Thursday, August 18


Mark Kleiman recounts an old 1986 incident in which Dubya publicly cussed out reporter Al Hunt for predicting that Bush Sr. would lose the 1988 presidential nomination to Jack Kemp. Mark says that somehow he had never heard the story and wonders if that's not evidence of lazy Gore campaigners and campaign 2000 reporters.

Actually, I've read about the confrontation several times, but I'm not surprised Mark hadn't since every time I tell the story, I fail to find a single person who believes it. They just can't believe that if true, it wouldn't have been all over the papers and TV.

I'm not sure it's laziness or incompetence that has kept the tale from becoming big news. Instead, let me suggest an alternate theory. It's my contention that, though Republicans and conservatives have seized the "morality" issue, it's generally, traditionally been an article of faith that it is/was/has been the Democratic Party that voters have associated with generosity, compassion, humility, collegiality, tolerance, etc. Republicans had an image as "robber barons," snobbish, elitist people out for the bucks and for themselves. In the South of my youth, the Baptist and other fundamentalist churches that frowned on dancing and drinking were filled with Democrats, while the more affluent Republicans were members of Episcopal and Presbyterian congregations where the rules weren't quite so strict.

So for a long time it wouldn't have been a "story" for a Republican to be caught drinking or cussing, while it would have given some satisfaction to nab a righteous Democrat doing so. Up till the relatively recent phenomenon of the Moral Majority, right-wing Christian activist movement, Democrats were perceived to be much more likely to be deeply religious. Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Baptist Democrats, are much more a target of northern journalists, who I believe have had a sneering, superior, elitist attitude towards them just as they did towards Jimmy Carter, another Baptist southern Democrat. Remember the furor over decent Sunday School teacher Jimmy when he confessed innocently to Playboy magazine that while wholly and completely faithful to his wife, he had "lusted in his heart" for other women? My God, the story played 24/7 for days, and the man didn't even DO anything. The Big Dog and Jimmy were men who came from extremely humble origins and through their own merit reached the pinnacles of power -- and then had the audacity to try to use that power to help ordinary people. What did they think they were, heroes? The nerve.

Conversely, it's just no real fun for many journalists to expose Bush's slimy underbelly since they assumed he had one from the beginning and that everyone, really, is aware of it. Many of them identify with his coke-snorting, prep school snobbery, just-getting-by grades, cryonism and pathetic attempts to appropriate an athletic persona unsupported by his native clumsiness. I truly believe they like and are sympathetic towards George because they can feel superior to him.

Plainly put, it's just more fun for some people to knock down real-live heroes or people of real accomplishment. They prefer to elevate the mediocre, which makes them feel better about their own deficiencies.


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