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Jewish World Review August 3, 2000 / 2 Menachem-Av, 5760

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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Consumer Reports

Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty -- PHILADELPHIA | This reporter can now confirm the news reported Monday by The New York Times. The Republican Party is, in fact, full of conservatives. There's no tabloid sensationalism here; I have seen these conservatives firsthand, they do exist.

Of course, I wasn't nearly as shocked as The New York Times seemed to be. On Monday, it reported the results of its poll of GOP delegates on the front page. The story leads with the astonishing news that "the majority of delegates assembling here today to nominate Gov. George W. Bush of Texas for president are notably conservative in thought and spirit, even at a time when Mr. Bush has sought to portray the Republican Party as increasingly moderate."

Headlines for future New York Times scoops may include, "Tall People Found in NBA" and "Atheists Underrepresented Among Church Attendees." Indeed, the news that conservatives are disproportionately found among the activists in the Republican Party seems to have shaken the very pillars of the media establishment. The Washington Post's lead editorial on Tuesday invoked the Times' poll to denounce the fact that the delegates are "well to the right of the party's standard-bearer."

The irony is that The New York Times has run this story before. In 1996, a Times reporter wrote "The delegates are more conservative than Republicans generally - indeed, more conservative than their own candidate." Here's a prediction: I guarantee this same story will be true of GOP conventions in 2004, 2008, 2012 and off into the foreseeable future.

But what really seems to be disturbing not just to the media but to Democrats as well is that the Republican Party is putting on a warm and fuzzy convention - so much so, that it's like Barney on valium - and is ruining everyone's plans. In fact, the Democrats broke a longtime tradition of abstaining from political attacks during the opponent's convention, seemingly because they can't afford to let people think Republicans can be nice.

In Florida yesterday, President Clinton grew almost hysterical about Republican efforts to "blur the differences" between the two parties. "Their strategy is to talk about compassion. ... It's a brilliant strategy. It's a pretty package. If they wrap it tight enough, no one will open it before Christmas."

Interestingly, Hillary must have gotten the same memo from HQ because she said yesterday, "Governor Bush and Congressman Cheney want to present an appealing package and it is, I have to say, a brilliant marketing strategy. They don't want us to open that package."

However, the truth is that the Republicans aren't blurring the policy differences between them and the Democrats - those are still quite stark, thank goodness. No, the differences the Republicans are blurring are the emotional ones.

For years, the Democrats have made political hay out of the idea that the GOP is full of mean people. Calling Newt the "Gingrich who stole Christmas," denouncing "heartless" policies and other inanities worked well for the Democrats and made good copy for the press.

If the GOP can change its image to that of a nice bunch of folks with honest differences over policy, then they can't be demonized. This convention, with its endless parade of nice people, especially black and female nice people, making nice speeches is clearly frustrating those who expect the Republicans to play their part.

But what is also frustrating is the bind the media has put the Republican Party in. There has been a steady drumbeat of complaining, whining and cajoling about how the GOP should be more inclusive and how it should tone down its rhetoric.

Well the Republicans seem to have gotten that message and changed their ways. There hasn't been a single attack on Democrats at this convention and its first heavy-hitting speaker was Gen. Colin Powell, a black liberal Republican, who criticized Republicans for not supporting affirmative action. Obscure minorities get better speaking slots than most of the Congressional leadership. Isn't this a fair effort?

Apparently not. Only one day into the convention and the news networks regularly talk about how "fake" the Republican's nice, multicultural image is. The Washington Post and The New York Times have already run editorials aping the "it's just packaging" argument.

You would think after years of carping at Republicans for being rigid, someone would say, "Well, it's a start." Don't get me wrong: I liked the old "mean" Republican Party just fine. But the least the other side could do is give the GOP some credit for trying.

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


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