A Nattering Novak Of Negativism
By Arianna Huffington
July 20, 2000
If you want to know why so few politicians have the courage to take even mildly controversial stands, why the vast majority of modern political rhetoric has been reduced to pointless pabulum, and why so much of the public says it hates the media -- look no further than this week's column by Bob Novak blasting Sen. John McCain and the other Republicans even thinking about taking part in the upcoming shadow conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Though these gatherings (of which I'm a co-convener) have been designed as nonpartisan events aimed at spotlighting three issues -- money in politics, poverty and the failed drug war -- left unaddressed by both major parties, Novak prefers to slime them as exuding "a distinct far-left aroma."
In the World According to Bob, if you are uncomfortable with the corrupting influence of money on politics, then you must be a "left-wing GOP-basher" out to "ridicule" the Republican Party. Concerned that the $40 billion-a-year war on drugs has turned into a war on blacks? To Novak, that makes you some kind of pot-puffing druggie bent on the "legalization of narcotics." And if you raise the issue of persistent poverty in the middle of unprecedented prosperity, you are part of "a conclave" resembling "the bar scene in `Star Wars.' "
It's an all-too-familiar tactic, perfected in political campaigns turned into demolition derbies -- the last candidate left standing wins the checkered flag of high office. And any reasoned debate is shuttled off to the deep freeze.
This nattering Novak of negativism seems particularly worked up about the involvement of George Soros, whom -- in words reminiscent of the World Trade Organization protesters -- he labels "a master currency speculator" and a "billionaire global financier." Global, eh? At precisely what moment did "global" become for Novak an epithet to be hurled at his enemies? Novak clearly has Sorosis of the brain -- mentioning him no less than nine times in his splenetic 641-word spew. That's one "Soros" every 71 words. And even though Soros is only one of a number of shadow convention funders, Novak insists on branding the Philadelphia Shadow "the Soros convention." Soros' crime? He thinks the time has come to rethink America's disastrous drug policy.
It's the new math, Novak style: two shadow conventions plus three neglected issues equals a vast left-wing conspiracy hellbent on turning us all into coke-snorting junkies. What's next, unmarked black helicopters zooming in to confiscate our guns and sell our children crack? Novak makes Oliver Stone look like a reasoned observer of the political scene.
Although I'm all in favor of newspaper columnists doubling as political missionaries -- I've been known to head out on a crusade or two myself -- I draw the line at columnists moonlighting as political strategists. But that is precisely what Novak seems to be doing, working behind the scenes to persuade GOP Shadow Convention participants to drop out. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was sniffing around for Karl Rove's gig.
He certainly shows a talent for that prerequisite skill of a successful strategist: the ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth, without ever once moving his brain. It's quite the neat trick: work to eliminate all GOP involvement, then slam the shadows for not having enough Republican participants (Novak helps make his point by conveniently overlooking the presence of Rep. Tom Campbell -- California's Republican Senate candidate -- on the roster of Shadow speakers).
About the only thing Novak gets right in his slagheap of misinformation is the unattributed Senate cloakroom gossip that McCain is "out of control." Thank God. It is precisely because McCain remains outside his party's control that voters find him so appealing -- and why Bob NoFacts felt compelled to send McCain a warning to keep his common-sensical opinions on campaign-finance reform to himself and refrain from expressing them on opening day of the GOP Shadow Convention.
Thanks to our tightly controlled political universe, more and more citizens are checking out of the political process every year. Already, as the Vanishing Voter Project at Harvard announced this week, 43 percent of registered voters say they do not plan to watch any of the GOP convention. When an identical question was asked in 1996, the figure was 23 percent. And the convention's TV rating that year was the lowest ever recorded. This year's may rival the numbers pulled in by test patterns.If we want to bring these voters back -- not just to the party conventions but to the voting booth -- we better stop trying to scare politicians away from the kind of robust debate that has been surgically removed from our convention rituals.
© 2004 Christabella, Inc. All rights reserved.
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