Gore's "Moral High Ground" vs. Bush's "Hardball"; Voter Victim: "My Arrows Didn't Line Up to My Buttons"; Franken: Bush "An Idiot" -- Weekend Edition 
2) CBS put the Gore camp on the moral and tonal high ground. John Roberts asserted that "leading in the popular vote, the Gore campaign believes it has the moral high ground." But Bill Whitaker asserted that though "the Bush camp wants to be seen as taking the high road....behind the scenes" they are "playing hardball."
3) ABC and NBC put the burden on the Gore team for escalating the rhetoric. ABC's Erin Hayes observed how Gore's "campaign generals today declared war" and reflected "outright disdain for George Bush." NBC's Tom Brokaw saw the Gore camp's "unmistakable and uncompromising language: We will not give an inch."
4) NBC's Bob Faw saw victims who "complained they too were tricked" by the ballot, showcasing a woman who whined: "I was thoroughly confused because my arrows didn't line up to my buttons." CBS highlighted a man who filed a lawsuit because "it was extremely difficult to figure out in fact which way to vote."
6) Al Franken on NBC's Late Night: "If it's Bush we should get behind him even though he's a business failure and a drunk til he was 40 and clearly did coke....The people will have spoken and...I hate him and he's an idiot."
The ongoing presidential election saga again consumed nearly all of the broadcast network evening newscasts Thursday night while ABC and CBS dedicated prime time hours to the situation. CBS's 8pm ET/PT 48 Hours was devoted to the election as was ABC's 10pm ET/PT Prime Time Thursday.
It was also a big night for Pat Buchanan as his comment on Thursday's Today, that he believed most of his Palm Beach County votes were intended for Gore, suddenly made the networks interested in him after ignoring him for months. During the 9pm ET hour he appeared on CNN's Larry King Live, during the 10pm ET hour he popped up on ABC's Prime Time Thursday and MSNBC brought him aboard during its 11pm ET hour.
On the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather highlighted what Buchanan had said on Today: "Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan said today he too believes most of the 3,000 votes he got in Palm Beach County were probably meant for Al Gore and Buchanan said he thought it was due to quote, 'ineptitude in the ballot design.'"
For a flavor of the network spin on the day, here's how ABC, CBS and NBC opened their Thursday, November 9 evening shows:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings announced: "Good evening everyone. It is a war out there. The presidential campaign only paused for election day and while we're long way yet from a constitutional crisis, the whole nation is now engaged in debate about the election results...."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather observed: "Good evening. The deadlocked presidential election is still in limbo tonight. It could be more than a week, perhaps longer than that, before we know whether we know Texas Governor George Bush or Vice President Al Gore is the next President."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw declared: "Good evening. It has never happened before, and it is a long way from over. An American presidential race that has now entered a new round of campaigning after election day because there still is no clear winner, and there are still votes to be counted in Florida and beyond. Here are the latest numbers from Florida as reported tonight by the Associated Press as it canvasses county by county. They say that George W. Bush has a lead that now has been reduced to 362 votes. However, the Secretary of State in Florida has just reported based on the returns that they have gotten so far that the George W. Bush lead is now more than 1700 votes."
CBS put the Gore camp on the moral and tonal high ground Thursday night. John Roberts asserted that "leading in the popular vote, the Gore campaign believes it has the moral high ground and they are casting the Bush campaign as so hungry to win that they will ignore the American voters." But in the very next story, Bill Whitaker stressed how "when top Bush aides came out today they came out firing" and though "the Bush camp wants to be seen as taking the high road....behind the scenes the Bush camp is playing hardball."
Dan Rather set up the back-to-back stories from Nashville and Austin: "With his lead holding, more or less, in the national popular vote totals, Vice President Al Gore is not giving up until there is a much closer look at the votes in Florida. And news from the Gore camp indicates that he's prepared to fight for at least another month. Gore campaign headquarters in Nashville keeps getting tuned up to more determination as the hours go by." [Yes, he said "tuned up to more determination"]
John Roberts portrayed a Gore team on the moral high
Rather jumped to Bill Whitaker by simply
acknowledging: "There's a different view in Austin." CBS had
some problems with the tape for Whitaker's report jamming, but it began
with him saying, "Since election night this Texas campaign has
circled the wagons" and "when top Bush aides came out today they
came out firing." After a tape re-cue, Whitaker explained two points
from Karl Rove:
In contrast to CBS, ABC and NBC put the burden on the Gore team for escalating the rhetoric and lowering the tone. ABC's Erin Hayes observed how Gore's "campaign generals today declared war" and reflected "outright disdain for George Bush." NBC's Tom Brokaw saw the Gore camp's "unmistakable and uncompromising language: We will not give an inch."
Erin Hayes checked in from Tallahassee on ABC's World News Tonight: "For now, Al Gore is not only unwilling to concede, his campaign generals today declared war. They are making plans and raising money to fight on the legal front."
Hayes played clips from Bill Daley and Warren
Christopher about alleged voter disenfranchisement in Palm Beach,
before she described the atmosphere: "The tone was unmistakable:
Outright disdain for George Bush."
Up next, Terry Moran with Gore found a group "girding for battle" as "the rhetoric has escalated, there's a combative tone." Moran described a candidate doing what he has to for the best of motives: "They [aides] also say that he feels he owes it, as part of his duty and that's a very important concept to this candidate, to fight for the people who tried to vote for him."
Dean Reynolds with the Bush campaign found: "They're clearly worried, Peter, that these arguments about ballot box irregularities have been gaining some traction with the public. So today, as you heard, they went out and they denounced the Democrats as being shrill, distorting the political process. They said that the problems in Palm Beach County, for example, really aren't problems at all, that Democratic elected officials are the ones that ran that election. They looked at the ballots, they approved the ballots, they oversaw the voting..."
Referring to the Democratic lawsuits, later in
the show Peter Jennings asked George Stephanopoulos: "I wonder if
you think that the Democrats may not be on the verge of opening a big
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw portrayed the Gore team as the ones lowering the tone: "The Gore campaign set the tone for the day when it's heavyweights appeared in Florida to make that legal and political case in unmistakable and uncompromising language: We will not give an inch."
Claire Shipman acknowledged the role of the media in Gore's plans: "Effectively starting a second campaign for the White House, this one in the court of public opinion."
Once again, the networks Thursday night reinforced Democratic rhetoric about how many Palm Beach County voters are victims not responsible for their own incompetence, as reporters relayed their protests without critical comment.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
announced how Democrats say the "will of the people was
thwarted." Steve Osunsami highlighted a protest march over the
supposedly confusing ballot, adding as proof: "Buchanan won more
votes here than in surrounding counties."
Osunsami passed along how Democrats are upset that 19,000 double punched ballots were invalidated, "but Bush campaign officials point out that's similar to the 14,000 ballots thrown away in 1996."
Toward the end of his piece, some reason snuck in as during video of a clash between Bush and Gore supporters a man holding a Bush-Cheney sign yelled: "What happened here is absolute stupidity."
-- CBS Evening News. During his story on the re-count, Byron Pitts reported, without any context or comment about why: "The President of the NAACP wrote to the U.S. Attorney General requesting she send federal marshals into Florida to oversee the re-count."
Reporter Bobbi Harley got time for a full story
on the protest and Jesse Jackson's call for a massive march. Out of
all the people in the protest, she picked out the same guy as had ABC
to showcase, this time with a name on screen. Jim Dwyer displayed his
ignorance: "I really don't know who I voted for. When I went in
I may have voted for Pat Buchanan who I did not want to vote
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "And while all of Florida does remain in play, one county is getting most of the attention. Palm Beach County, a wealthy enclave on the East Coast where Gore voters insist they were confused by what they call an illegal ballot. As a result, 19,000 ballots were tossed out because they contained a double punch, or double votes, for presidential candidates. It is the center of what will surely be a historic political and legal dispute."
Bob Faw began: "In West Palm Beach,
Florida, today, hundreds of voters take to the streets."
Sounds like a personal problem to take up with her boyfriend, not the election commission.
Faw elaborated: "Buchanan received 3,407
votes in Palm Beach, County, three times as many as other Florida
counties, including Pinellas, with the next highest Buchanan total.
Lawyers for the Vice President say the whole process here was
As for how illogical the vote was, FNC's Jim Angle,
on Special Report with Brit Hume, explained and assessed the Gore
ABC's Cokie Roberts used the "S" word on the Late Show to describe the confused voters, a thought that has yet to make it onto ABC News while CBS's Eric Engberg talked to a voting machine maker who observed: "You can make voting systems that are idiot resistant. You cannot make them idiot proof."
Roberts appeared on Thursday's CBS Late Show.
When David Letterman asked her about people complaining about
confusion about how to vote for Gore, Roberts maintained: "The
sample ballots had gone out. The election officials had looked at
them. People in both parties had had the opportunity to say we don't
like this ballot, this ballot's confused."
The audience applauded her answer.
Earlier, on the CBS Evening News, Eric Engberg looked at how voting is mostly done utilizing old technology. He talked to John Seibel of True Ballot, Inc. about newer and better systems, including one which uses a computer screen, but Seibel cautioned: "You can make voting systems that are idiot resistant. You cannot make them idiot proof. As a very wise man once told me, if you make something idiot-proof they'll come up with a better idiot."
They certainly did in Palm Beach County.
Forget some voters being stupid or idiots, left-wing actor/writer Al Franken still sees George W. Bush as America's leading "idiot."
Thursday night he sat down with Conan O'Brien on NBC's Late Night and immediately pronounced: "We don't know who's going to be our next President. But when it's decided, whoever it is, we should all get behind that man. You know I'm for Gore, but if it's Bush we should get behind him even though he's a business failure and a drunk til he was 40 and clearly did coke, you know. The people, you know, the people will have spoken and you know, just, you know, I hate him and he's an idiot."
O'Brien's audience cheered his snide belittling.
From the November 9 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways the United States Would Be Different Without a President." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Supreme Court justice selected by being 100th caller to Z-100
And from the Late Show Web page, some of the proposed items for the list which did not make the final cut:
-- To launch political career, Hillary forced to marry King of Norway
Was MSNBC anchor Brian Williams trying to mimic Dan Rather on election night? Just before midnight ET Tuesday night, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth recalled, Brian Williams declared: "To quote a great man, both major presidential campaigns tonight as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Long tailed cat story."
If Dan Rather ever retires, CBS could hire Williams. -- Brent Baker 
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