Jewish World Review Dec. 2, 2002/ 27 Kislev, 5763

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Some helpful hints
for Tom and Al | Seems like old times. Everybody's pickin' on us.

That's actually Al Gore's line, complaining about how he can't get no respect from the right-wing media, which in Al's telling includes everybody to the right of the New York Times, and that includes just about everybody.

Or maybe it was Tom Daschle's. He was last heard complaining that Rush Limbaugh, or Fox News, or The Washington Times, or the Wall Street Journal is out to get him and the Democrats.

Bill Clinton once complained to the editors of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that "the right wing has The Washington Times, and we don't have a Washington Times." On another occasion he complained to a radio interviewer in St. Louis that "Rush Limbaugh has three hours to say whatever he wants and I won't have any opportunity to respond." (It's a shame how we muzzle our presidents.) Republicans complain, too, but right now they can't get a word in edgewise.

It's tough, the life of a Washington pol. "What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't satisfied just to listen," Mr. Daschle says. "They want to act because they get emotionally invested. And so, you know, the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically and - that's very disconcerting."

No doubt. The problem the pols have is that when voters get "emotionally invested" they go to the polls, sometimes in concert, and for every winner, there's at least one loser, and lately a lot of the losers are Mr. Daschle's colleagues.

Al Gore, following Mr. Daschle's grand strategy, picked up the theme and started chunking rocks at warm and cuddly ol' us. "The media is kind of weird these day on politics," Mr. Gore told Josh Benson of the New York Observer, who was kind enough to print his remarks. "There are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party. Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh - there's a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media. The rest of the media has been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks."

Well, some of this is true. Many press lords are, in fact, billionaires, even though a billion dollars doesn't go as far as it used to. Ink, even by the barrel, is expensive. You could ask any of the Grahams, the Sulzbergers or even the Chandlers, who have used their billions to finance the journals (The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times) that control, or try to, the politics of the republic.

Tom and Al have had a run of bad luck. Tom couldn't enjoy his turkey yesterday for the pain in his back, what with all his recent heavy lifting. He's moving out of the big office of the majority leader of the United States Senate, and he has no idea how he can get all his stuff into whatever closet Trent Lott has in mind for the new Daschle digs.

Al, of course, is flogging his new book, "Joined at the Heart." It's not doing well. Al went to a cocktail party to celebrate his book the other night - the party was in a very nice ZIP code and the little cucumber sandwiches were particularly delicious - but on his way out he saw, to his horror, that stacks of the book were on a table at the door, already remaindered.

Bashing the press is one of the most honored of our national traditions, and great fun for everybody, newspaper editors included. But there's an art to press-bashing, and the modern Democrats don't do it any better than the modern Republicans.

Huey Long was a master at it. George Wallace did it as well as anyone of his time. One of the best was a turn-of-the-century senator named Jeff Davis of Arkansas, named for but no kin of the president of the late Confederacy. (All were Democrats.)

"Mrs. Davis and I have a little son," the senator was fond of telling the crowd gathered in the evening heat at the foot of the marble Confederate soldier on the courthouse lawn. "We love that little boy more than we love life itself.

"If it turns out that that little boy has above-average intelligence, we intend to send him off to seminary and make him a preacher of the Gospel.

"But if turns out that he has only average intelligence, that's all right, too. We'll send him off to law school.

"But if it turns out that he doesn't have any more sense than a goose in a thunderstorm, why, we'll just send him downtown to edit the morning newspaper." So pay attention, Tom and Al. If you want to play in this league, lighten up.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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