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Jewish World Review July 13, 2000 / 10 Tamuz, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports

President With a Porpoise -- On Monday, as a nation on tenterhooks bated its breath, the Republican Party revealed what it has in mind for its 37th national convention, to be held in Philadelphia from July 31 through Aug. 3. Here is the agenda, as outlined by convention co-chairman Andy Card:

The general theme of the convention will be "Renewing America's Purpose Together." The Monday night theme will be "Opportunity With a Purpose." The Tuesday night theme will be "Strength and Security With a Purpose." The Wednesday night theme will be "Prosperity With a Purpose." The Thursday night theme will be "President With a Purpose." These themes were chosen, I assume, because the GOP's focus groups thought that "Pablum With a Purpose," "Vapidity With a Purpose," "Bloviation With a Purpose" and "Harrumphing and Bumphing With a Purpose" were too high-toned.

There are any number of ways that this thing could be made even a tiny bit interesting. One would be to replace "Purpose" With "Porpoise." I'm not sure which show I would rather watch, "Opportunity With a Porpoise" or "President With a Porpoise." I guess I would watch them both.

Another possibility would be a "Convention From the Heart," in which the Republicans would just go ahead and tell the American people what they really think. The Monday night theme would be "Hillary: Evil Socialist or Socialist Evil?" Tuesday night, running into the wee hours, would feature "Liberal Media Bias, the Complete Anthology." Wednesday night's show, "Impeach Him Again, Harder" would star the House managers, plus Johnny Chung and Juanita Broaddrick. On Thursday, the night of "My G-d, How We Loathe 'Em," the nominee, George W. Bush, would join his parents, George and Barbara, and his brother, Jeb, to give us all a peek at how the Bushes talk about the Clintons and the Gores when the help has the night off.

Actually, the Republicans have tried a convention from the heart before--in Houston in 1992. There, they ripped Bill Clinton, the Democrats and liberalism in general from stem to stern. They had a fine old time, but it cost them dearly. As writers such as Florence King and Andy Ferguson have noted, nice is the preeminent value of suburban America--and suburban America is now majority America. The most important rule of manners in nice America is to never pass judgment, at least not when anybody is listening. When nice people do bad things (sorry, when bad things happen to nice people)--when, say, a father or a mother walks out on a family, or one teenager murders another in the school parking lot--the accepted response is to say that it certainly is sad for everybody involved and you certainly feel bad for everybody involved, and to refrain from suggesting that some parties to the tragedy might actually be victimizers, not victims.

The nice people do not like it when you tell them that all is not nice. This the Republicans forgot in 1992 and again, to a lesser degree, in 1996. That year, the nominee Bob Dole, in a splendidly suicidal speech written by the novelist Mark Helprin, committed the greatest act of lese-majeste that could be imagined in the realm of nice. He told America that it was not--in its grossness, its selfishness, its decadence--nearly as nice a nation as it used to be.

Now, in keeping with their motto ("Fool me once, shame on you; fool me 103 times, shame on me"), the Republicans are determined to get with the story line. Mr. Card, briefing reporters Monday, announced that, this year, the GOP convention will not feature a night dedicated to whomping on the opposition. Just nice stuff. Stuff With a Purpose. Stuff people like: Opportunity, Prosperity, Strength, Security. I can't imagine what they're going to do with poor old Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich and Bob Barr and all the other fellows in the party who still enjoy a bit of nasty now and then. I suppose they'll treat them like smokers, and shunt them outside, where they will stand around in a sad little huddle by the fire-exit doors, saying things that are not nice, while the better people give them disapproving little looks as they walk by into the hall.

It's all very sad for those few of us who are still not as nice as we should be. And the really dispiriting thing is that it will probably work. George Bush, as it has become clear from the polls, does not have to do very much to convince voters that he is an acceptable alternative to Al Gore, who has turned out to be not as nice as we thought he was. Nicey-nicey should do the trick.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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06/21/00: Gore and the Goodies
06/15/00: Network Snooze
06/01/00: Sunshine on My Shoulders
05/24/00: Last Chance for a Hardened Prevaricator
05/17/00: Cuomo's Thought Police
05/10/00: Hammering DeLay
05/04/00: Some Closing Thoughts
04/28/00: Endangering Elian
04/19/00: Imitation Activism
04/12/00: Why they hate Bubba
04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

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