BOB DOLE's attack on Hollywood sex and violence is proving to be a winner all around. His opponents in the Republican race for the presidential nomination are gnashing their teeth. Especially Phil Gramm.
Senator Gramm, of Texas, was once thought to be the challenger with the best chance to beat Senator Dole, but he's been having trouble getting started. The emergence of this issue won't help.
The issue is of most importance to the party's right wing, especially the Christian Coalition. Gramm has tried to position himself to the right of Dole. Last month the coalition held a press conference in Washington to announce its "Contract with the American Family." One item of the 10 on the contract's list was "limit access to pornography on cable television and the Internet."
Several Republican leaders came to the announcement meeting and press conference to show support for the Christian Coalition and, in Senator Gramm's case, solicit support. Gramm was the only candidate for president at the event.
The next morning, in the same newspapers that reported on the "contract," a story appeared about a forthcoming New Republic article charging that 20 years ago Professor Phil Gramm tried to invest several thousand dollars in a soft porn movie, "Truck Stop Women," after getting a preview.
It was over-subscribed, so Gramm asked to get in on the producer's next venture, "Beauty Queens." That project was shelved in favor of an R-rated spoof of Richard Nixon, who was then in the last stages of his presidency.
Some who have seen "The Way He Was" describe it as "more tasteless than risque." President Nixon, who is romantically involved with King Timahoe, his dog, appears naked, and dressed as Groucho Marx, and tied to a bed for a Billy Graham exorcism. Lots of bathroom humor.
For the record, Senator Gramm denies he ever knowingly invested in pornography. He says his then brother-in-law handled the details of his investment, and that he, Gramm, was told only that it was a way to make some money.
The brother-in-law is the New Republic's source for the statement that Gramm saw "Truck Stop Women" and read the script for "Beauty Queens" and was given a briefing on the Nixon movie. He also says that Gramm hid his investment by using a colleague's wife's name. "He told me he was contemplating running for office and didn't want the investment in his name," the ex-brother-in-law is quoted as saying.
The Washington Times calls all this "the silliest non-scandal to hit Washington in ages." Yes it is, but for one thing. Castigating Hollywood is a hot-button issue and is likely to remain so. Senator Dole is going to keep it front and center. No matter how innocent or naive he may have been 20 years ago, Senator Gramm now finds himself unable to exploit the issue the way Senator Dole can. Or even address it. Even a conservative audience would snicker.