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The Truth, Mainly - 06/17/1996

Go right, go left — that's the Tricky Dick Quickstep

So now we find out that the White House has been poking into confidential FBI files of 341 people, some of them the President's enemies. I don't know about you, but I find that disgraceful.

It's nasty. It's rotten. It's Republican.

Bob Dole likened it to Watergate and said it "smells to high heaven."

I'll bet you're wondering why Dole wrinkles his nose when Clinton imitates Richard Nixon, a man Dole admired and learned from.

Let me tell you. It's because we're at the stage of the campaign when both Democrats and Republicans are doing the Tricky Dick Quickstep.

The key move in this dance is the one Nixon recommended to Dole: Step right to win the nomination; step left to win the election.

Slick Willie doesn't want to be outmaneuvered by Dole, so he steps right while Dole steps left. He agrees with nearly everything Dole says, then goes even further right.

For example, while black churches in the South burn, the Justice Department responds by investigating their ministers and congregations.

"How can we step to the right on burning churches?" I imagine the President asking his handlers.

"I've got it," one of them must have answered. "We'll handcuff the preachers and bring them in for questioning."

Or notice how the President publicly opposes same-sex marriages, then goes to San Francisco to see if there might be a photo op to help bring in the anti-gay vote. Maybe an Act Up mob holding outrageous banners and hurling rotten fruit while he explains that weddings are only for two people with different plumbing.

But his ultimate step to the right came last month when he stole Billy Graham from the GOP by presenting him a Congressional Gold Medal—thus leading Rev. Graham to say of the President, "He's been a friend for so many years. . . I think of him as a brother."

Republican teeth grind. Billy Graham was a brother to Ike and Nixon and Ford and Reagan and Bush. Now he's a brother to Clinton too?

Meanwhile, Dole's doing his best to be a Democrat. His smile has cleared up—it no longer makes small children cry—and in his goodbye to the Senate last week he even said nice things about Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and Thomas Daschle.

And that was after he took on the Christian Coalition by promising a "declaration of tolerance" for pro-choicers, thus planing the sharp edge off the anti-abortion plank of the GOP platform.

He gets lots of help from other Republicans stepping to the left too.

Remember when we all thought that making big money on insider tips—$100,000 in just a few months in the futures market—was something that only a Democrat like Hillary was corrupt enough to do?

The Truth, Mainly


Now we learn that Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, the Republican who's been leading the Senate investigation of the Clintons' ethical lapses, made a $37,125 profit on a one-day transaction. Turns out it was with a brokerage firm the Securities and Exchange Commission was checking out. Turns out Sen. D'Amato was on the Senate Banking Committee that the LA Times says "has influence with SEC commissioners."

It's not greed; it's politics. Right? Say "Right."

And most of of figured Rep. Dan Rostenkowski was just being peculiarly Democratic when he pled guilty to two charges of mail fraud. But then Joe Waldholtz, ex-husband of Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-Utah), trumped Danny by pleading guilty to bank, election, and tax fraud, but only after agreeing to cooperate in the investigation of his ex-wife's campaign finances and taxes.

That's the family values party doing the Tricky Dick Quickstep.

Sexual improprieties, too, are considered Democratic weaknesses. "Fornigate" has never been linked to a Republican. But in early spring, the Republican National Committee warmed up for the Quickstep by getting itself sued, according to the AP, for allegedly giving preferential treatment to "women who allowed themselves to be touched in a sexual manner."

Imagine how painful it must be to sacrifice deeply held moral principle to political expedience, but when it comes to winning elections you do what you gotta do.

Still, it's almost enough to make critics of the Tricky Dick Quickstep turn to a candidate like Ralph Nader. He's the Green Party nominee and on the surface he doesn't seem to be doing any kind of dance: he refuses to run TV ads, accept contributions, or endorse the party platform.

That doesn't look like a very bolitical kind of dance, but even if it is, I like it.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage meaning from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.


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