Boston - The Democratic National Convention, designed for television with so many flat-screen TVs in use that it looks like Circuit City on steroids, is trying to steal Ronald Reagan's optimism. Behind the party's smiling masks, though, is the traditional Democratic cynicism that says people can't do much for themselves without the help of government.
The "no Bush bashing" and the ban on talk about "gay marriage" messages went out early and are being (almost) enforced. There are references to President Bush's "dishonesty" and laments about the federal deficit, which never seemed to bother big-spending Democrats when they controlled the checkbook.
But these are not your "San Francisco Democrats" now served up for the TV audience from this East Coast liberal city. These are family-values/pro-military/responsible taxing-and-spending Democrats who exist only in the minds of consultants, pollsters and others for whom true convictions are to be hidden until the day after the election.
Former President Bill Clinton, who wowed the delegates and caused most of the big media to swoon, was at his best (worst?) as he spun his new rich-guy image and non-military service.
Clinton wants to sell the idea that draft dodging and enlisting are morally equivalent. No journalist dared to mention that Clinton could have voluntarily given his tax cut to the federal government, or that John Kerry could have taken advantage of a Massachusetts law that permits residents to pay at their old, higher rate. This is typical of those who think the Bush tax cuts are unfair. They want the political point, but they still keep the money.
Speaker after speaker criticized the war with Iraq, or the way it has been fought, but Clinton and Kerry have repeatedly pointed to what they believed to be Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction and said that he must be removed from power.
Republicans will have no problem recalling such Clinton masterpieces as: "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line." (Feb. 4, 1998). He also said: "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." (Feb. 17, 1998)
Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said: "(Saddam) will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983." (Feb. 18, 1998).
Let's not forget Kerry. On Oct. 9, 2002, he said: "I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." On Jan. 23, 2003, he said: "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. . . . He presents a particularly grievous threat. . . . The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real."
In addition to the occasional financial contribution, the media are making in-kind contributions to the Democrats by refusing to recall some of these statements and allowing speakers - from the platform to their high-priced interview booths above the gigantic TV studio, uh, convention hall - to recite the party line. They are in too many cases cheerleading for the party they love to love. ABC's Peter Jennings labeled Sen. Hillary Clinton a "rock star," which, to the aging anchors hungering for one more rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," is a good thing.
Many of the broadcast and cable TV networks are treating Teresa Heinz Kerry's remarks to a reporter to "shove it," after he questioned her about statements from Republicans she considers "un-American," as candid or courageous. They are not calling her a liar for denying what a videotape shows she said. Heinz Kerry is rapidly becoming the Martha Mitchell of her party, emulating the loudmouthed and out-of-control wife of the late Nixon attorney general John Mitchell.
The Democrats want this to be a positive convention and for the most part it is. But last week, many of these same Democrats who are all about optimism and positive feelings were calling President Bush a liar. And their surrogates, from Michael Moore to Whoopi Goldberg to Linda Ronstadt, will continue their name-calling until Election Day.
This convention is a masquerade ball. Look for Republicans to announce it's midnight and to unmask the cover-up.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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