GOP Is Wagging the Nation

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Sunday, December 20, 1998

The President of the United States is headed for a trial in the Senate. House Speaker-elect Robert Livingston and a number of Republicans have had their hanky-panky pasts bagged by snoops like vulgarian Larry Flynt.

Our military, moving free of the United Nations on this one, is taking action to cripple the development of Saddam Hussein's weaponry. There is heat in every direction.

But we still get a whole lot of hooey. For one, there is the extraordinary relationship between the press, the Republicans and Hollywood in their wagging of the "Wag the Dog" theory. This refers to a movie in which a President starts a phony war to deflect attention from his domestic troubles. Public figures discuss this as though it were a legitimate metaphor for what is happening now.

Take Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott – to whom I shall return later � who has criticized Mr. Bill in the past for not being strong enough against Iraq. Now Lott is talking about Mr. Bill's wagging the dog. I assume that this Republican's disdain for Hollywood's depiction of politics has taken a pause for one tabloid moment.

How about this: The United States military establishment has hated Mr. Bill at least since the controversy over homosexuals in the armed services.

The brass considers him a draft dodger, a former pothead and a coward who cut and ran in Somalia when a handful of our troops were killed and the opposition was no more than a tribal warlord.

Mr. Bill's calling back a troopship on the way to Haiti because a gaggle of thugs were on the beach waving around some Russian rifles was considered more of the same.

This is the short list. Clinton is not, by any means, the brass' man in the Oval Office. As far as they are concerned, his lack of military will is why we have a problem with Saddam Hussein in the first place. Had he shown any of George Bush's willingness to plant his foot in the Iraqi dictator's posterior, things would be far more quiet.

So, if Mr. Bill had suddenly developed a taste for Iraqi blood to cover his impeachment troubles with the gore of casualties, the men at the top of the military would have gone Niagara on him in the press. They would have happily wagged his dog over the falls. So much for that theory.

As for the Republican Party's interest in "the American people," Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made a very important observation on the House floor during the impeachment debate. By refusing to allow a vote on censure, the ideologues of the Republican Party made it impossible for the punishment desired by the majority of the citizenry to get a yea or a nay. All or nothing at all.

Lastly, when the trial begins in the Senate, there will be more and more Republicans caught with their pants down in the wrong places. But neither their bad taste and dishonesty – nor Mr. Bill's about Monica Lewinsky � are as important as other things.

Secret sexual liaisons with adults are nowhere nearly as serious as the fact that Lott and Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia have ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, considered a successor to the notorious White Citizens Council that battled against civil rights during the '50s and '60s. Lott writes a column for the CCC publication, and Barr was a keynote speaker at a CCC meeting last June.

An organization called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has been gathering such information on Brother Lott and Brother Barr. That raises the issue of whether Republicans will be constantly asked from now on about these men and their association with unreconstructed Southern racists the same way that black politicians are always asked about Louis Farrakhan.

We shall see. We shall see. Were a black Democrat who was Senate majority leader chummy with Farrakhan, you can bet we wouldn't hear the end of that before, during or after an impeachment trial. So let's see just how often the media wags this dog at Brother Lott and Brother Barr.

© Copyright 1998 Daily News, L.P.