"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 October 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

How Many Licks?



Kids don't dream of becoming

political advisors when they

grow up, but perhaps they should -

it's one of the few segments

of the work force not being

downsized. Political advisors

have always been there, crafting

platforms out of thought-lumber

and sound bites out of hot air,

but they've only recently come

out of the closet. Now, they're

everywhere: The word "spin"

enters into our popular

vocabulary, and sitcoms show us

how much fun lying for a living

can be.



If politicians were candy, then

political consultants would

shape them into jawbreakers - we

are tantalized with the hope of

reaching the soft (or hard)

core, but the advisors see to it

that the layers are so thick, we

never reach it. Sound bites are

concocted beforehand; small

armies of focus groups

are enlisted. Our

personality-challenged vice

president, Al Gore, did three

run-throughs on the day of his

debate last week. In 1988, Lloyd

Bentsen's now-famous "You're no

Jack Kennedy" quip to Dan Quayle

was dreamed up beforehand.


Insulated by layers of

sugarcoating, the candidates are

tougher to reach than they used

to be, though they still can

leave a sour taste in your

mouth. Still, the political

scandal machine needs to eat, so

it bites the hand that's not

feeding it, turning spinmeisters

into household names. Within one

week, Roger Stone, minor

political consultant for the

Dole campaign, morphed from

Internet sex-ad placer to

National Enquirer

slimeball-of-the-week to New

York Post headliner to

Associated Press newsfeed to

guest on Good Morning America.

On the morning news show, a

despondent Stone tried to clear

his name to caffeinating

Americans and a stern Charlie

Gibson - but not before we

learned the correct way to steam




But what was perhaps more fun

than reading how Stone allegedly

tried to solicit sex for himself

and his wife on the net was

hearing Stone's alibi: "The laws

regulating the Internet are very

fuzzy. There's no regulation and

no oversight." Rule number one:

When you've been spun,



On the net, the spin has tended

to be centripetal - discussions

quickly turn insular, revolving

around issues that have less to

do with platforms than

punctuation. Bob Dole recites

his URL during the presidential

debate, and it becomes the

scandal of the day: He's

ridiculed on the net first for

forgetting the "dot" in his URL;

then it's rumored that he added

a dash, pointing us to a

now-defunct pro-Clinton dummy

site - www.dole-kemp.org -

rather than the legit. Yet

discussion of why Dole mentioned

the site in the first place

becomes moot, and we are

reminded of his now-ubiquitous

phrase, "The Internet is the

best way to get on the Web."

Whatever. We know what the old

guy meant.



News that the National Enquirer

plans to open a bureau in

Washington, D.C., left the White

House press corps reeling, but

the rest of us perplexed - we

assumed it had one there all

along. The tabloids and the talk

shows are generating more news

these days than the

mainstreamers. With half as many

Americans tuning into the

debates as in '92, and even

fewer sticking around to listen

to the expert analysis of

wonderhorses Tom, Peter, and

Dan, Dole tries to go where the

ratings are. But it was Oprah

who declined a request by the

Dole camp to appear on her show,

not the other way around. Her

reason? "I don't do



[Page 6]

As net.gossip and Washington

rumors fuse - almost as quickly

as media companies merge - the

prospect that a webmaster will

supplement his pitiful wages at

the monitor by funneling

information to the tabloids

seems more likely than 500

channels. When a high-ranking

official bookmarks a porn site,

you can bet his aide will be on

the phone to the Post. When a

congressman's webmaster gives

him a pseudonym to participate

in alt.misogyny threads, that

same infodrone will appear on

Hard Copy, face shrouded, voice

altered. Politicians keep up

appearances with their laments

of teen drug use, immorality in

movies, net porn, and abortion,

but their children are being

weaned on the products of

checkbook journalism, and

they'll soon figure out how to

be part of the process.


Some may crow about the net's

ability to make everyone a

pundit, but it's also made

everyone a source. The kids

politicians want to protect from

the net today are the webmasters

and political consultants of

tomorrow - and either way,

they'll be laughing all the way

to the bank.

courtesy of Miss de Winter