THE MEDIA by John StylesNews Weekly
, December 2, 2000
Mayhem in the US election count
On 13 November, as the impasse in Florida continued, why did The Australian's Cameron Forbes describe the behaviour of the "Bush camp" as increasingly reprehensible? What did Mr Forbes find so reprehensible? Apparently it upset the reporter to see George W. Bush "publicly display his moves to succeed to power, claiming it is in the country's best interests". That's reprehensible?
Forbes also said that opposition to the hand count in Florida "smacks of fear".
However, according to reports in the US, that have been ignored, downplayed or cursorily covered in much of the mainstream media in Australia, the Bush camp might be justifiably afraid.
After all, Palm Beach, Florida, Sheriff's deputies didn't confiscate a voting machine from a Republican official. The machine was taken from a newly elected Democratic state representative. The Democrat said he had taken the machine "at the request of voters" after it had been left behind at a polling station. He said he intended to use the machine to show the news media how it worked.
The whole issue of the "butterfly" ballot and the confusion it supposedly created for elderly Palm Beach voters was put into perspective on 13 November by Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for Jewish World Review. He wrote:
"Far be it from me to doubt those nice Palm Beach retirees who say their ballots were misleading. But it's hard not to notice that the only voters claiming to have been misled are Gore supporters. It's also hard not to notice that these complaints didn't mushroom until after the election was under way. If the "butterfly" ballot were truly as baffling as the Gore partisans now insist, surely someone would have mentioned it before the election, when sample ballots were mailed to every voter. Mailed, one might add, by Theresa LePore, who is Palm Beach County's election supervisor - and a Democrat. Yet nobody voiced an objection ... until Gore was losing Florida."
As the Florida recount proceeded, Republicans protested at a number of dubious practices. On 18 November, The Washington Times reported:
"Republicans accused officials in Miami-Dade County of planning to take some ballots that can't be counted by machine, determine the voter's intent, then mark new ballots accordingly - pink-colored for identification - that the machines would accept.
''They've gone from counting votes, to looking for votes, to now they're going to manufacturing votes,'' charged Rep. John Sweeney, Republican-N.Y."
The paper also reported that Karen Hughes of the Bush campaign said the recounting was "distorting, reinventing and miscounting the true intentions of the voters of Florida".
Numerous irregularities were noted. The Washington Times related alleged instances "in which chad, paper punched out of a ballot, had been taped over the hole that would signify a vote for Bush. He said Bush ballots had been placed in the Gore piles, cited one instance in which an older man had dropped a pile of ballots on the floor, described scenes of exhaustion and confusion".
Another correspondent, Gay Alcorn, who, on election day had declared her preference for a Gore victory, surprise, surprise, also criticised the Bush side during the impasse.
Ms Alcorn, on 14 November in The Age, declared: "In this high stakes game of strategy and public relations, it is Republican George W. Bush who is looking like the candidate who will do anything to win office."
Gay Alcorn's comment came at about the time the Associated Press was reporting Democrat attempts to mount a nationwide recruiting drive to find 500 lawyer volunteers to assist with the supervision of the Florida recount in three counties, as they desperately attempted to claw back the Bush lead.
When it was first reported that the Florida result would be automatically subject to a recount, one US commentator delivered what may yet prove to be a prescient quip. As soon as he heard a plane load of Democratic lawyers were on their way to Florida, he said, he knew that Bush would lose."Independent" ABC?
The Friends of the ABC (ACT & Region) Inc. has been circulating a leaflet opposing Federal Government funding cuts. The leaflet describes the national broadcaster as "Australia's only source of news and current affairs which is independent of government and commercial influence".
But not, it seems, political influence. Apparently, the ABC does seek political direction. At least, that is what ABC Radio's chief political correspondent, Philip Williams, suggested in an April 12 interview with Democrats Senator Lynne Allison.
The interview concerned the failure of a Senate Inquiry, chaired by Senator Allison, to deliver a majority report. The inquiry was looking into the ABC's proposed $70 million deal to sell editorial content to Telstra. It split along party lines.
In summing up, Mr Williams commented to Senator Allison: "Realistically.... there's nothing that you can do about it anyway is there? The ABC will make the deal if they want to and with a split report they haven't got any clear direction politically."
That comment was broadcast in the early edition of PM that evening. The interview was also included in the main 6pm edition. But guess what? In the main edition, that reference to political direction had been removed.