In 1992, the national media turned the Republican convention in Houston into a "Feast of Hate and Fear," a week-long nightmare featuring "scowling conservatives" like Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and Marilyn Quayle. The Republicans reacted by putting on two subsequent conventions that labored to minimize purveyors of troublesome "red meat" for right-wingers.
But the ideological tilt of the Democrats convening with Al Gore in Los Angeles makes the Houston Republicans look like a meeting of the Peace Corps. Perhaps out of panic over potential defections to radical leftist Ralph Nader, the podium in Los Angeles tilted so hard to the left it's lucky the Staples Center didn't collapse.
On Monday night, here were the following elected officials who spoke from the podium, along with their 1999 American Conservative Union rankings: Rep. Lynn Woolsey (4 percent), Rep. Debbie Stabenow (4), Sen. Barbara Boxer (4), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (4), Sen. Mary Landrieu (4), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (4), Sen. Patty Murray (4) and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (a 12, making her, I presume, the "conservative Democrat"). And topping it all: ultra-liberal star Hillary Clinton.
It gets more ridiculous when you consider that the one vote that gave Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Murray and Mikulski a 4 instead of a zero was their vote to kill a resolution giving President Clinton the authorization to "use all necessary force" in Kosovo. Pacifism made them a little bit conservative. I am confused.
Then, they called Tuesday "Liberal Night" -- the understatement of the year. The podium featured radical pro-abortion leader Kate Michelman, radical gay-left leader Elizabeth Birch, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy (lifetime ACU rating: 2), former Sen. Bill Bradley (11) and Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (9).
But every night was Liberal Night! On Wednesday, the speakers included union leaders Bob Chase and John Sweeney and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (lifetime ACU rating:11). Thursday featured former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (lifetime ACU rating: 4) and Sen. Tom Harkin (9).
The media didn't seem to notice this dramatic tilt. They were too busy reporting "the least liberal collection of delegates that's been assembled in almost a quarter of a century (Bob Schieffer on CBS)," and "This the most conservative Democratic ticket in at least 50 years (CNN's Bill Schneider)." Earth to Schieffer and Schneider: Would you please direct your attention to the podium and listen to the speeches?
Then there's the Democratic platform. Judging from the media coverage, they didn't write one this year.
In Philadelphia, the George W. Bush platform took out all that "hard-edged" language about too much government, but the media still pressed the GOP on its "hard-line" platform on abortion and homosexuality.
By any objective measure, the Democratic platform on these issues is more extreme, but you'd never know it from the omission specialists in the national press. On abortion, Democrats proclaimed "The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay." Democrats aren't satisfied with completely legal abortion. Their platform also favors forcing pro-life taxpayers to pay for it.
On homosexuality, the Democratic platform puts out more euphemisms, announcing their support for "the full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of the nation. This would include an equitable alignment of benefits." The Gore-Lieberman ticket also supports repealing any remaining impediments to open homosexuality in the military: "Al Gore is committed to equal treatment of all service members and believes all patriotic Americans be allowed to serve their country without discrimination, persecution and violence." That's the entire plank on that issue, about as much as they gave to "support efforts of the Filipino American Veterans who fought in World War II to obtain equity." But it speaks volumes.
Instead of covering the Democrats' social radicalism, the media buried the issues of this hard-left hootenanny beneath puffy cotton-candy segments on the "magic" of the Kennedys, the "rhetorical flourish" of Jesse Jackson, the "historic choice" of Joe Lieberman, and "unguarded moments" of Al Gore playing with his grandson in front of a flock of camera crews. That can only mean one thing: In their hearts, the media know this platform is a loser.
Perhaps the most ironic sentence in this year's exotic Democratic platform is this: "Democrats call for the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine by the Federal Communications Commission." If President Gore were to follow through on that one, we could expect conservative lawyers to drag the tapes of network convention coverage to the FCC. Their brief could be titled: "The Perfect Opposite of Fairness."