Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2000/ 21 Kislev, 5761
Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
WHATTA COUNTRY. Except for a few malcontents, soreheads and rabble-rousers, Americans feel
confirmed in their belief that democracy works. Vice president Al Gore conceded graciously, urging
his supporters to unite behind the winner. George W. Bush invited Americans to work with him on
the details of the issues we all care about -- excellence in schools, security in health care and
retirement, lower taxes, a stronger military and a higher tone to our culture.
If the devils are in those details, so are the "better angels of our nature'' invoked by Abraham
Lincoln. It's time to reach for reconciliation. We can start the healing process by stopping talk about
"the healing process.'' We've grown so dependent on a therapeutic vocabulary that we define every
problem as a disease.
Americans are not suffering from any physical or emotional disorder. In fact, we've never been in
such robust health, if you insist on using that metaphor. Our public institutions are strong. There
were no tanks in the street, no barricades to storm, no conspiracies to uncover. We debated, we
didn't destroy. We may be sick of words, and words may cut and wound metaphorically, but
wounded metaphors don't bleed real blood.
We could drop the language of war, too. That may work in a campaign, but not for the transition.
The Inauguration is about to begin and we should look forward with hope and promise. It doesn't
For all of the hatred and ridicule heaped upon lawyers (much of it deserved), the law itself is not, as
Dickens' observed, "a ass.'' We can join Al Gore in his observation that whether we agree or
disagree with the Supreme Court's decision we can accept the "finality of this outcome.'' We
listened to powerful and carefully crafted arguments of each contested issue, but that time has
passed and we need to move on. George W. Bush, echoing Thomas Jefferson, was right: We must
be guided by purpose and principle in the cause of freedom and harmony.
Naturally, not everybody's happy, but as long as we have opposing candidates that will be true after
every election. Lincoln spoke of a far more wrenching factional division in his second inaugural
address: "The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The
Almighty has His own purposes.''
We can't always understand those purposes, but we have to deal with them nonetheless. One way
of dealing would be to stop slamming George Bush as a moron, the mantra of angry Gore partisans.
If he used his political lineage to move up through connections, he proved himself in the jobs he
undertook. He's got an MBA from Harvard and he knows what it's like to be "out there'' doing
business. He's worked with Democrats in Texas and won their respect. And if he's such a moron
how did he outsmart so many Democratic smart guys?
We know considerably less about him than we know about Al Gore. Familiarity can breed
contempt, but it can beget trust and affection as well. Al Gore never seemed to invite either trust or
affection after eight years as vice president amidst a roaring economy. If the sharp focus during the
month after the election yields any clues to why he lost, it may be that he tried too hard. He wasn't a
natural. But as the eloquence of his concession speech suggested, he knew how to yield with grace
The president-elect, by contrast, brings a refreshing naturalness of demeanor to the office. It's less
apparent in formal speeches than in his down-to-earth working relationships, confirmed when Texas
House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, introduced him as his friend, a leader and a partner, to the
applause of many Texas Democrats.
Al Gore said he regrets that he can't fight for those "who feel their voices have not been heard.''
George W. Bush hears that challenge, too. "The president of the United States is the president of
every single American of every race and every background,'' he said. "Whether you voted for me
or not, I will do my best serve to your interests, and I will work to earn your respect.'' The eyes of
Texas are upon you, Governor. Ours,
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate