CyberAlert -- 11/07/2000 -- "Too Close to Call"?

"Too Close to Call"?; Sour on "Interminable Campaign"; "Gore!" an Actress Shouted on the Tonight Show; Dan Rather's Broken Promise -- Extra Edition

1) The networks predicted a very close race. "It's too close to call," insisted NBC's Tim Russert. CBS's Dan Rather claimed "it could be one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history." NBC's Katie Couric saw "the closest, least predictable presidential election in four decades."

2) ABC's Peter Jennings opened Monday night with a sour spin on the process as he cited the end of the "interminable campaign."

3) Actress Gillian Anderson used her election eve Tonight Show appearance to exhort: "For woman, for children, for seniors... Gore! Gore!" Actors Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Ben Affleck, Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen and Glenn Close campaigned for Gore.

4) ABC gave Ross Perot air time Monday morning to explain why he backed George Bush, but Diane Sawyer argued with him about the accuracy of his criticism of Al Gore and dismissed the endorsement as pique at Gore for beating him in the NAFTA debate.

5) Pre-election magazines. Only Time noticed the NAACP ad, but ignored the key anti-Bush line. To voting for Bush, ex-U.S. News Editor Roger Rosenblatt ridiculed: "Are you kidding?" Newsweek's Jonathan Alter worried a Bush presidency will be "subcontracted to...corporate interests." Bill Turque huffed that "not a shred of evidence" shows Gore dangled his Gulf War vote for TV time.

6) Dan Rather promised "the most accurate presidential election night returns." Four years ago CBS reported Senator Bob Smith lost because he's "very conservative." He's still a Senator.


If it's a blowout or not very close, remember the day before the election network predictions of a race, in Tim Russert's words on Monday's NBC Nightly News, that's "too close to call." CBS's Dan Rather predicted "it could be one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history" as "this election could still go either way." NBC's Tom Brokaw saw "a race to the wire with polls so close they tell us only that neither man is breaking away." Earlier in the day on NBC's Today, Katie Couric insisted: "It's the closest, least predictable presidential election in four decades."

CBS announced Monday night, November 6, that its latest poll put Bush up by four points, but NBC had Gore up by two points. ABC did not report any poll numbers.

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the broadcast: "In a matter of hours polls open and voters will go to the polls to decide who will be the next President of the United States, the first new President of the 21st century. And at this hour there are indications it could be one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history. That is why the theme of this day was: Get the voters out."

Rather outlined CBS's newest poll: "If you have any doubt that every vote counts, look at this: A CBS News pre-election poll out this election eve indicates Bush leads Gore by just four percentage points among likely voters nationally [46 to 42 percent]. In the all important state by state battle for 270 electoral votes, CBS News estimates that 24 states in red may give Bush 209 electoral votes. In blue are the 12 states and DC expected to give 181 votes to Gore. Fourteen states, with 148 electoral votes, are up for grabs, so this election could still go either way."

Bob Schieffer later cautioned: "This is going to be so close we may see one presidential candidate win the popular vote and lose the election because the other man gets the most electoral votes."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw began the show by asserting: "On the eve of the first election of the 21st century, it comes down to this: A race to the wire with polls so close they tell us only that neither man is breaking away. Over the weekend the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had Governor Bush leading the Vice President by three points [47 to 44 percent]. But today's MSNBC/Reuters overnight tracking poll shows a slight lead for the Vice President [48 to 46 percent."]

-- NBC's Today. Monday morning, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Katie Couric led the show: "Good morning. It's still too close to call. Election day is less than 24 hours away and a handful of states are still in play. States that will determine whether Al Gore or George W. Bush is elected President of the United States. With so much uncertainty both men have miles to go before they sleep today, Monday, November the 6th, 2000."

Couric soon contended: "It's the closest, least predictable presidential election in four decades. Just look at these latest polls. This morning's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Governor Bush leading 47 percent to 44 percent, just within the poll's margin of error. And the latest MSNBC tracking poll from John Zogby also out this morning finds the race at 47 Bush, 46 Gore. Another statistical dead heat. All of which has strategists and aides huddled over the maps of the country this morning, figuring out just how their man can get to the 270 electoral votes, it takes, to win the White House, Matt."


ABC's Peter Jennings is glad the "interminable campaign" is over. He opened Monday's World News Tonight with a sour spin on the process:
"Here we are on the last night of the interminable campaign. Politicians are flogging themselves through one more day while the reporters who cover them and the campaign workers with them are beginning to think a little less about the national interest and more about finally getting off the bus."


Actor activism for Gore. Barbra Streisand is not the only left-wing celebrity using her stardom to aide the Al Gore campaign and the Rosie O'Donnell Show wasn't the only program Monday to showcase a celebrity promoting Gore. Last night on NBC's Tonight Show, X Files star Gillian Anderson shouted "Gore! Gore!"

In addition, several actors traveled over the weekend and last night with the Gore entourage to warm up crowds and help get out the vote efforts.

Anderson, who plays FBI agent "Dana Sculley" on Fox's The X Files, wrapped up her election eve Tonight Show appearance by urging viewers to vote for Al Gore. Her voice rising to a shout, she hinted at dire consequences if Bush wins and exhorted: "Woman have to get out there. For woman, for children, for seniors. Get out there. You have no idea. It's going to be bad. Gore! Gore!" Only the band's pre-commercial break music cut her off.

In a World News Tonight story on turnout efforts, ABC's Aaron Brown on Monday night reported: "Actor Jeff Goldblum was working for Al Gore in Pittsburgh, TV President Martin Sheen and Rob Reiner were working Memphis."

Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart showed actors Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Ben Affleck, Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen campaigning for Gore in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania over the weekend. ET played a clip of Dreyfuss, best-known as "Elaine" on Seinfeld, shouting: "Vote for Al Gore Tuesday!" Affleck took a nice shot at Bush: "It's hard for me to have a respect for a guy who never held a job until he was 40."

Shortly before 1am ET this morning, C-SPAN showed live coverage of Affleck, Robert DeNiro and Glenn Close bashing Bush as they warmed up a Miami Beach crowd just before Gore arrived.


ABC gave Ross Perot some air time Monday morning to explain why he endorsed George Bush, but Diane Sawyer argued with him about the accuracy of his criticism of Al Gore. When he recounted how other Senators remembered that Gore sold his pro-Gulf War vote to the side which gave him the best TV time, she countered that other Senators maintain "he backed the Gulf War because he felt it was right."

As noted in the November 4 CyberAlert, Perot's surprise Bush endorsement, made on Thursday night's CNN Larry King Live, was obliterated by the Bush drunk driving story. It did not get one second Friday night on ABC, CBS or NBC after only passing mentions Friday morning on ABC and NBC while CBS's The Early Show skipped it altogether.

Monday morning, ABC's Good Morning America brought Perot aboard in the 8am half hour, observed MRC analyst Jessica Anderson. Sawyer set up the segment: "Texas billionaire Ross Perot featured prominently in the last two presidential elections, running as a third party candidate in '92 and in '96, won a total of 29 million votes. But he has kept a low profile throughout this campaign, only to emerge now and endorse George W. Bush of his state Texas, and he's here to tell us why."

Perot took on Gore's dishonestly: "Let me give you an example. In the Senate, just before he became Vice President, he decided whether or not to vote for or against the Gulf War based on how much time the Republicans would give him on television."
To which Sawyer countered: "Well, Ross, I've got to interrupt you there because, as you know, there are a lot of people who've heard this charge before, come forward, including Senator Dale Bumpers, and said that's not true, that he did it because, and in fact it was a decision made against the majority of his party and he backed the Gulf War because he felt it was right."
Perot: "But he also went to Alan Simpson and Bob Dole, and this is a fact, and told them he'd only do it if they gave him prime time and a certain amount of time. He continued to negotiate until the last minute. That's not the way you send people off to fight and die. Let's take a second one. He was responsible for administering a $20 billion fund that was given to Russia to help the Russian people. It went to foreign speculators and the mob in Russia, and the Russians later laughingly said, 'We really conned them.' Now this is not a man with the skills to be President of the United States."

Sawyer insisted a bit later: "Alright, again, I'm not intervening on behalf of anybody here."
Perot: "Sounds like you are, but go ahead. We'll have a good debate."
Sawyer: "I've got to raise some of the questions that have been raised by others over the weekend. Somebody said, first of all, that you don't like Al Gore because you had a debate with him on Larry King Live about NAFTA and indeed, he won the debate and you never forgave him that."
Perot: "That is not even a factor. It's not even a factor, and you're the first to bring it up."


MagazineWatch about the pre-election November 6-dated editions published last week. To read this analysis online, go to:

Here's the table of contents of the October 31 edition of MagazineWatch, about Time, Newsweek and U.S. News, followed by the text of the items compiled by the MRC's Tim Graham:

1. Only Time noticed the NAACP ad which features James Byrd's daughter saying George W. Bush "killed" Byrd "all over again" by vetoing a new "hate crimes" law. But reporter Viveca Novak left that line out.

2. In their last chance to influence the voters, Newsweek tilted readers leftward in their "Voters Panic Guide," and former U.S. News editor Roger Rosenblatt lectured the undecided: "Are you kidding?" Undecided voters "focus on nonsense. They tilt toward Bush in the debates out of some adolescent response to powerlessness and ineptitude."

3. Rush and Ralph are wrong? Time's Steve Lopez cynically rebutted a passionate Bush voter's assertion that "Rush is right." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter warned Nader voters they could create a Bush presidency, which "will be essentially subcontracted to exactly those corporate interests that Naderites believe are threatening our democracy."

4. In balancing one-page articles on the candidates' political pasts, Newsweek's Howard Fineman suggested Bush was rolled by Texas Democrats, while Bill Turque huffed that "not a shred of evidence" shows Al Gore dangled his Gulf War vote for more TV time.

5. Time's Clintonite columnist Margaret Carlson swooned that between Bill and Hill, "there seemed to be something more than naked ambition at work." In U.S. News, Roger Simon found Tipper Gore, who told people not to vote as if the election were The Dating Game, is replaying the Kiss at rallies.

-- 1. Only Time noticed the NAACP ad which features James Byrd's daughter saying George W. Bush "killed" Byrd "all over again" by vetoing a new "hate crimes" law. But Viveca Novak left that line out. She explained: "The music is ominous, the footage grainy: a pickup truck with Texas plates, a chain tied to the bumper, something unseen hooked to the other end as the truck pulls away. The voice is that of James Byrd Jr.'s daughter, recalling her father's 1998 death and George W. Bush's refusal to back a new hate-crimes bill. The kicker: 'We won't be dragged away from our future.'"

After the 1988 election, Time fulminated that Lee Atwater's "crypto-racist" Willie Horton ads "fouled the civic atmosphere of politics." He is still the magazine's poster boy for late hits: "Atwater, the late maestro of hardball politics, had rules about down-and-dirty campaign advertising, chiefly this: If you have to do it, do it late. So right on schedule, gut-punching ads hit the airwaves last week in the handful of ground-zero states as both parties, and their sympathetic special-interest groups, worked to boost turnout among the faithful -- or drive it down."

Novak didn't seem to press the NAACP for comparisons to Willie Horton, or ask whether lumping Bush in with racist murderers was fair: "The Byrd ad, running in 10 states where black voter turnout could make the difference, is part of a $2 million-plus campaign by the NAACP National Voter Fund. The group said it had always planned to replace the ad with a less graphic version. But Heather Booth, the group's executive director, makes no apologies. 'Sometimes the truth hurts,' she says."

From there, Novak moved on to the conservative ads, the small-buy "Daisy" ripoff ad and the "Americans Against Hate" ad linking Gore to Al Sharpton. "Not to worry: The other side has something shocking of its own."

-- 2. In their last chance to influence the voters, Newsweek tilted readers leftward in their "Voters Panic Guide," while the Time and U.S. News voter guides were more carefully balanced. Not all the Newsweek items were tilted, just three in particular, on foreign intervention, defense, and gun control:

On foreign intervention, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh worried Bush "wants to withdraw from NATO peacekeeping, scrap the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty and install a major missile defense program, moves that would likely estrange Washington from its key allies. Gore, meanwhile, has tried to redefine the entire national-security agenda, stressing the social and economic instability that might come from environmental disaster, AIDS, or the gulf between rich and poor nations. But he sets no clear priorities -- perhaps because it may be impossible to do so in the post-cold-war era."

On defense, John Barry insisted "Bush's charge that the Clinton administration has sent underfinanced divisions to meet overstretched largely a myth. Claims of a threefold increase in deployments under Clinton come from a misread congressional report." Barry concluded that "Whoever wins, the military faces cuts....Here Bush appears the radical. Looking to predicted advances in computers, sensors, and communications, he would 'skip' a generation of weapons and instead push toward the truly revolutionary generation after next. That, says Gore, would be to gamble on uncertain future technologies."

On guns, Matt Bai continued his string of badly disguised jeremiads for gun control. He focused largely on Bush's positions and "his cozy relationship with the National Rifle Association. As governor, he signed a law that allows citizens to carry concealed weapons, then expanded it to permit guns in churches and hospitals." Bai concluded with liberal despair that no one could satisfy his itch for progress: "No matter who's elected, the prospects for any real progress aren't promising. Congress hasn't even been able to nail down an agreement on the need for background checks at gun shows. Bush won't force the issue. And there's little chance that Gore could wage a fight for gun licensing during a first term, let alone get it passed."

Time featured battling one-page commentaries arguing for Bush and Gore: for Bush, former speechwriter Peggy Noonan; and for Gore, former U.S. News editor Roger Rosenblatt, who oozed contempt for Bush or anyone dumb enough to support him: "I mean no disrespect to the Undecideds or the occasionally Decideds, or to the non-Republican faithful who have come to the conclusion that George W. Bush should be President of the United States. But, are you kidding?" He lectured that undecided voters "focus on nonsense. They tilt toward Bush in the debates out of some adolescent response to powerlessness and ineptitude. They tilt away from Gore because he appears to know that he's intellectually superior to and more civic-minded than his opponent. He is. My fellow Americans: It's not about likability. It's about who keeps the checklist, who flies the plane."

Rosenblatt's snooty superiority isn't any more likable than Gore's.

-- 3. Rush and Ralph are wrong? Time reporter Steve Lopez visited with undecided voters in central Florida. The only passionate supporter of a candidate he found couldn't wait to vote for Bush. "I listen to Rush Limbaugh all the time...And Rush is right. Do you know what I mean? Rush is right."

Lopez responded: "No, Matthew. Don Fletcher is right. 'Kakistocracy. Are you familiar with that word?' Fletcher asked while nursing his coffee at the Bill O' Fare. 'It means government by the worst elements. We've got a failed drug war the candidates won't talk about, and we bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan because Bill was [dallying with] Monica. It doesn't matter whether you vote Republican or Democratic. Nothing will change because the government is run by big-money interests.'"

Sounds like a pair of Nader voters.

They better hide from Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. He mildly suggested St. Ralph was committing ideological suicide. He began with an idea of what attracted Newsweek's hiring team to him: "When I was 22 years old, I spent the summer of 1980 working for Ralph Nader. My job was to write part of a book about the campaign that year. (I was responsible for chronicling third-party candidate John Anderson.) For all of our lacerations of Jimmy Carter, we understood that a vote for Anderson was a vote for Ronald Reagan. Even then, I disagreed with Nader on several issues (starting with his unshakable faith in lawyers and regulators). But I developed a deep respect for his leadership of the consumer movement. Last year, when several lists were published of the most important Americans of the 20th century, Nader's name was rightfully included. Bill Clinton's was not."

That was the end of the nice talk. Alter lays it one the line: "Naderites should have persuaded their man to run in the Democratic primaries...Instead, he risks being marginalized by angry fellow progressives and remembered by history as a spoiler. That would overshadow all he has accomplished."

Alter warned that a Bush presidency would do great damage to liberalism, just as Reagan did: "Nader voters are under the illusion that a Bush era is somehow harmless to them -- a mere interlude to rally their cause. Many were in grade school when Reagan was President and forget the consequences for progressive causes. It would be one thing if Bush were brilliant but lazy -- thick but hardworking. But he is neither brilliant nor hardworking, which means that the presidency will be essentially subcontracted to exactly those corporate interests that Naderites believe are threatening our democracy. That reminds me of the logic of those who extended the Vietnam War, courtesy of Nixon and his unwitting allies on the left: 'We had to destroy the village in order to save it.' America has tried that, Ralph. It doesn't work."

-- 4. In balancing one-page articles on the candidates' political pasts, Newsweek's Howard Fineman suggested Bush was rolled by Texas Democrats, while Bill Turque huffed that "not a shred of evidence" shows Al Gore dangled his Gulf War vote for more TV time. Fineman explored a tax-cut bill that Bush had to water down: "Bush and Bullock (who died in 1999) remained fond friends. But it was clear to observers who was boss. Visiting the governor's office on another matter, Bullock smiled and pointed to his allies in the room. 'Governor, we're going to screw you on this one,' he said. Bush chuckled, got up from his chair and walked to the corner of the office. 'Well, you're going to have to come over here and kiss me first,' Bush joked. Bullock laughed, but didn't move, and got his way in the end.

Fineman's colleague and Gore biographer Bill Turque played defense for Al Gore with a story on Gore's thoughtful, hawkish decision to back the Gulf War. There's no messy focus on his touting "Iraqgate" allegations against President Bush in 1992 as "worse than Watergate," or the gutting of his own 1992 arms-dealing bill in a secret deal with Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Turque played up Gore's savvy Gulf War vote, adding late in the piece with a huff: "One thing Gore didn't look for was a deal with Republicans. Sen. Alan Simpson has long alleged that Gore offered his vote in exchange for a prime speaking slot. But there is not a shred of evidence to support the charge."

-- 5. Time's Clintonite columnist Margaret Carlson is mystified Gore is hiding the Genius of Our Time: "Too bad Al Gore has put his party's most potent weapon in a lockbox. Too bad for Democrats there's a 22nd Amendment that keeps Clinton from running again; in a speech after the debates, Clinton gave a far more lucid rebuttal than Gore, and without the sighing. His job-approval rating surpasses Ronald Reagan's in his final days."

Hold tight on the roller coaster ride in Margaret's mind. The woman who rhapsodized in 1993 that the Clintons "touch each other more in two hours than the Bushes did in four years" went sour on Bill in 1998, urging Hillary to throw his stuff out on the lawn. Now, it's back to inklings of Love Story: "Clinton wiped away a tear at the height of the festivities while Hillary feigned surprise with the trademark raised eyebrow and shocked 'Oooh' when spotting a familiar face in a room full of them. Yet, against all you think you know, when they hugged, there seemed to be something more than naked ambition at work." Please.

She concluded with very early cheers for President Hillary: "Just as Bush is avenging his father's defeat, Clinton may see his best chance of redeeming himself not with a Gore in the White House, but with a Clinton."

On the subject of marital displays, Tipper Gore announced at a Democratic rally that people shouldn't vote for Bush because "this isn't The Dating Game." But it's the Gore camp that's gone back to playing the Lovebird Card, discovered U.S. News reporter Roger Simon: "At most stops, he is introduced by his wife, Tipper, who goes through a list of concerns designed to appeal to women while also raising the fear of what will happen if Republicans gain the White House. 'We have to protect the right to choose,' she says. 'We need more money for breast cancer research. They will take us backward into the Dark Ages.' She then points out how her husband volunteered for military service in Vietnam and, while running for

President, also managed to attend all of their son's football games. At the end, she introduces Gore, who hugs and kisses her. This time, however, as Tipper is speaking, Gore steadily advances on her to the enormous delight of the audience. 'I'm ready!' he shouts. Tipper turns around and gives him both a startled and bemused look. 'Oh, yeah?' she says. Gore plants an open-mouth kiss on her as the crowd goes wild. Tipper breaks away from his clinch to turn back to the microphone, and Gore shouts, 'It wasn't long enough!' Tipper wisely leaves that line alone and says to him, 'We don't have time! We need every vote!'

At least back in the Dark Ages, we weren't subject to stage-managed tongue hockey. -- Tim Graham

END Reprint of MagazineWatch


Dan Rather signed off Monday's CBS Evening News by promising: "Don't forget to vote tomorrow. Then join CBS News for the most experienced election coverage and analysis in the business and, over the last 50 years, the most accurate presidential election night returns."

Oh, really? On election night 1996 CBS News announced that New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith had lost and blamed his trouble on being "a very conservative Senator in a state that's becoming more moderate." In fact, he won. But before CBS realized that, Bob Schieffer explained the loss, as recounted in the November 7, 1996 CyberAlert:
"I think that most Republicans considered Bob Smith, the New Hampshire incumbent, perhaps, one of their most vulnerable incumbents. This is a very interesting case Dan, he's a very conservative Senator in a state that's becoming more moderate. Most people on the national scene will recall him as the one that fought against abortion over the past 3 or 4 years and always brought all those graphic photos out to the Senate floor. But in our polling, our exit polling today we found that the moderate voters, 61 percent of them said that they voted for Dick Swett. This is a state that is simply becoming more moderate. When we ran this poll I think that almost half of the people in New Hampshire told us that they now consider themselves moderate. This used to be a very conservative state but it got too moderate, I guess, for Bob Smith." CBS has a whole night to make more bad calls tonight. -- Brent Baker

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