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>Circus Clowns, Trapeze Artists, and The Big Top

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Undercurrents:
Say What You Don’t Mean! Huh?

Don White
Everyone is so dishonest and devious today! I read this article by Lisa Riley Roche in the Deseret News. If this had been published in any paper besides that one I wouldn’t have believed it. See how biased we have become.

But I had just read part of a book by Andy Borowitz, humorist for the New Yorker, called Who Moved My Soap? which is straight satire about locked up CEOs. It starts by saying his 84-page book is fiction and satire.

I was in the mood for a laugh, then I read the Roche article which suggests that Karl Rove wants to help Mitt Romney get the VP nod from McCain but is going about it “bass-akwards” to throw people off. Oh, yeah! The indirect approach works every time.

When we were kids we used to ask for something we didn’t want just to turn our parents onto giving us the opposite. For example, one time I would have given my two front teeth for the chance to go to the circus with my dad. I went around all day saying, “I really don’t like the circus. Other boys like to go to the circus with their dads; but me? I hate the circus. I don’t want to go to the circus with my Dad. No, there’ll be no circus for me. I hate circus peanuts, coke, hotdogs, carmel apples, popcorn, and ice cream.

“No, watching the trapeze artists fly through the air with the greatest of east is too scary. I hate seeing the lions and tigers. They poop all over and it smells. I don’t like the clowns with their sad, painted faces, or the beautiful girls dressed in almost nothing. Or the muscle men, flame eater, the magicians, and the guy who gets shot through the air by a real cannon. Nope, no fun for me. I’m a sedate child. I’d have a fit if I saw all that worldly stuff. Nope, you won’t find me asking for my Dad to take me places.

“You can just lock me up in a windowless room with nothing but a table, a chair, a bed, a couch, a toilet and 10 cases of bottled water. I would not leave that room until everyone else who was having fun had returned from the circus. That way my parents can save enough money to afford to feed me for a week.”

Of course, after that elaborate charade I ended up going to the circus with my pop and I enjoyed it a lot.

But what about all the lying in the world? This former White House strategist Karl Rove, for example? They say he may be trying some new political tricks to help fellow Republican Mitt Romney secure the party’s vice presidential nomination.

Remember, Rove’s the smart guy who left his post as a top adviser to President Bush last year and now does color on Fox News. Like I know what “color” is, except it must be like a baseball color man who doesn’t call the action, he just gives the inside opinions and cute little stories. That’s color.

Rove must have had a dreary childhood like mine. He mustuve learned the same lessons I learned—you ask for exactly what you don’t want and you end up getting what you want. Sounds crazy, right? But it works every time.

Here’s why I know about Rove. Lately, he has been blurting out that Romney turned in an “uneven performance” in his own failed presidential bid, saying the former leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City made mistakes because of his limited political experience and that Romney criticized Bush.

Good, huh? This way he makes him look like an outsider. That’s what the election is all about this time. Both sides want to look like outsiders so they can make changes they think people want. Insiders can’t do that.

I know what’s going on. You talk tough about Romney’s flaws and you boost his chances of being chosen vice president by distancing him from an unpopular Bush administration.

But he’s got to be careful criticizing Romney, saying he made the mistake of being critical of Bush, you actually link him to President Bush. You don’t want to do that to someone you actually want” to promote as vice president. Most importantly, you’ve got to make sure Romney is not portrayed by others as the candidate handpicked for McCain by Karl Rove.

Mild criticism of Romney by Rove is intended to separate Romney from the administration. You don’t want to hug him too closely. If you hug him too closely, you suffocate him.

Rove is being careful not to actually endorse Romney for just that reason.
He is first to realize his endorsement could carry unwanted baggage. A positive political analysis from Rove is very helpful while an endorsement might be the kiss of death.

Romney should feel a sense of encouragement from Bush and his closest advisers, including Rove. Bush waited until the GOP nomination was settled before endorsing McCain.

Who knows what Karl Rove is up to? He usually is thinking a few chess moves ahead with every comment. No one has been more outspoken that Mitt Romney is the best possible vice presidential candidate for McCain.

Professor Matthew Wilson of Southern Methodist University in Dallas said Romney should avoid too close a tie to Rove. “Mitt Romney certainly doesn’t want to be seen as Karl Rove’s creature,” said Wilson, who specializes in religion and politics.

Wilson suggested Rove may be coming across as critical of Romney because he is concerned that McCain isn’t listening to him.

Rove told the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills on Monday that while Romney probably had the best campaign organization of any Republican candidate, he failed to connect with voters.

And last month, Rove made it a point on “Fox News Sunday” to offer a list of Romney’s flaws even as he praised him for his executive experience in business and as a former governor of Massachusetts, as well as with the Olympics.

“This is the guy who talked about environments and marching with Martin Luther King and so forth. And there’s also the Mormon problem, which was really sort of astonishing to me,” said Rove, who grew up in Utah.

The Mormon “problem” that Rove described was the negative reaction some voters had to Romney’s membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the idea of a Mormon president.

Wilson said Romney’s faith is only a “minor factor” in considering whether he should be the vice presidential nominee. “It is not irrelevant, but it’s not as important as the person at the top of the ticket,” the Texas professor said.

>How The Fourth Estate Rescued An Election

>Judge Orders New Miami Mayoral Election

Miami, 1988–This is a story about how a news gathering organization, the Associated Press, mobilized to force a re-election in the Miami Mayoral contest ten years ago.

Officials were tipped off concerning potential fraud by the absentee ballots that came in, and the AP’s investigation at first centered on that.

Evidence was presented to a Florida judge and he overturned the mayoral election of Xavier Suarez over colorful Miami mayor Joe Corolla. That repeat election was ordered following a November, 1987 election.

“The evidence presented in the case clearly demonstrated fraud and abuse of the absentee ballot laws,” the judge wrote. He said no evidence was presented to indicate that Suarez knew about, or participated in, the fraud.

Carollo claimed that absentee ballots were forged and even paid for by representatives of the Suarez campaign. AP project editor, Judy Miller, said it looked fishy and the AP decided on a full-fledged investigation.

It started as a computer-assisted reporting (CAR) project. Dan Keating, the city desk’s CAR editor (now at the Washington Post) got the voter registration and voting database. he ran those records against felony records, city employee records, real estate records, and social security death records databases. He came up with a list of people who appeared to be dead but who had still voted: people who worked for the city of Miami, didn’t seem to live in the city, but had still voted there; addresses that seemed to house more voters than there was room for; and people who had voted despite having felony records.

That’s when the real project started: All those people had to be backgrounded to find out if they truly were felons, or if they truly were dead, or if they truly didn’t live in the city of Miami.

What A Huge Research Project!

Judy Miller got several departments to lend her reporters for a couple of months, and put them all on the vote fraud team. Their job was to do the reporting on these people. They had to do background checks on all of them, which meant going through some of the public records databases that they had online, like AutoTrack [20], and county databases.

Miller said her job was to train all these people in how to use online public records. “Over the years we had been training reporters to do background checks as they covered elections. So we had a group of reporters who were trained, but we had to update them on changes in online records, as well as train those who were new at it.

She had to give them access to some databases that aren’t available online, like the voting records database. The AP set up an intranet server and their systems department gave them access and they put the voter database on the intranet with searchable databases on it for a couple of years. Reporters could put information they had found on it so that the whole investigation could be coordinated and everyone was on the same page.

Reporters would go out knocking on doors. Sometimes they came to a house that had nine voters in it, yet it had only two bedrooms. Reporters called Miller and asked who owned the house, who lived in the house?

Miller admitted it was a “huge project–one that won them the Pulitzer Prize for reporting. It involved 20 reporters who all got credit.

Many of the files that were critical to their research are not available on the public Internet, but were databases that the AP had to purchase. Miller said that in many cases you can get them from government agencies for a minimal charge–usually just the cost of transferring the data. As the fraud project went on, they added more and more of these databases to the AP intranet.

Our next article will be about what you can find on the Net that you couldn’t find a few years ago, and tips for accessing government files.

We suggest you read a fine book by Paula J. Hane, Supersearches In The News, The Online Secrets of Journalists and News Researchers, Cyberage Books, Medford, N.J., 2000.