"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 November 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 11.16.00


With no election winner officially declared, the obvious front runner at this point is NBC's Saturday Night Live, which has ridden this flukey political season on a wave of unprecedented credibility. It started with the first Gore-Bush debate when Will Ferrell (as Bush), Darrell Hammond (as Gore), and writer James Downey turned the two actual candidates into something they never could be on their own — interesting. MSNBC's Brian Williams followed later that week by padding his news broadcast with clips of the sketch. Then MSNBC commentator and NBC West Wing creative consultant Lawrence O'Donnell joined Williams to call the piece the "most important political writing of the year." After news "broke" that Gore's staff sat him down to watch the piece as a Round 2 primer, and the Vice President's subsequent sleepwalking performance in Round 2 helped sink his poll numbers, the show arguably altered the course of the election. Ever since, each turn of the campaign has drawn wry "What will Saturday Night Live make of this?" queries from reporters padding their 24-hour newscycles with comedy no better or worse than usual for current SNL. This Sunday, after extended SNL highlight clips, MSNBC anchors even went so far as to query their Bush and Gore field reporters if either man had any official reaction to the show's Odd Couple parody of them. No statements were given, but would you rush into something that important? Saturday Night Live has taken its place at the head of the pack, but perhaps it's better to credit the pack more than the show. After two year-long bumbling campaigns and the sketch level reporting of the major networks on election night, the Saturday Night Live gang has one clear advantage over all this comic competition — they're the professionals.

He has burned virtually all his bridges to the Republican Party; he has identified himself definitively and irrevocably in the public eye with the fringe far right; he has all but destroyed the once-formidable Reform Party (and then contemptuously washed his hands of it); he has hovered around one percent of the vote throughout most of the presidential campaign, at one point falling behind Libertarian candidate Harry "I found freedom by ditching inconvenient friends and family members" Browne. It is safe to say that Pat Buchanan's political career, in anything like its hitherto-existing form, is over. How strange, then, that long after being virtually forgotten (denied even the dubious honorific of "spoiler" applied to his left-wing opposite number, Ralph Nader), Buchanan should emerge, through the vicissitudes of fate and human folly, as the key to the final outcome of the entire election. Odder still, that the other major players in this final act of Buchanan's career should be two of the principal nemeses in his peculiar personal mythology: the Bush family and the Jews. That an overwhelmingly Jewish, overwhelmingly Democratic retirement community is overwhelmingly the largest Florida voting district for Buchanan (who has been dogged for years by credible charges of anti-Semitism, and destroyed his already marginal chances in this election by publishing a book arguing that the U.S. should not have intervened against Hitler in World War II) goes so far beyond absurdity that even the fearless japesters of Saturday Night Live won't touch it. One of the most dogged and insistent proponents of the argument that the West Palm Beach vote was tainted has been Buchanan himself. This might at first seem odd: Buchanan was the beneficiary of the mishap, and those protesting against it are members of ethnic and political groupings with which Buchanan has long been at odds (to put it mildly). But the mystery evaporates when we consider Buchanan's real target: the Bush family, quintessential symbols of that "East Coast Establishment" which the populist far right has always regarded as its greatest foe. If W. is confirmed as President despite the West Palm Beach fiasco, he will have to govern burdened with the widespread perception that his election was merely the result of a technical error. Buchanan's horse's-mouth confirmation of this perception enhances its credibility, and that's worth the indignity of giving aid and comfort to the secret masters of the banks and media (or their grandparents). In fact, it's a little disappointing Pat hasn't followed up his attack with some meet-n-greet photo ops in Palm Beach. "Buchanan and Jews: The healing begins" is the only feel-good headline we're likely to get out of this election.

Both of the nuisance candidates, Nader and Buchanan, vowed to disrupt the "politics-as-usual" represented so blatantly by the two major-party contenders. Now that they've succeeded on such a vast scale, it seems almost churlish to point out that even those two master bumblers couldn't have anticipated this result.

If you peel back the slick, fragile, "But Gore Leads In The Popular Vote"-thin pages of this month's Vanity Fair, you'll find Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson — the jurist who split Microsoft asunder in its landmark antitrust case — elected to the magazine's 2000 Hall of Fame. We don't mean to slight Judge Jackson, but it's a little disturbing to find a man who argues that anything can be too big, powerful, or rich in the pages of Vanity Fair. The magazine's unabashed adoration for Herb Allen billionaire boys club retreats, 100 Most Powerful People in _____ lists (Hollywood, new media, the Condé Nast home office, what have you), and "I Met a Kennedy Once" memoirs are all designed to drive home the unexpected insight that money still talks. Why, this issue alone features a profile Fed Chairman For Life Alan Greenspan, a paean to New York's legendary Colony restaurant (complete with floor map indicating Joseph Kennedy's table), a true crime tale of a murdered Monte Carlo billionaire, and a Gore Vidal essay complete with a picture of Gore and, uh ... well, another Kennedy. Take it all with a grain of salt named Penfield Jackson, but we beg VF not to drift into trendy Naderesque big money bashing. Don't forget, Vanity Fair was the green party long before anyone ever heard of Righteous Ralph. But perhaps we're overreacting. After all, the Jackson story runs on page 318, and the editors did lump him in with heavyweight 2000 fellow hall of famers Katie Couric and Survivor nude guy Richard Hatch ... lest the Judge and his ruling get too big for their own good.

The first election of the 21st century has been marred by much low technology, from dangling chads to hand recounts. From the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, comes a methodology for solving a literal, vote-for-vote tie. Should the recount come out even, the winner will be chosen by a coin flip. (Other proposed methods include drawing straws, a hand of five-card stud, and a marathon session of double dutch). The coin toss solution presents some interesting questions (Catch it or let it hit the ground? How much time would the loser have before the flip was certified to request a best two-out-of-three?). But is this really the best the home of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid can do? After all, a shootin' solution would not only shore up Al Gore's support for guns that "do not present a threat to public safety," but ensure that any questions about the legitimacy of the final outcome will remain fairly muted.

courtesy of the Sucksters