Jewish World Review May 12, 1999 /26 Iyar 5759
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Why did President Clinton have to assemble the conference in less time than it took to deploy Apache helicopters to the Balkans? A serious session—one that might actually develop policy responses to the vexing problem of teen terrorism—would require weeks of planning. The organizers of a substance-driven summit would need time to assemble the right mix of experts, parents, teachers, civic leaders and children.
They might ask for papers and ideas to be presented before the group met. Then the ensuing discussion could go beyond jaw-flapping. Clearly, the slapdash meeting had one aim: politics.
Here were the Clintonites scurrying to stay ahead of the curve on school shoot-ups. Big Daddy President has to respond to all threats to children—immediately. In our age of cynicism, it’s understandable that the White House operates this way, propelled by a permanent-campaign impulse that infects much of Washington. But in this instance, the political perversion was at a record-level. Why rush to hold this gabfest on May 10?
Because shortly afterward the President was due to jet off to California for fundraisers where he would hit up culturemaking capitalists—those in charge of the violence-drenched movies and television shows now under attack. The pols knew what would happen if Clinton frolicked with the moneybags of Hollywood. William Bennett, the GOP presidential candidates, Tim Russert and a host of others would all pop off. Consequently, administration officials hurried to arrange a summit that would inoculate the Fundraiser-in-Chief.
Clinton, of course, is not the only politician who raced to respond to Littleton. Last week Sen. Joseph Lieberman, one of Clinton’s comrades in the conservative/centrist Democratic Leadership Council, appeared at a Senate committee hearing and ranted against entertainment gore. He warned the entertainment industry that if it “continues to market death and degradation to our children and continues to pay no heed to the real bloodshed staining our communities,” then Congress would craft legislation or mount an investigation into the marketing practices of the entertainment business.
A number of news reports have maintained that KLA members associate with drug traders and Islamic fundamentalists. One noted that when the leading anti-Serbian political movement in Kosovo tried to set up its own military branch, the KLA, looking to protect its turf, assassinated the head of that operation.
Citing “intelligence reports,” the Washington Times—the conservative newspaper — has published stories reporting that KLAers have financed their war through heroin sales and have been trained in a camp run by international fugitive Osama bin Laden, whom the Clinton administration blamed for last year’s bombing attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The well-regarded Jane’s Intelligence Review suggested that the KLA could have bagged tens of millions of dollars through the sale of heroin. Imagine if this were true: Lieberman, who lashes out at Hollywood, is in league with real bad guys, not celluloid ones.
While Lieberman railed against make-believe violence, sitting next to him was Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who also threatened the entertainment industry with congressional reprisals. He should be so tough on another industry—the gun manufacturers. In 1997, Hatch waged a successful effort in the Judiciary Committee to deep-six legislation compelling handgun producers to provide trigger locks—child-safety devices—with each new handgun purchase. The bill failed by one vote. Aspirin comes in childproof containers. Why not make guns harder for kids to use? But Hatch, in sync with the NRA, beat back this modest gun safety initiative.
Hatch and Lieberman are not wrong to suggest culture affects children (and adults, too). But products are easier to control than ideas. It’s not difficult to blast away at Hollywood. During one visit to Los Angeles, Hatch complained, “When I come out here [for a fundraiser] I get about $30,000. For Gore, it’s about $2 million.” The causes of violence are abstract and amorphous, hard to address. (Why is it that Hatch and his comrades in the it’s-values-not-guns club only look at the cultural triggers of violence and don’t bother with other abstract factors, such as social and economic conditions that might contribute to youth violence in the inner cities?)
But the means of violence are
concrete. You can hold them in your hand. Thanks to Hatch, many don’t
05/07/99: Missing In Action