Camille Paglia on Bush, Gore and Hillary : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

And she's a Libertarian for Nader?!?!?!?!?! Say what?!?!?!?!?!

from Paglia on Bush, Gore and Hillary

Now back to domestic politics. A number of Salon readers complained that I ought to have posted prompt assessments of the presidential debates; however, because of my duties as a teacher, this column is now on a triweekly schedule. I did contribute to a Salon roundtable on the first debate, where I felt that the sneering, sighing, compulsively paper-tearing Gore came off as juvenile and weird. About the dull second debate, where a subdued Gore was still too supercilious, I have little to add except that the very vague George W. Bush, with his pursed lips and oddly upright, stock-still posture (to increase his height?), reminded me alternately of Ross Perot and Whistler's mother.

About the third debate, however, I have a lot to say. The run-with-the-pack commentary by professional journalists about that event was woefully off the mark. The St. Louis debate should go down in history as one of the most stunningly successful uses of TV by a candidate (in this case Bush) since Sen. John F. Kennedy's charisma overshadowed another experienced, knowledgeable vice president, Richard M. Nixon, in 1960.

Those who thought that Gore won the third debate evidently know little about TV and its relation to the mass audience. After over two decades in politics, Gore showed that neither he nor his advisors fully understand live TV either. Vainglorious about the "1000 town meetings" he claims to have conducted, Gore plunged into the debate thinking he had to impress and convert the immediate audience of allegedly undecided (but suspiciously liberal-sounding) voters sitting in front of him. But after his poor showing in the prior debates, it was the great, invisible array of TV viewers nationwide that he needed to reach.

Gore and his team (including, presumably, his simpering daughter Karenna) made a massive misjudgment about presentation. Gore's pirouettes, finger-pointing and constant crossing and recrossing of the pit between the bleachers may have struck in-house observers as dynamic and dominant, but his choreography was not keyed to the camera, of which he showed little awareness except when he was prissily sitting or stiffly standing. Gore's "blocking" of physical space in the circumscribed arena was inept and incoherent. Hence his movements seemed to the TV audience awkward, erratic, febrile, disconnected and chaotic, leaving the viewer with a lingering impression not of presidential authority but of psychological instability.

Add to this Gore's dreadful failure to modulate his voice for the microphone to communicate effectively with TV viewers, most of whom at that hour were sitting at home or (on the East Coast) preparing to retire for the night. So implacably determined was Gore to score big with the small group in St. Louis that he boomed away at top volume with a forced, monotonous, near-breathless pacing more appropriate to a rah-rah partisan rally. While Bush often seemed like he might not make it to the end of his sentence, Gore seemed to be reciting by rote and muffed some key moments, such as when he couldn't switch into a convincingly conversational tone to describe being called back to the White House the prior week to be briefed on the Mideast crisis.

The big news, surprisingly, is how Bush reacted to Gore's hammy, manic affectations. It's not clear whether this was the result of superb coaching or his own gut instinct, but when it was Bush's turn to speak, he treated the camera as if it were an intimate, as if he and the viewers at home were in league against a hectoring wind machine. Gore's deafening, indiscriminate blather became so annoying after a while that whatever Bush said, no matter how disjointed or tottering the syntax, came as a palpably physical relief, like cool rain after a broiling sun. Bush was so sly and deft in undercutting Gore that at one point I said to myself, "This is like Zen!" That is, Bush made himself a reed bending to the wind. He projected modest self-containment -- but it was the strategy of a fox.

It's very difficult for hot-button speakers -- as well I know from my own experience with TV production -- to mesh live performance with a made-for-TV style. What ebulliently works in person and fills a room comes across as much too strident on the small screen. That my initial reading of the third debate was correct is suggested by Bush's rise in the polls afterward -- to the astonishment of Democratic consultants and their media allies, who have never grasped how Americans choose their presidents. No one wants a glib, smug, smart-alecky elitist in the White House. Professional writers like reporters and academics always overestimate the value of words, which are an unreliable medium for conveying either emotional truth or the grit of concrete reality. (Hence the universal power of the visual arts.)

As I said in my last column, I will be voting for Ralph Nader, since I continue to believe that empowerment of a strong, third-party alternative is the best medicine for the atrophied, programmatic political discourse in this country. The refusal of the liberal major media to cover the Nader campaign -- even when historically significant, violent clashes between Democratic union activists and Green Party supporters occurred in the streets outside the first debate in Boston -- shows just how repressive things have become. A Gore victory would simply perpetuate the corrupt, incestuous interconnection of the Democratic National Committee with the major media and with the cash cow Hollywood elite, whose product has not coincidentally become increasingly provincial and mediocre. Limousine liberalism, with its preening ostentation and fatuous complacency, is a threat not only to a genuine progressive politics but also to the future of the American arts. Mawkish p.c. sentimentality is still strangling creativity in too many fields.

As a member of Planned Parenthood who is, as I stated in my last column, fervently committed to unconstrained abortion rights, I must protest the blinkered behavior of fellow Democrats who have let themselves be stampeded by the DNC into thinking that every vote at the local, state and national levels must focus on abortion. This is hysteria and superstition. There should be no shibboleths, no litmus test in weighing the many attributes that a president or a Supreme Court justice should have. Liberals should stop slapping a neon abortion sticker over every political race and start reading and thinking more deeply about the historical complexities of governance and public policy.

As a libertarian, I must also express my opposition yet again to hate crimes legislation, which is not progressive but authoritarian. The government should enforce and even reduce existent laws, not pile on more and more regulation and surveillance, which increase the size and intrusiveness of the state. Hate crimes bills formalize ideological inquiries into motive that smack of the totalitarian thought police. In a democracy, government has no business singling out one or several groups as more worthy of protection than any other individual or group. Justice should be blind.

Speaking of preachy thought police, I'm getting fed up with members of the Libertarian Party who think they own the word "libertarian." Get off my back, please, and focus your attention on the failures of your party to fine-tune and convey its philosophy credibly to the national electorate. In prior columns, I've indicated that the Libertarian Party, which once invited me to submit my name for its presidential nomination, is too conservative for my thinking and also too drearily removed from cultural issues. If and when the Libertarian Party nominates someone like the brilliantly analytical Virginia Postrel, I'll reconsider my support for the Green Party, whose current brand of socialism is indeed excessive. (See Postrel's latest --"Ironic Processing," a fascinating dissection in the November issue of Reason magazine of Gore's chillingly depersonalized worldview.)

In this home stretch of the campaign, it's wonderfully ironic to see how Democratic strategists are implicitly admitting that last May's gun-control gambit, the Million Mom March, was a great big flop. It simply outraged and energized the Republican base and alienated gun-owning Democratic union members, whom Gore is now courting with late-in-the-game, pro-hunters talk. Because of its openness toward its readership, Salon was literally the only forum in the national media that gave the articulate voices of law-abiding gun owners the space and respect they deserve. Yes, it was in this column, on Feb. 2, Feb. 23, March 15, May 17, and June 7 ("The Gun Letters").

Since this is my last column before the election, I am nurturing a tiny flame of hope that when we meet again, Hillary Clinton will be yesterday's news -- whipped off by the wind like the pungent, oily wrap of a fish-and-chips takeaway on the Thames Embankment. If that ruthless woman, with her checkered history of deceit and incompetence, is elected to the Senate, it's only through the collusion of the major media. A fresh example: Last weekend, the New York Times finally (16 months too late) published a probing article about Hillary's 1993 healthcare fiasco. But what curious timing: The very next day, the Times formally endorsed her.

There are so many squalid examples of media manipulation that I do wonder about the odd allegations that come in to this column over the transom. For instance, several letters this month questioned the authenticity of the well-known photograph of Gore that his official Web site claims was taken in Vietnam. They insist that his gear is nontropical and would be issued only at a training site on the American mainland. They also argue that Gore was not entitled by rank to wear the dress uniform he sports in his wedding photo. I would be very interested in clarification of these matters from readers with special knowledge of military technicalities.

-- eve (, November 04, 2000


The post is an excerpt from the middle of her article I've linked to.

-- eve (, November 04, 2000.

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