Last week, I made some noises about how to reform campaigns, and I was, generally, serious. It occurs to me, though, that perhaps I was addressing a symptom instead of a cause, and thus I now turn my attention to Campaigner Reform, otherwise known as "Geez, can't we get anything better than this from the democratic process?" Maybe we can and maybe we can't, but clearly something ought to be done.
Apart from funds of mysterious provenance, the most common element in Campaign '96 has been hypocrisy, practiced on a grand scale by both major parties and on a substantially less grand scale by the so-called fringe candidates; perhaps operating under the mass-media radar keeps the fringe from getting the same kind of scrutiny as the Big Boys. Not that the scrutiny is all that careful, what with Bill Clinton claiming credit for everything good that has happened in the last four years, with the possible exception of the warming trend that finally ended the Blizzard of '96, and with apparently no one but Bob Dole and his six or seven remaining partisans pointing out that Clinton is most definitely avoiding any semblance of claiming responsibility for the plethora of Bad Things (read: "almost anything in the foreign-policy sphere") that happened on his watch as Commander-in-Chief. Meanwhile, the GOP, fearful that Clinton might actually have coattails, has been moving to shore up the positions of their Congressmen, which has left them in the unfortunate position of having to invalidate everything Bob Dole has said about trust and ethics and all why else would they be trotting out J. C. Watts (R-Okla.), a man who has demonstrated a whole lot of trouble keeping his bills paid and his Dockers zipped, as an example of "family values"? Surely Watts' child out of wedlock is more of a breach of the public trust than any of the Clintons' failures to turn a buck on the Whitewater affair that is, if you actually believe the Republicans believe what they say.
The really irritating aspect of this campaign, though, is the tendency of both camps to demonize the wrong people. The GOP would have you believe that some evil cabal of liberals is responsible for everything down to and including the thug who ripped off the stereo out of your new car. The Democrats blame everything in sight on Newt Gingrich, mostly because the pollsters claim that Gingrich is even less popular these days than Democrats. Neither side can spot the real bad guys, and in my continuing effort to advance the cause of democracy, I offer this simple bit of wisdom: if you must calculate the number of the beast, consider that it is, indeed, the number of a man and that number, adjusted for inflation, is seven hundred.
All of you who thought I was going to say something nasty about Pat Buchanan, report to detention at once.
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Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill