Mark Twain once recalled that, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." His father, of course, had been the wise one all along.
In their coverage of this week's Republican National Convention, the liberal media seem to have had a similar "epiphany." Just eight years ago, the conventional wisdom holds, the GOP's "mean-spirited" "extremists" descended upon Houston for a hate-fest that rivaled the Nuremberg Rallies. But today, Republicans have suddenly become the soft, cuddly champions of education and minorities. Conservatives, of course, have known all along that this media spin is a sham. It's the clueless liberal mandarins of the press club set who have watched as bewildered bystanders while conservative policies improved the lives of millions of Americans during the past few years.
Consider these vignettes, gleaned from various news sources:
The Philadelphia Daily News' Sandy Grady: "Forget the past, forget what you see, we're just like you, America. That's the GOP message of every speaker, every scripted nanosecond of their four-day infomercial. ….Two knockout speeches in a cuddly TV commercial don't mask the Republican conundrum—their folksey words disconnected from the faces in the hall."
CBSNEWS.com's Eric Engberg: "The Republicans, exhibiting a shocking willingness to write off the blue reptile vote, did not enlist the services of Barney the Dinosaur and his infamous theme song as the opening music for their convention. But Barney's message of Big Tent sweetness and, above all, inclusion would have fit right in to the opening night love-in staged by the GOP."
ABCNEWS.com's Julia Campbell: "When onetime presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan called on his fellow Republicans at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston to join him in a 'culture war,' it was a not-so-veiled threat against people he felt did not belong in America. It was not the best moment for the party of Lincoln. But Buchanan's not a member of that party anymore, and the faces taking the podium so far at the GOP's gathering in Philadelphia resemble something much better orchestrated and cast than Houston…. 'This is a very different kind of Republican Party,' Kevin Ivers [an openly gay man who attended the 1992 and 2000 GOP conventions] said…."
As Twain might say, "In 1992, the Republicans were so intolerant that we could hardly stand to have the old men around. But by 2000, we were astonished at how much the old men had changed in just eight years."
What escapes these liberals is the fact that conservative policies have done far more to improve the lives of our nation's minorities and children than any of the symbolic schemes that have come from the left during the Great Society or the Clinton years. Conservatives, not liberals, helped millions of erstwhile poor minorities to ascend to the middle class by supporting welfare reform. Conservatives, not liberals, have fought racial preferences in college admissions and public-sector hiring. Conservatives, not liberals, set higher standards for the students of their states; conservatives, not liberals, were able to take credit recently for improved NAEP test scores among all students—black and white--in states like Texas, Michigan, and Indiana. Liberals, not conservatives, have been left spinning lies and weaving excuses for the harm their failed policies have wrought on our schools and our inner cities.
It's almost too bad for Republicans that they didn't spend the last eight years engaging in some of Bill Clinton's finger-waving philandering, Al Sharpton's pompous race-baiting, or the NEA's watering-down of educational standards; if they had, they might not have to spend so much time salvaging their image this year. Instead of being viewed by the media as "judgmental" "racists" who want to "squander our children's future on tax-cuts for the rich," they'd now be hailed as "open-minded," "sensitive," "visionaries for the 21st century."
If the media have been slow to notice the conservative juggernaut that convened in Philadelphia this week, the liberal politicians themselves have been almost reflexive in their responses. In an effort to deflect attention from their own tepid "legacy", the Clintons and Gore have already launched negative attacks against Mr. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney. President Clinton even attacked Mr. Bush for being his father's son and serving as the governor of the nation's second-largest state: "Near as I can tell, the message of the Bush campaign is just that, 'I mean how bad could I be? I've been governor of Texas, my daddy was president. I own a baseball team. They like me down there," the President said during a recent fundraiser in Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, the panic spreads on the left as recent polls put George W. Bush ahead of Al Gore by as many as 14 points and Hillary Clinton behind Senate candidate challenger Rick Lazio by as many as seven. To make matters worse for Democrats, fundraising turf wars between the Gore and Hillary Clinton camps have begun to become public, and threaten to crack the Democrats' united façade.
Of course, Republicans still lag behind Democrats in congressional races, and Gore has a reputation as a strong campaigner. The left still has plenty of time to overcome the GOP's convention "bounce" and salvage the fall elections. Yet despite the media's almost invincible ignorance, all indications suggest that the conservatives finally have a polished message for their well-honed policies. Eight years of Clinton-Gore deception look as though they'll finally come to a conclusion. An end to the liberal distortion by a blithely ignorant media, however, appears nowhere in sight.