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Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2000/ 24 Elul, 5760

Charles Krauthammer

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A Political Lite-Year -- WHEN Wen Ho Lee was released from prison after having 58 of 59 felony charges against him dropped, President Clinton pronounced himself "troubled" and "bothered" at his treatment. The cynicism was breathtaking. Where had he been for the past nine months while Lee was in prison? Abroad? Clinton made it sound as if he was leader of the opposition rather than presiding officer of the very administration that had persecuted Lee.

Moreover, nine months ago, when the leaks at Los Alamos became a national scandal, Clinton was quite prepared to see his own administration, whose illegal campaign contributions had sparked suspicions about Chinese influence in the first place, fan the flames of those suspicions and come down like a hammer on Lee. Nine months later he remembers nothing.

Al Gore has never been as adept as his boss in cynicism, never as deft in deploying the "who me?" deflective maneuver that Clinton has perfected over the years. Gore's gyrations on Hollywood corruption, for example, have been simply clumsy.

In 1985 Tipper was a pioneer in going after the music industry for its promotion of misogyny and violence. When running for president in late 1987, however, the Gores did obeisance to Hollywood, quietly apologized for the error of their ways and went quite silent on the issue.

Until just last week--13 years later and eight weeks before Election Day--when Gore used a conveniently released government report on the marketing of violence to kids to issue a full-throated threat to unleash the Federal Trade Commission on the entertainment industry (for "false and deceptive advertising") if it does not shape up.

Gore's sudden rediscovery of the issue lasted about 72 hours. Three days later he was in New York raising money from the same entertainment industry he had been slamming. Four days after that, at a full-blown Hollywood bash where he raised a record $4.2 million, the outrage had been reduced to a single line in a speech referring to "the controversy of the previous week."

Remarkably, however, none of these zigs and zags seem to matter in the current campaign. Not his double switchback on the entertainment industry. Nor his fabrication of the story about his mother-in-law paying three times as much for arthritis medication as his dog.

His campaign admitted that it had no idea how much Tipper's mom was paying for her medicine, nor for that matter the pooch. Moreover, 85 percent of people on the drug Lodine buy the generic, which costs half as much as Fido's. (Next twist in the Gore campaign: railing against Big Pharm for its extortion of lawyerless canines.) Neither story earned one-tenth the ink and bluster accorded the infamous and monumentally insignificant "rat" commercial.

But it is not just the media. It is the electorate. Having decided that Gore is an all-right guy, it cannot be bothered. All attempts by the Bush campaign to raise the "character" issue--slip slidin' the truth, hitting up monks for cash, etc.--have been met with silent annoyance by the electorate and a barrage of criticism from the elites for "negativity."

Moreover, Gore's personality deficit was solved with The Kiss. It turned Gore from a stiff into that politically felicitous oxymoron: a sexual straight arrow. Kiss a woman for 4.4 seconds in front of 100 million people and the cardboard image turns quite fleshy; make sure the kissee is your wife (contra Clinton), and the sexuality is safely contained. Then Nora Roberts, the fabulously successful romance writer, will write that this one act of "sexual zing" had awakened her--and American womanhood--to Gore's promise as a candidate for the presidency. (I'm not making this up. I couldn't.)

Gore followed up this triumph with successful appearances on Leno and Letterman, the Lippmann and Murrow of the 21st century. Lieberman did Conan. Twenty years ago, when America was still a serious place, candidates were required to visit the holy trinity of Ireland, Italy and Israel. Today, it's the three late-nights.

Bush finally counterattacked with an excellent appearance on "Oprah." And just like that, the race is on again.

Such are the politics of peace and prosperity. If they got any more trivial we would be reading the shocking news that the vice presidential candidate of one party once headed a company that in its European operations has separate bathrooms for Americans.

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09/11/00: When Liberals Get Religion
09/05/00: Humbled by the Hayden
08/28/00: Man for All Seasons
08/14/00:... Back to the Future
07/31/00: The WWII Memorial: Inadequate and Out of Place
07/19/00: Camp David: Finality
07/12/00: The Oslo Interlude
07/10/00: Buchanan's Gift To Bush
07/03/00: Hafez Assad's Mourners
06/19/00: Hafez Assad's Mourners
06/12/00: Missile Defense Destiny
06/05/00: Let Peacekeeping Rest in Peace
05/30/00: Bush On Track
05/22/00: A Palestinian 'Peace'
05/15/00: Motherhood Missed
05/08/00: Regis Rules!
04/28/00: The Picture
04/24/00: Beware a Clinton Arms Deal
04/17/00: Cold War Kid
04/10/00: Our Russian payload
04/03/00: The Path to Putin
03/27/00: Red Cross Snub
03/20/00: A Nation of Oil Addicts
03/13/00: McCain in 2004
03/06/00: McCain off course
02/28/00: Profile in Courage
02/16/00: Europe's Austria Hypocrisy
02/14/00: A Winner? Yes
02/07/00: Politics in a Golden Age
01/31/00: Why Elian Should Stay
01/21/00: A Network Sellout . . .
01/14/00: Screwball Psychologizing
01/07/00: Desperately Seeking a legacy: Peace of the Anti-Semites
12/10/99: Born to Run
12/03/99: Keep Bubba home --- and his mouth shut
11/29/99: Not for Moi, Thanks
11/19/99: Where's the 2000 Buzz?
11/12/99: Reluctant Cold Warriors
11/08/99: Federalism's New Friends
10/29/99: The Phony Battle Against 'Isolationism'
10/25/99: Still With the Soul Of a Candidate
10/18/99: Nixon On the Couch
10/11/99: Slouching Toward The Center

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