Chris: ‘Andrew, you’re going to get me disowned! I come from a very Republican family and I keep reading your column and agreeing with more and more that you say. Your political point of view is starting to brainwash me (cleanse my mind?).’

☞ Music to my moderate, centrist little ears. But don’t credit me. Credit the shift in the political landscape, all of which has moved to the right . . . leaving the Democratic leadership (in my view) pretty much in the sensible center and the Republican leadership falling off the Right edge.

The Republican leadership is not the Republican leadership of Eisenhower (who warned of the military-industrial complex), or of Rockefeller (who like Gates and Buffett and some of his heirs would probably be horrified at the notion of eliminating the estate tax on the very wealthiest families – a move that would devastate charitable giving), or of Gerald Ford (who was a pretty easy-going guy) or of former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (who could not even get confirmed as ambassador to Mexico, let alone be considered as a viable Presidential candidate). It is, instead, the leadership of Trent Lott and Jesse Helms and Tom DeLay and Dick Armey and John Ashcroft – of Rush Limbaugh, who apparently spent a recent show exposing the threat that gays and lesbians want to abolish Mother’s Day (because gay men are notoriously mom-o-phobic? I don’t think so) – and of two affable oil executives in the White House who, in the face of soaring gasoline prices, have actually proposed cutting back on government involvement in the very promising program to boost automobile mileage from 27 mpg or so to 80 mpg.

I’m not suggesting all the issues are easy or one-sided. They’re not. At least most of them aren’t.

But with some, it’s really hard to see how they’re not simple. The White House cut the standard on central-air conditioner efficiency from a 30% improvement for future units to a 20% improvement. The stated reason was to protect low-income people from higher prices. Yet low-income people buy new central a/c units less often than you might think (they buy window units or fans) . . . and the estimated $125 price increase that the 30% standard would have imposed would have been recovered in lower utility bills in 15 months, according to a report I read – making it the rough equivalent of an 80% tax-free annualized return on that extra investment. Not to mention its benefit to the environment. Yet Bush/Cheney nixed it. And every day there seems to be some astonishing thing like this – more than we can process. (Last week I read that they’ve eliminated all funding for the ‘Reading Is Fundamental’ program. Could this be true? By the time one investigates – and who has time to investigate them all? – it’s old news because there have been three new astonishments.)

What a grand, grand time to be an oil man!

Or just to be rich and powerful in general.

The media, meanwhile – which made it international news for a week when President Clinton allegedly slowed air traffic at LAX for 20 minutes while he got an expensive haircut – seems almost numb to the implications of all this. (And where are the stories, still to come, I believe, but so far absent, about the overall Florida effort, worked out well in advance of the election, to deprive thousands of Americans of their right to vote?)

So, Chris, I don’t think it’s I who have persuaded you. I just think the landscape has changed. Even someone like columnist Arianna Huffington, who was about as staunch a Gingrich gal as you would find, looked at all this close up and did what amounted to a stunning about face. There may be examples of ‘liberal’ columnists who’ve lately seen the light, now that they’ve had a chance to see the Bush budget, seen how effectively Bush was able to shut down the Korean peace process, and who have, as a result, flipped over to become conservative columnists. But if Maureen Dowd or somebody has gone conservative on us the way Arianna has gone liberal, well, I haven’t seen it. My point is: I don’t think you’re alone.

For an interesting perspective on this issue of media coverage, click here.

I will be out of touch for a few days, some of you will be thrilled to know.
Back next week.


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