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Jewish World Review July 20, 2000/17 Tamuz, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Conservatives gone fishin' -- TO CLEAR THE HEAD before the political party conventions, reporters, pundits and commentators are advised to go beyond the Beltway. I took the advice seriously. I was invited by several conservative organizations to join an Alaskan cruise to watch salmon run and glaciers melt. This is way beyond the Beltway.

As you might, expect the natives have considerably more on their minds than whether George W. or Al Gore will win in November. Many may one day care, but not yet. They're fishing for salmon, hunting wild birds, and trying to keep the brown bears from knocking over their trash cans.

But nothing was more on the minds of my conservative friends aboard the MS Volendam than the Nov. 8 election. These were men and women from all over the country -- from California to New York, from Pell City, Ala., to Poland, Ohio, and from Metairie, La., to Harbor, Ore., as well as lots of places in between.

These are voters who treasure the Second Amendment as well as the First; who support the Young America's Foundation and the Freedom Alliance and who read Human Events, the national conservative political weekly. They have differences over specific policies, but a common purpose unites them: They want to win back the White House. So in between looking for bald eagles and killer whales, red squirrels and gold nuggets, they discussed the media spin (bad), George W.'s compassionate conservatism (not too bad), Al Gore's earth tones (ineffective) and Gore's debating skills (effective).

Conservatives agree on many things in general, but put a dozen of them in a room and you'll get 15 different non-negotiable opinions. And yet, if these folks are representative of conservatives who will vote in November, there's more to unite the right than divide it.

Clinton fatigue has energized everyone. These conservatives are armed for battle by emphasizing common goals rather than specific policy disagreements. I haven't even heard anyone snickering over George W.'s overuse of the word "compassion,'' though it's a little soft and soggy for most conservatives. But what struck me -- and came as a surprise was that these tough-minded conservatives really like George W., even though they don't embrace his move toward the center since the primaries.

What is driving Democrats up the wall is that George W. is likable and Al Gore is not. Despite liberal spinning in the media, George W. is making fast friends on the campaign trail in the way that Ronald Reagan did. He's instinctively a down-to-earth kind of guy, who tells a good personal story and doesn't pretend to know something when he doesn't. Conservatives especially trust his instincts, if not all of his policy ideas.

As Kelly Anne Fitzpatrick discovered in one of her polls, George W. is the guy most men and women want to see remaining at the end of the television show "Survivor.'' She discovered that Hillary and Bill would be kicked off the island in an early episode and Al Gore would be gone only a little later.

There's been lots of talk about the vice president among my shipmates, and nearly everybody thinks he'll make a formidable candidate and that the race will be close. But they're puzzled over how Al Gore has quickly become a man not to like. A magazine cover depicts Al Gore with a sinister vampire tooth overlapping his left lip. It's not a flattering picture, and this is not the cover of National Review but of Atlantic Monthly.

George W.'s secret weapon may indeed be Al Gore's meanness and ruthlessness, saying and doing and wearing anything he thinks it takes to win. The conventional wisdom is that Al will cream George W. in a debate, but not everybody agrees. When the vice president starts to needle the governor, suggests one of my shipmates, the Republican candidate ought to tell him to "stop trying to get under my skin and stick to the issues.''

These conservatives know that there's a new voting bloc that's emerged since Clinton entered office -- investors in the stock market and users of the Internet. A full 63 percent of voting households own stock directly or indirectly in pension plans and retirement funds. These voters cut across the so-called gender gap and parochial minority politics. They have reasons to want a conservative to guide the economy and to restore moral character to the White House.

At least that's how it looks from the bridge of the MS Volendam, as we sail past glaciers, watch the salmon run and look for killer whales.


07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate