- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2000

Were the smiles a bit broader, the ties a bit looser at the American Spectator's annual dinner Wednesday night?

The conservative magazine's circulation may be down (from 300,000 in the mid- to late 1990s to about 100,000 today), but the prospect of a Republican moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. made the party seem like a premature inaugural celebration for Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Hailed by the right for its fervid investigative reports of President Clinton and his administration, the Spectator could suffer from post-Clinton fatigue when January rolls around.

Novelist and Forbes FYI editor Christopher Buckley acknowledged the monthly magazine might change its approach if Mr. Bush ultimately triumphs in the election imbroglio.

"It'll probably move from being a pit bull to a Pekinese," Mr. Buckley said, "but Pekinese have pretty sharp teeth and delight in sinking them into flesh."

Conservatives brimming with optimism at the Four Seasons Hotel bash included Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson, Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, writer and bon vivant Taki Theodoracopoulos, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, pundit Laura Ingraham, best-selling author David Horowitz, Comedy Central's Ben Stein and Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the magazine's founder and editor in chief, said a Bush victory won't mean his magazine will be lacking in satirical targets.

"We're going to have Al Gore running around for the next four years claiming, 'I am the president,' " Mr. Tyrrell predicted giddily. "He's gonna provide us with a lot of laughs."

Humorist P.J. O'Rourke said comedy, from Jay Leno to David Letterman, affects the political scene and may swing the tide of public opinion in the coming days.

"If Gore becomes a joke … we all know what happened to Dan Quayle," Mr. O'Rourke said.

Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the dinner's keynote speaker, offered his own batch of punch lines before solemnly addressing the election crisis in his booming baritone.

"There's no concept more honored in America than the rule of law. It's taken a … beating in the last few years and continues to do so," Mr. Thompson said.

Republican pollster Kellyanne Fitzpatrick chided Mr. Gore for his protracted legal maneuvering: "One-third of actual Gore voters say he should concede. The future of the Democratic Party its credibility, its viability is at stake."

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