HILL OF BEANS: Running Sore

Everyone's now thinking: At last, we can get on to a more elevating kind of politics again. But no -- because while everyone was talking about the presidential libido, the 2000 election season dawned. And to quote Fred Barnes' First Law: No one has ever become a better man running for office.Dick Gephardt's not running, but there are plenty of losers to fill his shoes. Take Bill Bradley, who went to Iowa last week to talk some mush about the race problem. (A sensible venue, given that Iowa is such a hotbed of interethnic strife.) By early in the next century, Bradley said, "America will no longer be a country of white majorities." And that's why we need to protect affirmative action. 'Scuse me? People are kind of dug in on affirmative action, but whether you like it or not, affirmative action is a white majority program. It's defensible now because it's reverse racism. "Reverse racism" is only a public-relations tag, of course; there's no such thing. But once race-based hiring starts getting done by a majority, then it just becomes ... racism. The pronouncement is like everything in Bradley: mushy defenses of two incompatible positions.Then George W. Bush wound up having to explain his libertine years on New Hampshire radio, when an interviewer asked him if he'd ever snorted coke. "I'm not going to talk about what I did as a child," Bush said. "What I'm going to talk about and I'm going to say this consistently: It is irrelevant what I did 20 to 30 years ago. What's relevant is that I have learned from any mistakes that I made. I do not want to send signals to anybody that what Governor Bush did 30 years ago is cool to try." That's what I always say: To be honest about what I've done would set a terrible example.Then there's the right-wing Committee to Restore American Values, led by Paul Weyrich, which is distributing a litmus-test questionnaire whose primary goal seems to be to ensure that the next GOP presidential nominee is totally unelectable. A sample question: "Would you support a removal of the words 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance?" It's enough to make you want to leave politics. Last week, The Washington Post ran a stunning story under a big headline. Ex-Speaker-to-be Bob Livingston, it turns out, has decided to take a job as a lobbyist. Imagine that! The most notoriously strapped-for-cash ex-legislator in all of Washington going into lobbying! We had all been under the impression he'd become a concert pianist or enroll in med school.

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