SEN. BOB DOLE attacked Hollywood's values and products last April while campaigning for president in Iowa.
A reporter's search of computerized archives of newspapers found no previous such foray in Dole's long career. This led to speculation that candidate Dole was just moving tactically to cover his flank on the cultural right, where such veteran cultural right-wingers as Pat Buchanan were a possible threat.
A good theory, but after last week's second Dole attack on Hollywood -- this one delivered in a speech in Los Angeles -- it's necessary to think about other motives on the senator's part.
First, as for the speech itself. It was easily the harshest attack yet on the entertainment industry by any presidential candidate. (Buchanan reacted immediately by going further in criticizing Hollywood than he had before.) Dole said, "A line has been crossed -- not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency. It is crossed every time sexual violence is given a catchy tune. When teen suicide is set to an appealing beat. When Hollywood's dream factories turn out nightmares of depravity."
He singled out movies "Natural Born Killers" and "True Romance" and three rap groups.
Now, what's going on? A lot. He is trying:
1. To get those voters outraged by today's entertainment scene on his side, and
2. To increase the amount of financial support he gets from movie moguls, and
3. To reduce the amount of financial support Gov. Pete Wilson gets from his home state's favorite industry, and
4. Embarrass Sen. Phil Gramm.
The most important of those elements are 2 and 3. Money is the mother's milk of politics.
Communications/entertainment is the fastest growing of America's industry groups. It is very sensitive to federal government activity, especially the government's control over broadcast-spectrum spaces. Those are worth perhaps $100 billion.
Last year communications/entertainment political action committees were the sixth largest contributors to congressional races. Those PACs are expected to be major players in the primary stage of the Republican presidential nomination contest. Dole has been courting them for months.
Some may believe Dole's harsh attacks on Hollywood will cause the industry's money-bags to help other candidates, Governor Wilson principally, to Stop Dole. But when the stakes are high, you play the favorite. Those communications/entertainment PACs gave principally to incumbent Democrats in Congress in 1994. Since then they have shifted to Republicans. Likewise, though they may hate Dole, they'll help him as long as he's ahead.
Oops. Almost out of space. I'll have to deal with "4. Embarrass Sen. Phil Gramm." in my next column.
Thursday: "Truck Stop Women."