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Jewish World Review July 31, 2000/28 Tamuz, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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The sizzling Lynne Cheney -- THE DICK CHENEY NOMINATION is good for education. That's because his wife Lynne is a rigorous critic of what's wrong with public schools -- the textbooks and curriculum, as well as the mush of multiculturalism that seeps into the classrooms at our finest colleges and universities.

Talk about a bully pulpit. She can be a spokeswoman for restoring the dignity of honest intellectual debate, focusing like a laser (remember that expression) to expose the muddled thinking that corrupts academia and the rest of our culture.

As a veep's wife, she can show what's rotten in the culture with the zest and zeal that Betty Ford brought to drug abuse. Feminists who say they like strong, intelligent, intellectually independent women will get their wish in Lynne Cheney.

But certain feminists only like women who agree with them, and Lynne Cheney is not a "go along'' kind of woman. She is -- if you will excuse the sexist phrase -- "her own man.'' You can read that first hand in her book "Telling the Truth: Why Our Culture and Our Country Have Stopped Making Sense -- and What We Can Do About It,'' first published in 1995. Margaret Thatcher praised her for standing up to the bullies of political correctness, and George Will wanted to award her the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the culture war.

When she was director of the National Endowment for the Humanities, she discovered that humanities texts had been transformed into political documents, reduced to issues of "gender, race and class.'' Homer, Shakespeare and Milton were denigrated as "male chauvinists,'' and there was a determined attempt to get them out of the classroom, the effects of which are still with us today. (Without irony, some pundits -- even those who married one -- have sneered at Dick Cheney as "just another white male.'')

Lynne Cheney wrote her Ph.D. thesis on Matthew Arnold, whose guiding principle for studying the humanities was "a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world.'' This is what must be restored to education in America.

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"Lynne Cheney has the quaint notion that our universities ought to uphold the ethical and professional standards they profess -- integrity, competence, civility, common decency,'' says Eugene Genovese, a scholar and proponent of academic freedom who staunchly defends her criticism of the academy.

Dick Cheney says he wants to restore a spirit of civility in Washington, which is a reflection of his political style. Lynne Cheney wants to revitalize our understanding of compassion, returning it to its original meaning.

She recounts a terrible murder in South Philadelphia in 1994, when a man operating a Mr. Softee ice cream truck was killed by a 16-year old when he wouldn't give up his money. What extended the shock of this sordid episode was that as the driver lay dying in the street, neighborhood teenagers composed a rap song on the spot: "They Killed Mr. Softee.'' When the dying man's friend -- another ice cream salesman -- arrived, the teenagers ignored his grief and, laughing, demanded that he give them ice cream. Death was depersonalized.

For the perception of compassion that was absent from this scene, Lynne Cheney, blames a culture of divisiveness that emanates from an intellectual elite celebrating differences and victimhood rather than the richness of a common humanity.

She echoes columnist Bob Greene, who fears that America has "increasingly become a nation of citizens who watch anything and everything as if it is all a show.''

The Democrats who scorn W.'s choice of Dick Cheney -- along with much of the punditocracy -- deride him for having the admirable qualities of a public servant rather than the showier talents of a performer: "Where's the pizzazz? Where's the sizzle?'' Perhaps they prefer an actor out of the TV show "West Wing'' than a real-life chief of staff and defense secretary (though many of these same critics derided Ronald Reagan for "acting''). Where's the seriousness?

Dick Cheney offers plenty of that, with gravitas (this week's cliche). But if you want snap, crackle and pop, keep your eyes focused on the Second Lady (in waiting).


07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate