When Al Gore meets Al Franken

Posted: Jun 26, 2003 12:00 AM

"I'm good enough. I'm smart enough, and doggonit, people like me." That was Al Gore, in mock (or maybe not so mock) therapy on "Saturday Night Live" with a 12-step guru played by comedian Al Franken.

Who knew then that his recaptured confidence would one day make him a network television chief wannabe. He's trying to round up rich Democrats to establish a cable television network that Time magazine describes as a "liberal alternative" to conservative talk, radio and television.

Doggonit, if people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, why won't they like Al?

One wag suggests Al could save himself a lot of trouble by buying National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting System and changing management without having to change content. Taxpayers would continue to pay for the same old liberal point of view.

When Jay Leno heard that the former vice president wanted to match the conservatives in the media, he agreed there's no outlet for the liberal viewpoint, "except for ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Bravo, BET, Showtime, Lifetime, MTV, Oxygen, National Public Radio and IFP."

"Other than that," he said, "there's nothing."

The last time poor Al was ahead of the curve, his wife Tipper was demanding that something be done about dirty-mouth music. Al stood behind his woman until he was invited to stand behind Bill Clinton and go with him to Hollywood to pander to the fat cats who feed Democratic candidates.

He's right, as he told the New York Observer in an interview, that conservatives at The Washington Times and Fox News are getting attention, and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly attract enormous audiences. He just doesn't understand why. It's certainly not that these organs and personalities dominate the media, but they speak with voices that a lot of people have longed for a long time to hear. The liberal media grew fat, lazy and dull in the Clinton years and lost its edge just as conservatives sharpened theirs.

The liberal mindset hardened in the '60s, and the radicalized demonstrators grew up, or at least grew older, and ascended to tenured dominance on campus, influencing succeeding generations of students. Over the years, the conservatives on campus, intimidated and isolated, were reduced to writing for underground newspapers. But working harder to be heard sharpened debating and writing skills, and the young conservatives developed intellectual breadth and depth.

The liberal bias that Jay Leno identified in his list of media outlets has been exposed in numerous books and documents. The free market is responding, too. Regnery's success has been spectacular, and now not only are Penguin and Random House creating imprints for conservative writers to compete for a market they have grossly neglected, others have noticed, too.

Harbor House, a small publisher in Atlanta, has just published The Dark Side of Liberalism by Phil Kent, the president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a conservative think tank, exposing irrationalities in liberal groupthink. <read book review>  He urges conservatives to stand up and speak out: "Your audience is America."

Bookspan, a conglomerate that operates over 30 book clubs, including the Book-of-the-Month Club with 9 million members, is organizing a new club specifically targeted to compete with the successful Conservative Book Club. Brad Miner, an author and former literary editor of National Review, will direct the new club. He, too, has a book on the way, with a quaint and clever title: The Compleat Gentleman: Chivalry in a Democratic Age, published by Spence, a 7-year-old "countercultural" press in Dallas.

A fascinating discussion rages at Tech Central Station, a Web site "where free markets meet technology." Readers are responding to a column with the title, "Why Liberals Think Conservatives Are Stoopid," by Keith Burgess-Jackson, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, who argues that liberals who depict conservatives as dull-witted, of low intelligence, and perversely wrong, merely prefer the ad hominem attack to a rational discussion of issues they are afraid they'll lose.

He notices that Dwight Eisenhower, Dan Quayle, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, winners all, are invariably described as dunces.

"If you are a liberal arguing with a conservative," as one letter-writer to Tech Central Station says, "your first thought is that he's an idiot." These liberals condescend rather than engage, express contempt rather than contentiousness, and glide glibly over surfaces when they should be probing the depths of an argument.

Al Franken, Gore's guru on "Saturday Night Live" and author of a book titled Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, typifies this kind of liberal. He wants to host a show on Al Gore's network. He might open each show reciting the Gore mantra: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough, and doggonit, people like me."

But maybe not. Maybe we'll see.

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