Dignity, Always Dignity
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 100 10:52:58 -0800
Subject: Dignity, Always Dignity
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Forwarded-by: "Sarah Gowan" <Ladysmyth@mindspring.com>
From: the New York Times, 1/28/00
PUBLIC INTERESTS / By GAIL COLLINS
Dignity, Always Dignity
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- We have finally had a moment in the 2000 presidential
race that you are going to be sorry you missed, people. I am speaking, of
course, about this week's Republican debate, when the social conservative
Gary Bauer turned on the ultra-social-conservative Alan Keyes and said, "I
was a little surprised this week to see you fall into a mosh pit while a
band called Rage Against the Machine played."
Actually, Mr. Bauer's first stab at the name was "The Machine Rages On."
But sooner or later a Republican primary always gets down to funk hip-hop,
It seems that the filmmaker Michael Moore, who specializes in making light
of politicians in their natural habitat, had been roaming around Iowa with
a "portable mosh pit" -- 100 tightly packed college students on a flatbed
truck. Mr. Moore promised the endorsement of his program, "The Awful Truth,"
to the first candidate willing to fling himself into the crowd. You may
have seen Mr. Keyes on TV, borne aloft and being passed from hand to hand
to the tune of "Guerrilla Radio."
Since Mr. Keyes is a fringe candidate, he is normally permitted to do
anything he feels like without drawing anyone's attention. But lately he
has been threatening Mr. Bauer, who regards himself as the only legitimate
heir to the role of underfinanced right-wing Republican spoiler. Mr. Keyes,
with his full-throated rants about the "howling moral void," stole the show
in Iowa, coming in a surprise third while Mr. Bauer, despite the important
support of the McCaughey septuplets, was relegated to the fringe of the
"Admittedly I was willing to fall into the mosh pit," Mr. Keyes said, in
yet another statement that you never really expected to hear coming from
the lips of a presidential candidate. "You know why I did that? Because I
think that exemplifies the kind of trust in people that is the heart and
soul of the Keyes campaign." Amplifying on his theme of Mosh Pit as Metaphor
for Democracy, Mr. Keyes suggested that his performance was a demonstration
of how the American people will "in fact hold you up, whether it's in terms
of giving help to you when you're falling down or caring for their own
This opens up entire new avenues of presidential campaigning for the youth
"Admittedly I was willing to serve as guest referee at the World Wrestling
Federation Crushfest. Making decisions is what my candidacy is all about."
"I did indeed spend last Saturday slam-dancing with Alanis Morissette, but
only as a symbolic expression of my commitment to ballot access reform."
"Yes, I am the mystery donor-father of Melissa Etheridge's children. Choose
There is, believe it or not, a larger issue at work here. All the candidates
for president have been promising to bring decorum back to the White House.
But they're campaigning in an age when politicians are forced to compete
with entertainment celebrities for TV time and magazine covers, and the
temptation to do something peculiar to get attention keeps expanding. The
Democrats are about to say goodbye to a president who discussed his
underwear preferences on MTV, and the Republicans are looking for a
successor to the guy now starring in TV ads about erectile dysfunction.
The longer you campaign, and the more tenuous your hold on success, the
harder it is to resist the siren call of a Playboy interview or a gig as
host of "Saturday Night Live." Bill Bradley, who has been trying to expand
the ever-shrinking privacy rights of a presidential candidate, was reduced
this week to answering a question about whether he had ever cried after
losing a basketball game. (No, but he cried after talking to a woman whose
family didn't have any medical insurance.) John McCain came under attack
from Mr. Keyes (pre-mosh-pit immersion) for having joked that Nine Inch
Nails, of "God is dead and no one cares" fame, was his favorite band.
Unmoved, Mr. McCain later added that he had "noticed at the MTV awards that
Busta Rhymes was wearing a dress. And I'd like to know if I can borrow that
for the swearing-in ceremony."
Well, the dress thing worked for Rudy Giuliani O.K. Only time will tell if
the public can come to regard plummeting into a mosh pit as acceptable
behavior for a presidential candidate -- although actually, you could kind
of imagine Theodore Roosevelt doing it.
© 2000 Peter Langston