Fox continues to go on about Black Panthers


MEDIAWATCH:Fox did us a favour by showing the bitter faces of those who are determined that Obama will not succeed, writes Kevin Cullen

Four hours before the polls closed in Pennsylvania, Karl Rove, the Republican spinmeister, was on Fox launching the first pre-emptive strike of the sore losers on the right.

Rove, the genius who gave us eight years of W, said there was massive voter fraud in Philadelphia. He all but said Obama's impending victory was illegitimate.

Rove, of course, is the same guy who dismissed as lefty sour grapes complaints about the Supreme Court handing George Bush the presidency in Florida eight years ago and the massive disenfranchisement of minority voters in both 2000 and 2004.

Rove's spin, and he's the best right-wing spinner of them all, is that the soul brothers learned from their past mistakes and adopted the tactics of James Michael Curley, the old Boston Irish ward boss, whose cheeky campaign jingle suggested that his supporters get out and "vote often and early for Curley" .

For all the bows to history which dominated most of the coverage of Obama's remarkable, electoral vote landslide - especially the majesty of Obama's acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park - Fox did us a favour by showing the bitter, contorted faces of those who are determined that a President Obama will not succeed.

They call themselves patriots and they think Rove is a swell guy.

While the main networks of ABC, NBC and CBS treated the election results with the gravitas they deserved, Fox was showing videotape from one polling place in Philadelphia where a couple of self-styled Black Panthers were mau-mauing a college kid who surreptitiously filmed them.

Then one of Fox's reporters got into it with one of the Panthers.

This was manna for Fox: angry black men! They've just taken over the White House and they're coming for your daughters!

While African-Americans were playing a huge, moving role in putting one of America's most shameful legacies in the rubbish bin of history, Fox kept repeating the report, ludicrously suggesting the presence of a black guy in sunglasses and paramilitary garb at a polling station in Philly was somehow representative of what was sweeping the nation.

In Orlando thousands of black people waited patiently in long, snaking lines for more than three hours to cast a vote.

The images were wordlessly poignant, reminiscent of South Africa in 1994.

CNN showed the images. Fox kept showing the Black Panthers.

But as the night wore on even the right-wing shills on Fox had to acknowledge what it meant that a black man was moving into the White House.

When the West Coast polls closed at 11pm, and the race was called, even Rove said it was remarkable, and a necessarily good thing, that a black man could be elected president of the United States.

The size and speed of the Obama wave surprised many.

"The fat lady isn't singing yet," Katie Couric said on CBS at 10.30pm, "but we can hear her clearing her throat."

CNN rolled out its Star Warsspecial effects, beaming holographic images of reporters and even Black Eyed Peas singer, into the studio.

Anchor Campbell Brown made a reference to Obi-Wan but nobody wanted to touch it. It was a bizarre moment on a mostly historic night.

The relatively early results allowed newspapers to roll out first-edition collectors' items.

The Chicago Sun-Times, with a close-up of Obama's face and the words "Mr President" in small print in the lower right-hand corner, may have been the most understated and poignant.

Several networks had cameras inside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Martin Luther King jr first articulated the possibility of the journey Obama completed yesterday.

The scenes were joyous, and attempts to interview Dr King's daughter, Bernice, were futilely funny because the congregation was rapturous.

The scenes in the church, and in African-American enclaves all over the country, gave deeper meaning to a new aphorism that is now said by black and white alike: Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children can fly.

BBC America had the quirkiest commentary team: Christopher Hitchens and Gore Vidal. It was like watching Dunphy and Gilesy after a few jars.

The last time Vidal did analysis of a presidential campaign, 40 years ago during the Democratic convention in Chicago, he called his fellow commentator, the noted conservative William F. Buckley, a "crypto-Nazi".

Buckley flipped out and called Vidal a "queer" and threatened to beat him up.

It was perhaps the best moment of political theatre in American history.

But there was no need to be melodramatic on such a dramatic evening.

Vidal resisted the urge to call his colleague Peter Hitchens.

Buckley, meanwhile, is newly-dead, and his son, Christopher, is dead to his fellow conservatives: last month he was forced to resign from the conservative National Reviewhis father founded after he endorsed Obama.

After McCain restored some of the dignity he put aside while campaigning, speaking to the nation with a decency that had defined his political career until recent months, and after Cindy McCain departed the stage in Phoenix without so much as a glance at the real Ice Queen from Alaska, it was left to Obama to deliver the prime time moment.

He didn't disappoint.

It was an extraordinary, shared national moment when Obama stood in Grant Park and spoke with an eloquence that explained better than any pundit why Americans had elected him their president.

Forty years earlier, as the Vietnam War tore America apart, the scenes in Grant Park were quite different.

Police beat anti-war protesters. Tear gas was everywhere. But as Obama spoke, there was no tear gas. Just tears.

The cameras kept cutting to Jesse Jackson, who stood in the crowd, looking up at Obama, tears glistening on his cheeks.

Jackson's tears reflected not just what he saw rise on the stage last night in Chicago but what he saw ebb away on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis 40 years ago.

And Jackson had to be thinking what millions of others were: free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we're free at last.

• Kevin Cullen is a columnist for the Boston Globe. cullen@_globe.