On Fox News' "Special Report," Brit Hume raised the nut conspiracy theories circulating on the Web about Republicans stealing the presidential election. The liberals on the panel responded by quickly pointing out that no national Democrats ? not even Terry McAuliffe! ? had suggested that there had been any systematic vote theft. Hume admitted the rumors of vote fraud were limited to nutcases on the Web.
Like most Americans, apparently no one at Fox is watching MSNBC!
In a major report on "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" last Monday, Olbermann revealed that Bush's win in Florida ? and thus the election ? was "attributable largely to largely Democratic districts suddenly switching sides and all voting for Mr. Bush at the same time"! You know Keith Olbermann is heart-attack serious when he starts using "largely" twice in the same sentence.
Somberly reporting that "all this data here is from the office of Florida's secretary of state," Olbermann listed five Florida counties where the registrations are majority Democratic ? and yet (!) the counties went for Bush.
A quick glance at the Congressional Almanac indicates that all five counties in Olbermann's conspiracy theory are in the Florida Panhandle, where most people have been registered as Democrats since their grandfathers registered them to vote shortly after the Civil War. This is in contrast to Broward and Dade Counties, where the vast majority of voters entered their party registrations when they moved to Florida from New York a few years ago.
As if anticipating Olbermann's idiotic conspiracy theory two years ago when he wrote the most recent almanac, Michael Barone specifically notes that these Panhandle counties ? though still majority Democratic in party registrations ? have been voting for Republicans for president for many years. This would include the 2000 presidential election when the three voting districts at the centerpiece of Olbermann's conspiracy theory voted for Bush by 69 percent, 66 percent and 57 percent. The only way Barone could have made this any clearer to the "Countdown" host would have been to begin the chapter, "Dear Keith Olbermann ..."
There's no mystery, no scandal. These are what's known as "Southern Democrats," who have been voting Republican for a very, very, very long time. Most of them probably don't even realize they're registered as Democrats. These people are Democrats like Kevin Phillips is a Republican, like Ashlee Simpson is a singer.
The only scandal is that a purported news program would raise insinuations of vote fraud based on the party registration of Southern Democrats living in the Florida Panhandle ? without anyone at the show checking the Congressional Almanac. (It's especially attractive to be promoting a theory based on a lack of basic information, in the self-righteous, smug manner of Keith Olbermann.)
No election in the United States can be discussed intelligently without reference to Michael Barone's Congressional Almanac. At any half-serious TV news station, the Congressional Almanac is as common as a phonebook.
But at MSNBC, Keith Olbermann can go on air with the major breaking story that five conservative Democratic Panhandle counties voted for Bush, without one person on the show: (1) consulting the Congressional Almanac, (2) looking at the results of the 2000 election, or (3) apparently ever having heard of "Southern Democrats." (They're all Republicans now!)
In case you needed more on the genius theories being hatched on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," even if every one of these counties went unanimously for Kerry ? count them up, Keith! ? that's still, at most, about 50,000 votes. Bush won by 350,000 votes in Florida.
So I guess we can add "math" to Keith's growing "I Don't Do" file, along with "Reading the Congressional Almanac," "Basic Show Prep," "Getting My Attitude in Line With My IQ" ... (By the way, shouldn't Keith Olbermann be avoiding "time is running out" motifs wherever possible?)
One cable news network employs Michael Barone as an analyst; one cable news network does not own a copy of the Congressional Almanac. Guess which one regularly gets seven times the ratings of the other?
In addition to Olbermann peddling the theory that Bush stole the election to his viewer, guess which network employs a correspondent who wasn't sure if the following was a joke?
BUSH AT FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE AFTER WINNING ELECTION: "Now that I have the will of the people at my back, I'm going to start enforcing the one question rule ? that was three questions."
BUSH RESPONDING TO A REPORTER'S FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: "Again, you violated the one question rule right off the bat. Obviously, you didn't listen to the will of the people."
MSNBC correspondent David Shuster replayed this exchange on MSNBC's "Hardball" and then grimly remarked: "It was hard to tell at times whether the president was simply needling reporters, or whether he really planned to clamp down." It wasn't hard to tell for anyone who speaks English.