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Sorry again. But in the interest of fairness and bipartisanship, we
must now critique the newsmagazines’ coverage of the Democratic National
Convention in the same dispassionate, purely objective way we did the
two weeks ago.
It’s too hard to count exactly, but Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report devote an estimated 78 pages to the Democrats’ political party in L.A., where 2000 candidates Al Gore and Joe Lieberman finally got the Clintons off the stage. (The Bush-Cheney gala “only” got about 62 total pages.)
Time and Newsweek — with 32 and 26 pages, respectively — go nuts. They crank out stories, profiles, analyses, sidebars and photo essays on the Gores, the Liebermans, the various sects and branches of the Jewish religion and a crucial presidential campaign where God, personal piety and good morals promise to be important themes.
Neither magazine is very critical of Gore or Lieberman, who is not only putting the Judeo back in Judeo-Christian but is in danger of becoming America’s first Jewish saint.
Republicans whose radars are especially sensitive to liberal bias will prefer Newsweek, where Howard Fineman’s lead piece,
Win,” is tougher, edgier and more informative on basic political matters. Democrats will love Time — even though it slaughtered a few thousand more of Al’s fellow trees for its package.
Time doesn’t completely drool over Gore or Lieberman. But its lead piece,
Faith,” by Eric Pooley, does seem to go out of its way to make nice — and to take some gratuitous whacks at George W. Bush.
In another Gore-friendly piece,
“The Man Behind the
Myths,” the same Mr. Pooley works overtime to debunk the ugly caricatures he says Gore has unfairly become trapped in:
According to Pooley, Al Gore is not really cautious and deliberative to a fault, he’s decisive. He not a liar or a serial hyperbolizer (the Internet thing). He’s not a hypocrite for growing tobacco while attacking the tobacco industry. He’s not a techno-intellectual geek, he’s a “future populist” who’s on a personal mission “to save the world from global warming,” etc., etc.
Time does not take the same low-caliber potshots at Lieberman’s voting record in the Senate that it took at the record of GOP’s VP candidate, Dick Cheney two weeks ago. Maybe that’s because Lieberman’s voting record — which is one of cozy congruence with the big Connecticut insurance and drug companies that contribute so handsomely to his political coffers — doesn’t offend Time’s writers the way Cheney’s hardline conservative voting record did. Still, there’s more than enough good stuff in both magazines to satisfy nonpartisan readers.
Charles Krauthammer, who like Lieberman was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, says America has long ago embraced secular Jews in government (Henry Kissinger, 10 current U.S. senators, etc.) and in arts and entertainment (Jerry Seinfeld, et al.).
What makes Lieberman’s choice especially significant, he says, is that he is a Jew who takes his religion seriously and practices it publicly.
It’s a sharp, readable, fair piece that largely eschews political commentary as it looks at the personality and psyche of “a remarkably thoughtful, disciplined and serious public servant” who as a tike/twig was groomed for high office by his “stentorian senator” father and “formidable mother.”
U.S. News’ convention package is the smallest, as is usual, but it has a detectable anti-Gore attitude. Kenneth Walsh’s lead article,
“Al and Joe’s L.A.
Moment,” approaches meanness itself when it wonders which Al Gore would show up in L.A. — Cerebral Al, Everyday Al, Populist Al, New Age Al?
Calling Gore “a complicated candidate who has undergone more makeovers than an aging character actor in the middle of a career crisis,” Walsh warns that if Gore doesn’t settle on “a clear, compelling narrative of his campaign, his presidency, and his life, it may be too late.”
U.S. News also notes that Lieberman — who allied himself with GOP virtue crusaders like Bill Bennett to attack Hollywood and has toyed with such Bushian positions as Social Security privatization and school vouchers —
is edgier than he
seems. He also has a varied voting record that, like Cheney’s, offers plenty “to feast on for friends and foes alike.”
As it did for the GOP convention, U.S. News looks to history to complement its coverage. Its cover, in fact, contains an illustration of Thomas Jefferson, the Democrat Party’s beloved but largely ignored founding father.
Joseph Ellis’ cover story,
Democrats,” is an adaptation drawn from his coming book, “Founding Fathers: The Revolutionary Generation.” It explains how Jefferson was the first politician to understand that to succeed in American politics you would need to be the head of a well-organized and disciplined political party.
History buffs will enjoy reading how Jefferson and his pal James Madison came to realize this. And political buffs — especially conservative ones — will get a kick out of being reminded how little Jefferson’s political platform resembled anything the Democrats believe in today.
Jefferson’s platform considered the federal government an Evil Empire intent on subverting the very principles the country was founded on. “It more closely resembles the agenda of 20th Century Republicans like Ronald Reagan than Democrats like Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” Ellis says.
Of course, in those days, everyone was proud to call himself a (small r) republican. In 1800, Ellis says, the words “democracy” and “Democrats” still “carried the odor of an epithet, suggesting a person who panders to popular opinion rather than oversees the abiding public interest.”
In other words, after 200 years the definition of a Democrat has remained largely unchanged.
While the Democrat team of Gore and Lieberman partied hard with their Hollywood friends this week, they got some bottles and batteries thrown at them from opposite ends of the arena.
From the right end zone, the
Standard warns that Lieberman may be a foreign policy hawk and a moral crusader, but he’s no moderate — and surely no conservative. William F. Buckley Jr. may have supported him in 1988 against Lowell Weicker, but the Standard’s Christopher Caldwell says Lieberman is to the left of Gore on gun control, the environment, abortion rights and tax policy.
From the far-left end zone is the Nation, whose special democratic Convention issue offers dueling editorial endorsements in behalf of Ralph Nader and Al Gore.
Robert Borosage says to
Gore because this election is too important to waste a vote on Nader, even if he is “the one great man in this presidential election.” Barbara Ehrenreich, who urges fellow lefties to
Nader because Gore has done nothing to earn the votes of progressives and because she fears a Gore victory would have a “debilitating effect on progressives and their organizations.”
The Nation’s package also includes a map of the leftist shrines in L.A., plus Alexander Cockburn’s pitiful lament that the Democrat Party of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, a.k.a. the “errand boy for Connecticut’s insurance industry,” has become so centered it’s become virtually right-wing.
After almost 200 years of practice, and after dropping good libertarian principles in favor of bad statist ones, the D’s of today can’t seem to make anyone happy, especially the hard-core lefties.
As Cockburn complains, the party of FDR and LBJ has shifted so far away from its mid-20th century values that it now “represents pretty much everything the Christian right has been calling for down the years: a big stick at home in the form of family values, censorship, more cops.”