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Jewish World Review /Nov. 10, 1998 / 21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Will the Republicans ever learn?

POOR NEWT. He was a good speaker but a bad listener.

His speeches were full of vision and dynamism and boldness.

But he had a tin ear when it came to listening to what ordinary people were talking about.

So a week before last Tuesday's congressional elections, he personally supervised the spending of $10 million for TV ads that attacked President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Attacks on Clinton's character have never been effective in past elections, but this did not deter Newt. He was outraged by Clinton's behavior and was sure the American people would vote for Republicans as a way to punish him.

But they didn't. And, according to a poll released Saturday, nearly 70 percent of the public -- including 49 percent of Republicans -- said the focus on the White House sex scandal "was mainly responsible" for the Republicans doing poorly at the polls.

So instead of getting rid of Clinton, the Republicans are getting rid of Newt.

He is being forced to resign as speaker of the House, and he is also resigning his seat.

The Republicans now say they have learned their lesson from this debacle, but I doubt it.

And I doubt it because they still don't seem to be listening.

Rep. Steve Largent, Republican from Oklahoma, who wants to be the next Republican majority leader, went on CNN this weekend and listed four issues that he believes are really important to Americans, four issues he wants Congress to spend its time working on.

They are: less government, lower taxes, more defense spending and a pro-life agenda.

But is that what people are talking about where you live or work? Is that what they mention over your back fence or in line at your grocery store?

Anybody come up to you recently and sat: "Gee, Marge, I'm really upset that we're not spending enough on defense. I think Congress should address this crisis immediately!"

Nobody likes taxes, but I don't hear anybody anywhere I go around the country saying tax reduction is one of their top priorities.

And how about less government? Who in the real world feels this is one of the four most important issues in their lives?

Ditto abortion. Some people have strong feelings about it, that's for sure.

But is a pro-life agenda what you want Congress spending its time on in the months and years ahead?

Now take a look at the Democratic message, as delivered by their master salesman: Bill Clinton.

He mentions these issues in almost every speech he gives: making sure Social Security is "safe" before there are any tax cuts, passing a patient's bill of rights "so if you have a medical emergency the ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital instead of one across town because that's where your medical plan is," getting more teachers in the schools in more classrooms so class size can be reduced, putting more police on the streets and protecting the environment.

Put aside for a moment whether you think Clinton has or will deliver on these items.

Just ask yourself if this set of issues is closer to your daily life than the Republican set of issues espoused by Steve Largent.

And this is what the Republican leadership does not get.

They have fallen in love with ideology and have forgotten that the majority of Americans are not ideologues.

The majority of Americans don't care if an idea is Democratic or Republican. If it helps them or their kids or their parents, they tend to be for it.

And if they think the idea is irrelevant or, worse, that it distracts their elected officials from more important work, they get angry about it.

This is why most Americans don't want impeachment hearings to dominate the political landscape. Monica Lewinsky does not touch their lives.

Social Security and education and crime do.

And they don't care if it is Republicans who push those issues or Democrats. They will back whoever has the agenda that does the most good for them.

That is what the mainstream is all about.

And when Bill Clinton managed to push the Democrats away from the far left and toward the center, he got the support of the mainstream and ensured his political success.

Not until the Republicans push away from the far right and toward that same center will they have a chance to duplicate it.


11/05/98: Monica? Monica who?
11/03/98: Telling the truth about journalists
10/30/98: The vanishing president
10/27/98:Bubba's last hurrah?
10/23/98: Podesta is used to cleaning toilets
10/15/98: Glenn will once again be an American original
9/24/98: The greatest political actor of our time
9/17/98: Bubba's 'weasel words' --only a partial list (There's only 24 hours in a day)
9/17/98: Hah, I told ya so!
9/08/98: Orthodox Jew Lieberman's moral outrage: Why religion matters in politics
9/04/98: Bubbasky
8/27/98: Cigars?
8/25/98: Why it's all-Lewinsky-all-day-all-night
8/21/98: From magnifying glass to microscope
8/19/98: Let's be blunt: Bubba really needs a shrink --- and fast!
8/13/98: At home, with real, live FOBs
8/11/98: Bubba's new secret weapon: the Marine Band
8/07/98: Has the presidency been reduced to a 'Leno' joke?
8/05/98: Tell the truth?
7/30/98: All ya need is luv...and to deny, deny, deny
7/28/98: 'Man-of-da-people,' huh?
7/23/98: Can frequent-flyer miles alone earn Bubba a Nobel Prize?
7/21/98: San Francisco: not only 'gay,' but happy
7/17/98: Why Bubba claims Y2K is US' biggest problem
7/14/98: Close Amtrak --- PLEASE!
7/9/98: Flag burning is for nuts!
7/7/98: Forget about his legal defense fund, buy Bubba shirts!
7/1/98: Wall-nuts
6/26/98: Perks and the press
6/23/98: There's a good reason Bubba wants gun-control...
6/19/98: Why Clinton can get away with going to Tiananmen Square
6/16/98: Maybe Big Brother ain't so bad after all
6/11/98: He claimed responsibility for Rwanda, so why isn't Bubba stopping Serbian genocide?
6/9/98: The Internet president?
6/4/98: You can call me ‘slick;' and you can call me ‘sick;' but never call me ‘Dick' .... as in Nixon, that is
6/2/98: Being a 'talkin'-head' is hard work
5/29/98 Pay the pol, pick the policy
5/27/98 A 'loo' in London
5/21/98Buba is back from Europe ... but what did he accomplish?
5/18/98Roses for Buba
5/12/98: Just who is "Mr. Republican" these days?"
5/7/98:"Why Clinton keeeps "going and going and going""
5/1/98:"Bubba v. Tabacka"
4/29/98:"You may ask, but should they tell?"
4/24/98:"McCurry and the kids from the ‘hood "
4/23/98: "NOW" should change its name to "THEN"
4/20/98: Freedom to be a jerk?
4/14/98: Bill is Hef's kinda guy
4/7/98: South African memories --- and a paradise not yet found
3/24/98: Bill's 12-day safari
3/20/98: Peace for Ireland?
3/18/98: Flat tire? Spare me
3/13/98: Latrell Sprewell's genius
3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.