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Limbaugh, Letterman and Bill Clinton:
THE POLITICS OF IRONY

By Alex Ross


The intellectual human being must choose between irony and radicalism; a third choice is not decently possible.

--Thomas Mann, Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man


Television began with a man sitting at a desk, talking. The desk, at first, was a matter of necessity--early T.V. cameras were massive and immobile, so their subjects needed a visual motive for staying put. Journalists were cast as "anchors," and entertainers as "hosts," each installed at desks or desklike areas. Perhaps there were deeper psycho-historical origins: Roosevelt had ruled the nation from an infirm patrician's seat. In any case, desks have now become indispensable. They impart an executive bearing to the sitters, who make completely spurious note-taking motions when the camera cuts away to a commercial. Anyone on television capable of taking notes has an edge on the average viewer.

Fresh waves of technology and fashion should have put this antique format out of circulation. But the desks are more numerous than ever, especially after 11 p.m. At a time when television is dissolving into subculturally specialized, aesthetically disheveled fragments, the late-night host somehow has held on to iconic status--trumpeted by network publicity, debated in workplaces, dissected in reams of articles such as this one. It is as if he (and it is still universally a he) has become a critical common referent in a hopelessly uncentered culture. Addressing a public of infinitely malleable size, creating events from thin air, the host is asked to engineer the illusive unities, bridging gaps that our politicians long have been unable to navigate.

How does a host address a nation of subcultures? The one subject known to us all is television itself--its rules, its rhetoric, its accumulated history and literature. And so the common language has been an ironic subversion of television itself: the most popular shows on T.V. right now are about T.V.-- "Murphy Brown," "Home Improvement" and (fitfully) "Seinfeld," to name three top contenders. Others, such as "Roseanne," "Married ... With Children" and "The Simpsons," invert the model family shows of T.V.'s past. Self-referential irony, thought to be the annoying trivium of the 1980s, has settled in for the long haul.

Through this haze, the hosts have stumbled on what might be called the politics of irony. They who grasp it wield strong cultural-political clout. While the vast following that upheld Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" is gone forever, the more narrow but intense regard for a David Letterman or a Rush Limbaugh has no less weight. The new host is a sly virtuoso of layered meanings, a contrapuntalist of revealed and concealed messages. The new kind of host is also--critically--not a liberal. Earnest, Clintonian liberalism so far has floundered in the new conditions. Conservatives, it turns out, know their T.V. better.

But first, some talk-show history. The original hosts were nationally syndicated gossip columnists, hired by radio to simulate glamour for 1930s audiences. Walter Winchell, of the Daily Mirror, won fame second to none simply by sitting at his table at the Stork Club, gathering gossip for his monologues. Celebrities came to pay homage, and he would report their quips and exploits alongside questionable stories from all sources--thus an atmosphere of "guests" circulating around him. One-third of the nation watched in fascination as he became a figure of national importance, preaching a blend of gung-ho patriotism and gangsterish apathy. FDR and J. Edgar Hoover were both in his debt. He stamped himself on the flow of events around him with an array of stylistic tics: the spastic, gibberish-flavored prose style; the much-imitated triple-dot punctuation; the grand salutation to "Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea." He was vainglorious, nasty, vague, central.

Louella Parsons, columnist for the all-powerful Hearst newspapers and host of "Hollywood Hotel," was no less potent; she too boosted Hoover, although entertainment remained her primary interest. She is best remembered for two interventions she made in the careers of performers entering film from radio: the destruction of Orson Welles, whose debut film Citizen Kane unwisely attacked Hearst head-on, and the elevation of Ronald Reagan, who was lucky enough to come from her hometown of Dixon, Illinois. Parsons promoted Reagan at the outset of his career, finding him a bit role in the 1937 film version of Hollywood Hotel.

Parsons never made it to television, and Winchell's attempt at a show in the '50s failed miserably. The most popular hosts in the new medium were far less tendentious and imposing. Arthur Godfrey hosted folksy chat shows with titles like "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends," drawing audiences of up to 80 million people. Ed Sullivan carried a variety show just by standing around. The big names were on during the early evening; no one thought much of the late-night slot. But a Los Angeles radio host named Steve Allen drew a large following with "Tonight!," his free-wheeling NBC comedy show. His wacky stunts and frenetic good cheer made him the chief hipster of the '50s, and not beyond.

After Allen left, what became known as "The Tonight Show" fell into the hands of a genuine original. Jack Paar was an eminently normal-looking man, a former G.I. entertainer who planted himself at a desk instead of scampering around like Allen had. He would begin his shows in a low, well-modulated voice, exuding a dangerous calm. Then, periodically, but never predictably, he would lurch into disgruntled, pathetic soliloquies, decrying some indignity visited upon him by the network or the press. His emotional exhibitionism once led him to walk off the set in the middle of a broadcast.

Paar quit abruptly in 1962 after only five years. There was no other host like him on the horizon, and corporate T.V. did not seem to mind. Consolidating enormous gains in advertising revenue, the networks did not seek out difficult personalities. Daytime chat shows with Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin were idylls of complacency and vacuousness. The 1960s and '70s saw a few departures from formula, most of them either short-lived or half-hearted. "The Phil Donahue Show," originating from Ohio in 1967, drew on its bottomless fund of taboo subjects; but even in trying to break its own spell, network T.V. created instant cliches. Politicians, in turn, adopted all the robotic mannerisms perfected by the newscasters. Television fell into a shabby haze, a Dean Martin stupor, through which nothing ever penetrated fully.

Johnny Carson, whose shiveringly mellow "Tonight Show" reigned supreme from 1962 to 1992, resisted that stupor only halfway. Early on, he exuded a vague anti-establishment ethos, tending toward outright liberalism. But over time, the show approached an equilibrium of numbing blandness. The monologues were all charmingly mediocre, the conversations charmingly inert. The most memorable image in the last show was a dramatic floor shot of The Desk, plunged into darkness at the end of a typical-broadcast-day montage. "The Larry Sanders Show," HBO's brilliant talk-show satire, captures the bleary mediocrity that hung over Carson's final years and now blankets the bathetic regime of Jay Leno.

Still, Carson acquired an imperial grace over his twenty-nine-year era. He became a shadow president for a leaderless public, winning trust by never betraying expectations. His final moments as America's Host--alighting from Burbank in a helicopter, waving distantly to the cameras--were nothing less than Reaganesque. Like Reagan, Carson answered an increasingly desperate hunger for an enduring national icon, cool and agreeable and remote. Unlike Reagan, he really did have nothing to say and departed a widely beloved enigma.

If Carson closed out the story of the National Hosts, then it's hard to find a place for David Letterman. He came on stage as an insincere endnote to the Carson phenomenon, a cynical extension of a faded form. He had no trace of Carson's transcontinental, Vegas-tinged suavity. But he gathered a solid following through NBC's "Late Night," and with his new show on CBS he is improbably leading the "late-night war." He is the model of the new television personality, less intent on universal adoration than on a kind of maladjusted--and ironic--realism.

His first incarnation, as the anti-host, the anti-Carson, was the most amusing and also the most limited. "Late Night," in the early and mid-'80s, was "The Tonight Show" gone to seed. Every component in its daily lineup--set, guests, sidekicks, recurring characters, funny animals--was a deliberately inadequate echo of Carson's show-biz juggernaut. Letterman grinned knowingly through all the expert nonsense and shabbiness around him. Draped with ominous praise-- "hip," "subversive," "ironic" and "in tune with the zeitgeist"--the show fit snugly the culture of the mid-'80s. In his book Boxed In, Mark Crispin Miller tagged Letterman with "that air of laid-back irony against which all enthusiasm seems contemptible"--the empty irony that undermines a dominant mode without advancing anything to take its place. At his most smug in 1985, he did a show called "Too Tired To Do A Show" in which he just hung around the office and threw pencils at the ceiling. This was the silent counterculture, the party in the basement den that didn't disturb the parents upstairs.

Seeing that the anti-show had run its course, Letterman retrenched. The collegiate silliness faded away, and the show became a theater of his difficult personality, his mix of white-bread Americana and interstellar eccentricity. His model was no longer the goofy Steve Allen but the slow- burning Jack Paar. But where Paar waged battles with real-life enemies, Letterman fussed over tiny perturbations in his vicinity and gave vent to abstract complaints. At CBS he has taken on a brighter and busier tone, but his act remains essentially the same.

This host's point of departure is his total disregard for celebrity culture. Carson always seemed interested. Letterman's interviews with major stars show an impeccable ignorance of their projects and careers. He has endorsed nothing, joined no known political groups or causes, evaded People and "Entertainment Tonight." His session with Barbara Walters a couple of years ago was a masterpiece of nondisclosure. For many years he entered the news only on the barely plausible pretext of a crazy woman breaking into his home. Knowing American pop culture's tendency to glaze over its personalities, he makes himself known only through the distorted lens of his little talk-show kingdom.

To a remarkable degree, Letterman constructs his on-air persona simply with words. When he fields responses from guests and random individuals reached by camera or by phone, he is looking for dead words, raw cliches, banalities waiting to be stuffed and mounted. Once he called up a woman operating a concession stand at the Grand Canyon and asked for a description of the view; his stated aim was to hear her say the word "breathtaking." He became greatly agitated when she did not. On-air conversations he's had over the years with his mother, Dorothy Letterman, operate on the same principle. If all else fails, verbal white noise is furnished by Paul Shaffer, the dependable bandleader who speaks in a purified show-biz dialect.

The spin Letterman puts on all this accumulated triteness still falls under the heading of irony, but it can no longer be described as "laid-back." Rather than simply recite cliches in a sarcastic tone, as he did early on, he nervously tampers with them until they become his own. When he introduces a guest as "always talented," for example, he is savoring the dissonance that crops up when the show-biz intro "always personable, very talented" is crunched together. Any strange combination of words intrigues him; he once reported a phrase uttered in the middle of the night on the Home Shopping Club--"Now turn over your swan candlestick holders"--and excitedly announced to his audience: "In the whole history of human civilization, those particular words had never before been uttered together."

On his best nights, Letterman is seized with a sort of broadcasting dementia, parroting television's moribund voices. He becomes the as-if host, speaking grandly to a nonexistent Winchellian public. Setting up a bland joke in his monologue, he abandons the cue card and starts babbling like Dan Rather finally gone over the brink: "In society as we know it today, in this current international situation, this seething caldron of global tension, this overall geopolitical condition of unease in which we presently find ourselves, a condition palpable even in this room, almost tangible even as we speak...." Spinning out endless strings of synonyms, underscoring them with arbitrary gesticulations, Letterman becomes an opulently eccentric, almost aristocratic presence, the sort television was supposed to have disallowed long ago.

The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves eventually gives way to a second, less innocent, pose: the Great White Misanthrope. This is the one with which casual viewers are probably familiar--the middle-aged man with the grimacing grin, the lethally empty gaze, the disgusted snicker. Women guests are treated to a display of nervousness, condescension and adolescent leering. Any young actress or model causes him to be revoltingly smarmy: he might lock her in a bear hug when she first comes onstage, releasing her several seconds after she visibly has begun to squirm. With black guests, he generally leans far back in his chair and loses his colloquial assurance. Any mention of homosexuality throws him into a mild panic.

It is this corrosive persona that draws a following of a million or more 18- to 49-year-old white males. (In his slightly underrated American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis made the cartoon-wasp antihero an eager fan of "Late Night.") T.V. writers tend to describe this aspect of his character in a contemptuous "Gotcha!" tone--as if Letterman had accidentally revealed his true awfulness. But not only is Letterman aware of the problem--"sometimes I even annoy myself"--he goes out of his way to elaborate and exaggerate the lonely white- guy image. Once he related this exchange with a diner in a restaurant-- Japanese, he emphasized--who offered to share a table when Letterman was dining alone:

Letterman: No, no, I can't do that, I'd be imposing.

Japanese diner: What do you mean?

Letterman: All my life, I've been an imposition.

Japanese diner: I don't understand. What do you mean?

Letterman: I have a personality disorder.

Japanese diner: What kind?

Here Letterman broke off the dialogue, having made the point that the Japanese diner was a peculiarly persistent individual. But the image one carries away is of the famous T.V. star sitting alone in a restaurant, telling strangers that he is socially inept or even mentally diseased. Unlike nearly any other American celebrity you could think of, Letterman does not want to be loved.

After several overblown opening shows, Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS has turned out to be a sort of splendid apotheosis. While holding on to his singular mannerisms, the host seems more content with the everyday routine, much as Bill Murray's cynical weatherman found serenity in Groundhog Day. He is nicer to the guests, and the guests now play along when his now-legendary sourness returns. He has gotten under the skin of television's mainstream appeal, and stares out with slightly demented eyes. Meanwhile, his double- pronged technique of disenchantment--the vacant-ironic manipulation of national broadcasting, the entrenched subcultural appeal--has spread in unexpected directions. Rush Limbaugh has turned it around and made it meaningful, although not as meaningful as one might hope.

Limbaugh's debut as a television host was not auspicious. It came in the waning days of "The Pat Sajak Show," CBS's pre-Letterman attempt at a late- night franchise. Various people were guest-hosting in Sajak's place, auditioning for a new version of the show. Limbaugh tried out in December 1990. His hour on the air was fatally disrupted by a throng of act-up demonstrators protesting his constant resort to anti-gay remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. The man who had once attacked homosexuality as "deadly, sickly behavior," who filed a regular "Gerbil Update," wilted before this on-air protest. "He came out full of bluster and left a very shaken man," said a CBS executive. "I had never seen a man sweat so much in my life."

Yet another veteran of the talk-show world was not discouraged by Limbaugh's CBS experience. This was Roger Ailes, best known as a T.V. coach for recent Republican presidents, but a talk-show producer by vocation. He is serious about the format, and his career shows a logical evolution. He was executive producer for "The Mike Douglas Show" in the '60s and '70s, where he perfected the art of making anyone appear comfortable on T.V. In the late '70s, he guided the late-night NBC show "Tomorrow," hosted by Tom Snyder; this was a much pricklier affair. NBC canceled it in 1982 in favor of "Late Night With David Letterman." A decade later, Ailes found in Limbaugh the basis for an entirely new kind of host-driven talk show, with current events as the only guests.

The Ailes-produced "Rush Limbaugh Show," first seen in September of 1992, was dismissed as an aberration by most T.V. critics. All the articles about the "talk-show wars" paid it no attention whatsoever, and even The Wall Street Journal had to ask, "Where are the visuals? Why is this man on T.V.?" The host is indeed an unconventional presence. He barks at the viewers as if he were sitting across from them in a noisy restaurant. His figure isn't altogether congruent with the standard rectangular screen. (Perhaps letterboxing would solve this problem.) The studio audience is unsettlingly unanimous; although there is no applause sign, applause cuts off with needle-sharp precision. There is an infomercial ambience.

But people have been watching. A few months into its run, the show's ratings were equal to or greater than Letterman's "Late Night" in some markets (average Nielsens of 3.0). He has gotten better at T.V., marshaling video clips and man-on-the-street interviews to bear out his points. The best of these recently was a dazzling montage of disparate personalities speaking in favor of traditional values--everyone from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Louis Farrakhan. Another set of tapes demonstrated John F. Kennedy's allegiance to Reaganomics. But more important, Limbaugh has found ways to go against the grain of the medium, to resist its standardizing pressure. He has learned to replicate on T.V. the intellectual emotion that powers his radio shows. In these respects, his link to Letterman is clearest.

At first glance, they seem as far apart as possible: Limbaugh, with his weekly 20 million listeners, his record-breaking best sellers, his newsletter that has over three times more readers than the magazine you are holding, his "Rush Rooms" in steak houses across the country--and Letterman, with his Viewer Mail, and the woman who breaks into his house. Limbaugh is at his best with on-the-spot political commentary; Letterman wings his way far above, or behind, current events. But there is a solid likeness between the right-winger and the no-winger. Both are cigar-smoking, divorced men in their mid-40s, from solid midwestern backgrounds (Kansas and Indiana, respectively). Both grew up in the 1960s but were untouched by its ferment. Both have ended up in New York, happily disgusted at its squalor. Both are noted for being painfully shy and insecure in person.

Three extant biographies--The Rush Limbaugh Story: Talent on Loan from God: An Unauthorized Biography by Paul D. Colford, Rush! by Michael Arkush and The David Letterman Story: An Unauthorized Biography by Caroline Latham--supply material for more detailed parallels. As Colford points out in passing, both men were devoted listeners of a Chicago-based D.J.. named Larry Lujack, whose act combined bombast and skepticism. Limbaugh started in radio with an FM rock show, while Letterman took on odd jobs for local T.V. stations. Limbaugh was consistently fired from jobs for interjecting conservative opinions into nonopinion formats. Letterman found similar discouragement when he interpolated comic material--his legendary Indianapolis weather reports, for example, in which imaginary storms decimated far-flung locales. (Letterman tried a talk-radio show in the mid-'70s and got nowhere. "The Nixon-Watergate nonsense," he recalled, "was the perfect example of something about which I knew nothing and couldn't have cared less.")

And there can be no doubt that Limbaugh has studied Letterman's show closely. He makes himself vivid by ruffling items on his desk noisily and giving cameo roles to his staff and crew. He fashions an identity from the driftwood of television language, repeating an ordinary phrase until it becomes his intellectual property. "This show is on the cutting edge of societal evolution," he says, in language usually reserved for sports cars or home entertainment systems. When he sees such prosaic phrases elsewhere in the media, he then can herald the universality of his own influence. Even more Lettermanlike, he alters banalities in midstream: "The views expressed by the host of this program will soon become federal law." The grandiose address to "listeners all across the fruited plain" echoes Letterman's "great American home-viewing public" and Winchell's "Mr. and Mrs. America." The result of all this is that Limbaugh acquires a critical distance from his medium and from himself.

What are Limbaugh's aims in appropriating and paralleling Letterman? The first possibility is that it is all a brilliant ruse designed to disguise a conservative crusade as mere entertainment. When speaking to "mainstream" publications, Limbaugh suspiciously insists that his show is all in good fun, just show biz. "This show exists in the entertainment arena," he said to Vanity Fair. His call-screener added, "The politics on this show are secondary to [Limbaugh's] personality." And again, in the book The Way Things Ought To Be: "I refuse to use the entertainment forum of my radio show to advance agendas or causes." These, surely, are disingenuous words from the man who gave a huge boost to Pat Buchanan in the New Hampshire primary, who forced disclosure of names in the House banking scandal and who could tilt the Republican primaries in 1996.

And yet if you try to pin down specifically a Limbaugh agenda, a Limbaugh cause, you might end up a little baffled. His first requirement in articulating any position is that it be nonliberal. In essence, if it is nonliberal, it is conservative. He gives little thought to tensions within present-day conservatism. He skips happily from Reagan to Kemp to Bennett to Buchanan and back again. He dedicates himself to small business and local interests, then advocates NAFTA and corporatist economics. His "traditional values" twist gently in the wind, leaning toward moderation when pressed. He has been virtually silent on gay issues, except to echo the party line on gays in the military. Once he even took a call from a Republican gay man in Manhattan, and suggested that people like him should be seen at the next Republican convention.

So too with his thoughts on feminism, which are less a social philosophy than a particularly extreme men-are-different-from-women rant of the kind practiced by stand-up comics. "It can be misused," he says of his term "femi-Nazi," by which he might mean any use not idiosyncratically his own. When his needling critiques of black leaders are attacked as racist, he hollowly responds, "I am the opposite of a racist." Limbaugh is the opposite of opposites. He is a giant double negative, the logical outcome of a point-counterpoint style of political discourse. His straw-man liberal is an empty antinomial category, a clever rerouting of the bland barbs long thrown at conservatives (hence the Nazi rhetoric for feminists). He has an uncanny ability to fast-forward through the tit-for-tat cliches of T.V. debate, doing the pundits in different voices--a one-man McLaughlin Group.

With their churning syntax and overreaching vocabulary, Limbaugh's stem-winders are themselves a twist on electronic tradition. They often sound like a giant disc jockey put-on, an endless FM prank. Periodically Limbaugh plays with this resemblance by hoaxing his own listeners--infamously, his "conversion to Clinton" a couple of weeks before the 1992 election, which incited a War of the Worlds panic among millions of American conservatives. Limbaugh's rhetorical vigor makes the line between seriousness, humorous exaggeration and outright absurdity rather blurry. "I demonstrate the absurd by being absurd," he reiterates; but it is not always the liberal position that is so demonstrated.

All the problems posed by Limbaugh's politics are solved if one takes him at his word and sees him as an entertainer. The two "unauthorized" Limbaugh biographies--Colford's is fairly neutral, Arkush's is faintly damning--depict a man who used politics as a means to an entertainment end, rather than the other way around. He was never politically active in his own right, and was not even registered to vote until the mid-'80s. Reagan, the man he trumpets as God walking on earth, never received his vote. He measures his success purely in terms of media statistics--the number of stations in his syndicated empire, the number of weeks his books stay on the best-seller list, the Nielsen ratings for his T.V. show. He was absolutely exultant when Clinton won the election, knowing that a Republican party in opposition would bolster his appeal. "They think that my era of dominant influence has come crashing down," he roared. "It has, in fact, barely begun. My era of dominant influence now shall come to the fore."

What is that influence exactly, if not a strictly political one? Some have called Limbaugh a rabble-rouser in the mold of Father Coughlin or Huey Long. A better comparison, once again, would be Walter Winchell, the gossip columnist as national statesman. Limbaugh very often grasps ideology through personalities; he is constantly recounting his encounters with everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Charles Barkley. Commentary and comedy blend with news, anecdotes and a great many traditional radio bits (weird news, off-the-cuff endorsements) thrown in for good measure. But in the end, he is something completely new: a vertically integrated media complex for like-minded conservatives, plus entertainment for the broader mass of perennial skeptics. His appeal is actually more diverse than Letterman's, seeming to encompass more female viewers and more older viewers. Almost anyone from any group could be hooked by his bravura display of politics as entertainment, and vice versa, or whatever else you want to call it. As the opposite of the opposite of what used to be conservatism, Limbaugh can only fall back on his own burgeoning selfhood to hold together his political platform. Two of his favorite phrases are all too easily interchangeable: "This program is about the truth" and "This program is about what I think." The politics of ego become inseparable from the culture of irony.

And irony is what, after all, connects Limbaugh and Letterman and the television history they both refract. Irony can only be recovered in reference to a dominant language, a dominant medium, and television is without question such a medium. Letterman has assumed authority by undercutting the host formula and pretending to hate his job. Limbaugh tries to unite conservative subcultures into a broad political base by piling skepticism on top of fuzzy nostalgia. Both connect with a culture that is viscerally alert to media manipulation, but that is also a sucker for self-consciousness.

They have their colleagues in the political arena. Ronald Reagan, the former announcer, used the tropes of television and a cunning wit to distance himself from the idea of himself, to create a stage persona that T.V. audiences found appealing on its own terms. The substance of his views had taken shape long before, but irony propelled them through the screen. George Bush, with little ironic talent, valiantly attempted to parlay Reagan's technique into a rationale for an entire administration. Even more telling is the example of Ross Perot, who mixes his super-direct facts and figures with a dazzling (and, it turns out, uncontrollable) defiance of expectations. A new plateau of ironic politics was officially reached when the Texan responded to intimations of mental instability by dancing with his daughter to the strains of Patsy Cline's "Crazy."

All politicians, of course, are ironists to the extent that they are all dissemblers. But the Democratic Party seems remarkably inept in the face of Letterman-Limbaugh culture. It has mastered guerrilla-level media manipulation, but its candidates perennially adopt an earnest tone that television cuts to shreds. The Clinton people, who ought to be young enough to know the territory by heart, show no grasp of irony at all. Al Gore put in a valiant appearance on Letterman's show, of which both he and Clinton seem to be fans; but the idea is to be a commanding host, not a well-behaved guest. Clinton himself--fathomlessly earnest and deaf to the nuances of Limbaugh's and Letterman's posturing--is at sea in a culture drenched in detachment. His frozen smile gives him the look of a sidekick handing out prizes.

Placing no distance between himself and his image, prizing an unmediated communication with the voters, Clinton buys into the liberal illusion that there is a third choice, beyond radicalism and irony--a choice of reasonableness, decency, meaning. That may be why he has so far failed to connect intuitively and decisively with the American public of today, and why his strongest demographic group is still the elderly. Clinton has yet to grapple with the climate in which he is operating and with the culture that insistently refuses to take him to heart. If he wants to gain some ground, he could start by watching T.V. more closely after 11:35 p.m. The real Culture War, he might discover, has nothing whatsoever to do with the religious right.

Alex Ross writes for The New York Times.

Copyright © 1993 The New Republic (November 8, 1993)


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