Somewhere in the middle of the election-night returns, I stopped flipping through the channels — watching the parade of giddy anchors, jacked up on caffeine and infographics — and settled on Fox News Channel. It wasn’t a partisan act, though I imagine Fox racked up lot of gloating liberal viewers Tuesday night. This was a matter of entertainment: On a night of far less tension than expected, this was where you got the high emotions.
Hours before the network declared for Obama, the hint of despair was palpable, though the expression of it varied by personality. Peggy Noonan described “a subdued feeling”; Liz Cheney groused that the Republican bench was better than Elizabeth Warren. Sarah Palin, remote from Wasilla, declared this “a perplexing time for many of us right now.”
Only Karl Rove remained stubbornly optimistic, and the anchors weren’t buying it. As Rove delivered a dizzying monologue about percentages in Ohio, Megyn Kelly asked, “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”
And then came the remarkable tussle over the Fox News “Decision Desk,” as Republicans — including a still frantically number-crunching Rove — questioned the network’s Ohio call.
That battle overshadowed the hand-wringing over messaging gone wrong: the harsh rhetoric on immigration, the importance of women’s issues, the image problem caused by certain far-right candidates, the notion that maybe the country was more liberal than Brit Hume had previously thought.
And then there was the possibility that Mitt Romney simply didn’t listen to Bill O’Reilly, “who declared, early in the night, that he had told Romney advisers that the governor needed to be more visible after Hurricane Sandy.”
“And this is not self-aggrandizement,” O’Reilly said. Nah. Just entertainment.
Joanna Weiss is a columnist for The Boston Globe.
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