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Jewish World Review /Nov. 6, 1998 /17 Mar-Cheshvan 5759

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Democrat venality, Republican timidity

ONE FANTASY OF CONSERVATIVES must now be laid to rest -- namely that the polls are not to be trusted.

Throughout the drama of the past year, conservatives have been telling each other that the polls showing support for President Clinton and opposition to impeachment are rigged or untrustworthy in some vague way. "I don't know who they are polling" is the constant lament, rather like the resident of Cambridge, Mass., in 1972 who could not believe George McGovern had lost since he did not know a soul who had voted for Richard Nixon.

But the election of 1998 was a solid reflection of what the polls have been saying for 11 months. There is no widespread enthusiasm for impeachment of this president --- quite the contrary. There are about equal numbers of people in the United States, 30 percent on either extreme, who love or loathe Bill Clinton. Most dislike his personal behavior (61 percent according to a New York Times poll), but 62 percent do not wish to see him impeached or removed from office.

Republicans must now reflect seriously on their position.

Even in an off-year election in which the president's party traditionally loses seats, the Democrats were able to make gains. Even when the leader of the Democratic Party is disgraced and his supporters revealed as hypocrites (e.g. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen.-elect Charles Schumer), the Democrats are able to rock Republicans back on their heels.

Republicans are clearly doing something wrong.

Yes, the tactics of the Democrats were atrocious. In Illinois, Hillary Rodham Clinton called Senate candidate Peter Fitzgerald "anti-woman, anti-education and anti-equal opportunity." And in St. Louis, Democrats ran radio ads warning black voters that Republican victories would mean cross burnings on black citizens' lawns (I am not kidding). The media were all exercised over some tepid Republican ads that wondered aloud whether "Clinton should get away with it." Let's see, whose tactics were more outrageous, those who compared Republicans to the KKK or those who reminded voters of Clinton's conduct?

The black turnout did make a difference in this election. But Republicans cannot chalk this up to dirty politics and walk away.

They'd better consider their own less-than-admirable conduct. Many voters believe that Republicans capitalized on Clinton's troubles for partisan reasons. Would that it were so.

When Nixon was weakened by Watergate, Democrats pushed through legislation he was unable to thwart, like the War Powers Resolution and the Budget Act. How have Republicans exploited Clinton's troubles? By passing a budget that Sen. Chuck Hagel, a loyal Republican, called "disgusting" and Sen. Robert Byrd called a "monstrosity"? The Republicans' budget failed to deliver tax cuts, despite the first surplus in 30 years. The Republicans' budget included $20 billion in new spending, much of it for things Republicans do not even favor, like $1.2 billion to pacify the National Education Association.

Who can blame Republican voters for concluding that there were no pressing reasons to return Republicans to office?

The current crop of Republican leaders, in the House and the Senate, should resign their leadership positions. They promised that the strategy of lie low and shut up would deliver a filibuster-proof Senate and a larger majority in the House. They failed. They did not articulate or fight for an agenda beyond splitting the difference with President Clinton. And because they dithered about producing appropriations bills on time, they handed the president a key advantage when the omnibus spending bill was due. These are not gifted tacticians.

Most analysts will now conclude that Republicans must soften their hard edges on abortion and other social issues if they hope to win in 2000. But that is not the lesson of this election. Ellen Sauerbrey, defeated four years ago and accused of being too conservative, modulated her message this time around and lost anyway.

No, the lesson of this election is for this crop of Republican leaders.

They lost their nerve after the budget fiasco of 1995 and have been hibernating ever since. The voters may be quite wrong about excusing Clinton's conduct (as I believe they are). But they are right not to excuse the Republicans' inertia and cowardice.


11/04/98: Are girls being shortchanged?
11/02/98: Believe the children?
10/28/98: What 'Measure 58' would do
10/26/98: The officers are bailing out
10/20/98: Using Matthew Shepard's murder
10/19/98: The school voucher that saved a family
10/14/98: Are powerful women different?
10/09/98: Can just sex be impeachable?
10/07/98: Repeal Miranda
10/02/98: Understanding the polls
10/01/98: What school texts teach about marriage
9/28/98: Fear of choice
9/23/98: A fork in the road: Bubba's fate and ours
9/18/98: Christianity and the Holocaust
9/16/98: The national dirty joke
9/11/98: Are we in crisis?
9/09/98: Does Burton's sin let Clinton off the hook?
9/07/98: Liar's Poker
9/01/98: One, two, three
8/28/98: Fat and folly
8/25/98: When homework is a dirty word
8/21/98: The unravelling
8/18/98: The wages of dishonesty
8/17/98: Sex, honor and the presidency
8/12/98: Pro-choice extremist
8/10/98: Switch illuminates biology's role
8/05/98: The presumption of innocence and the American way
8/03/98: An American hero
7/29/98: Lock up those who need psychiatric care
7/24/98: Making the military more like us
7/22/98: The 'Net sex hoax... and us
7/20/98: Disappointed by Cosbys
7/15/98: Feelings, not morality, rule
7/10/98: Guns as the solution?
7/8/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.