Paul Begala & Company Are Out of Control
By Tom Bevan
It's hard to imagine it getting any uglier. After eight years
under the Bill Clinton regime, America has gotten used to the
vicious attack-dog politics of James Carville and Sydney Blumenthal.
But now, with the presidency hanging in the balance, Democrat
operatives have gone over the line in their attempt to discredit
and destroy anyone who stands in their way of winning this election.
It has become clear there is nothing they will not say to retain
their grip on power.
Am I overstating the case? Consider the personal attacks launched
on Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a duly elected
Republican who governs the state's election process. Earlier this
week Gore spokesman Chris Lehane likened her actions to that of
a "Soviet commissar." Last night on CNN Alan Dershowitz
derided Harris as "corrupt," "a crook," and
said that she had "laundered money."
And then there is Paul Begala, the Joe McCarthy of the Democratic
party. Credited as one of the primary architects of Bill Clinton's
1992 victory, there is no allegation he is unwilling to make,
no insult he is unwilling to hurl.
Begala helped save Bill Clinton's presidency in 1998 by spinning
the national press with the story that Ken Starr's office was
prone to leaks, obsessed by sex and had a vendetta against the
President. This year, Begala felt compelled to author the book,
"Is Our Children Learning? The Case Against George W. Bush,"
which describes the Governor of Texas as having "the intellectual
curiosity of a slug," and "worse than dumb. He's lazy, arrogant,
and defiantly ignorant."
Mr. Begala, it may be remembered, made the ridiculous assertion
that Governor Bush was "whining" on election night when
he contested the early calling of Florida for Mr. Gore. Even his
fellow panelists found Mr. Begala's remark laughable.
This week Mr. Begala turned his maleficent rhetoric on Ms. Harris,
calling her a "dilettante, debutante" and a "partisan
political hack." Aside from the fact that these comments
more accurately describe Mr. Begala than they do Ms. Harris, such
rhetoric exposes Mr. Begala's utter contempt for those who oppose
Why is it that Mr. Begala feels it necessary to check what little
conscience he has at the door and fill the public airwaves with
such poison? The reason is simple. Mr. Begala, like his former
boss Mr. Clinton and his current boss Mr. Gore, believe that Democrats
travel on a path of righteousness. Deep in their hearts they are
convinced, as Mr. Gore let slip in the final weekend before the
election, that politics is not merely a battle of competing ideologies
but a war between "good and evil." And this holy war,
in their minds, is worth winning at any cost.
Consider the following diatribe by Mr. Begala excerpted from
his article "Banana
Republicans" on November 13. Last week on MSNBC Mike
Barnicle, formerly of the Boston Globe, displayed a map
of the United States with election results by county and commented
on the fact that an overwhelming number of rural counties voted
for Bush (displayed in red) while urban counties on both coasts
voted for Gore (displayed in blue). Mr. Begala wrote the following
Yes, Barnicle is right when he notes that tens
of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican.
But if you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture.
You see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a
pickup truck until his body came apart ó itís red. You see the
state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence
for the crime of being gay ó itís red. You see the state where
right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered
scores of federal employees ó itís red. The state where an Army
private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with
a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered
two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state
where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: theyíre
all red too. But thatís not the whole story, either. Cultural
warriors like House impeachment managers Bill McCollum and James
Rogan and ultra-conservatives like Sen. John Ashcroft were defeated.
A gun control measure passed in Colorado and Oregon, and school
vouchers were rejected in Michigan and California. Democrats gained
seats in the House, the Senate and state legislatures ó and Gore
carried the popular vote. My point is that Middle America is a
far more complicated place than even a gifted commentator like
Mike Barnicle gives us credit for. Itís not all just red and blue
ó or black and white.
Mr. Begala could not be more clear in callling Republicans racist,
homophobic, and right-wing extremists. In other words, "evil."
Would a conservative who made similar statements be considered
"well-respected" and "creditable"? Of course
not. They would be demonized and marginalized. Yet we constantly
see Mr. Begala as a featured guest on prominent talk show panels
spewing his vitriol.
What does it say about our media that Mr. Begala's insidious
commentary is taken seriously? How is it that he can get away
with making blatantly divisive and untrue statements without being
held accountable? It is, in fact, this absolute lack of accountability
which encourages Mr. Begala and his cohorts to continue to push
the rhetorical envelope with harsher language and more personal
Unfortunately, as Mr. Begala can surely attest, these attacks
succeed more often than they fail. Even more unfortunate for Republicans
is the fact they do not have anyone nearly as skilled and unscrupulous
as Begala to spin on their behalf. As the struggle for president
reaches its climax, Republicans have put their faith in the rule
of law and Democrats have put theirs in Begala and company's ability
to shape public opinion in favor of the Vice President. Mr. Begala,
Mr. Lehane, Mr. Dershowitz and the rest will stop at nothing to
achieve a victory for Mr. Gore.
Tom Bevan writes for RealClearPolitics