1. Archive

Would a female be so forgiven?

Think about it. A well-known, married female political consultant is the chief architect of the president's re-election campaign.

She polls, she counsels, she triangulates, she fights off jealous White House staffers and emerges on the cover of Time magazine as the one who really whispers in the presidential ear.

Then, during the party's national convention, it is revealed that she had a sordid affair with a $200-an-hour male prostitute and shared classified information with him. It also turns out that, with yet another man, she had a love child who lives with the father far from her East Coast home.

(She sends generous monthly payments from the high sums she receives for her campaign work.)

Think the networks would invite her to opine about morality in politics? You don't have to think long.

Ms. Consultant would only be interviewed for "Can this marriage be saved?" or featured as a shameless bimbo on Entertainment Tonight.

So why is Dick Morris ubiquitous on the political talk-show circuit? And why does he think he has a shot at having a national radio and TV talk show of his own?

Surely the networks don't expect him to teach us about morality, or repentance.

Ask Morris about the rule that prohibits soliciting campaign money in government buildings, and he'll tell you that everybody does it and that Bill Clinton had to win the election for the good of the country. Ask Morris about Vice President Al Gore's overzealous fund-raising, from the Buddhist temple to the White House, and he'll say Gore deserves the Medal of Honor.

Maybe it's a male thing. Maybe the men who run the TV and radio networks and stations want to see Morris rehabilitated because they are thinking, "There but for the grace of God go I." They too might fall one day into the endless pit of hubris.

What Morris offers is reassurance that future or past sins can be cleansed merely by booking oneself into a respectable public confessional and being asked how to run the universe.

At least the men associated with Morris' media appearances have self-interest at stake. But the women who book him for shows _ and there are more women than men among that lower but crucial caste in the media business _ should be ashamed. Bookers are the ones who contact potential radio and TV guests and make the arrangements to get them on the show.

Female bookers should know that they, as women, are the purveyors of morality for the next generation. (I know that is true because I learned it from my male teachers and from books I read as a child.)

And what is the morality that Morris conveys? The ends justify the means.

Women have nothing to gain by a feckless husband recirculated as a respectable talk-show host. The message Morris sends to husbands everywhere is "Sin, and ye shall be rewarded with lucrative media deals."

Women have nothing to gain by a Morris rehabilitation because no woman would be so rehabilitated.

Women bookers of the media, unite. Find your principles and flex your power. Refuse to book him. Say you tried to reach Morris but he was out every afternoon you called. Withhold booking, a la Lysistrata, until all your male bosses, talk-show hosts and media moguls agree: No more Morris.

As the Queen would say, "Off with his talking head."

Victoria Toensing, a lawyer, was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration.

New York Times News Service