INSIDE THE BELTWAY: The Mideast peace talks stand as a reminder of the essence of politics - sans PR meddling

There on public television the other night was the deputy managing editor of The Washington Times, a right-wing journal owned by the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. He came out in the midst of a discussion of the ills of campaign financing and announced he didn’t believe that ’all politicians are corrupt and respond only to campaign contributors.’

There on public television the other night was the deputy managing editor of The Washington Times, a right-wing journal owned by the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. He came out in the midst of a discussion of the ills of campaign financing and announced he didn’t believe that ’all politicians are corrupt and respond only to campaign contributors.’

There on public television the other night was the deputy managing

editor of The Washington Times, a right-wing journal owned by the

Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon. He came out in the midst of a

discussion of the ills of campaign financing and announced he didn’t

believe that ’all politicians are corrupt and respond only to campaign

contributors.’



It was a statement not often heard here. One expected the ring of his

cell phone - his managing editor telling him to be sure and add the

words, ’except for the liberals.’ The idea is indeed rare - that elected

officials speak their own minds without heed of big contributors or the

winds of political fashion - or even that they speak their own words and

not those of some hired wordsmith.



The notion that all of government and politics is scripted and responds

exclusively to special interests is so widespread now that no article on

the presidential campaign is complete without a cynical headline.



For example, it’s ’Gore Seeks Support of Elderly Voters,’ never ’Gore

Urges Subsidy for Prescription Drugs Under Medicare’; or ’Bush Courts

African-American Voters,’ never ’Bush Pledges Government Enforcement of

Civil Rights Laws.’



All of this assures the job security of PR counselors in this city. Each

member of Congress has at least one press secretary, and some have even

changed the title to the more impressive (and pompous) ’director of

communications.’ In addition, there is at least one in every executive

department, agency or bureau.



The job of government PR practitioners is increasingly non-communicative

and almost uninformative. ’Stay away from controversy or taking a stand’

seems to be the prevailing command, coming from bosses who almost never

enter a project unless the outcome itself has been predetermined.



But that makes the current (as I write) Israeli-Palestinian talks so

interesting and suspenseful. It seems clear this is international

negotiation and not - as it often is - an elaborate, pre-arranged

photo-op. No hints, no rumors, no informed speculation. One ’well-placed

source’ the other day, reasoned that because there was no news,

negotiations were probably proceeding seriously.



So far, we don’t even know the agenda at Camp David. The status of

Jerusalem?



The outlines of a Palestinian state? Responsibility for law enforcement

on the West Bank? No ’spokesman’ has emerged to claim credit or cast

blame, to hint at agreement or dash cold water on optimism. Not even a

State Department statement about a ’broad range of issues of mutual

concern.’ Now that’s a setback for PR - but maybe a giant leap for

mankind.



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