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Sound Byte Misfires for the Doles

criticism of the left would be more telling if speakers hadn't benefitted from the left's legacies

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 28, 1996.

You sometimes wonder if the search for the perfect sound bite leads politicians to abandon common sense. We are in the throes of the Democratic Orgy in Chicago, were spontaneous demonstrations were selected by lottery and restricted to areas distant from the hall. The big horror Democrats faced was that their feminist warrior - Hillary Clinton - might not measure up to Elizabeth Dole. At the same time, a way had to be found to contradict the pre-eminent Republican sound bite, a slap at the first lady’s book, “It Takes a Village" , referring to child raising. During his acceptance speech, Bob Dole blurted out, 'it doesn’t take a village, it takes a family.' In itself, this was both foolish and so obviously hypocritical that it is hard to believe it passed muster with Republican strategists. Dole lived on the dole of his neighbors when he was injured in the 2nd World War. He always admitted that, bragged about it, yet he had to get that sound bite in. It took a village for him. An extended family.

The Republicans, staunch warriors in Christ for the family, produce Robert Dole, who announced to his first wife and daughter he wanted a divorce during Christmas, and Libby Dole, who has no children. The implicit hypocrisy here is even worse than the utterly dysfunctional Reagans. The Democrats, by contrast, have by any measure a candidate with a successful marriage - if one with a colorful past - and a daughter who seems to charm everyone. Family values.

So the Democrats highlight the First Lady, shoving the actual keynote speaker into the background so far the name failed to get into print today. Her speech was a beautification process, and her procession to the rostrum second only to the Ascension of Christ to heaven. Wild, tumultuous applause. In itself an admission of insecurity. And then a speech of such mind-numbing banality it could have been one of her newspaper columns. The point? To show Mrs. Clinton as a dignified and proper wife, dutifully hauling water for husband and party, and make it contrast with Mrs. Dole’s Oprah, trailer park presentation, walking the audience with a microphone, getting pre-packaged blurbs about her ancient, henna-haired hubby.

Conventions are obvious bunk, but now they aren’t even good theater. They’re just a recital.