GEORGE WATCH: Now that Dick Morris is piling on against George Stephanopoulos, we can see first hand a frog calling someone ugly. On Morris’s Vote.com site, 92% of respondents believe Stepho can’t be an unbiased host of ABC’s “This Week” Sunday show. The infallible Media Research Center, meanwhile, has hung out a long line of Stephanopoulos’s laundry from the Clinton years, whose stains and spots won’t ever wash away. The MRC has also provided evidence of Stephanopoulos’s liberally biased work for ABC. In short, it’s very clear who we’re dealing with.
Which is exactly why he’s likely to be the guy to watch in political television. Any return to Clinton-era form will find him canceled faster than Alan Keyes, and even obvious liberal advocacy will get him into deep trouble. Until now on “This Week” he was usually expected to give the liberal view, much as George Will is expected to do the opposite. But he’s also done enough straight work on television to suggest he knows what lines he can no longer cross. Like a serial offender he’ll be under tremendous pressure not to stray. Most TV types start off pretending to be unbiased before drifting predictably left. Stephanopoulos might be the first major newsman having to move in the opposite direction.
Conservatives, in short, have him exactly where they want him. Every day for the rest of his career the burden will be on him to prove he’s not biased. It will not be on conservatives to prove that he is.
There’s another reason to prefer him to what came before. More often than not, Sam and Cokie managed to insult the intelligence of viewer and guest alike. Stephanopoulos, by contrast, is seriously bright and a classy, almost bookish presence. Vulgarity is the last thing he’ll project, and if such a thing is possible he might even raise the tone and substance of network political discussion. If the other George remains happy, we’ll know they have a good thing going.
JUST DESERTS: A month ago or so Andrew Sullivan taunted the Weekly Standard for not weighing in on the Catholic Church pederasty scandals. He should have kept him mouth shut. In its June 17 issue the Standard published a blockbuster by Mary Eberstadt, “The Elephant in the Sacristy,” to which Sullivan has responded like a mouse who’d been stepped on by an elephant. After ignoring the piece for more than a week, he finally reacted a few days ago by attacking it as a “hysterical screed” and refusing to engage it. How sad to see Sullivan cower this way, particularly since “hysterical” and “screed” are the last thing one can call Eberstadt’s calmly written and straightforwardly argued essay.
The problem for Sullivan is that Eberstadt’s is one of those rare events, an article that clears the air and allows things to be called for their real name. Nowadays we hear all sorts of talk about the “culture” of a given institution, whether it’s the FBI or Major League Baseball. Eberstadt has focused on the culture of the American church, and the degree to which it has become a homosexual culture. This culture’s implicit rejection of chastity and celibacy, which are the expected norms of all Catholic clerics, has ravaged the church’s moral standing. For too long the American church has lived too many a lie, and now there is hell to pay.
Sullivan must be living in a dream world. The same day Eberstadt’s piece was published Time magazine ran a column by him, which it erroneously headlined: “Who Says the Church Can’t Change? An anguished Catholic argues that loving the church means reforming it.” Any reader of Eberstadt will probably notice that the church has already changed, perhaps beyond recognition, precisely because it’s been “reforming” itself in the very way that Sullivan would approve. He just wants everyone from the Pope on down to give this change enthusiastic official approval. That, of course, can’t happen, since it would be mistaken for absolution.
FOR PETE’S SAKE: If Andrew Sullivan is an “anguished” soul, what does that make Bill Clinton? Last Monday he delivered his long anticipated address to the Council of Foreign Relations, and barely caused a stir. How could life have become so unfair?
Not for lack of sycophancy. Pete Peterson, Wall Street’s champion of austerity, made an exception when he introduced Clinton at the Yale Club in these words:
“Mr. President, if you were to survey this audience, I would suspect that you would find many, perhaps most of us, who like to think of ourselves as policy wonks in one or another subject. In my mind, one thing, at least, that differentiates you is that you are what one might call a Renaissance policy wonk. An encyclopedic policy wonk, an Olympic champion of policy wonks, and given your passion at golf, perhaps you’d prefer the Tiger Woods of policy wonks.”
“At least in my personal experience, you know more about more policy areas than any other political leader I’ve ever known.” By this point, according to our flies on the wall, Clinton was silently nodding in agreement.
The problem with sycophancy is that it is never heartfelt. At the conclusion of Clinton’s remarks, which covered globalization and the need for the U.S. to seek international cooperation, Peterson jumped in with this:
“Thank you, Mr. President. To show you how instantly we respond to your ideas, I want you to know that tomorrow, a group of us from the Council who have been working on public diplomacy are meeting with Karen Hughes.”
To which Clinton replied, “Good.”
To which Peterson quipped, “So I just want you to know what impact your suggestions have on us.”
According to a different set of flies, Peterson did meet with Hughes as promised — and not a word of what Clinton said in his speech was ever conveyed to her.