Supplemental: Still pounding a tale from 1992!


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.


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.
It looks like Schieffer probably raised the point. Some hacks never quit.

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.

“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.”
No matter how bogus such stories may be, they’re never permitted to die. Nor do reporters ever present the basic background information.

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.

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.
That is what the exit polls said. After that, the spin machine started to whir.


  1. Not only was it the exit polls, every poll published with Perot out of the race showed Clinton up substantially over Bush in a two man race. But, of course, these facts run counter to the media myth.

    1. Perot mainly prevented Clinton from claiming the mandate he needed to add school uniforms to his otherwise impressive list of accomplishments.

  2. As W said, it's all conjecture. However Perot hurt Bush in 2 ways. He took votes. Away from him and he criticized him. It is conceivable that without both effects Bush might have won
    David in Cal

    1. Then perhaps we should always field a good third party candidate who will criticize the other candidates. We certainly can't expect the media to help us find the flaws in the stories crammed down our throats by billions of dollars in dark money ads. If Bush lost because we found out what he was doing, isn't that a good reason for him to lose?

    2. So, you support the theory that Gore did not lose because he was a bad candidate or that he did not run an effective campaign. He lost just because of the third party candidate, Nader.

  3. When a sitting President gets 38% of the vote, regardless of third party candidate, that is an outright rejection. Dream on.

    1. Bingo! Bush would have needed over 60 percent of the Perot vote just to pull even with Clinton in the popular vote. A sitting president who got 38 percent of the vote wasn't going to get that.

      Plus, that's not the way we elect presidents. Go analyze the states and find 100 electoral votes going Bush's way without Perot.

    2. That said, so what? Even if this myth is a widely-held belief on the right wing, so what? They certainly believe crazier things than that, and a son saying his father could have won a second term is hardly surprising.

      What is of far more consequence to me is Bush still trying to sell the notion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he was about to give to terrorists.

      Why didn't Somerby choose that quote to write about? Perhaps because Somerby has still not expressed his "surprise" that no WMDs were found?

    3. Yes, because everything is always about Somerby.

    4. Some hacks never quit.

  4. We have many times seen "liberals" recycle this version of history, to either demean Clinton, glorify Obama (He won without help from a third party candidate! First Democrat since Carter!), both these, just to be jackasses, or, most often, all three. This is one of those things liberals ought to have squashed out long ago, but typical liberal apathy, combined with typical liberal perversity, and typical conservative delusional thinking and opportunism, allow it to live on.

    1. I think they do it to be jackasses first and always. Liberalworld tolerates its self annointed snobbish jackassery to cover its wounds from conservatives accusing them of not being tough.

  5. Even Bob's critics have to admit this is the best Howler post about Schieffer since Bob caught him wearing Farmer Al Pants to interview Mitt Romney. Somerby really laid into him for his hypocrisy.

  6. Bob Schieffer is amazing. Here he is in his late seventies and he shows the same stamina as the youngish Rachel Maddow.

    He never quits.

    Unfortunately, based on Howler archives on pounding the tired 22 year old story of Perot costing Bush the 1992 election, I can't find where Schieffer ever started before last Sunday.

  7. Everyone know what cost Bush the election 22 years ago was the press myth about the supermarket scanners.

    That, along with coverage of the Monkey Business monkey business and driving Ed Muskie from the race were signs of the intellectual meltdown which led to the War on Gore. Yet Bush children and their friends keep pounding on elections lost in 92.

  8. You know, some might say the major story to come out that interview was W's statement that he has no regrets about the catastrophic choice to invade Iraq, which he defended in the most hapless terms imaginable. You might have noticed a certain general attempt to cast W's tenor as just another presidency, a few mistakes sure, but look at Obama!
    It's possible that the Daily Howler of old might have noticed this rather appalling narrative springing up slowly in the press. But, that would mean abandoning his fixation on Rachel Maddow for a few minutes, so.....