When I was in England I opened up my e-mail account only to have it overflow all over the floor: angry complaints from readers hectoring me about my audacity for leaving the country at a moment of national peril. The e-mails spilled all over, and I had to call maid service to help me clean it up. And I still got charged for vitriol carpet-stain removal on my bill.
While I’m flattered, I really didn’t need all of the lectures about my civic responsibilities. Of course, I realize I didn’t hear much from the understanding and considerate people because the understanding and considerate people let me have a vacation in peace. I should not have to point out that nobody could have predicted Al Gore would ignore the buzzer after the end of the presidential race. And besides, the country is still a mess, eight days after I left.
Anyway, I’m on a train heading back to D.C. after having Thanksgiving Dinner at Goldberg-HQ in New York. Not merely sated, but bloated with pilgrim-inspired tasty goodness (my mom is not merely an accomplished agent provocateur, she is a phenomenal cook), I woke up to see George Bush’s lawyer Theodore Olson fighting the good fight on the morning tube. Olson did a fine job on both CNN and ABC, the two networks I saw him on. But what caught my attention was the fact that both interviewers were obsessed about a specific point.
What point? You ask. Well, I’m gonna tell ya. They both wanted to know whether the Republican protests in Miami-Dade County (brilliantly described in Paul Gigot’s column today) were “politically orchestrated” or “politically motivated.” Because I was distracted by the fact that I can no longer see my feet because of my belly, I wasn’t taking notes, so I can’t quote verbatim. But both CNN’s Bill Hemmer and the woman on ABC’s Good Morning America whose name I didn’t catch seemed convinced they were pursuing a major angle. Did Republicans or — egads — the Bush campaign itself, encourage Republican observers at the Miami recount to protest? Olson said — and I’m paraphrasing — “I don’t know, but maybe.” And “so what if they did?”
Now, I could have been missing something, as I could have blown .2 on the turkey-gravy breathalyzer, but I found the distinct odor of righteous indignation on the part of the normally innocuous Hemmer to be astounding. “Forgive me Mr. Olson but you did not answer my question, was the protest politically orchestrated?”
I can forgive Olson for not having a more prepared and therefore more outraged response. After all, I have never in my life heard a reporter ask a prominent Democrat if a protest was “politically motivated” the way they were asking Olson. Never, ever.
This onion deserves a little peeling. First there was the profound skepticism that Republicans could authentically don the protester’s mantle. Selective as this incredulity may be, it is understandable. Refusing to tip on the wine is the usual way Republicans voice their anger. But considering the context — an attempt by Democratic functionaries to count ballots in secret, away from the media and Republican observers — is it so impossible to imagine GOPers getting their Irish up? Indeed, couldn’t the fact that Republican protests are such a rarity lend credence to the idea that this was an authentic outpouring of anger? If a dog has never been known to bite anyone, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the one time he does, it’s because he was provoked?
After all it is the Democratic dog that is famous for biting any hand at any time if it serves its purposes. Democrats protest when unions aren’t kowtowed to and when minorities’ feelings are hurt. They take to the streets when a raise in the minimum wage comes up a nickel short and they handcuff themselves to chairs when a kid gets expelled from school for “only” beating a kid with his hands and feet instead of shooting him with a Glock. A transgender heroin addict loses a job as a babysitter; a black lady gets the cart with the one bad wheel at the supermarket; a dog drops a chad on Gloria Steinem’s carpet; Sbarro runs out of ranch dressing for Al Sharpton’s Buffalo wings; Bill Clinton is denied his free intern after getting all ten holes punched on his frequent-groper card — and the Democratic Party breaks out its fife and drum corps and barricades downtown thoroughfares.
And yet, I have never, ever, heard a reporter ask a Democrat, “What do you say about rumors that the current protests were politically orchestrated?”
I for one am delighted that Republicans were able to mau-mau the Democrats into reversing a bad decision. I don’t much like protests or political enthusiasm, but that doesn’t mean they are always inappropriate. A little while before I left town I predicted that Al Gore would be the next president because Republicans aren’t capable of going to the mattresses the way Democrats are. But it turns out that I may have been wrong, and if I was it’s because for the first time in years — with the exception of the House impeachment vote — the Republicans are willing to fight just as hard as Democrats.
This seems to have shocked a lot of people, including me of course. But while I am cheered by it, the press increasingly seems to think there’s something unfair about it.
As this is the Friday after Turkey day, I will not give you my full report from London or reveal the big news until Monday. So check in then.