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Jewish World Review/ Jan. 26, 1999/ 9 Shevat, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez When sports are
truly a diversion

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) IF RATINGS ARE ANY INDICATION, the American public cares far more about what happens to John Elway than Bill Clinton this week.

An estimated 45 million people will tune in to watch the Denver Broncos' quarterback as his team faces the Atlanta Falcons in the 33th annual Super Bowl on Sunday. Yet barely 10 million Americans watched the president's impeachment trial as it was broadcast live last week, according to most estimates. Have Americans lost all sense of proportion?

Sure, I know there's plenty of drama in this Super Bowl match. This is Atlanta's first Super Bowl and Elway's last game. Then there's the purported rivalry between Elway, arguably the best quarterback in football history, and Atlanta coach Dan Reeves, who once coached the Broncos until he was forced out in a feud with Elway.

But no matter how great the hype, this is after all only a football game --- albeit a championship. Its outcome won't having any lasting effect on anyone beyond the teams' players and owners.

Yet millions of Americans will be glued to their sets, following every play as if their lives depended on it.

Meanwhile, most Americans seem utterly uninterested in the drama that has unfolded in the U.S. Senate the last two weeks --- a once-in-a-century event that could determine the course of politics for years to come. The conventional explanation for the country's apathy is that people are generally pleased with the economy and don't want to upset the apple cart.

But that's no excuse.

You'd think that if most Americans truly believed that the president was innocent of the charges they would be incensed that he's been impeached and forced to stand trial, the first elected president in history to face such ignominy. Why, if that were the case, there ought to be protest marches in every city. But instead, the public seems more bored than angry.

Besides, according to the polls, most Americans believe the president is pretty much guilty as charged. They think the president lied under oath and encouraged others to do so as well, they just don't seem to believe the president's behavior matters all that much. The public appears to hold politicians in such low regard they don't expect them to obey normal standards of decency and lawfulness anyway. A liar as chief executive? So what else is new, they seem to be saying.

The electorate's ennui turns the proceedings on Capitol Hill into a charade. For all the high-flown rhetoric about the Constitution from members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle, our democracy is not functioning as it was intended so long as Americans aren't paying attention to the most significant political event in their lifetimes. Voters and members of Congress alike seem more concerned with getting the proceedings over with quickly than they do in getting to the truth.

Certainly the Founders of this nation could never have imagined an electorate so utterly detached from the democratic process. Barely 36 percent of eligible voters bothered to vote in last year's congressional election, and the number who participate has declined steadily over the years.

President Clinton claimed in his State of the Union speech last week that he was keeping alive what President George Washington referred to in his first inaugural address as "the sacred fire of liberty." But, as Washington scholar Matthew Spalding reminded readers of National Review, President Clinton failed to note that the father of our country also said in the very same speech from which he quoted: "the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principle of private morality."

Not much solace for either Clinton or the American public there. But then the John Elways of American life have long ago replaced heroes like George Washington. In our democracy, the electorate gets the leaders it deserves.

Maybe Americans don't want to follow impeachment too closely because they realize the impeachment process is holding up a mirror that they would rather not look into.


01/20/99: Ken Starr as Mark Fuhrman?
01/12/99: Leave Monica out of it
01/05/99: Forget Danny Williams, what about Bubba’s trade and campaign abuses!?
12/29/98: Ya never know
12/15/98: Whose reality?
12/08/98: Why the House must make sure Bubba gets his due punishment
12/02/98: Remember when libraries were for expanding the mind!?
11/26/98: When Thanksgiving means more than commercialism
11/17/98: To Ken S. --- if you'll only listen
11/10/98: What did you expect?
11/04/98: Shame on those who don't vote!
10/27/98: It's spreading!
10/20/98: It ain't over yet
10/15/98: Mourning motherhood
9/23/98: Sosa and the race card
9/23/98: Believable and truthful are two different things
9/16/98: Time for a new Amendment!
9/08/98: When silence is truly golden
8/25/98: Bears and blunders
8/25/98: Only consistency about Prez's anti-terrorism policy: its inconsistency
8/18/98: Is our 'broken-compass' beyond fixing?
8/11/98: Reno's risk
8/04/98: When Truth is of the highest odor
7/28/98: No way to protect ourselvesagainst a nut's wrath
7/22/98: These 'choice' advocates are being demonzied ... by the Left.
7/15/98: Will 'neonaticide' become the new buzzword?
7/07/98: Urge to mega-merge, stopped in time
6/30/98: Why take responsibility if
somebody else will pay?
6/23/98: Blinded by the red, or is it the green?
6/17/98: Flotsam in the wake of romance
6/10/98: We have a ways to go in the bilingual war
6/3/98: Tyson's triumph over tragedy
5/28/98: Why Univision's Perenchio is out to hurt his fellow Hispanics
5/20/98: Sometimes Buba actually tells the truth ... as he sees it
5/12/98: Chill-out on the chihuahua and ... Seinfeld
5/8/98: The revolution is just about over
4/28/98: Let's face it: both parties are full of hypocrites
4/21/98: Legislating equality
4/14/98: One down, many to go
4/7/98: Mexican mayhem?
3/31/98: Of death and details
3/25/98: Americans are unaware of NATO expansion
3/18/98: Intellectual-ghettoes in the name of diversity
3/11/98: Be careful what you wish for ...
3/4/98: The Press' Learning-disability
2/25/98: 50 States Are Enough!
2/18/98: Casey at the Mat
2/11/98: The legal profession's Final Solution
2/4/98: Faith and the movies
1/28/98: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Politics Vs. Principle
1/21/98: Movement on the Abortion Front
1/14/98: Clones, Courts, and Contradictions
1/7/98: Child custody or child endangerment?
12/31/97: Jerry Seinfeld, All-American
12/24/97: Affirmative alternatives: New initiatives for equal opportunity are out there
12/17/97: Opening a window of opportunity (a way out of bilingual education for California's Hispanic kids)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.