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Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2000/ 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Lesser of 2 evils? It's more like the lesser of 2 lies --
THE KEY QUESTION as American women face election countdown is familiar to those of a certain age: Will I respect myself in the morning?

Whether Democrat or Republican, voters -- including men -- seem to share the same ballot-box angst: "I'll vote for Gore/Bush," they say, "but I won't enjoy it." It's a curious quandary.

Gore supporters don't especially like their man but are comfortable with his grasp of the issues. Bush supporters love their man, but aren't sure he's aware of the issues. More important, both men have failed to produce convincing evidence that they can be trusted.

Neither man evokes the sense that he has been entirely honest. One lies by commission (Gore's "exaggerations"); the other lies by omission (Bush's sidestepping on critical issues such as abortion).

Gore the changeling hasn't even been sure who he is, altering lines, gestures and wardrobe to appeal to women one day, inventing fictional crises to appeal to populist sensibilities another. He's like Matt Dillon in There's Something About Mary. Every time Mary mentions something she likes, Matt's character, desperate to woo her, incorporates them into his package.

Mary likes golf; he adores golf. Mary (mysteriously) likes big teeth; he shows up grinning Steinway-sized ivories. So, too, goes the brown-shirted, Reagan-coiffed, babe-smoochin', tree-huggin', global-coolin', HEY! Didja-see-me-in-my-jeans-on-the-cover-of-Rollin'-Stone, I'myourman, Al Gore.

Bush, for all his charm, warmth and water-cooler appeal, is maddeningly evasive. Like the coy-boy in every girl's past, he hints at what he wants but makes you figure it out. This is mildly amusing when you're playing body-language behind the cafeteria, but it's disingenuous from a serious suitor.

The man asking that we trust him with our future won't come clean on the single issue women need to hear about -- abortion. He hints, he winks, he does a little soft-shoe, but you're left wondering: What's he really thinking?

I've given Bush the benefit of the doubt in this column, insisting that he doesn't plan to meddle with abortion rights. Though avowedly pro-life, Bush has said he wants to change the way Americans think about abortion, not, specifically, laws. He also has said that, if elected, he won't make abortion a litmus test for Supreme Court appointments.

The only definitive statement Bush has made regarding "choice" is that he'll work to ban so-called partial-birth abortions, a move that most Americans would applaud. He also has expressed concern that approval of RU-486, the "morning-after" abortion pill, will increase abortions.

My sense -- which unfortunately is a product of reading between the lines, because the full text is always missing -- is that Bush can't be specific without alienating the uncompromisingly "pro-life" Christian Right. The result is that many women are left guessing and insecure about casting a vote they might otherwise prefer.

Does the Christian Right also have to guess, or is there some secret understanding, as pro-abortion advocates say? Are Bush's winks and nods for women voters, or for Pat Robertson?

Answer: Bush wants to get re-elected in 2004, and challenging women's reproductive rights is not an expedient platform.

The sometimes-contemptuous observation that women are relying on their instincts instead of data is both true and justified. Gore's data are, well, certainly data, but his chameleonic fašade offends the instincts of honest people. Bush's seemingly practiced, data-free instincts offend one's need for truth.

Analysts trying to predict voter patterns, particularly among women suffering Decision Deficit Disorder, have posited bleakly that Americans will be choosing this week between the lesser of two evils. More likely, and bleaker still, they'll be choosing between the lesser of two lies.

If only there were a morning-after pill.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


11/02/00: Latest Jones' saga exposes a big irony
10/31/00: Hate-crime legislation and anti-Bush ad are flawed
10/26/00: Taking it to the streets
10/23/00: Headlines blur fiasco of family
10/13/00: Forget polls: Bush passes turtle test
10/06/00: Feminism: A cup that's half full?
10/04/00: Election-year reality check: Abortion is here to stay
09/29/00: For Gore and Hollywood, the mirror has two faces
09/26/00: Oprahfication of presidential political: It's all about feelings
09/19/00: It's not subliminal: Hypocrisy of moral outrage is obvious
09/15/00: So wear, oh wear, are we headed?
09/11/00: Do Steinem's wedding bells sound feminist death knells?
09/08/00: Grounded in her fears about flying
08/31/00: Dudettes that don't
08/29/00: AlGore wants to be his own man -- does he know who that is?
08/21/00: Dems manufacture emotions at convention
08/17/00: Hollywood divine? AlGore is miscast
08/08/00:Outreach: Good strategy and long-run policy
08/04/00: A sharp look back at the Vietnam War
08/01/00: Bush's choice of grown-up Cheney is a stroke of genius
07/24/00: Fired up and grossed out over stupid Canadians
07/20/00: Lack of judgment --- our critical flaw
07/18/00: 'Progress' for women often a step back
07/11/00: School essay watchdogs cannibalize our children
07/06/00: Youths fear marriage --- blame boomers
06/28/00: Eminem might just have a point
06/21/00: Bridging the day-care divide
06/15/00: N.Y. baby case ends up with multiracial scrambled eggs
05/31/00: The war only time wins
05/25/00: The opposite of sex
05/18/00: World War II gave us our true heroes
05/11/00: Boy Crazy! stacks deck against guys
05/09/00: Finding out where the boys are
05/05/00: A born Ms. Leader -- Barbie for prez
04/25/00: From here to paternity
04/14/00: Boys should be boys, not viewed as criminals in training
04/11/00: Oh, for a standard of what is socially, morally acceptable
04/06/00: Womyn's Contempt for Commitment --- and the bastards it creates
04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
03/28/00: Stay-home parents know that their kids need them
03/24/00: No 'Great Expectations' when schools shun the classics
03/21/00: It's common sense to restrict Internet usage in libraries
03/17/00: You want to be just a mom? For shame!
03/14/00: Colonoscopy: Important, but bad TV
03/10/00: I made a mistake about trigger-locks
03/08/00: After this school shooting, no easy target for our contempt
03/03/00: Car crash helps bridge our divide
02/28/00: Nasty politics? Americans like it down, dirty
02/14/00: College testing via Lego-building -- yeah, right
02/02/00: Bubba should spare us phony love theatrics
01/26/00: What sets off Those Who Speak for Women
01/13/00: Fools in love: Premarital counseling could help school kids
01/11/00: Who funds these studies!?
12/29/99: Grandparents' rights impinge on family autonomy
12/13/99: When did fathers become fair game?
12/09/99: Don't be stupid about at-risk kids
12/07/99: Pokemon is no substitute for a father
12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
11/09/99: Gore could benefit from a secret in Wolf's clothing
11/03/99: Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV?
11/01/99: Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
10/26/99: Children's needs must take priority in divorce system
10/19/99: The deadbeat dad is less a scoundrel than an object of pity
10/15/99: Bullying boys ... and girls
10/12/99: Divorced dads ready to wage a revolution
10/04/99: A father's best gift? His presence
09/30/99: Sorry, guys, Faludi is no friend of yours
09/28/99: Science's new findings: Scary future for families
09/23/99: The great blurring of need and want
09/21/99:Focus on more than baby's first 3 years
09/16/99: Commentary from kids sheds no light on day-care debate
09/14/99: Fathers' group seeks to right inequities
09/09/99: Son now has a license to grow up
09/07/99: A slap in the face of domestic violence
09/01/99: No, ma'am: Legislation on manners misses the mark
08/26/99: For better boys, try a little tenderness
08/24/99:The ABC's of campaign questions
08/19/99: Male 'sluts'
08/11/99: Language doesn't excuse bad behavior
08/09/99: When justice delayed is still justice
08/03/99: Unemployment? Not in this profession
07/30/99: It's not about race -- it's about crack babies
07/22/99: Tragedy tells us what's important
07/19/99: Study denouncing fathers sends danger signals
07/15/99:'Happy marriage' belongs in the Dictionary of Oxymorons next to 'deliciously low-fat.'
07/11/99: 'Brother Man': An American demagogue in Paris
07/08/99: Only parents can fix broken families
07/06/99: America is home, sweet home
07/01/99: Tales out of Yuppiedom
06/28/99: Men aren't the only abusers
06/23/99: Is the entire country guzzling LSD punch?
06/20/99: The voice remains -- as always -- there beside me 06/16/99:Stating the obvious, a new growth industry
06/14/99: Calling for a cease-fire in the gender war
06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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