Covering last night's debate
At 9:30 this morning I turned to Kiosko.net to see how American newspapers were handling last night's debate. (Kiosko prints the front page of major newspapers.) The website usually features some of America's most read newspapers at the top of the page and here are their headlines:
New York Times:
Trump Won't Say If He will Accept Election's Results
Trump Won't Vow to Honor Results
Fierce Debate Caps Brutal Series
sub-heading Trump refuses to say whether he'll accept election results
Trump refuses to say whether he will accept election result
The Seattle Times:
Feisty finale: Trump won't say if he'll accept election results
Wall Street Journal:
Trump Wavers on Accepting Results
The headlines were not surprising. If you watched any of the post-debate analysis or the morning cable news shows, Trump's unwillingness to pledge support for the results of the election was the most important story. Even Fox News saw this as important. As TPM described:
The criticisms of Donald Trump refusal to say that he would accept the results of the election were broad and impassioned, with even pundits on Fox News calling his answer at Wednesday's night's debate "political suicide," " a totally wrong answer" and "not the way we play politics."
Finally, here is the default headline for the Associated Press story on the debate which was used by numerous media sources:
Trump refuses to say he will accept election results
The AP story saw Trump's decision as important but the Intelligencer, which ran this same article, chose to ignore the AP's headline. Here's their headline:
Final Countdown To Election is On
And the sub-heading is:
Clinton, Trump clash one last time in debate
Note -- As the default AP headline suggests, Trump's comments are in the Intelligencer article. As I've noted on a number of occasions, however, headlines are often more important than the article itself because a majority (60% in one study of newspaper readers) read only the headline.
The editorial page
Pat Buchanan, who I've argued previously is often a stand-in for the paper's editorial position, has the top column. Today's title explains the column:
Is System Rigged? You Bet
He begins by quoting Trump:
"Remember, it's a rigged system. It's a rigged election," said Donald Trump in New Hampshire on Saturday.
And Buchanan concludes by restating his thesis:
Because, in the last analysis, yes, Virginia, the system is rigged.
In between, Buchanan is not quite as paranoid as Trump about the actual voting process preferring to attack the media, Republicans and Democrats. But his overall message and the Intelligencer headline, certainly support Trump's attempt to delegitimize a Clinton victory.
Finally, one of today's editorials, "Indeed, Stop Whining," draws the false equivalency that Democratic complaints about voter suppression laws are the same thing as Trump saying the election is rigged:
Stop whining,” President Barack Obama advised Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Tuesday, in reaction to Trump’s complaints the election may be rigged against him.
Really, Mr. President? Your advice sounds strange indeed, coming as it does from one who, in company with many other liberals, has spent years accusing Republicans of attempting to “suppress” votes.
Perhaps Obama should extend his advice, good as it is, to some in his own political party.
Except that there is a considerable amount of actual evidence that strict voter registration laws are often designed to suppress the vote. Google "academic studies of voter suppression" and see what you get. Here's one study from earlier this year:
In a new paper entitled “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes,” researchers at the University of California, San Diego — Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi — and Bucknell University — Lindsay Nielson — used data from the annual Cooperative Congressional Election Study to compare states with strict voter ID laws to those that allow voters without photo ID to cast a ballot. They found a clear and significant dampening effect on minority turnout in strict voter ID states.
If you compare the evidence on voter suppression to Trump's total lack of evidence that "the election is rigged," it's not hard to reach the conclusion that the two are in no way comparable.
This election, the Intelligencer has totally ignored Trump's racism, sexism, nativism, and xenophobia. Last night Trump once again questioned the legitimacy of our electoral process. Today the Intelligencer downplayed it on their front page, published a columnist who agrees with Trump, and then editorialized that Democrats have no business criticizing Trump on the legitimacy of the election since they challenge voter suppression laws. Compare the Intelligencer's daily criticism of Clinton with its total silence on Trump's abuses. Yeah, its silence come through loud and clear.
Afternoon update -- the return of Al Gore
I decided to wait to publish until after I had seen the afternoon paper. To its credit, the afternoon News-Register did highlight Trump's wait-and-see on the election's legitimacy. (That didn't surprise me -- I think their news pages are more objective.) On the other hand, they editorially adopted the right wing meme that has been making the rounds for a couple of days now -- that Trump is doing the same thing that Al Gore did in the 2000 election. (They are really getting desperate.)
From the editorial:
What about, for example, Al Gore in 2000, when election day results showed he had lost the presidency to George W. Bush? Gore alleged the election had been rigged in Florida. He sent platoons of lawyers to court in an attempt to overturn the election. Not until a month after the voting did the U.S. Supreme Court finally settle the matter.
First, Gore never claimed it was "rigged." He also didn't send "platoons" because lawyers aren't soldiers. Third, Florida's voting laws require a recount when the results are very close as they were in this election. For those readers who were not of voting age in 2000 or whose memory (like mine) needs a refresher course, here's a concise summary that the LA Times published today:
Trump’s words are markedly different from what took place 16 years ago.
As polls have increasingly turned against Trump, he has stepped up claims that the election is “rigged,” which critics argue is laying the groundwork for contesting the election. Gore never questioned the election results before the voting concluded.
On election night in 2000, the television networks called Florida for Bush, ostensibly giving him the electoral votes to win the White House. Gore called Bush to concede, but when the networks realized Florida was too close to call, they rescinded Bush's win there.
Gore took back his concession. Florida state law mandated a recount because of how close the vote was.
Gore sought hand recounts in a handful of counties; Bush sued to stop them. Pictures of elections officials scrutinizing paper ballots filled the airwaves, and a legal battle ensued.
Ultimately, Bush took the matter to the Supreme Court, which stopped the recount. Gore said he disagreed with the decision but conceded the race.
Yes, that's a much different story.
One final irony. Part of Florida's problem was a very confusing ballot which caused difficulty especially with 3rd and 4th party candidates on the ballot. (That's one of the major reasons why Gore had supported a recount.) One of the more famous inconsistencies took place in liberal Palm Beach County which had a large Jewish population. The 4th party candidate was not seen as a friend of Israel and he was certainly not a liberal and yet he received many more votes than anyone expected. The candidate later said:
When I took one look at that ballot on Election Night. . . . it's very easy for me to see how someone could have voted for me in the belief they voted for Al Gore.
The 4th party candidate? Patrick Buchanan.
Update - 10/21
The right-wing Republican and Wheeling News-Register argument that "Trump is doing the same thing that Al Gore did in 2000" was fact checked by the Associated Press late yesterday afternoon in an article titled "AP FACT CHECK: Sharp contrast between Gore in 2000 and Trump." Here is their conclusion:
THE FACTS: Comparing Trump's before-the-fact, implied threat to challenge a "rigged" election to Gore's contest of the 2000 race is faulty on several levels.
Gore's challenge was rooted not on unfounded suspicions but actual events - Florida's knife-edge thin vote results. It also followed a legal process that saw each political party fully engaged in backing its candidate, unlike the calls that Trump has faced from many Republicans to honor the upcoming election, which polls show he seems likely to lose.
The AP fact check then explains the background to the events similar to the LA Times report above.
The AP fact check was not in the morning Intelligencer and my hunch is that it won't be included in the afternoon News-Register.