Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 13, 2004
POLITICS: 2004 Bedfellow Awards
Well, as promised back in late October, it's time to award the 2004 Bedfellow Awards. The Bedfellow Awards are named in honor of the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES". Although the award gives special points for attacks that are false and/or unfair, the simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier.
I solicited nominations, although I didn't get a whole lot of them. You can see some of the nominees here and a very early candidate here as well as in the post linked above and its trackbacks. Let's run through the awards:
1. Overall Winner: Osama bin Laden
Political experts will debate endlessly which candidate it helped and whether it had much of an impact one way or another (Kerry says it cost him the election), but there's no question that the big, knock-everything-else-off-the-front-page surprise story of the campaign's last weekend was the emergence of OBL himself from his gopher hole with a video message aimed directly at the American people and obviously timed deliberately to influence the election. (I'll leave aside here as well the debate over whether he was actually trying to help Kerry or just to show he could influence an American election as his minions had in Spain). The story, once out there, was a legitimate story, which is why I'm giving the award to bin Laden himself rather than the news media or the candidates, who had no choice but to react to it.
2. Anti-Bush Winner: The Al-Qaqaa Explosives Story
This was a favorite nominee, and it would have been an even more outsized story if CBS had succeeded, as planned, in sitting on the story until the Sunday before the election (instead, because the NY Times broke the story a week earlier, 60 Minutes had to settle for a story attacking the Bush Administration over the sufficiency of equipment for the troops in Iraq). The explosives story got more heat and less light than it would have earlier in the campaign because there was so little time to get to the bottom of the thing.
3. Anti-Kerry Winner: The Dishonorable Discharge
On November 1, the New York Sun's Thomas Lipscomb finally broke through Kerry's long stonewall on the circumstances of his discharge from the military, but the day-before-the-election timing wound up making the story a late hit. Of course, unlike late hits against Bush, this one got ignored and buried.
4. Senate Race Winner: The Kentucky Senate Race
Nasty, nasty, nasty, full of allegations of whispering campaigns, the most late-hit-filled and under-the-radar campaign of the year turned out to be the Kentucky Senate race, with Democrat Dan Mongiardo openly challenging the mental competence of Republican righty Jim Bunning, and Bunning accused of a whispering campaign to convince voters that Mongiardo was gay.
I didn't get enough nominations or pay close enough attention to pick a House winner, but the latest of the late hits had to be the attack on Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin III for a citation for trespassing and illegal hunting of nutria, a kind of rodent.
Anyway, there were plenty of candidates from this year's presidential elections. Feel free to suggest additional honorable mentions in the comments and trackbacks.