Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- November, 2000

The Hijacked Election

Ernest Partridge

The US Presidential campaign has been hijacked by a ruthless, deliberate and relentless slander and lie. Worst of all, this lie has proven to be stunningly effective. Not only did the media fail to report this outrage, they were complicit in it.

The lie, of course, is that Al Gore is "a pathological liar." This slander is based upon several reported anecdotes that are demonstrably false. But for this lie, Gore would have won the election.

Accordingly, when a pre-election Wall Street Journal poll asked "Which candidate is more honest and straightforward?" 45% said Bush, and 29% said Gore. A Lexis search of "gore" & "invented the internet," yielded 7000 "hits." 

And yet, Al Gore has never claimed to have invented the internet. Nor did he claim to have "discovered" Love Canal. And the "Love Story" connection turns out to be true. In fact, virtually every specification of the "liar" smear is a concoction of Gore's political enemies, eagerly spread far and wide by the media. Specifically: 

The "Invention" of the Internet: In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer March 9, 1999, Gore said "during my service in the US Congress, I took the initiative in creating the internet." This is corroborated by none other than Newt Gingrich in an September 1, 2000 CSPAN panel: "Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an internet." (Transcribed from Gingrich's voice – I have a tape). Yet "Gore claims to have invented the internet" has become a mantra, believed now by almost everyone.  

"Love Story:"   Robert Parry reports in the April, 2000 Washington Monthly, "When the author, Erich Segal, was asked . . ., he stated that the preppy hockey-playing male lead, Oliver Barrettt IV, indeed was modeled after Gore and Gore's Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones." (NY Times, Dec. 14, 1997). Gore noted his involvement in "Love Story" in a two-hour interview with Time correspondent, Karen Tumulty, and asked that it be kept "off the record." Tumulty violated that request, and the rest is history.

Love Canal:   What Gore actually said was "that was the one that started it all." "That" referred to toxic waste in Toone, Tennessee." Gore also noted that the Toone situation drew his attention to Love Canal. (He made no claim to have been actively involved in the Love Canal case). The very next day, Gore's statement "that was the one that started it all" was morphed by the Washington Post into "I was the one that started it all." Immediately thereafter, the Republican National Committee changed that to "I was the one who started it all," and falsely re-directed the reference from Toone, Tennessee, to Love Canal. Did the media drop a flag on that play? No Way! And so the myth was born, and continues to flourish today. (Parry, see above).

The Florida School: Gore's story in the first debate of the overcrowded Florida classroom was entirely true at the time the Gore was given the letter by the student's father, and continued to be true for several days afterward. Gore never claimed that the student was condemned to stand in the classroom for the entire year. Embarrassed by the national attention, the Principal issued a false denial that the GOP put to immediate use, without bothering to check the facts -- ironically, the exact failure of responsibility that they attributed to Gore.

The Buddhist Temple Incident: On the day of the temple visit, Gore was schedule to attend a fund raiser, which was cancelled. The GOP and the Press later merged the two events, thus falsely labeling the temple visit as a fund-raiser. After the visit, two of Gore's supporters, unbeknownst to Gore, contacted some of the temple visitors and solicited donations -- a violation of the law, for which they were subsequently convicted. Eric Boehlert, "Gore's Too-Willing Executioners," Salon.com).

And so on -- regarding his physical labor on the Gore farm in Tennessee (true, as Gore reported), etc.

These slanders were repeated so often that they were believed by most, while the truth was known to very few. The smear was repeated in the major media and in the GOP propaganda (including Bush's remark about Gore "inventing the internet" in one of the debates). The truth had to be dug up from fringe "liberal" publications such as The Nation, or internet web-sites such as Salon, Slate or "Tom Paine." Two of my sources (direct quotes by Gingrich and Tumulty) appeared quite by accident, as I was watching CSPAN. (For documentation, see below).

And the beat goes on. Case in Point:  Two days before the election, Gore said the following at a Black church in Detroit: "When my opponent, Gov. Bush, says that he will appoint 'strict constructionists' to the Supreme Court I often think of the 'strictly constructionist' meaning that was applied when the Constitution was written -- how some people were considered three-fifths of a human being." (Transcribed from Gore's voice on a videotape). Immediately after showing this clip, Ollie North on MSNBC rhetorically asked Senator Barbara Boxer, "Do you honestly believe that George Bush will restore slavery in America?" And Chris Matthews followed the same clip with the query: "Do you think that it was fair pool there to say that a Bush appointed Supreme Court would interpret the Constitution the way it was interpreted before it was amended after the Civil War -- to treat black people as if they were only three-fifths of a person? Do you think that is what a Bush Supreme Court would do really? C'mon, you guys are really unbelievable! .. And they are going to enforce the fugitive slave law too! I mean, how bad are they?"

Any moderately intelligent individual with a modicum sense of fair play would recognize Gore's remark as an argumentum ad absurdum -- an attempt to demonstrate the historical absurdity of "strict constructionism." Here on MSNBC was another smear-in-the-making, with a genesis almost identical to the "invented-the-internet" myth. Only the proximity to the election cut this slander short.
Gore's opponents, it seems, were thus in the strange position of concocting and perpetuating lies to "prove" that Gore concocts lies. And in the tradition of Josef Goebbels, they understand that if a lie is told often enough, it eventually becomes a "given" indisputable "truth." Hence the drumbeat litany of "Love Store" and "Inventing the Internet." And the press, by and large, not only failed to expose this outrage -- it participated in it. And yet we are still expected to believe (as so many do) that there is a "liberal media bias."

It is the responsibility of journalists and the press not to function as flacks for the Republican National Committee. By perpetuating these damaging myths, and failing to set the record straight, they did just that.

And it got even worse:  The manipulation of public opinion by the press was clearly manifested by the reported public response to the Presidential debates. If you saw the final debate and then followed the succeeding press reports, you may have felt, as I did, that you had fallen down a rabbit hole and were wandering around in Wonderland.

Never have I seen a more decisive debate victory than that scored by Al Gore over George Bush in that debate. Gore vigorously and confidently displayed a command of the facts and clarity of expression. He apparently was better informed of Bush's record as Governor of Texas than was Bush himself. In contrast, Bush appeared hard-pressed to fill in his allotted two minutes, as he stumbled, endlessly repeated stump speech slogans and spewed out dozens of errors, plainly displaying his ignorance and incompetence. The immediate public reaction confirms my impression, as do several discerning observers (notably Anthony Lewis in his recent column, "Bob and Weave"). 

Then the pundit machine kicked in. Gore was accused of bullying poor Dubya, who in turn was praised for his composure and civility. Once again, public attention was drawn away from substance and competence toward drama criticism, stage management and psychobabble. Two days after that debate, after the pundits told the American public what they had seen and how they should think, the CNN poll showed that Bush had gained a 10% lead. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

The few journalistic voices of reason have been overwhelmed by the cacophony of irrelevance, spin, and outright slander.

Thus we no longer have the free and open press that Jefferson believed was the foundation of a free republic. And the public, with a boost from five compliant Supreme Court justices, elected (and appointed) a man who, on the basis of his issues and qualifications, would be overwhelmingly rejected at the polls, if only the press were cease its reiterations of known falsehoods and, instead, were to accurately report the facts to the public.

God help us all. And God save our precious republic. 

Apparently, the US media will not.

For more documentation, see:

Robert Parry,  "He's No Pinocchio"  
Eric Boehlert 
"Gore's Too-Willing Executioners,"  

Post-Script: On Reliability, Validity and "Chads"

(An Unpublished Letter to the New York Times)

Are hand counts of punched ballots more "accurate" than machine tabulations? It depends upon what one means by "accurate." Machine counting is more reliable. Advantage to the Bush team. Hand counting is more valid. Advantage to Gore. The Gore team has the better argument.
The reliability/validity distinction is well-known to most practicing teachers and to all applied statisticians. Reliable instruments give consistent scores with narrow margins of error. Valid tests yield the information that one is seeking. IQ tests are certifiably reliable. But do they validly measure "intelligence." That is a very controversial question. True-False and multiple choice tests are unquestionably more reliable than essay exams. But philosophy professors correctly prefer essay exams (notoriously unreliable), since they more validly display a student’s ability to express an idea and to criticize or construct an argument.

Punch-cards machines reliably tabulate whether or not a laser beam has passed through a hole in the card. However, they do not validly count votes, for when a voter punches through a card, clearly expressing an intended vote, the chads occasionally remain attached, or previous chads "build-up" preventing a "clean punch." . And since the machine does not count an undetached chad, such intended votes are not tabulated. Accordingly, punch card voting systems, while reliable, are not completely valid.

The best remedy is visual inspection of the cards, as the laws of Florida and Texas have recognized.

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .