Principalities & Powersrnbv Samuel FrancisrnNatural Born KulchurrnIn the tumid political underbrush of thernsummer, there were a number of interestingrnand even important new sprouts,rnas Pat Buchanan slowly pushed asidernPhil Gramm as the favored candidaternof the Republican right and almost all ofrnthe rest of the blossoming aspirantsrnto the throne of Reagan and Bushrnwithered in the indifferent heat ofrnthe season. Neither Richard Lugar norrnLamar Alexander nor Arlcn Specterrnattracted the slightest interest, and evenrnone-speech wonders like Alan Keyes andrncertifiable crackpots like Bob Dornanrnproduced onlv vawns. Mr. Buchanan’srnemergence as a serious candidate wasrndue, of course, to the fact that he alonernactually has something to sav—aboutrntrade and the economic interests of thernnation, about immigration and thernnation’s cultural identity, and about foreignrnpolicy and the nation’s politicalrninterests in the worid—that remains undreamtrnof in the platitudinous squintsrnthat serve as what most other Republicanrnleaders are pleased to call theirrn”visions.”rnYet throughout the summer. SenatorrnRobert Dole continued to hold the leadrnin public opinion polls, presumably notrnbecause of any vision he glimpses or hasrnbeen able to share with his disciples butrnmerely because he remains the mostrnpublicly visible of the announced candidates.rnIt is to be expected that his commandingrnlead in the polls will begin tornshrink as the campaign coagulates, butrnthe Kansas senator was clearly determinedrnto keep the lead, and the steps herntook to do so provided what was perhapsrnthe most instructive escapade of an otherwiserntedious stage of the campaign.rnHis principal such step was his May 31rnspeech in Los Angeles about contemporaryrnAmerican popular culture, an orationrnthat was barely five pages in lengthrnbut offered intellectual munchies for thernpundits for nearly a month afterward.rnIndeed, it was probably the most noticedrnspeech Mr. Dole has ever given in hisrnlong career, and it may not only help himrnretain his lead in the opinion polls butrnalso serve to nail his banner to the party’srnmast next vear.rnThe main topic of Mr. Dole’s remarks,rnof course, was Hollywood and all thernwicked films and lyrics its corporaternaesthetes have inflicted on us in recentrnyears. The speech recalled Vice PresidentrnQuayle’s wisecrack about a televisionrnsitcom a few years earlier and immediatelyrngave the pundits their cue tornmoan about the looming repressionrnof the arts for which the Republicansrnsecretly pine—even though barely arnmonth eadier the exact same sages hadrnwagged their beards in grave approalrnwhen President Clinton launched hisrnown assault on radio hosts forrninspiring the Oklahoma City bombers.rnMr. Dole, however, is not Dan Quavlernand knew how to handle himself. It wasrnobvious that he was inviting controversyrnin a way that Mr. Quavle neither soughtrnnor understood how to greet, and perhapsrnfor that reason the savants whornmake it their business to protect thernRepublic from censorious philistines forrnthe most part did not rise to the bait Mr.rnDole so slyly offered them.rnThe speech was in many respects arnstroke of political genius, since it notrnonly gained Mr. Dole the headlinesrnhe wanted but also gave him what hisrnmain rival at the time, Mr. Gramm, hadrnbeen unable to get—a credential as arnspokesman for the moral and religiousrnissues that today animate the passionsrnof no less than a third of the GOP. Mr.rnGramm, an economist by education,rnrefuses to talk or think about much ofrnanything but economic matters and economicrnpolicy, and as a result, when hernpersistently refused to discuss or supportrnthese issues after the social conservativesrnof the party persistently insisted he do so,rnhe began to flounder. Mr. Dole thereforernpresented himself as a spokesmanrnfor social issues at just the moment thatrnMr. Gramm’s failure was being noticedrnand before Mr. Buchanan could run offrnwith those issues all by himself.rnMoreocr, Mr. Dole donned the mantlernof in such a wav that herncommitted himself to nofliing vv hatsoever,rnand this is a large part of the geniusrnof his Hollywood speech. Never knownrnas a foe of abortion, a champion of prayerrnin school, an enemy of pornography, or arndrummer of the public virtue, Mr. Dolernin his speech carefully contrived to a’oidrncommitting himself or the party or therngovernment to doing anything at allrnabout the evils he was denouncing. Ne -rner once did he insinuate censorship orrneven suggest that Americans who agreedrnwith him should just refrain from goingrnto the movies. His remarks thus gainedrnhim a solid reputation as a moral refornrcrrnwithout any commitment to anyrnreform.rnThat reputation was immensely bolsteredrnand maybe even invented in therndays just after the speech, when the professionalrnChristians of the Beltway salliedrnout of their cells to chuckle and coornover Mr. Dole’s moral leadership. RalphrnReed of the Christian Coalition, freshrnfrom his own rhetorical abasementrnbefore the Anti-Defamation League,rnsaluted Dole’s speech as “eloe]uent” andrnacknowledged that the Majority Leaderrnwas definitely on the right track tornreceive the coalition’s imprimatur. GaryrnBauer of the Family Research Councilrnalso praised the speech and came evenrncloser to endorsing Mr. Dole because ofrnit, while William Bennett was trundledrnout of his ever-darkening obscurity tornadd his own approval.rnAnd indeed much of the praise wasrnmerited. Mr. Dole blasted Hollywoodrnfor producing films that dwell on sex andrnN’iolencc and for distributing Urics,rnespecially those of black rap groups, thatrnare little more than the contents of theirrnsingers’ lower intestinal tracts. It is outrnof character for the Majority Leader, arnpolitician far more comfortable withrnbuilding coalitions and balancing voterntallies, to talk about public morality, butrnif he’s learned how, there should bernevery reason to support him.rnThe problem is that both Mr. Dole’srnspeech about Hollywood and popularrnculture and the eagerness with vhieh thernChristian right embraced it point tornwhat is really and more deeply wrongrnwith American culture and actually helprnexplain ^vhv the kinds of endeavors Mr.rnDole complained about are so dominant.rnThe problenr, in a teacup, is thatrnneither Mr. Dole nor his fans in thernChristian right nor most of his supportersrnairrong American conservatives havern8/CHRONICLESrnrnrn