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Jewish World Review Dec. 10, 1998/21 Kislev, 5759

Larry Elder

Larry Elder

Will the real America stand up?

IT WAS VINTAGE ALAN DERSHOWITZ, the attorney and race card player extraordinaire. Appearing as an anti-impeachment panelist before the House Judiciary Committee, Dershowitz accused Georgia conservative Republican Rep. Bob Barr of "racism," "bigotry" and "anti-Semitism." What did Rep. Barr do to incur the wrath of Dershowitz?

Here's what happened.

Barr: "Despite the fact that some of our law professors here today think that this matter should all be handled by the courts, and the Constitution should just be shoved aside, real America understands that the Constitution is there for a reason -- that it does mean something. I don't think these views represent the clarity and the rationality and the common sense with which the real America views these matters."

The Dersh
Dershowitz: "Let me respond to why I perceive this to be a personal attack. First of all, whenever I hear the words 'real Americans,' that sounds to me like a code word for racism, a code word for bigotry, a code word for anti-Semitism. You ought to be ashamed."

Barr: "That is the silliest thing I have ever heard."

Dershowitz: "I hear you describe me as something other than a real American. Shame on you! We may have a disagreement about the merits of these issues, but I would no more impugn your Americanism, and you shouldn't impugn mine."

Barr: "You're being silly, professor. You're being absolutely silly." Perhaps this a distinction without a difference, but Barr said "real America." Yet Dershowitz accused him of saying "real Americans."

Later, on CNBC's "Rivera Live," Dershowitz stepped up the attack. This time, he accused Barr of calling Dershowitz "un-American." So "real America" became "real Americans," which, in turn, became "un-American." What's next, "unreal Americans"?

"Real America," for many Washington pols, simply means outside the Beltway, where common folks live, work hard and pay taxes. You know, Joe and Joan Six-pack.

But Dershowitz apparently thinks the term "real Americans" conjures up images of Jim Crow, internment camps, attack dogs and water hoses. Does Dershowitz sincerely believe Barr's use of the expression "real America" makes him a 1950s southern segregationist?

Of course not. Dershowitz employed a tactic -- switch the subject. His 1983 book, "The Best Defense," laid it all out. "Almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty." "In representing criminal defendants -- especially guilty ones -- it is often necessary to take the offensive against the government: to put the government on trial for its misconduct." Barr called Dershowitz's reaction "silly." He's right. Let's go to the videotape.

July 5, 1995, President Clinton: "Look, I know America first and foremost is a place where individual effort and family values count. That's why I am successful. But I live in the real America -- not in Washington, D.C." (Annual convention of the American Association of Physicians from India.)

June 14, 1997, President Clinton: "Remember how you have seen things like that during the natural disasters here in California. That is the face of the real America. That is the face I have seen over and over again. That is the America somehow, some way, we have to make real in daily American life." (University of California at San Diego, Calif.)

Aug. 14, 1998, President Clinton: "America's got a good agenda in the coming months. We can be for saving Social Security first, better schools, a cleaner environment and a Patient's Bill of Rights, and we can sell that in every place in America. They are real choices real Americans face in this election." (Democratic National Committee Labor lunch, Washington, D.C.) Feb. 18, 1994, Prime Minister John Major of Great Britain: "The president told you most of the story of how I came to be here this evening. ... 'Come and have a look at a bit of Pittsburgh,' said the president. ‘Come and see a bit of real America.' And here I am." (Pittsburgh Airport.)

May 4, 1994, Hillary Rodham Clinton: "They have enabled this day to come about, because they were willing to think differently, to put people first, to solve real problems that real Americans face every day." (Signing of the School-To-Work Opportunities Act, White House.)

Feb. 12, 1998, Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt: "We will carry on this fight every day of the rest of this year to fight for the real issues that real Americans care about so deeply." (News briefing, Trinity College.)

Dershowitz played the race card. Not satisfied with simply calling the pro-impeachment camp wrong or unfair, this Clinton attack-squad member unleashed a new weapon -- calling Clinton's critics bigoted and anti-Semitic. Hey, whatever works.

Targets change, but tactics remain the same. Attack, demean, mischaracterize. Judge Robert Bork, Justice Clarence Thomas, independent counsel Ken Starr, and now Rep. Bob Barr. What a distinguished panel of ... "un-Americans."


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©1998, Laurence A. Elder