Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2003/ 1 Kislev, 5764

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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What works us into a lather | I was barely coping with defense attorney Mark Geragos' claptrap on the Satanic cult that whisked into Stanislaus County and absconded with Laci Peterson as she walked her dog. Odd that cults would seek out chipper upper-middle-class women in their third trimesters, eh? This cock-and-bull story followed on the heels of the Winona Ryder defense in her Saks shoplifting case. Mr. Geragos argued that Ms. Ryder thought her assistant would pay. Even a Los Angeles jury spotted the hole in the alibi after hours of deliberation. Ms. Ryder had no assistant.

Now comes Michael Jackson, and Mr. Geragos emerges again. I await the press conference in which Mr. Jackson pledges to spend the rest of his life looking for the real child molester at Neverland, Mr. Jackson's ranch of horrors. Perhaps O.J. could join them.

Whoppers that consume. Whoppers that produce acquittals, or hung juries. I could find the strength to continue if some outrage over these troglodytes and their lawyers emerged.

These cases, investigations and trials are but dots in a landscape of degradation. A Pandora's box of evil surrounds us. Kobe Bryant's defense has not yet emerged, but I am betting on sex addiction. In between the underworld's comings and goings is the bizarre. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera locked lips with Madonna on prime time television. David Letterman had a son out of wedlock. The Catholic priest molestation scandal has left the airways, but the Episcopalians now have a bishop who committed adultery with another man, a tryst that ended his marriage, but, apparently, not his moral leadership.

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William Bennett was soaked for millions by video poker machines in Jersey and Vegas, and Rush Limbaugh soaked his back pain in illegal prescription drugs. Mr. Limbaugh may soon need Geragos for money laundering charges. Abercrombie & Fitch released a charming Christmas catalogue featuring half-naked models in what appears to be group sexual activity, either that or an Episcopalian retreat.

Let's recap. In just the past year we have had murdered pregnant wives, testosterone-charged NBAers nailing the hotel help, females smooching on television with force that shook their navel rings, conservative icons gambling and loading up, and the King of Pop, along with a statistically significant number of priests, accused of child molestation.

There's enough here to inspire a Methodist to fire and brimstone. Yet, what do the masses grab their pitchforks and fire up the muskets for? The most outrage amidst this country's greatest moral crisis since Fatal Attraction arose over the possibility of CBS airing an unflattering portrait of Ronald Reagan. CBS pulled the Reagan miniseries and packed it over to cable with the rest of cable's pitiful original programming. Carnivale? Sex and the City? AM talk radio hosts proclaimed victory and a new day dawning in America. Conservatives won! The whole exercise was about as meaningful as the summer we spent debating who shot J.R., the head of the Ewing clan on Dallas, yet another CBS winner.

A hollow victory for a shallow cause. Ronald Reagan's legacy was not in jeopardy. The Reagan miniseries was silly, not worthy of the protests. Mr. Reagan's reputation can survive some pot shots from Hollywood. In fact, it would have been fun to watch a flick in which the great Gipper is played by gigolo James Brolin, Mr. Barbra Streisand. I wonder who the crackerjack casting agency got to play Dan Quayle. Howard Stern? We missed hoots aplenty.

Conservatives moved TV networks and local stations to fear and consumers to boycotts because the movie's depiction of Reagan's life and presidency just wasn't right. Ronaldus Magnus would have smiled slyly about the fray, tilted his head and quipped, "Why don't we just lock up the network executives instead?"

Ironically, what Reagan admirers did for Reagan was the antithesis of Reagan's philosophies. Mr. Reagan understood that cream rises. That so much support and outrage arose is his lasting imprimatur. No liberal media, no biased historian and no B actor married to a Democrat activist with pipes can minimize Reagan's leadership, example or achievements.

Reagan's lasting effect sprung from his moral leadership. He did not mince words about the Berlin Wall, thereby inciting people there to seek freedom. He chastised Hollywood for its reliance on graphic material when, he cajoled, the subtle message was more effective. He stood firm on defense buildup as critics roared. Mr. Reagan focused on what affected our future and solved those problems. He never did sweat the small stuff, including unflattering columns, news reports, and, yes, miniseries.

I could find the strength for a year of all Michael Jackson, all the time, and his comrade, Geragos, if there were accompanying boycotts. Bully for CBS for pulling his special without prompting. Now, let's move on to Abercrombie and Britney rebellions. Stop buying those inane Madonna children's books! No NBA until Bryant is benched pending trial. Send a signal to these professional Neanderthals that behavior off court matters. The work to be done on morality will have far more lasting impact than pulling a dubious CBS miniseries.

Let's win something meaningful for the Gipper.

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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2003, Marianne M. Jennings