One of the most grating noises of the current presidential campaign is the sound of the Democratic chorus whining about unfair Republican attacks. Republicans are mean. Conservatives are insensitive. They are taking the low road on the character issue. They are dividing the country. The only thing President Bush is good at is fear-mongering, especially about higher taxes if Bill Clinton is elected.
Journalists have jumped on this bandwagon, too. "Hitting on Hillary Is a Hate Crime," a liberal columnist griped on this very page.
Actually, hitting on Hillary is fun. Moreover, it is fair practice if Hillary wants to be taken seriously, and there is every indication she does. Presidential campaigns are about high stakes and ought to be tough. The nation is deeply divided on matters that are basic. Of course battles over such issues are bound to cause wounds. If Hillary Clinton can't take the heat, she should, yes, stay out of the kitchen.
Another feminist (but a conservative one) pointed out what's really wrong with Hillary's act. It's not that one day she presents herself as a shadow vice president and the next as a cookie baker with frosted hair. It's that she has injected herself into the campaign in such an obtrusive fashion.
Consider the reaction if Mr. Boxer announced, "Send Barbara to the Senate and get me, too." Feminists would be outraged. The trouble with the liberal whiners is that they can't admit that their opponents are sentient beings with intelligence and yes, even feelings, too.
Speaking of low-road, mean spirited character attacks, for example, how does four years of round-the-clock, everybody-gets-a-shot Quayle-bashing stack up against the tepid stuff directed at Hillary? And the Quayle attacks are the sport not only of liberal politicians, but journalists, comedians and even sitcom characters.
Isn't it time to give Danny a break? He's got his faults; even his mother might concede that. But what has he done to deserve all this? To be the butt of the political gangbang of all-time? And that's before the coming revenge of Murphy Brown.
Of course it isn't time to give Quayle a break. Nor are Republicans asking for it, least of all Quayle himself. It's campaign time. Time to turn up the heat. This is politics, folks: war by other means.
That's why the scare tactics are perfectly proper. Are Republicans afraid that Clinton will raise taxes, just as he promises? You bet. And put regulations on business that will threaten the recovery? That's right. And unleash the radicals in his party to spread more political correctness in the culture? Uh-huh. Do Republicans not trust Clinton to be as conservative after he is elected as he is trying to sound in the campaign before? Count on it. That's what Republicans think and that's what this election is all about. So bring on the red meat.
Republican strategists would be irresponsible if they did not go for broke in an effort to win this campaign. After all, if the future of America and its children are at stake, as both sides claim, how could anybody justify giving less than the best?
But don't Republicans sometimes overstep the mark? Of course. Who would claim differently? But in the matter of campaign tactics, as in the strategies themselves, Republicans have no monopoly on excess.
The next time liberals are tempted to whine about Repub lican attacks, they should consider the spectacle at the Democratic convention, when a mother suffering from AIDS was welcomed to the podium. She had lost one child to the epidemic and might lose another. With all the political venom she could muster, she blamed George Bush for her terrible misfortune and said that neither she nor her child could probably survive if there were four more Republican years. Now, that's gutter politics, world-class, masquerading as liberal compassion.
Contrast this lamentable lapse with the generous plea for compassion toward homosexual Americans and victims of AIDS that Mary Fisher gave in Houston. The Republican audience fell silent and wept. Hold this image in your mind, and you will begin to appreciate the complexities of the politics that divide us as Americans. And perhaps the humanity that unites us as well.