Is a party under attack obligated to engage its attacker? Lately the right has been criticized for refusing to respond according to the left's prescriptions. In the Middle East, for instance, the government of Ariel Sharon has refused to respond to suicide bombings by sitting down and talking peace with the sponsors of the bombings, as the "whole world" would have it do. Instead, it has done what any other normal government would do, and asserted its nation's right to self-defense. The left cries foul, which is why it's the left. But in important matters prudence requires it be ignored.
Actually, there's every reason to ignore it in trivial matters as well. Champions of David Brock's recent confessional, for instance, continue to squawk that the right has largely ignored the book and failed to respond to its many wild charges which they all insist are true. Gee, they say, what are conservatives afraid of? Or as a "Press Clips" critic recently put it in the Los Angeles Times, "The right's relative hush on Brock's book suggests that he's telling the truth." No, it suggests something else entirely. The right is under no obligation to respond to someone who has simply switched sides. When Jim Jeffords flipped, were all Republicans honor-bound to renounce their party as well and declare themselves followers of Tom Daschle? Brock, among other things, is playing a political game, in which a staunch anti-Clintonite turn into an even stauncher Clintonite. That might qualify Brock for the Guinness Book. But it doesn't mean the right has hold his hand one last time.
It's amusing to see the left taunting the right to engage a book it has already pronounced unimpeachable. Why don't its adherents just come out with it and ask the right to turn itself in? Surely they don't expect any response from the right would change their minds? But then again, arguing under false pretense is what makes the left the left.
Moving into an area of even greater triviality, there have been several reports this week that Republicans are boycotting or planning or thinking of boycotting the new, hopped-up version of CNN's "Crossfire." Why should they participate in a cheap show co-hosted by very active Clinton-Gore Democrats? The same question perhaps could have been raised during the show's previous incarnation, though hosts like Bill Press or Geraldine Ferraro or even Bob Beckel were relative Democratic has-beens compared to the Begala-Carville duo that succeeded them.
What's more Begala-Carville have long been a pair, their opposites Bob Novak and Tucker Carlson hardly so. But more importantly, Novak and Carlson speak for themselves, not the RNC, the White House, or the GOP Congressional Leadership, all of which they might criticize not infrequently. Maybe not as often as Begala-Carville, but more often than those two will ever utter an unsupportive word for Democratic Party top dogs. In this respect, may Republicans should demand that the show's conservative hosts be Karen Hughes and Grover Norquist, people who will defend their side politically no matter what. Such a pairing would at least somewhat neutralize the biggest reason to distrust Begala-Carville: they're as actively engaged in promoting the current Democratic agenda as Terry McAuliffe.
Of course, with Begala-Carville the problem doesn't stop there. Everyone knows that Carville put the "vile" in "Car-vile," as one Kultursmog watcher has put it. But who could have thought that Begala would turn out the more vile of the two? His recent outbursts have made headlines (and adoring approval from his groupies at Media Whores Online), whether for calling Hugo Chavez more legitimate than George W. Bush or declaring Al Gore to be his president. It's only natural that well-mannered Republicans would rather not appear in the company of a man who asks questions as graceless as this one: "Miss Pieczynski, I want to bring Mr. Kane in by asking you this question: One hundred years ago, women were not allowed to receive communion during your menstrual cycle..."
On the other hand, the trashy television trappings notwithstanding, it is a political show, and for all the fanaticism and bullying that emanates from Begala-Carville, the twosome can be neutralized. The key is send on the right guests. Tell the politicians to stay home; they don't need the abuse. Instead, bring on someone like Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of the Independent Women's Forum.
Ms. Pfotenhauer was a guest on the April 16 show, brought on to discuss wage discrimination against women, just the sort of topic Begala loves to champion. On this day, though, he picked the wrong opponent. Here's how it started:
BEGALA: ...Take a look at these statistics. Back in 1963, I'm sure you're familiar with this, the pay gap between men and women was 59 cents. The latest data that we have from today is 73 cents. Well, my goodness...
PFOTENHAUER: The latest data from where?
BEGALA: That's progress. From the Census Bureau.
PFOTENHAUER: No, it's not from the Census Bureau.
BEGALA: Actually, we got this from NOW. Let me...
Pretty soon Pfotenhauer was talking circles around an overmatched Begala:
BEGALA: At this pace, you'll achieve full quality in the year 2080. So let's just be calm and...
PFOTENHAUER: That's a total, false construct. First of all, equal pay for equal work is something I think both the congresswoman and I fully support. It has been the law of the land since the early 1960s.
Anybody who practices discrimination on an individual basis should be prosecuted to the fullest. We all support that. What I take issue with, and what the Independent Women's Forum takes issue with, are these so-called studies, not academic research, not peer reviewed that are so methodologically flawed, as to be misleading that report to represent a huge gap in pay between similarly qualified men and women.
BEGALA: Oh, so there's no gap.
BEGALA: Everything's just fine, right?
PFOTENHAUER: Paul, let's go back here. Let's look at the actual studies that are peer reviewed, where you can replicate the analysis and decide whether it withstands scrutiny. What you find out is that if you look at men and women, and you adjust for basic things, things that Statistics 101 students would have to adjust for, age, experience, continuous years in the workforce, and position in the company.
And what you find out is there is no wage gap. The recent study that's come out that purports that it's by the way...
BEGALA: So we're just victims of mass hysteria and self-delusion.
PFOTENHAUER: No, no, what it is is, if you see differences in relative compensation because of choices that people make. If you want to have a conversation about that, we can.
At that point, a chastened Begala disappeared from the conversation, as Pfotenhauer turned her expertise against her badly overmatched opposite, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D - N.Y.), who could only fall back on what the National Organization for Women had told her.
When Begala did resurface, it was to reply to Carlson. But again Pfotenhauer weighed in:
"Why don't we actually look at research, not political spin? And if you look at studies put forward by Cornell University, these are not politicians with a bill on the floor of the House. These are academicians and scholars who have to face boards and review. And college campuses tend to be liberal, not conservative. Www.iwf.org, that's all I have to say."
A commercial break saved Begala from any immediate further damage, but afteward Pfotenhauer continued to dominate the conversation, of which the following was merely one of her many impressive flourishes:
"Why are[n't] we talking about the success story that we've got here? Women, right now, earn the majority of undergraduate degrees. We earn the majority of Masters degrees. We outperform men in high school and college.
"Within the next generation, we are expected to earn the majority of Ph.D.s. Education is one of the primary drivers of income. The other is continuous years in the workforce. If we want to talk about the decisions that are made societally for women to take time out, that's an interesting conversation."
Begala could barely get a word in edgewise, unless it was to quip, in response to Pfotenhauer's comment that the Supreme Court has eroded self-governance, that the high court had done so "by stealing the election."
The lesson: Send in the right Republican and soon enough Begala will be threatening to boycott his own show. The only question now is whether someone like Nancy Pfotenhauer will ever be asked back.
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