Jewish World Review Dec. 16, 2004 / 4 Teves, 5765

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Mainstream media now feeding conspiracy theories | I've always liked the Washington Post.

I know they've been knocked as being left-of-center and part of the Northeast liberal elite crowd. But from what I've read in the Post since first getting elected to Congress ten years ago, I have found them to be more intellectually honest and moderate in their coverage of political issues than, say, the New York Times.

In fact, when I left Congress, one of the things I missed the most was being able to pick up the Post on my way to work for 25 cents.

Maybe because of my generally positive feelings about the paper, I am surprised at an article they ran yesterday regarding the 2004 election.

For weeks now, Democratic hacks and political conspiracy theorists (see Jesse Jackson) have been keeping themselves busy traveling around Ohio and Florida. Their purpose? To prove to the world that George Bush won those two states because of massive polling irregularities and Republican-induced fraud.

Late last month, the Palm Beach County elections supervisor was attacked by an angry swarm of such conspiracy nuts at a public event. The group, whom I suspect receives transmissions through the fillings in their head from the 1970s rock group Klaatu, still can't get over the fact that Bush beat Kerry by nearly 400,000 votes in Florida.

Anyone who knows anything about politics knows that questioning the results of all elections that fall within 400,000 votes would cause chaos in the voting process.

And anyone who knows anything about Florida politics knows that only the most troubled conspiracy theorist — or rabid Democrat — could make the laughable claim that Bush's victory in the Sunshine State was aided by fraud.

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But that didn't stop the Washington Post from reporting on a "study" from Berkeley students and professors who claimed that George Bush got 130,000 of John Kerry's votes from the three Democratic Counties in South Florida that have electronic voting machines.

To make the discovery more credible, the Post reporters interviewed an MIT professor who first professed skepticism at such results. But later, that same professor breathlessly reported that he had looked over the numbers and came up with the same result.

"You can't break it; I've tried. There's something funky in the results from the electronic-machine counties."

Oh my God! This is serious!! How could Karl Rove and Hitler — now living comfortably in Barbados and completing his second set of diaries for Der Stern — have masterminded yet another election day plot to subvert American democracy?

Well, actually… they didn't.

Had our Berkeley students and professors conducting said study spent less time reading Noam Chomsky and more time reading Florida election results, they would have understood what political factors led to George Bush outperforming their expectations by 130,000 votes in South Florida.

I will present these factors numerically in such a way that even a Berkeley student taking a fourth bong hit while assembling his aluminum foil helmet to the background strains of "Dark Side of the Moon" can follow.

Hopefully, a few Washington Post reporters will also take note.

1. Ask any mermaid you happen to see and she'll tell you that a helluva lot more people voted in 2004 than 2000. Higher voter turnout equals… anyone? Anyone? That's right! More votes for both candidates.

2. Democratic and Republican operatives were saying before the election that John Kerry was underperforming among key constituencies in South Florida. Some Democrats blamed it on Kerry's failure to excite African-American voters while others suggested that the absence of Joe Liebermann from the ticket would hurt Democrats in Jewish communities.

3. Just weeks before the election, a Palm Beach reporter spoke of the latest Palm Beach County poll showing the president within striking distance of Kerry. Almost all concurred that if Bush was outperforming expectations in heavily Democratic Palm Beach County, then John Kerry was in trouble. Turns out he was.

4. Had our Berkeley students briefly compared the 2004 election results with those from other years, they would have found that George Bush actually underperformed when compared to other GOP candidates — including one named Jeb.

I don't want to do their Christmas break homework for them (can you say Christmas in Berkeley?), but here is the voting breakdown between two conservative Republicans named Bush:

George Bush — 35%
Jeb Bush — 40%

George Bush — 39%
Jeb Bush — 43%

George Bush — 45%
Jeb Bush — 53%

For those of you not stoned out of your gourd or gazing at the 3D poster of Jesus, Jerry Garcia, and George McGovern waving from atop a UFO you picked up from Spencer's Gifts, the numbers draw an unmistakable conclusion.

A series of unfortunate events for John Kerry occurred in South Florida this election season. These things happen in political campaigns. And the events led to election results understood and accepted even by the most partisan Democratic strategist.

The president's vote totals may have been 130,000 higher than these Berkeley students had hoped for, but the results were far from unusual. Hell, Bush even got whipped by his little brother and a slate of other Republican candidates in 2004 in these South Florida counties.
Immediately after the election, many of these conspiracy theorists (who pass themselves off as political activists) spoke of inexplicable vote totals in Democratic counties across North Florida that went for Bush.

A few days later it was reported that these same counties had gone for Bush in 2000 and heavily trended Republican in national elections. Another conspiracy theory bit the dust.

Though I have made light of the Berkeley study, the more serious question to why the Washington Post would feed into conspiracy theories that political reporters on its own staff could have debunked in 30 seconds.

The Post's readers deserve an answer to that question.

They also deserve to know why the paper would raise similar questions regarding the Ohio results when their report in the Buckeye state is based on selective antidotes, partisan attacks, and general observations that could have been made of every election held in all fifty states.

As the spokesperson for Ohio's election department said this week, "In Washington, D.C., a voter who casts a ballot in the wrong precinct cannot have that ballot counted. Yet in Ohio, it was 'voter suppression' and 'voter disenfranchisement.'"

Today's Post report began with a Ohio voter recounting the tragic tale of how young, black men left polling places before casting their votes because they had to wait too long.
"How is that good for democracy?" she asked.

Pass the Pulitzer and weep for our once free land. Why, there are reports that between 5,000 and 15,000 people "lost their votes" because they refused to wait in line.

Funny how you never hear similar horror stories from Republican precincts.

Is that because it never happens or because the press never reports it?

All I know is that on election day, voters in Precinct 110 in Escambia County, Florida stood in line for up to seven hours waiting to vote. When the rain started pouring down and the rest of Florida's polling places closed down, these voters stayed put.

As the hours passed by, the tired voters began singing "God Bless America" and other patriotic hymns. College students drove in pickup trucks filled with bottled water to give the crowd. These people had come to vote and they were going to stay there until their vote was counted.

So why didn't we hear about similar GOP precincts across America on election night?

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth.

Okay. Maybe you can. Here goes.

You don't hear both sides of the story because most Republican voters stuck in line are white conservatives and moderates who voted for Bush. Reporters don't usually win awards or get noticed by their editors for writing such stories.

Instead, who among us can resist the tale well told of young black men having their votes stolen by scheming, white Republican power brokers? Even if, in the case of Ohio, the white, scheming Republican is actually black.

I am not surprised that a reporter would pitch this story to an Internet publisher who deals in conspiracy theories. But the fact that the Washington Post would publish this sloppy piece of journalism is shocking.

Readers of the Washington Post deserve better.

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Former Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) hosts “Scarborough Country,” 10 p.m. ET, weeknights on MSNBC. He is the author of the recently published "Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day : The Real Deal on How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Other Washington Barbarians are Bankrupting America". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)Comment by clicking here.

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