third: So Kristol and Coulter think getting hit in the face with a pie is a problem? Believe me, it can be a lot worse.

Part The Fourth: OK, this is pretty plainly the take on the song from the legendary 1971 gigs at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, the shows that formed the basis for the towering "Rock Of Ages" live album. (In identifying the performance, it helps if you happen to have every note of that recording memorized, as I do. Want to hear me whistle Garth's last piano solo from "Rag, Mama Rag"? No?) Am I the last person on the planet to know that there is video of these shows? And why do we not yet have a DVD, if not a major theatrical release? Put that at my local multiplex and I might even begin to forgive Scorsese for pissing off Levon, filming Neil Diamond, and largely ignoring Mr. Hudson.

Part The Last: "Why We're Liberals: Because The Masons Wouldn't Have Us." Just here to help.

Once the campaign narratives coalesce, the real sport lies in watching the people invested in them do a buck-and-wing around events that don't fit. For example, over the past two weeks, John McCain has demonstrated a skin so thin that, if he swallowed a flashlight, he'd glow like a Japanese lantern. His response to being wrongfooted on the issue of negotiating with people not currently on diplomatic speed-dial was to call Barack Obama a candy-ass. His response to criticism of his shameful no-show on Jim Webb's new GI Bill -- disclaimer: I am in almost every way a child of the last GI Bill, which did nothing less than create the modern American middle class out of folks like my father -- was to remind people that Obama never served in the military. Now, all of this runs contrary to his well-nurtured image as a Maverick Who Can Reach Across The Aisle. So the people who created that narrative now somehow feel the need to express "surprise" at the fact that McCain's default campaign personality seems to be Angry Infant. (By the way, this is not dissimilar to the way Obama feels the need to couch every political criticism of St. John with an expression of gratitude for McCain's military service. All right, already.) It's not limited to journalists, either. In the last two days, I've seen Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, and Harold Ford all doing this ridiculous dance. The fact, of course, is that McCain always has been a my-way-or-the-highway prima donna. (Biden and Hagel know this damned well.) That was what was at the root of most of the outbursts of temper for which he has become (moderately) renowned. This is an essential part of who he is. In this campaign, it's magnified by the fact that we haven't had a guy with this kind of reckless visceral lust for the presidency in quite a while. There's nothing intellectual about it. He wants to be president out of almost pure appetite and, when something seems to threaten what he clearly believes is his lifelong destiny, he reacts, instantly, from the gut. The other night, during the first game of the Boston-Detroit series, Rip Hamilton of the Pistons went upside Kevin Garnett's grill with an elbow coming around a pick. One of the announcers expressed surprise that a classy guy like Hamilton would do something like that. This drew derision from Jeff Van Gundy, the Richard Libertini lookalike who used to coach the Knicks. "If he's not a dirty player," Van Gundy sniped, "why'd he make a dirty play?" Good question, that.

Name: Jim Glass
Hometown: Cardiff, CA

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." H.L. Mencken, 1920.

With the current media situation will it be possible to break from this vicious prediction?

Name: Paul Goode
Hometown: Redmond, WA

In your article "There They Go Again," you cite prime examples of the attitude that the Bush Administration has had toward the military: That it is cheap labor there to be exploited. This was evident from the onset of the Iraq war, as stories of inadequately armored vehicles and protected soldiers emerged, only to draw Donald Rumsfeld's snide comment about going to war with the army you had.

And as you say, the men and women on the receiving end aren't fools. John McCain knows it, too. Why else add Tim Griffin, the scandal-ridden, would-be U.S. Attorney, to his campaign? Is it because Griffin is a master of the illegal practice of vote caging, which he has used to deny active-duty soldiers their right to vote? Could it be that St. John is prepared to disenfranchise the very men and women he claims to champion the most?

Name: Larry
Hometown: Austin

McKinnon just wants to be on the side that's winning! That's been his whole schtick.

You see, in college journalism at U.T.-Austin he acted on popular youthful principle. Then as an adult Democratic consultant he got his arse kicked. Then came Bush, and McKinnon saw an arse on the way up and jumped on board (so to speak). Now Democrats are in ascendance and he can pretend he has principles again.

Austin is better than McKinnon. McKinnon just used Austin the way he uses everyone, to build his own reputation and damn the consequences. Now he's as principled as a rat jumping from a sinking ship -- a ship he helped punch holes in for glory and treasure.

McKinnon's two principles are: Ego and greed. Mark, thanks for showing yourself again. You don't disappoint.

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT

Eric,

This morning NPR interviewed a woman who'd been campaigning, obviously with great passion, for Hillary Clinton. She lamented the vast amounts of sexism in the mainstream media, and felt that this had contributed greatly to Clinton's failure to secure the nomination. She stated that if Clinton did not get the nomination, she and her organization would work for McCain.

As a proud graduate of Vassar College, I have held myself to be a feminist for almost 40 years, and have felt that nothing could ever shake my convictions in this realm. "Feminists for McCain," however, would really make me wonder...

Name: Steve W.
Hometown: Seattle

In the wake of the California Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage, one hears the usual invectives from the right about "activist judges." Yet, the majority of the judges that handed down the CA ruling are Republicans. And, more than two-thirds of sitting Federal judges have been appointed by Republicans. So it occurs to me that a good line for Obama would be, "Hey, if you don't like activist judges, don't vote Republican!"

Name: Bill V.
Hometown: Allentown, Pa.

I believe the letters of transit were meant to be honored by the Portugese, not the Nazis or Vichy French. Casablanca was a "free zone" in the movie, otherwise, arrests would have been made there. The plane was going to Lisbon. Portugal was, I think, neutral at the time. Perhaps the Portuguese, so as to persevere their neutral status and not offend either the Germans or the Allies, required documents showing those entering the country had a right to do so. The letters of transit permitted Lazlo to enter Portugal. Otherwise, the Portuguese would have turned him away or worse, sent him to Nazi Germany as an escaped fugitive -- much like Northerners who sent improperly documented African Americans back to their Southern masters.

I'll believe any theory that allows me to continue enjoying the exploits of Mister Rick.

Name: Jef Hall
Hometown: Oshkosh, WI

Why We're Liberals: From FDR to Bush And Back Again

Name: Bob LeDrew
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario

My suggestion for the Pentagon/military analyst scandal:

Propa-gate.

Eric replies: And the winner (so far) is...

Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Powerful Ideals

Thanks to Stephen Zeoli , Hometown: Hubbardton, Vermont (though we're not sure about the word "powerful" ...)

But hey, thanks!

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.