While social media proved downright antisocial for some when it was all over, YouTube rescued everything that might have passed you by the first time around.
A lot of it did this year for me. I didn't switch around as much as usual on election night. The reason was simple: I was much happier getting breaking news from one place – CNN – than I usually am.
The result of that, though, was that I missed “in real time” so many of the evening's more tweetworthy moments, the ones that captured the social media jokesters and troublemakers as they happened.
The reason I was so much happier watching CNN for long stretches was the brilliant performance of one CNN correspondent – John King, the fellow manning the electronic returns map and demonstrating an expertise state-by-state and county-by-county that must have taken weeks, if not months, of intense study.
Not only that, CNN's electronic map itself was both intricate and clear so that every time King was able to call a state for Romney or Obama, he was able to show us all the pertinent states and counties and their voting records in the last four elections.
King did all this screen-touching and image-changing with the virtuosity of a concert pianist playing Beethoven's “Hammerklavier” Sonata.
I am, to be frank, almost never impressed by all the fancy-schmancy hardware and software that the network news folks break out on election night. But I must confess the combination of King's astonishing command of the information and CNN's electronic map itself made for a computer-age tour de force, that, I thought, left everyone else in the dust on election night.
In a YouTube world, though, no one needs to be ignorant of all the richer absurdities and follies that tweeted their way into American consciousness. So for those in the same boat I was in, let me recommend to all:
1. Karl Rove's hissy fit. NBC made the call for Obama first at 11:12 p.m. Not long after came CBS and then Fox News, whose reporters and statisticians pride themselves on operating independently of the highly paid blunderbusses who do their political punditry.
Rove on Fox – the man once called “Bush's brain” in a past era where the phrase wasn't considered oxymoronic – wasn't happy about the Ohio call for Obama. Nor were some of the Romneyites. So Rove, on Fox's airwaves, told Chris Wallace – son of Mike and therefore always a bit of a stranger in a strange land in the Fox News ranks – that it was a premature call. Romney's Ohio numbers weren't that hapless.
That led to Election Night's Great Moment – Fox correspondent Megyn Kelly doing a semiglamorous walk-and-talk on camera all the way back to the part of the building where the statisticians and call-makers were. When she finally got there, she asked how sure of their figures they were. Very was the answer.
In the fairest and most balanced recesses of her mind at that moment, one can only guess at what she was thinking about this hallucinatory Rove-induced moment on election night. (Did she, in her mind, hear Elvis' “Suspicious Minds” as soundtrack music? I hope so.)
Because of the results – and Fox news' polemic identity for its chattering and opinioneering classes – there was a lot of attention paid to Fox News among those eager to gloat. I'm not fond of that sort of thing, but I must say I had to enjoy Slate.com's Will Oremus reporting Fox News' reaction to the Obama victory as an example of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' “Five Stages of Grief.” And over at Salon.com, critic Andrew O'Hehir's description of Charles Krauthammer was as wickedly unfair – and as wickedly funny – as anything to come out of the entire evening, even from Rove.
2. Diane Sawyer's unseemly good cheer and slurs. In the snarkier precincts of tweetworld, there were those who speculated that Sawyer, ABC's election night anchor, had weirdly giddy moments and word slurs that in someone else might have encouraged a suspicion of a bit more Grenache with dinner than usual.
On the other hand, Sawyer had just come back from a long period of somewhat arduous Sandy coverage – and if, for a second or two, we got to see a bit of genuine fatigue on the air, it seems to me the only decent question to ask is this: Given the schedule that some TV newspeople are forced to keep during the most intense news periods, why on earth don't we see indications of fatigue more often?
The fact is, these people – often the news stars themselves – keep fiendishly difficult schedules, and it is almost superhuman that we seldom, if ever, see evidence of it on the air.
3. Donald Trump vs. Brian Williams. Trump – surely one of the more unfortunate celebrities of the past 40 years – apparently loathes Obama so much that he tweeted charges of “sham” amid a fusillade of election night denial, which Williams reported on the air as symptomatic of Trump's having long since overshot the “exit to relevance.” NBC political director Chuck Todd had his own election night Trump crack.
Trump, of course, likes nothing more than attention and a good feud gives him that, so the fellow retreated back to tweetland to get back at Williams.
I'm on Williams' side for his “this happened” newsman's ethic in reporting Trump's near-hysteria in the first place. At the same time, Trump's godawful reality show, “The Apprentice,” actually does get ratings for NBC, so it's hard not to understand Williams' employers for contributing to Trump's entirely asinine and unnecessary celebrity in the modern world.
It does, however, lead me to wonder if the networks aren't passing up a truly great reality show – and a natural for Trump when people get tired of watching him firing people.
An old proverb goes something like this: “If you want to know what the Lord thinks of money, look at those he gives it to.”
How about a weekly reality show featuring millionaires, billionaires and gazillionaires doing nothing but outlandish things, with and without their fortunes?
No more snarky potshots, just well-edited interviews presenting them in the raw, explaining themselves, their ideas and their ways of disposing of their dough, showing us the end results?
We'll call it “Camels and Needles” after St. Matthew's observation that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
For host, we might tap Chris Rock, if we could. I don't think he's too busy at the moment.
Let's review election night media ups and downs
- 405 Letter: Court should uphold birth control coverage
- 152 Letter: Women, not their employers, should pay for birth control
- 137 Letter: Hatred of Obama is richly deserved
- 90 Letter: SAFE Act is flawed, needs to be repealed
- 89 Making the case for Core, King rejects argument that education standards are too difficult