Bob Schieffer never quits: There is no reason to think that Ross Perot destroyed the re-election bid of President Bush the Elder in 1992.
There is zero reason to think that any such thing occurred—and the tired old story is now 22 years old. But God help us!
On yesterday’s Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer interviewed his personal friend, George Bush the Younger, and he seems to have raised this tired old tale again.
Schieffer’s too slick to let us see how it happened. But this is the relevant part of the Face the Nation transcript:
BUSH (11/9/14): The ’92 defeat was really hard. And it—ironically, enough, it did make it easier for me, because when people criticized my dad, somebody who I admire greatly, I didn’t react well, at times. And it really, really affected me.It looks like Schieffer probably raised the point. Some hacks never quit.
SCHIEFFER (voice-over): Would his father have won reelection if Texas billionaire Ross Perot had not entered the race unexpectedly and made it a three-way contest with Bill Clinton?
BUSH: I think he’d have won.
SCHIEFFER: You do think so?
BUSH: I do, yes. Absolutely. I think he’d have won and I just can’t prove it. I mean it’s just all conjecture, of course. But I think he would have won, because I think ultimately there would have been a, you know, a clear choice between, you know, a guy who had a very good first term and a untested governor.
Schieffer is an old personal friend of Bush the Younger. His brother, Tom Schieffer, was a business partner of Bush with the Texas Rangers, then became a major ambassador under President Bush.
Despite these facts, Schieffer was allowed to moderate one of the Bush-Kerry debates. Virtually no one mentioned the friendship. Professional courtesy, people!
Why do we say that Perot didn’t cost Bush the 1992 re-election? Duh!
In that year’s exit polls, Perot voters were asked how they would have voted had Perot stayed out of the race. They split evenly between Clinton and Bush.
(Text below. With Perot in the race, Clinton won the popular vote by a six percentage point margin.)
Whatever! In the modern era, no Republican has ever lost an election. Instantly, the spin machines start explaining all losses away.
In the case of Campaign 92, Perot was chosen as the demon. Twenty-two years later, Schieffer won’t let it go.
Neither will the New York Times, of course! In this morning’s hard-copy edition, Michael Shear did a ten-paragraph report about the Schieffer-Bush interview.
Twenty percent of the “news report” got burned away like this:
SHEAR (11/10/14): Mr. Bush appeared on the CBS morning program to promote his new book, “41,” about his father. In the interview, Mr. Bush said he thought his father would have won a second term in office if Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire, had not run as a third-party candidate.No matter how bogus such stories may be, they’re never permitted to die. Nor do reporters ever present the basic background information.
“I mean, it’s just all conjecture, of course,” Mr. Bush said. “But I think he would have won, because I think ultimately there would have been a, you know, a clear choice between, you know, a guy who had a very good first term and an untested governor.”
Bob Schieffer simply never quits. In a slightly more rational world, someone would step up and make him.
The real-time news report: In the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne did the news report about the exit polls, in which 15,000 voters were interviewed:
DIONNE (11/12/92): The notion of a constituency torn asunder was reinforced when Perot backers were asked how they voted in elections for the House and who would have been their second choice for president.That is what the exit polls said. After that, the spin machine started to whir.
In House races, Perot voters split down the middle: 51 percent said they backed Republicans, 49 percent backed Democrats. In the presidential contest, 38 percent of Perot supporters said they would have supported Clinton if Perot had not been on the ballot and 37 percent said they would have supported Bush.
An additional 6 percent of Perot voters said they would have sought another third-party candidate, while 14 percent said they would not have voted if Perot had not run.