The Washington Weekly,
November 22, 1998A SCOUNDREL'S LEGACY Politics After ClintonBy Edward ZehrIn his grotesque and increasingly desperate quest for legitimacy as his tenure in the office of the presidency winds down, the psychopath Clinton recently told fawning ABC News sycophant Carole Simpson that his ultimately successful effort to cling to power represents a high point in American history. By declining to do the right thing (resign), as had Richard Nixon before him, the alleged serial rapist has "preserved the Constitution," you see. "I was right to stand and fight for my country, my Constitution and my principles," Clinton told Simpson during a lengthy interview. Thus Mr. Clinton's fighting spirit would appear to be undaunted despite the half-hearted effort by a thoroughly cowed Congress to impeach the scoundrel and remove him from office. But of course he had already demonstrated this (despite his loathing of the military and obsessive concern for his own personal safety) by blowing up children and TV journalists in Serbia with cluster bombs from the safety of his bunkered war room in Washington.
This bit of self-promoting vainglory was a little too much even for a media lapdog as obliging as ABC News, which elected to scrap the president's mock-heroics and self-pitying bid for victim status, while featuring his answers to Ms. Simpson's whiffle-ball questions. By any rational measure, Mr. Clinton's political career is over, but it seems that he just can't stop campaigning. It's difficult to break the habit of a lifetime.
In an editorial published last Monday, the Washington Times made the point that Clinton had in fact subverted the very Constitution of which he pretends to be the protector. To that end they quoted Federal District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright, who assessed him a penalty of $100,000 for "contemptuous" conduct in the lawsuit brought against him by Paula Jones for behavior of the sort alleged by numerous other women over a period covering more than 30 years. Not that you would ever guess the serial nature of Clinton's offenses from reportage of this issue by the mainstream media. (Should that be "alleged" offenses? Only if you are somehow able to convince yourself that more than a dozen women were involved in a byzantine right-wing "conspiracy" to blacken Clinton's reputation, starting in the days when he was a college punk of no political significance whatever).
Judge Wright, who once studied law under Clinton, cited "clear and convincing evidence," that, "The president responded [under oath] to plaintiff's questions by giving false, misleading and evasive answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process."
Judge Wright held the president to be in contempt of court, saying, "There is simply no escaping the fact that the president deliberately violated this court's discovery orders and thereby undermined the integrity of the judicial system."
The judge maintains that the fine was necessary "to redress the president's misconduct and to deter others who might consider emulating the president's misconduct." Some legacy, wouldn't you say?COLLATERAL DAMAGE
Mr. Clinton's true legacy will be the cratered political landscape he leaves behind when he vacates the presidency in the year 2001. His bewildered, disheveled victims can already be seen staggering around amidst the rubble of the political system Mr. Clinton used so effectively to his personal advantage, wrecking it in the process.
Foremost among the shell-shocked is Clinton's heir apparent, Vice President Al Gore. It is being said in Washington that Gore is in a permanent snit over the fact that Clinton's quasi-conscious supporters seem to have transferred the blame for the scandalous behavior of their hollow hero to the Veep. Not that this makes any sense, but since when is the Washington scene supposed to make sense? In his desperation to control the damage, Gore has resorted to hiring Naomi Wolf, a sort of feminazi sibyl and con artist, at a salary in excess of his own, to teach him how to become an alpha male (i.e. top dog) instead of being his old, predictable, colorless, beta male (underdog) self.
It seems that Naomi can be very effective -- especially at promoting herself. She seeds her sales pitches with thinly veiled New Age hints of dark, chthonic powers and seldom misses an opportunity to appear on TV. Some cynics have even suggested that it was Naomi herself who tipped off the press about Al's obsession with a new alpha male image. Be that as it may, Naomi appeared on the Sunday political ghetto shows the following weekend, affecting that dowdy look (minimal makeup, hair pulled back in a tight bun) that feminazis use to impress each other with their disdain for the other gender. Poor Alpha-Al was left pretty much on his own, at a loss to explain how he had stepped into this sink-hole. Of course he will never be able to live down the implications of it all -- they're too good.
Meanwhile, the rumors about Gore's military service in Vietnam continued to accumulate. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Gore went to Nam accompanied by a "handle with care" order that prompted the Army to provide bodyguards in order to keep young Al out of harm's way. (This partly confirms the rumor I reported here last week, although the bodyguards were paid for by the taxpayers, not by Gore's father as the original version had stated). According to L.A. Times correspondent Richard Serrano, "Several of his (Vietnam) colleagues remember they were assigned to make sure this son of a prominent politician was never injured in the war."
The Times story that appeared on October 15 reported that, "H. Alan Leo said soldiers were ordered to serve as Gore's bodyguards, to keep him out of harms way. 'It blew me away,' Leo said. 'I was to make sure he didn't get into a situation he could not get out of. They didn't want him to get into trouble. So we went into the field after the fact (after combat actions), and that limited his exposure to any hazards."
Serrano went on to point out that Gore had repeatedly reminded reporters of his service in Vietnam during his 1988 run for the Democratic presidential nomination, deviously suggesting that he had been involved in combat operations. For example, Gore had told the Washington Post, "I was shot at. I spent most of my time in the field." But of course he didn't mention the bodyguards, or the fact that the time he "spent in the field" was a long time after the enemy had departed.
"I carried an M-16.... I pulled my turn on the perimeter at night and walked through the elephant grass and I was fired upon," said Gore to the Baltimore Sun during the same period. More recently Gore has toned down the war stories a bit, acknowledging that he had actually been a military reporter (for five months). Serrano wrote that "eight Vietnam vets who served with the Vice President told the Los Angeles Times that Gore was never in the middle of a battle."
Last week another caller to C-SPAN mentioned an interview in which Gore's mother started reading a letter from her son, but stopped abruptly when he began to talk about how much he loathed the military. Bob Zelnick, who was sacked by ABC News for daring to write a book that did not bear the imprimatur of the left- liberal Ministry of Truth, revealed in last week's National Review that Gore had written a letter which characterized the U.S. military as a "fascist, totalitarian" institution. In the letter, which Gore sent to his father during the Vietnam War, after he had joined the Army, he said that he "despised" what this country was doing there and had only enlisted in an effort to save his father's Senate seat, (which he lost in spite of Al's best effort).
Zelnick confirmed that young Alpha-Al had considered fleeing to Canada in order to avoid military service, adding that his Mama had decided to go with him. "Canada was, of course, far fetched; there were plenty of other ways to avoid military service," Zelnick explained. "But in the end, Gore decided to join the Army in an unsuccessful effort to save his father's seat."
Al had been telling people that he signed up in order to save others from the risks of Vietnam, but David Halberstam, who has done extensive research on Gore's career, could find no evidence of this. Surprise, surprise, eh? Gore should drop Naomi's alpha/macho class and sign up for the Clinton crash-course in how to lie convincingly. Not even his dog would believe the reason he gave for going to Nam.
All in all, young Al's Army service in Vietnam would appear to have been quite a drain on the war effort, what with the bodyguards and all. It would probably have been better all around if he had gone to Canada as he had originally planned to do. At the very least this would have saved the Democrats the embarrassment of having him as a presidential candidate.
Clinton's real legacy will be the absolute trivialization of American politics. First he reduces the issues to the level of mindless, Tweedledee/Tweedledum quibbling with his aimless, androgynous Third Way policies. Then he creates diversions with his scandalous personal behavior, whining all the while that we should be discussing the "issues" instead of his "private" life. (Clue One: when you do it at the office it ain't private). Naturally there was simply no way that Clinton's cosmetic/symbolic "issues" could compete with Monica Lewinsky, so he had resort to another tactic of which he is past master: blame shifting.
In order for blame shifting to be effective, two prerequisites are necessary. First there must be an electorate that is largely unconscious of its own political motivations. No problem on that score. And then there must be a virtual vacuum of critical appraisal of the situation. While the vacuum cannot be absolute due to the existence of people such as read this column, our dauntless "free" press provided the partial vacuum necessary for the blame-shift to succeed. It goes without saying that such folderol would fail miserably if we really had a free press in this country. Perhaps we should consider a third prerequisite as well -- people have to want to believe the lie. In order to understand this, it is necessary to grasp the psychology of the situation.
There I go again. Why can't I just deal with politics on a logical basis and forego all of that "psychobabble"? The answer, of course, is that there is nothing at all logical about the present state of our politics. Even if we do not apply psychological principles in an effort to understand what is going on, you can bet that politicians are using psychology in an effort to manipulate us. What else is all that alpha male nonsense about?
Advertising took the big plunge into depth psychology as early as the 1950s -- the symbolism was mostly Freudian in those days; you can read about it in classics such as Vance Packard's "Hidden Persuaders." TV entertainment is saturated with the stuff these days. In an effort to cling to their dwindling audience, TV producers have moved from subliminal to crudely overt sexual references. One exception, mentioned here last week, is Fox TV's "X-Files" which uses thinly veiled Jungian symbolism to beguile viewers. If the popularity of the show is any indication it seems to be working. [Based on my reading of the symbolism, I would alert viewers to expect a major transformation in the relationship of the leading characters. I can't go into all that in this space.]
I suppose it was inevitable that our politics would eventually degenerate into a duel between rival hidden persuaders, nor can Clinton be held entirely responsible for this. It was Bush the Elder's presidential campaign that first made use of "morphing" -- electronically transforming the image of one's opponent into that of someone, or some thing rather unpleasant. On the other hand, when Michael Dukakis attempted to use the more obvious ploy of running a TV spot that depicted him in the role of a tank commander -- in an effort to counter the notion that he was squishy soft on defense -- the result was disastrous. For openers, he violated the first rule of campaigning: never allow yourself to be photographed wearing a funny hat. When the opposing campaign starts running your TV spots you have to know that it's all but over.
Clinton's innovation has been to reduce politics to little more than a game of hidden persuaders, whose sole object has been to enhance and consolidate his grip on power. In his pursuit of this goal he has shown himself to be remarkably unencumbered by principles. He uses opinion polling extensively to ferret out the public's deepest desires and then employs largely symbolic policies to create the illusion that he is satisfying them. Funding for a hundred thousand policemen may sound impressive, but when apportioned among the thousands of police departments in the country it represents a drop in the bucket -- hardly a goal worth violating the Tenth Amendment to achieve. (Yes, I know -- the funding is inadequate to provide half that number of police. Thank heaven for small favors).
And yet Clinton's rather transparent ploy seems to be enormously popular. So much so that he is determined to work the same scam with teachers next, while his political opponents snivel and cower at the prospect of being thought "anti-education." The same can be said of his anti-gun legislation, inspired by sensational TV coverage of mass-shooting incidents that, while statistically insignificant, are frightening to the public. Anti-gun legislation has proven to be so ineffective in preventing such incidents that the federal government doesn't even bother to enforce much of the gun legislation already on the books. Indeed, a mass-shooting incident recently occurred in Germany, a country that has rigidly restrictive anti-gun laws. What is the common denominator between the German incident and similar tragedies that have occurred recently in this country? Why it's the rabid, hysterical TV coverage -- what else? However, nobody has yet proposed curtailing live media coverage of mass-shootings at the national level, or the obsessive follow-up stories that add absolutely nothing to our understanding of the incidents, but play on the public's morbid curiosity in order to improve the ratings of the broadcaster. The fact that the obsessive coverage has inspired copycat crimes is being studiously ignored by politicians and press alike.
The reason, of course, is that most politicians are scared to death of the mass media and give them wide berth. As Lyndon Johnson pointed out, it isn't smart to pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. Thus, the mass media have become a law unto themselves, twisting and shaping the political dialogue to fit their own bias. As for the maintenance of public safety, they are above such paltry considerations.
Writing in the New York Times last week, Sean Wilentz, a professor of history and director of the program in American studies at Princeton University, gleefully announced that liberalism is b-a-a-c-k (although it still dare not speak its name). His conclusion is based on a recent poll done by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press for The New York Times/CBS News. According to the poll, the first and second ranking concerns of voters are health care (13%) and the protection of Social Security (8%), while only 2% gave defense as their primary concern. There is also less concern about the budget deficit and the economy than there was in 1992.
Good thinking, perfesser. Concern over health care is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the cost of medical care is increasing at a rate much greater than that of inflation. The concern over Social Security is driven by the perception that the government will be unable to continue funding the program before we get too far into the next century -- hardly a ringing vote of confidence for big government. As for defense spending, the Cold War is over, remember? We won, thanks to Ronald Reagan's policies. The liberals were about ready to pack it in due to the radicalization they had undergone during the 1960s. This was a major factor in their rejection by the American public. And of course, the booming economy accounts for the relaxation of concern about the deficit and economic issues in general.
So, if all of this is indicative of a great liberal revival, why are the two leading Democrat presidential candidates making no better showing in the polls than did George McGovern in 1968? And why does a recent Zogby poll indicate that gun control -- a leading hot button issue for liberals -- is rated only the number ten issue by registered voters, despite the massive mainstream media propaganda campaign? "The turning point," Prof. Wilentz prattles on, "was Mr. Clinton's welfare reform." Although it appeared to be a victory for the GOP, this program actually "made federal action respectable once again," he explains. And what's more, "The polls strongly suggest that, as a result of their misreadings, the House Republicans are in danger of losing their majority next year."
When a party has a majority as slim as the five vote margin that House Republicans presently enjoy, you don't need a poll to tell you that they are in danger of losing control. However, polls such as those cited by Prof. Wilentz have shown Democrats substantially ahead in every recent congressional election, including the Republican sweep of 1994. The problem, dear professor, is in our polls, not in ourselves. Nationwide generic voter preferences have generally proven useless for predicting the results of congressional elections. The only way to get an accurate assessment is to evaluate each congressional race individually, but it's still a bit too early for that. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in the liberal breast. In the present situation it helps to mask the sinking feeling that Bill Clinton may have struck them a mortal blow despite their earlier optimism. How else to explain the fact that their presidential candidates are running like a dry creek, despite the booming economy?
The liberal propagandists in the mainstream press understand this even if the professor does not. That is why they are pulling out all the stops in their effort to smear George Dubya, who, according to latest reports, volunteered to serve in Vietnam as a fighter pilot under a program then existing in the Air National Guard, of which he was a member. The requests by Bush and a fellow pilot that they be allowed to fly combat missions in Vietnam were turned down because the program was being phased out, according to Rush Limbaugh's version of the story. If true, this is a refreshing change of pace from the decadence we have come to expect of our ruling class.
Of course, Bush is still one-down for being unable to name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, Pakistan and India. The answers are [the envelope, please]: Aslan Maskhadov, Lee Teng-hui, Pervez Musharraf and Atal Behari Vajpaye -- household names on the tip of every mainstream journalist's tongue. How could anyone HOPE to be elected president without knowing such obvious, workaday facts as these? Pfaugh! The very idea.
But why has Dubya been so slow to lay to rest all those ugly rumors that have been used against him in recent weeks? He is said to have given his staff ironclad assurances that he had never snorted cocaine (unlike others I could mention). Why has he not given similar assurance to the press? Could he have a trick card up his sleeve? Will he wait until the campaign is in full swing to play it? Are the media being led down the garden path with all this "Shucks, I was a real rakehell in my younger days" talk? Remember the number that Bush the Elder did on Dan Rather? That was no accident -- it was planned in advance to counter the impression that Georgie-boy was a wimp. And old Gunga-Dan swallowed it hook, line and sinker. (Rather makes a terrific straight man -- better than Abbott ever was to Costello. He's also great in costume dramas -- that's how he acquired the sobriquet Gunga-Dan).CANDIDATE KEYES
One problem with conservatives is that we spend so much time at the wailing wall, decrying the loss of virtue by our politicians, that we fail to notice when a candidate shows up who embodies all of the virtues whose loss we mourn. Such a candidate is Alan Keyes. Oh, he's a good man, but he couldn't possibly win, says the conventional wisdom. Keyes has little patience with that kind of "wisdom," however. He recently told Iowa Public Television, "People who give in to that logic are either very stupid or they're insincere," adding, "I hope we have not reached the stage in America where elections are decided by money. Do I think I have a chance to win? Of course."
Unfortunately, we really do seem to have reached that stage. A recent CNN-USA Today poll indicated that Keyes is supported by about 3 percent of voters. Even allowing for the fact that the CNN-USA Today poll normally sandbags candidates who are as conservative as Keyes, that places him near the bottom of the field. A large part of Keyes' problem is that he lacks the contributions from fat-cat Republican donors that are needed if he is to build an effective campaign organization and get his message out to the people.
Thus far the candidate has raised about $2.5 million, less than a tenth of the amount raised by George Dubya Bush, the leader of the pack. And he can expect no help from the mainstream media. At a GOP presidential debate held at Dartmouth in late October, Keyes was virtually ignored by a mob of nearly 300 mainstream newsies after he had voiced support for withholding this country's $1 billion membership dues to the United Nations and expressed opposition to the income tax. Suggesting that perhaps they were having difficulty looking past his race to his message, Keyes noted that if the press had been doing their proper job of informing the public it would not be necessary for candidates to spend so much money.
"You know what's fascinating? Can I make a statement here?" Keyes asked the reporters. "The New Hampshire debate that was held in the 96 race, they did the polling afterward. I actually won the debate in the eyes of the people polled. I often win these debates, and every time I stand before you press folks, you have no questions. I find it kind of amazing. At some point, you know, one has to start to wonder. The people of this country have gotten over their racial sickness. I don't know that you folks have. I think that merit means nothing to you because you can't look past race. And I think I'm deadly sick of it."
Both points were well taken. While the conventional wisdom might find the notion of racial prejudice among white liberal journalists far fetched, the truth is that a lot of them are offended at the thought of a black conservative. Why don't those people stay down on the liberal plantation where they belong -- after all we, their magnanimous white liberal benefactors, have done for them? One need only recall the hateful glee with which white liberal reporters participated in the character assassination of Clarence Thomas to understand this. Never mind that the basis of the unsupported allegations against Thomas seem utterly trivial compared to the charges of which Bill Clinton -- a man they dishonestly supported to the bitter end -- is undoubtedly guilty. In their eyes Thomas is black and therefore deserved to be punished for his conservative views. And this doesn't even begin to address the mainstream media's spiking of other allegations against Clinton, such as the one made by Juanita Broaddrick. One need but consider the enormity of their intellectual dishonesty, as well as their utter disdain for fairness and common decency, to understand what ugly, warped and twisted caricatures of human beings a lot of our mainstream journalists have become.
With regard to the other point, David Limbaugh recently wrote for NewsMax, "Keyes may really be on to something here. Just think about how much favorable free coverage the media has given Senator McCain for carrying their campaign finance reform water."
Keyes rebuked the reporters on this point as well, telling them "if you were doing your job, we wouldn't have to worry about campaign finance reform, because there would be sufficient attention paid to every candidate in the race that the American people would know who they are and what they stand for without the expenditure of billions of dollars. But they don't know, because you won't do your job. That's sad! And it's destroying our democracy."
Naturally these newsies all support campaign finance reform without exception. By drying up any alternative source of campaign information, these aspiring brownshirts would become the sole source, free to lie and smear and degrade with total impunity anyone who dares to disagree with them.
As for McCain, that turncoat has been lolling around in the middle of the road far too long. He's never going to get those yellow stripes off his back.
In advocating elimination of the income tax, Keyes noted that it had been a favorite of Marx and Lenin because of the control it gives the government over every last dollar in the economy. How many other politicians have the guts to make such a statement just because it happens to be true? Political expediency has made cowards of most all of them. Our welfare state is nothing more or less than watered down Marxism, but now the corpse is beginning to stiffen and our brave politicians cannot bring themselves to get out of bed with it. They are trapped by decisions made earlier in the game. Our prophets of the social gospel would have been better advised to throw in their lot with Groucho Marx and John Lenin.
Tom Stuckey, writing in the L.A. Times in mid-October, observed that Keyes has not wavered from the strong conservative positions he took "in his first presidential race, in 1996: Abortion is at the heart of the moral decay; God is the only answer to the nation's problems; any Republican willing to compromise on moral issues is worthy only of scorn."
Keyes is also a tireless opponent of restrictive gun control legislation, a proponent of family values and a strict constructionist with regard to the Declaration of Independence.
Marlo Lewis, a Republican congressional staffer and close friend of the candidate recently told Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe that "He always tells the audience what he thinks they need to hear, instead of what they want to hear. He is greatly prepared to be unliked by the people he speaks to," adding that, "He is campaigning for votes, but he is not pandering for votes."
"There can be no doubt that the republic is coming apart," Keyes told a national convention of college Republicans in Washington this summer. "We have destroyed the spirit and soul of this nation, and the body is following."
In an essay on "Normandy" (inspired in part by Pat Buchanan's raising the issue of our participation in World War Two) Dr. Keyes decried the tendency "to see only what is material, sensible and calculable in the great chapters of American history." (Keyes took the trouble to earn a real doctorate at Harvard, unlike the "brilliant scholar" Clinton who was awarded a pretend-doctorate by Cambridge as a consolation prize for the degree he failed to earn as a Rhodes Scholar). "Those who lack the eyes to see this struggle will indeed see only calculation and selfish manipulation," said Keyes. "But those who cannot see the moral soul informing the astonishing course of American history are like strangers who walk the streets and inhabit the homes of America, but who have never met the people that are the Republic."
Noting that most of those who blasted Buchanan for his comments about World War Two were "AWOL" from the crisis facing us today, Keyes went on to excoriate them for their failure to recognize the "founding article of American civic faith -- that institutions and laws that trample on the rights of individuals are no more valid or legitimate than jackboots or tanks that do the same."
Among these rights Keyes includes the right to life. "If we acquiesce as a people in the spurious doctrine that life in the womb is entitled to respect for its rights merely because of the mother's choice, we will have vitiated and destroyed the fundamental principle on which our entire regime is based," Keyes wrote. That is putting the issue squarely. If Keyes can be faulted for anything here it certainly isn't ambiguity. Can you think of any other candidate who draws the issues that cleanly?
Keyes is insistent in making the point that the right to life is guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence. It's one of those truths that are supposed to be self-evident to us, remember? You know, the ones with which we were endowed by our Creator? Life? Liberty? Pursuit of happiness?
I'm afraid that too many Americans take their unalienable rights cafeteria style these days. A lot of them seem inclined to pass over the first two and pig out on the third. But Dr. Keyes is telling us that unalienable rights are not fungible. We cannot trade off one for a double helping of another. Because, he says, "If we thus turn our back on the Declaration, we destroy the heart of our Republic."
The clarity of Keyes reasoning resonates in his rhetoric. The country was founded on the assumption that we are endowed by our Creator with certain rights that cannot be taken away. Once we start taking them away we have torn up the social contract. As Nietzsche exclaimed, "It is all untrue, anything goes."
But Keyes admonishes us: "The equal dignity of each human person comes, as our Declaration says, from the Creator and not from us. If we intend to keep the 'body and soul' of this Republic together, we must protect the life of the child in the womb from invasion by the practice of abortion, because abortion kills in principle the peace among us all."
But there is a larger point to be grasped here. Once we concede to the government the power to take away any of these rights, they are all up for grabs. As Keyes put it, "If we grant to one another the right to do what is wrong, in the end we will grant to government the right to take away all the rights we have. For government will quickly become merely rule by the strongest group among us, once we have decisively accepted the view that human dignity comes from the choice of whoever happens to have physical control of another person."
And therein lies the rub. Keyes has brilliantly unmasked the fatal flaw in the liberal agenda. What they have been pushing for all along is a government of men, not laws. What a revelation to find a presidential candidate who actually knows how to think, and isn't even afraid to tell us what he is thinking.CLINTON'S REAL LEGACY
It takes a candidate such as Alan Keyes to show us just how far we have fallen from grace. Consider what passes for legitimate politics at the end the millennium and despair. We have candidates in both parties who systematically lie about themselves, about the issues and about virtually everything else of consequence. Their campaign pitches are completely poll driven -- they are careful to tell the electorate only what the candidate thinks they want to hear, based on the latest polling data. We have a press that meticulously falsifies the news, hiding half of it and lying about the other half. And most of the electorate appear to believe them, not that they trust the mainstream press -- it's just that they find it more convenient to believe them than to do their own thinking. (Thanks to the quality of the education they received in public school, they probably wouldn't know how to go about it anyway).
The main factor driving this catastrophe-in-the-making would appear to be the press. Consider how the Boston Globe "covered" the positions of candidate Keyes. The reporter notes that nobody is paying much attention to the candidate's position on abortion, for example. This seems accurate enough, but the reason is never mentioned -- most voters have never had the opportunity to hear Keyes' position on the issue except for a few barely intelligible sound bites, wrenched out of context and twisted to illustrate some media commentator's jaundiced opinion of him. As for his views on income tax, the reporter quotes Martin Regalia, an economist with the US Chamber of Commerce, as saying, "He hasn't thought it through." Thus do the towering giants of intellect at the Boston Globe dismiss one of the most imaginative proposals in the entire campaign, on the authority of some wonk at the Chamber of Commerce whom nobody has ever heard of before.
Not that everything about Keyes in the Boston Globe article was negative. But most of it was utterly inconsequential. Today's reporters do not convey information so much as they implant attitudes in the minds of their readers using disjointed factoids. Nobody could possibly form an accurate opinion of Alan Keyes on the basis of the highly selective, misleading fluff contained in that article. At most, their minds might be massaged and manipulated into adopting the prejudices of the reporter based on a series of subliminal cues. Keyes is a far-out, right- wing nut-case. Nobody is listening to Keyes (and you shouldn't either). Although Keyes may be an eloquent speaker, he really doesn't know what he is talking about because he hasn't thought through his positions. While the article does not actually say any of these things directly, they are definitely the subtext -- the message that the average reader is intended to get from reading the piece.
Who is to blame for this? The press is primarily responsible, but a lot of the blame is due the reader who is so lazy as to derive his information in this slovenly manner. Occasionally I get e- mail from readers who complain that my articles are "too long." How long should an article be? Long enough to get to the end, that's how long. I usually tell such readers that if they tire before reaching the end of the piece there is a simple remedy -- stop reading. Take a nap or something. On the other hand, if the article were too short, there would be no remedy at all, would there?
How are we to govern ourselves if the people remain uninformed because they are unwilling (or unable) to obtain the information necessary to develop an informed opinion? Part of the Clinton legacy is a politics that panders to such sloth on the part of voters. Clinton doesn't lack for issues, but his issues are invariably simplistic, misleading, superficial and largely symbolic. His program is an invitation to shallowness on the part of the electorate -- and what is worse, probably also a symptom of it.
Far more ominous is the extent to which our ethical standards have been allowed to deteriorate under the Clinton regime. When talk of impeachment began more than a year ago I had assumed that the public would eventually assimilate the information that the president is a criminal and would do the right thing. I was mistaken. As Chris Matthews mentioned in a recent column, "Prior to the Senate vote on whether to remove Clinton from office, 29 members of the president's own party sponsored a resolution of censure." The resolution was sponsored by such leading liberal luminaries as Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Charles Schumer of New York, Bob Torricelli of New Jersey, John Kerry of Massachusetts, as well as the prime sponsor, Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco. Even Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle backed the resolution which said that Clinton:
- "Engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee in the White House, which was shameful, reckless, and indefensible...
- Deliberately misled and deceived the American people, and people in all branches of the United States government...
- Gave false or misleading testimony and his actions have had the effect of impeding discovery of evidence in judicial proceedings...
- Demean(s) the office of the president... and creates disrespect for the laws of the land...
- Brought shame and dishonor to himself and the office of the presidency...
- Violated the trust of the American people... and that future generations of Americans must know that such behavior is not only unacceptable but also bears grave consequences, including loss of integrity, trust and respect..."
Although the resolution did not pass, 38 senators signed a statement condemning Clinton's "shameful, reckless and indefensible" behavior. The fact that he was allowed to remain in office despite these and other far more shameful revelations of Clinton's criminal behavior (he was accused of rape or sexual abuse by more than a dozen women) tells us all we need to know about our corrupt, degenerate ruling class and our treacherous, deceitful press. Their initial inclination was to demand the president's resignation -- until they realized that they could get away with leaving him in office.
The mainstream press worked day and night persuading the public to blame everybody but Clinton for his debauchery, thereby completing their own absolute moral debasement. Through sleazy psychological trickery a majority of voters were cajoled into letting the criminal off the hook in a grotesque national re- enactment of the O.J. verdict. In another of those bizarre plot twists that have become so common in American politics, Vice President Al Gore seems to be taking the heat for Clinton's transgressions.
And so we approach the millennium with a criminal psychopath in our highest office, a press that doesn't report the most significant news, lies to us incessantly and seeks to control public opinion with deceitful mind games, and a public so emotionally immature as to render meaningful self government precarious at best. Clinton can't be blamed for all of it, but once the dark age has passed this will be the legacy for which he is remembered.
Edward Zehr can be reached at email@example.com
Published in the Nov. 22, 1999 issue of The Washington Weekly Copyright 1999 The Washington Weekly (http://www.federal.com) Reposting permitted with this message intact
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