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FlubWatch 2002

CNN's Candy Crowley is in the midst of a tortured explanation of how the all-news network will be tallying the votes and prematurely declaring winners this year. Apparently, it involves a bunch of men sitting at computers and talking loudly while they crunch numbers into Excel spreadsheets. This, in turn, will cause state maps to change colors like some sort of politically attuned mood ring. All this to let you know that the North Carolina Senate race is too close to call.

"Why are we doing all this?" asks Crowley, since the CNN microphone in the Michaels apartment has apparently captured my incredulity. "One word -- Florida in 2000."

Apart from learning to tell the difference between one word and three, if CNN really wanted to avoid a 2000-esque embarrassment, it should just keep anchor Judy Woodruff away from the liquor cabinet. Every segment involving the easily befuddled news anchor was either featured a malaprop, a miscue or a sentence that trails off into thin air long after the vagaries of subject-verb agreement have long since flummoxed poor Judy. My favorite moment so far: when Woodruff gave a lengthy introduction to a reporter standing by in South Carolina, only to discover that the correspondent was actually in South Dakota.

Somewhere, Bernie Shaw cackles gleefully.


Perhaps this is terribly immature of me, but every time CNN cuts over to Minneapolis where reality TV show host/journalist Anderson Cooper is standing by to report on the Senate race, I keep waiting for him to say, "Coming up next: Is Walter Mondale... The Mole?"

Of course, every time CNN cuts over to James Carville on the Crossfire set, I expect him to start detailing his plan to buy up the world's kryptonite reserves in yet another effort to destroy his arch-enemy Superman.


So when I got home the other day, there was a message waiting for me on the answering machine from President Bartlett.

"Hello, I'm Martin Sheen," President Bartlett began. "And I'm asking you to join me in voting yes on Proposition 52. The truth is if we don't vote, then we don't have a voice. Prop 52 gives everyone a voice, by allowing eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day with proper ID. It also requires a voter's bill of rights to be posted at polling locations. Protect voter rights and prevent voter fraud by voting yes on Proposition 52."

Huh -- no witty repartee, no repetitive dialogue, not even a reference to an obscure factoid or bit of minutia used to illustrate a larger issue. I bet the president wasn't even walking down the hall and talking on the cell phone when he left me the message.

Man, the critics are right -- The West Wing really has gone downhill this year.

As for Prop 52, I'm voting against it, just because allowing folks to register to vote on Election Day sounds like a great way to ensure high voter turnout among the recently deceased. But then again, I'll hold off final judgment on the proposition until I hear what that wacky bowling alley lawyer thinks about the issues.


We kid CNN, but to the network's credit, it hasn't erroneously predicted that Al Gore has been elected senator in Idaho tonight, so it's already a couple steps ahead of its 2000 election coverage. Besides, on what other network could you flip by and see James Carville putting a waste-paper basket on his head in reaction to Saxby Chambliss's win in Georgia?

Also, I think it's great that CNN has hired former Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy to sit on the right for Crossfire because after Emilio Estevez, McCarthy always struck me as the one '80s movie star who... Oh, that's Tucker Carlson? Never mind then.

Above all, though, CNN has Jeff Greenfield, and he is just stupendous. He can formulate a relatively coherent analysis on a moment's notice, he doesn't fill the surrounding air with hot gas every time he opens his mouth, and he has a wealth of information about every race at his fingertips. Short of Dan Rather and his impressive arsenal of metaphors and similes, there's no one I'd rather get my election news from then Greenfield.

Plus, he's managed to sit next to a sputtering Judy Woodruff for seven hours without slamming her head into a nearby console or making "Who farted?" faces every time she opens her mouth, and that may be the greatest act of Christian forebearance I have ever witnessed.


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