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Jewish World Review Sept. 1, 2004 / 15 Elul 5764

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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From Rudy to Ah-nold | NEW YORK — Some have criticized former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for invoking the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Republican National Convention in New York. But the disagreement over how to confront terror and chaos abroad is the heart of this election.

As Giuliani noted, before Bush, the world community let terrorism pay. Or, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the crowd Tuesday, you're a Republican if you have more trust in foreign policy directed by the United States. You're not a Republican if you put more trust in the United Nations.

The motif for Monday night was "courage" — and it was the "best opening night" of a GOP convention Nixon alumnus Martin Anderson ever saw. There is, of course, a danger of overdoing the "courage" issue — as the Democrats' national convention in Boston proved. So the theme for Tuesday was "compassion."

Call it the "Lover, Not a Fighter Night," starring California's governor and first lady Laura Bush. You could feel the love — of Schwarzenegger for Schwarzenegger. He mentioned Bush so little that if you made a drinking game out of how many times Schwarzenegger mentioned Bush — one swig per mention — you'd end the night sober.

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"Disingenuous filmmaker" Michael Moore was the skunk at the party Monday night. He entered the press gallery at the Madison Square Garden convention floor as a temporary columnist for USA Today. Journalists gawked. Delegates frowned. A man in a cowboy hat heckled, "Hey, Michael Moore, come down here."

Later, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Moore "a disingenuous filmmaker who believes that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace," he was unaware that Moore was in the room. Moore responded to the senator's mention with G-rated hand gestures. After his speech, McCain told me, "I hope it didn't distract from my message. We (Democrats and Republicans) have got to stop treating each other as enemies."

Actually, Sen. McCain, Moore illustrated your message.

Does Moore help or hurt the GOP? I asked convention spokesman Mark Pfeifle. His answer: "I think the crowd's reaction said a lot."

It made me think: Remember when Democrats dismissed criticism of President Clinton simply because the critics were "haters"?


RNC Chairman Marc Racicot says no. No surprise there.

MSNBC pollster Frank Luntz, however, expects the ticket to enjoy a 5-point bounce in the polls. He explained: "Bush is not sympathetic. But the upside is that he is consistent and people trust him."

I asked attorney Ben Ginsburg, who stopped acting as an attorney for the Bushies because he also had advised the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, what the best outcome from this episode is. He noted that a "surprisingly large and gratifying" number of reporters have told him he got a "raw deal." They see a double standard in journalism that reports his associations but not those of anti-Bush groups aligned with Camp Kerry and the Democrats.

So the cycle of dirty politics — now dirtier because the people who are slinging mud aren't running for office and have little to lose — accelerates.

Oh, joy. What was it that McCain said about Americans with different opinions not being the enemy?

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate