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Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2000/ 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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Filling in the dots at campaign's end -- THERE ARE more ways to measure the winners and losers in election 2000 than mere election results. We'll have to wait for the day-after wise guys to get the most trenchant analysis, but we can already see the big picture.

That picture is like a pointillist painting by Seurat, where the total image emerges from the placement of millions of tiny dots, which change and direct our attention to different perspectives. We think we perceive the whole drama in three dimensions, but then we're deceived by two dimensions that focus the attention.

Before the results are in, we can zoom in on several fascinating dots, both trivial and essential, that reveal a lot about the protagonists in this campaign.

From the outset, Joe Lieberman looked like a brilliant choice. When Al Gore announced that he was taking the leading Democratic critic (were there any others?) of Bill Clinton's moral misbehavior, he blunted the major thrust of the theme of the Republican convention -- that Al Gore and Bill Clinton were attached at the hip, scandals, evasions, lies and all. It was a considerable plus that the senator was an "orthodox'' (now revised to merely "observant'') Jew, a man of faith, which muted criticism from the religious right.

But nobody anticipated how Joe Lieberman's dots would change on the hustings, a change captured in an editorial in The Washington Post asking, "Where's the Old Joe Lieberman?'' The senator had not only repudiated the central core of his conservative positions -- on school vouchers, affirmative action, Hollywood purveyors of flesh and gore -- but alienated Jews and Christians alike by pointedly showing his "respect'' for Louis Farrakhan, who describes Judaism as "a gutter religion'' and whites as 'subhuman.'' When Sen. Lieberman was interviewed on his radio show, Don Imus asked pointedly: "If you return to the Senate, which Joe Lieberman will you be?''

The tiny dots describing Dick Cheney are less exciting. Here was a balding man with a paunch in an image-conscious, television-driven age, seeming to represent the past more than the future. But in his one debate with Joe Lieberman, and with growing confidence on the stump, he has shown himself to be understated, witty and totally in touch with the defense issues he had handled in the past and which will continue to require a president's attention in the future.

Once Al Gore climbed out of the shadow of Bill Clinton, he shot up in the polls. You could see it in the dots. But then the dots, as the dots will, changed. Voters who liked Clinton grew nostalgic for the disarming charm of the dissembling, which loomed in stark contrast to Al Gore's clumsy "exaggerations.'' When party leaders, fearing the worst, at last brought Clinton out to campaign, the shadows over Al Gore lengthened again. That separation at the hip seemed not so successful, after all.

His love scenes with his wife Tipper, the coast to coast kissing and cooing, soon rendered him absurd: Like the little boy who gets the grown-ups to notice him once for being cute, he doesn't realize that replaying the same cuteness over and over soon strains the indulgence even of doting parents.

The tiny dots are hardest to connect in defining George W. He really didn't change much as the summer faded into September and then became October, except that he gained the confidence to laugh at himself. The Democratic mantra that he was too dumb to be president was soon drowned in applause. If he was so dumb, why was he running the smartest campaign?

The most powerful lingering image of the last days of this campaign may well be that photograph of Bill Clinton on the cover of the December issue of Esquire magazine, a lewd and lascivious portrayal of a below-the-belt attitude. Michael Paterniti, who interviewed the president for the magazine, defends it as "the exact view'' of Lincoln at the Lincoln memorial. (Others have remarked that it was merely the exact view that Monica had.)

But we've seen Abraham Lincoln, and, to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in an election in a previous millennium, Abe Lincoln is one of our greatest presidents, and Bill Clinton is no Abe Lincoln. This election is about that, too.


11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
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