Rob Garver

Rob Garver is a freelance journalist living in Springfield, Va., and is currently studying at Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

Recent Articles

Desperately Seeking Fluff

Four years ago, when Al Gore and George W. Bush left the stage after the first of three presidential debates, the consensus among viewers polled by the TV networks was that the vice president had beaten the Texas governor. In the words of Hardball host Chris Matthews, Gore had “cleaned the other guy's clock.” But within a few days, opinion began to shift, as pundits like Matthews focused relentlessly on the fact that Gore had sighed too much. When last night's presidential debate ended, there was little doubt among viewers who had won; the networks' in-house quick-polling operations all gave John Kerry the win by sizeable margins. But there were also signs that the pattern of 2000 was beginning to repeat itself, as television commentators groped for an overly simple theme to use in describing the debate -- and the theme they were looking for had little to do with the substance of the discussion. Kerry and Bush had not even left the stage before FOX's Brit Hume asked the question...

Re-Spin Redux?

In 2000, television agreed on the first night that Al Gore won the debate. Then the spin set in. Look out for a replay. In case you were wondering whether or not to pay attention to the presidential debates over the next three weeks, CNN's blowhard-in-residence Jack Cafferty delivered the verdict in advance on Monday morning. “The presidential debates begin Thursday,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether they're going to be worth watching. My sense is they probably won't be.” The debates, he said, “[Have] been sanitized and choreographed and tied up in knots to the point where we're probably not going to see those wonderful spontaneous moments that we -- that we used to look forward to. My suggestion would be to put them in a room and let them have a food fight.” That's great, Jack. Thanks for the insight. Sadly, this is how it begins: By preemptively declaring the debates to be meaningless political theater, the television news networks are giving themselves permission to cover...

Idiot Boxed

There was plenty of humiliation to go around in the aftermath of the 2000 elections. Vote counters and ballot designers, election boards and state legislatures all came in for heavy criticism. But special ignominy was reserved for the five major broadcast and cable networks and their news operations. The networks that night broadcast multiple incorrect reports, including the premature and still-disputed claim -- initiated by FOX at 2:15 a.m. -- that George W. Bush had won the state of Florida. “It was the most embarrassing evening in the history of network TV, politically,” says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. “They just embarrassed themselves and failed in the basic public-interest obligation they have come to have over the years.” The great sin of election night 2000, in the view of Rosenstiel and others, was that the television networks had broken one of the cardinal rules of journalism: Never rely on a single source of information when a...

No Need For Debate

The quadrennial political Kabuki over the scheduling of presidential debates has begun again. As is their usual practice, the members of the Commission on Presidential Debates are keeping a low public profile while allowing themselves to be bullied behind the scenes by the incumbent's handlers, who seem reluctant to agree to even a limited schedule of three debates with their opponent. The latest from the Bush side is the suggestion, leaked to the media last week, that the president may skip one of the three scheduled face-offs with Kerry -- a debate planned in a town-hall–style format in which undecided voters from the St. Louis area would pose questions of their own to the candidates. The Bush team is also reportedly trying to shorten the two other scheduled debates, one in Miami, which will deal with domestic policy issues, and one in Tempe, Arizona, which will cover foreign policy. Meanwhile, commission officials are increasingly concerned that unless the campaigns commit to a...

If It Worked Once …

The Washington Post is being roundly ragged by its journalistic counterparts this week for producing a special section headlined “Election 2000,” a mistake made by production staff who used an old template to create the new section. But a more egregious misuse of a 4-year-old template hit the newsstands this week yet received little notice. Four years ago, Newsweek 's Evan Thomas produced a profile of Al Gore headlined “The Precarious Prince,” in which readers learned that the candidate had few friends in high school (where he was mocked for being serious), that he remained a “stiff,” that he appeared to be a big phony, and that he was regarded as “remote” by voters. In this week's Newsweek , Thomas gave readers the lowdown on John Kerry. Guess what? The candidate had few friends in high school (where he was mocked for being serious), he remains a “stiff,” he appears to be a big phony, and he is regarded as “remote” by voters. In 2000, Thomas dug up some of Gore's high-school...

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