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WHERE WAS EVERYBODY? | 2000-10-21

Newsmen keep asking people about something in this year's election that puzzles them. Why, they say, is Gore having problems when the economy is in such great shape?

There is indeed a general rule that the party in the White House should have an automatic win when the economy is in good shape. Nobody claims that the party in power need prove it is responsible for the economy being in good shape. Everybody agrees it is usually largely a matter of luck. Nonetheless, the party in power is expected to benefit from it.

So the wide-eyed newsmen ask how it is possible that Gore should have a problem when Clinton has experienced eight years of boom. Conservatives share their puzzlement. Everybody is respectable, wide-eyed, and says "DUH!" in unison.

Apparently I was all alone as I watched the enormous embarrassment of the Clinton Administration in the Lewinsky affair and the cover up. Now, the media was unanimous in agreeing that Clinton shouldn't be impeached, but nobody outside of Geraldo Rivera said that what Clinton did was OK. Even the media admit it was a gigantic scandal.

At any other time in American history, that scandal would have meant total defeat for the party in the White House in the next election.

As I explained on May 22, 1999 in KINKY SEX, the reason we are in an economic boom is so obvious that it takes the combined efforts of the media and respectable conservatives to ignore it. The reason for the present boom would be a major embarrassment for the political left, so the respectable right will never discuss it.

So Clinton had nothing to do with the continuing boom. But that is not necessary for him to get credit for it. Regardless of the reason for it, the Administration normally gets credit for it if the economy is good, and Gore will share in that. It isn't fair, but it is the reality.

Likewise, the scandal which I spent a year watching on television -- all by myself, apparently -- was also not Gore's fault. But the fact is that when you are the heir apparent, you take both the good and the bad of your predecessor. Gore gets a boom, and Gore gets a scandal, neither of which he earned.

This explains another Major Media Mystery.

At the time of the Republican Convention, when Bush had a huge lead, there was no gender gap for the first time in decades. I saw a number of liberal women interviewed who said that they were infuriated by what Clinton had done and were seriously considering voting Republican because of it.

Naturally the media said Bush's lead was all due to his Mexican Convention and his mealy-mouthing on issues. But his "moderation" and his "appealing to the minority vote" doesn't explain anything about the temporary disappearance of the gender gap, which is what really put him in front for a while by double digits. So let us explain all these Major Media Mysteries at once: women were upset at Clinton's behavior and blamed Gore.

For the same reason that Gore gets credit for a boom he doesn't deserve, he gets blame as the heir apparent to Clinton for Clinton's misdeeds.