Are Democrats dumb by design?

WILEY A. HALL 3rd

January 28, 1992|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

Oliver Stone's compelling movie, "JFK," has set off a fresh frenzy of "conspiracy fever" across the country.

Who killed J.F.K.? Maybe everybody joined in, like in an Agatha Christie story. Maybe nobody killed him and he's still alive somewhere. We're gripped by an epidemic of paranoia.

Well, since we're in the mood, I'd like to propose a new conspiracy: The national Democratic Party has become the party of stooges, nincompoops and clowns, and I'm beginning to suspect it may be on purpose.

For years now, they have played the patsies, the fall guys who provide voters with comic relief every four years. Nobody can be that dumb and that incompetent by accident.

Look at Gov. Bill Clinton's unconvincing performance on "60 Minutes" Sunday.

The Arkansas governor had emerged as the early Democratic front-runner in the New Hampshire primary when the Star, a supermarket tabloid, alleged that the 45-year-old family man has been a notorious womanizer for the better part of a decade.

The Star "investigation" revealed that Clinton has had extramarital affairs with five women, including two former beauty queens, a television news reporter, a nightclub singer and a member of his staff.

The Star offered little proof but plenty of titillation: One of the beauty queens, Miss Arkansas 1981, allegedly dated Stevie Wonder while she dallied with Clinton.

The other beauty queen, Miss America 1982, was described as a "statuesque" born-again Christian fond of hog-calling, wood-chopping and auto mechanics.

Another alleged Clinton mistress, a nightclub singer, was described by her booking agent as "well-endowed."

The Jan. 28 edition of the Star did come with pictures although, alas, the editors apparently were unable to find action shots of the statuesque beauty queen calling her hogs.

In fact, overall, this was a fairly tame edition for a supermarket tabloid.

There was some juicy gossip about a marital spat between NBA basketball great Magic Johnson and his wife: She allegedly slapped him and fled from the room in tears when Magic, who has contracted HIV, confessed that he had had sex with one of her closest friends.

There was a close-up of an alleged bald spot on Michael Jackson's head, and a picture of a dog dressed up as a ski instructor, but that's about it. No two-headed space aliens, no pictures of lost boys raised by wolves. Above all, no proof!

Allegations of Clinton's infidelities have been raised before, of course, and the Arkansas governor seemingly had the appropriate response.

"The details of my married life," he has asserted time and again, "are a private matter between me and my wife. It is none of the American public's business."

Besides, the mainstream media had investigated Clinton's alleged adulteries but could prove nothing. CBS' own opinion poll found that only 14 percent of the electorate cared one way or the other.

So why in the world did Clinton feel compelled to refute the Star on "60 Minutes"?

What did he hope to accomplish? What could he add beyond his previous, firm, "It's none of your business"?

Indeed, Clinton looked evasive Sunday, like a guilty man trying to wiggle out from under.

Even the sight of Clinton's wife sitting steadfastly at his side brought unpleasant associations. After all, the former Mrs. Ted Kennedy held his hand during Chappaquiddick. The former Mrs. John DeLorean sat bravely by his side during his drug conspiracy trial. Mrs. Marion Barry, now estranged from her husband, sat stoically in court, knitting, during graphic testimony about her husband's philandering ways.

Overnight polls indicate that Clinton's performance generally had no effect on the public's opinion of him. But I suspect he actually lost a few points Sunday -- trying to appear to answer, without answering, questions that he already had asserted were none of our business.

The American public is getting hip to staged events. Just because we're bored by them doesn't mean we're fooled. Look for another low turnout on election day this fall.

Could anyone really be as dumb as Clinton without careful planning? Could the Democrats, whose party symbol is a donkey, really be such asses in election after election -- except by craft?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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