Selling Hamas Short

   It's not the same thing as reporting that most of the Sago Mine disaster victims had been found alive. And it's not Dewey beats Truman. But U.S. newspapers again found themselves in another one of those frustrating deadline traps today in trying to report on the Palestinian elections -- which appear to have led to a stunning Hamas triumph.

   My late edition of this morning's Globe had a "Close Fatah win seen in Palestinian vote" based on exit polling. My Wall Street Journal front page, relying on the same exits, (Let's not forget that John Kerry was president of the United States for about seven hours on election day 2004 based on exit polls.) said "Fatah Survived a strong Hamas challenge in Palestinian voting." My New York Times banner headline read: "Hamas Presses Fatah in Palestinian Vote, Surveys Say." The Washington Post said exit polls showed Hamas "Winning Near-Parity With Fatah in Palestinian Assembly."

Here's what Reuters is reporting now about what seems to be a clear-cut Hamas win. But at least newspapers have Web sites to update information rather than being stuck in a 24-hour holding pattern.

Newspaper deadlines notwithstanding, this result creates the dilemma that everyone knew was inevitable when the U.S. made the export of democracy a cornerstone of its foreign policy. People exercising that franchise may not vote for the people we want them to. Then what.

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