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Jewish World Review May 17, 2000/ 12 Iyar, 5760

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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The Sunday school for Republicans -- MAKING NICE is nice enough, but Leo Durocher got it right. Nice guys, whether in the National League or in politics, finish in the cellar.

Nevertheless, a group of clergymen has come up with something called the Interfaith Alliance Framework for Civility, which is more than a mouthful in behalf of a plea for politicians to "reject personal attacks, innuendo or stereotyping in describing or referring to your opponent."

What kind of fun would that be?

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the queen of the meanest attack machine since Patton's Third Army raced across France, signed up. Of course she would. So has George W., who learned from Lee Atwater (or at least the Republicans hope he did). So has Al Gore, demonstrating that even a cigar-store Native American can have a little fire in his belly and not turn to ashes. Yet. And so did Bill Bradley and Orrin Hatch. Look where it got them, though Orrin, reminding everyone of what a buddy he is of Teddy Kennedy, still dreams of a seat on the Supreme Court.

(Why does Teddy never boast of his palship with Orrin?)

In fact, John McCain took the pledge, though it is not clear whether he signed up before or after he trashed Jerry Falwell as being no better than Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton.

The civility clerics, representing Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews whether Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews like it or not, want the pols of autumn to promise not to say mean things about each other, like the accurate stuff everybody was saying during President Clinton's impeachment trial.

"The nation was disturbed by all the charges during the impeachment proceedings and by the really heavy, nasty rhetoric from both sides of the aisle," says the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, the executive director of the alliance. (Why are we not surprised that the executive director of these godly worthies parts his name on the left?)

Mr. Gaddy says there's a groundswell out there in Peoria and Boise and Springfield for the idea of making nice. "We started to get calls from our members nationwide asking if we would address the issue of civility. The rhetoric was dividing communities and making it difficult for people to cooperate together."

The civility warriors hired halls and asked religious leaders and laymen nearly everywhere to tell them how to get pols to act more, well, nice. They met in the U.S. Senate Caucus Room and in other places in Nashville; Manchester, N.H.; Des Moines; Cambridge, Mass.; Los Angeles; and San Francisco. Everyone there was just as nice as nice could be.

"We were asked after the shootings at Columbine to go to Denver to have a meeting, and that was one of our most moving summits," Mr. Gaddy says. "In that group we had the pastor of one of the boys who did the shooting."

They passed around petitions asking politely candidates to show integrity in pitching woo to voters, to be fair and never to dis anybody.

"We have actively pursued senatorial candidates and some of the congressional candidates, and we worked very hard on all of the presidential candidates," Mr. Gaddy said. George W., in his original compassionate conservative mode, wrote in December that he agreed that a leader sets the tone for the campaign, "and, therefore, I have the primary responsibility for conducting my campaign in a respectful and decent way."

Well, it's true. But these civility campaigns always turn out to be Democratic campaigns. The Democrats urge, piously, for moral rearmament, and in the event, their opponents arrive moral and the Democrats show up re-armed.

Donna Brazile, who almost lost her job as Gore campaign manager when she got caught making racist remarks about whites, assured the preachers that Al and "his staff" can't wait to abide by the principles of goodness, just as soon as Al gets his rabies shots. "The entire Gore 2000 campaign staff . . . are aware that the vice president demands they conduct themselves and the campaign in keeping with these principles and that they will be responsible to me for any failure to do so."

Naturally Hillary Rodham Clinton thinks civility is a good idea. She and her husband have perfected the take-no-prisoners strategy that has strewn bodies (figuratively, of course) from Little Rock to Brooklyn, via Washington. Anyone who has resisted the Clinton lies over the past eight years has felt the suffocating ooze of the Clinton smear. You might think that the civility preachers would have demanded more than a mere signature from the first lady.

Politics, as Mr. Dooley famously observed, ain't beanbag. This is the secret the Democrats have kept from the Republicans for what seems like forever. The last thing we need on the scam now is a little holy water.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.


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05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man
05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat
05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary
04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood
04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks
04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go
04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno
04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)
04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts
03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table
03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day
03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult
03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology
03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain
03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden