Cover Story

Look for the liberal label

If George W. Bush's appeals to conservative voters will hurt him in the general election, as the media story line goes, why won't Al Gore's embrace of liberal causes do the same?

Issue: "Bush: Crunch time," March 4, 2000

After the McCain speedbump in South Carolina, political observers quickly swapped their McCain-is-inevitable spin for the sour-grapes theory that George W. Bush won by tilting "far to the right" with "ferocious" negative attacks. News reports noted that Mr. Bush was aided by ads by the National Right to Life Committee and that he told a Christian radio station that he would not appoint openly gay people to openings in his administration. The near-unanimous consensus warned that the Texas governor "may have trouble moving back to the center" to solicit the votes of "moderate and independent" voters. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos argued Mr. Bush had assumed the pose of a "Kamikaze conservative." With all the focus on the Republican race, few noticed that Democratic frontrunner Al Gore celebrated two endorsements from far-left social activists-from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national gay lobby, on Feb. 11, and from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) on Feb. 15. Despite (or perhaps because of) Bill Bradley's persistent complaints that Mr. Gore's public record on social issues isn't liberal enough, especially as a "conservative congressman" from Tennessee, the libertine left is lining up behind the frontrunner. In endorsing Mr. Gore, the HRC press release declared that while "Bradley has taken honorable stands on gay issues, Gore earned the endorsement through his long, well-documented history of tangible actions in support of equality." NARAL President Kate Michelman was more explicit: "The freedom to choose is far too important to be squandered as merely a wedge between pro-choice candidates. The threat from Republican anti-choice presidential candidates is too real." Both of these groups have succeeded in pushing Democratic candidates ever farther to the left, from further inroads on same-sex marriage and "tolerance education" in schools, to the expansion of Medicaid-subsidized abortions and federal funding for abortion-clinic security. Both these groups are celebrated artists of "ferocious" negative attacks, with a similar slippery slope twist. Traditional religious opposition to abortion and homosexuality, they say, creates a "climate of violence" that leads inexorably to violence against abortionists and homosexuals. In a speech to NARAL on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in 1997, Mr. Gore exemplified the abortion lobby's calculated indifference to violence against the unborn when he claimed that unlike pro-life activists, "The pro-choice movement, I'm proud to say, has never resorted to violence." In September, the gay magazine The Advocate was charmed by the vice president's visit to a Los Angeles gay and lesbian center to court a "particularly vulnerable constituency that has never been embraced by a candidate for national office." Homosexual political consultant David Mixner rejoiced: "What was once considered a political kiss of death is now a mandatory stop on the campaign trail." The magazine boasted that "the vice president and his wife, Tipper, together have more than a dozen openly gay and lesbian aides on their staffs." Despite stubborn resistance in the polls to far-left agenda items like partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage, the HRC and NARAL endorsements of Mr. Gore will not lead to a balancing pundit assessment of "Kamikaze liberalism" among the Democrats. Major newspapers and magazines have called NARAL "liberal" in only 5 percent of their news stories. The HRC is labeled as "liberal" in only 1.3 percent of their coverage. Only Republican criticism will focus the public on their agenda, which will be met with predictable attacks on "far-right mudslinging."

-Tim Graham is director of media analysis for the Media Research Center

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