WASHINGTON -- Wait a minute, I thought we had put the Boy President's moral life behind us! The media's sages said Americans have had enough of this lurid stuff. We were told that even the Republicans understood. That is why the Hon. Henry Hyde and the House impeachment managers were nowhere to be seen at the Republican National Convention. Yet, what did the CNN reporter hasten to note when he broke the news that Sen. Joe Lieberman was to be Vice President Al Gore's running mate? Why, that Lieberman was the first Democrat to reproach the 42nd president for his public lies and scortatory pursuit of young Monica.
Again, I thought the political wisenheimers had told us that the American people did not care. Now they are all telling us that the political genius, Al Gore, has insulated himself from the Clinton scandals by tapping Lieberman. Why would someone insulate himself against a problem that is not a problem? Once again we see that the American media has acted as a smog, obscuring rather than illuminating. Yes, yes, Bill Clinton's scandalous behavior is not an issue. That is why Gore has picked one of the Democratic Party's few critics of Clinton's private and public life as his running mate. And, come to think of it, that is why the bestseller list still contains Clinton exposes -- though anyone who has kept up with The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and The American Spectator would already be very familiar with the facts in those exposEs.
Until just the other day the media and the Democrats were telling Americans that the Clinton scandals were not an issue. Now almost all of these amnesiacs are telling us that Gore's vice presidential choice deals handsomely with the issue. Is this what we call the Kultursmog, a political culture that obscures reality?
Journalism is supposed to be make a stab at being lucid and precise. In America it is often just the opposite. The coverage of George W. Bush is another example of the press being inscrutable and imprecise. The pundits do not report, they posture. During Bush's pursuit of the Republican nomination he was variously reported as being a moderate, then too conservative and finally, at the Republican National Convention, hell-bent to suppress the conservatives in his party. The convention itself was variously reported as being under the control of the right wing, then boring and without conviction.
It is an indication of the lack of independent voices in the media that we speak of The Media, rather than quote any individual. There are so few individuals among the journalists worth quoting today. For the most part, The Media has but one voice, and that voice is -- to repeat -- muddled and imprecise.
One of journalism's few distinct voices is The Wall Street Journal's Bob Bartley, who, of course, is a conservative and free of the Kultursmog. He has now come forward and stated the obvious. The Republican Convention was, in fact, conservative. After a spirited series of primaries waged by John McCain, Steve Forbes (the conservatives' favorite) and others, Bush won, and the conservatives are pleased to follow his leadership.
There is another truth about recent campaign events -- though it will never be mentioned in the smog. The Republican National Convention, while being as conservative as any Republican convention in years, raised few alarums because conservatism is now at the center -- or very close to the center -- of American political life. Tax cuts, deregulation, privatization -- all these policies once championed by such libertarian-conservative pioneers as Milton Friedman are now conventional wisdom. If anyone is out of step with ordinary Americans it is Al Gore.
That is a second reason for him to choose Lieberman. Lieberman is a conservative Democrat. Since the rise of Ronald Reagan, left-wing liberalism has been in decline. In fact, a new book about Reagan's rise to power, "The Right Moment" by historian Matthew Dallek, declares that after Reagan's rise liberalism "has never recovered." It will take the journalists years to discover this obvious truth.
Bush is at once conservative and in the center of American political ideas. That the media's conventional minds miss this suggests that coverage of Bush is going to continue to be clouded in prejudice enlivened only by a few hysterical shouts. The political talk shows are going to continue to sound like a cocktail party at the Kennedy Library. Only with the utmost difficulty will ordinary Americans get a sound sense of the man who in all likelihood will be our next president.
Let me make a stab at what he is like. He is high-spirited, energetic, likable and pretty much a normal guy. In other words, he is pretty much the guy who comes across on film footage before the Kultursmog's pundits begin applying their stereotypes to him and rendering him the next edition of their version of Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan.
Yet it seems to me there is something more to him. From his biography and his present performance we know that, as politicians go, he is a free spirit. He has a record of disrelishing snobs, both social and intellectual. Yet for all his free-spiritedness and disrelish for elites, and despite his obvious political savvy, he is defiant in defense of his father. His passion on behalf of what his father has meant to him takes precedence even over his cool instinct to mollify his critics and win votes. My guess is that George W. is a more interesting man than the media assume.