I love political pundits. “No way,” they said, “will George W. Bush declare victory if Florida certifies him as the winner of
that state’s 25 electoral votes, giving him, at least for now, but certainly officially, the office of president of the United
States. He can’t do it; he won’t do it.” Such were the pronouncements of kids named Tucker Carlson and Rich Lowry paraded before
the world by CNN as fountains of political wisdom. Neither person is old enough to have voted in more than a couple of presidential
elections. The towel’s not big enough to dry behind their ears. But they are symptomatic of what’s wrong with journalism today.
We don’t have journalists anymore. We have babies in diapers with degrees from some far-away university who have never, ever sat
down at the side of a dirt road on a hot July day and talked to a farmer about his crops, who have never visited a real country
store or even a real Wal-Mart for that matter. No, they console themselves with exit polls and trends and what the other political
pundits say. They quote each other and themselves and emerge with, as my daddy would have said, “possum-eating grins” on their
faces, convinced that no one could possibly be smarter, more astute, more all-knowing.
But George W. Bush did exactly what they said he wouldn’t do.
He declared victory.
It wasn’t the greatest speech of all time. He tried to look presidential, yet came off a little nervous. Still, the fact of the
matter was that he announced, without hesitation, that the election was over, and that he and Dick Cheney were headed to the White
House to take charge. Somebody, somewhere, somehow, reached out beyond the mobs of Bush-Cheney and Gore-Lieberman signs, reached
out beyond the glittering lights of Tallahassee and Austin, reached into a land where the Tucker Carlsons and Rich Lowrys have never
ventured; they reached out into that quintessential something that is America and touched the pulse of a people who had had enough.
Thank God for that someone that had George Bush’s ear and whispered, “It’s time.”
The legal contests will continue, although Al Gore will soon find himself the butt of more jokes than even he can imagine.
Americans move forward. Americans move ahead. Those who remain in the piles of dimpled chads, pregnant chads and butterfly ballots
will soon find that America has moved past them. And those “journalists” who consider themselves such “experts” on the American
people will realize that they didn’t know as much as they thought they did.
When that happens, maybe some of them will go out and discover this country. Maybe a handful, a paltry few will find that there
are real troubles in this land, troubles that demand their attention, troubles that require the kind of investigation, the kind of
reporting that produces results, good results for the people of America. It requires grit and determination. It requires putting
themselves at personal risk. But when they get down in the trenches, when they get their hands dirty again, maybe they’ll see how
ridiculous 30 second clips of Al and Tipper eating ice cream really are.
An experienced print journalist,
Tony Hays’ recent 20-part series on narcotics trafficking received an award from the Tennessee Press Association.