Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 1999 /27 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Chris Matthews

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard


Please don't feed
the 'pander bears' -- THE BIG WINNER in the New Hampshire debates was Oprah Winfrey.

Forget Donald Trump's touting of her for vice president. Her TV persona has become the gold standard for the top job.

Can you sit on a stool and compete for audience favor against another guy doing the same? Can you empathize? Can you answer folks' problems? Can you, short of that, give them a strong shoulder on which to lean?

Somehow this has crept in as a late-20th century standard for picking American presidents. And, based upon his debut in New Hampshire last week, Al Gore appears to love it! A quarter hour before airtime, he was fielding questions from the audience. An hour later, with time running out, he offered to stay later and take some more.

Just two weeks ago, it was Bill Bradley doing the bragging, saying how the taller guy usually came out on top in these TV one-on-ones. Had they stood behind lecterns, like statesmen, that might have been the outcome.

Working from stools gave Gore the edge. Acting in his new role as the "alpha male," spurred on by advisor Naomi Wolf, the vice president was the clear aggressor in Hanover. He was the kind of husband who gets up Saturday morning and replanes the door jambs before heading out briskly to Price Club.

Health care, education, campaign reform, whatever, Gore was right in the questioner's face, inquiring earnestly to know the facts, ready with a helpful prescription.

Take note. This is how the presidential campaign of 2000 is going to be run, fought, decided.

"They're supposed to collect my trash on Thursday and sometimes they don't come around till Friday and the dogs get in it and it's a real mess. Can you help me or not?"

Gore would have jumped on that one, would have offered to drive the truck around himself, made a pick-up on the way to the vice president's office.

No chore is too small, no complaint too self-serving. Like the concierge at a four-star hotel, the state-of-the-art presidential candidate sits on his stool, ready to up the bid, whatever the service required.

"I'm a mortician and our morgue is always filled. What can you do for me?"

Pander Bears. Don't feed them leadership questions. Keep it to matters of constituent service. Don't ask what the candidate for commander-in-chief would do if China makes a move across the Formosa Strait or if the Dow starts to drop. Keep it to the casework stuff, the kind of weekday night workout you'd give your member of Congress.

Clinton started this. He had three debates with President Bush and Ross Perot in 1992.

Most people can only remember the second. It was the one in Richmond, the one with the "Oprah Winfrey" format, the one Clinton won by a mile, the one where poor out-of-place, out-of-date President George Herbert Walker Bush kept looking at his watch.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

©1999, NEA