Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2002/ 19 Teves 5762


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Round One begins -- BEST wishes for 2002, one and all-including the left-wing opportunists like Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild who claim a new strain of McCarthyism has scuttled the First Amendment-and I'll offer just two predictions before getting down to work.

The November midterm elections, which will hinge on the economy and continuing war, are likely to produce little change, contrary to historical results in a president's first term. Both the Senate and House are up for grabs: my bet is the Democrats pick up a seat in the former (although Paul Wellstone is chucked out of office) and the GOP slightly expands its majority in the latter. If that comes to pass, one can only hope that Dick Gephardt, his dream of ascending to speaker of the House evaporated, will challenge President Bush in 2004. That would be even better than John Kerry. Bush will have to abandon his nonpartisan throne in the coming year and use his current popularity to stump for Republican candidates.

The Boston Red Sox, under new ownership, will at least clinch a playoff berth, with Manny Ramirez busting out with a MVP-season and Johnny Damon stealing 50 bases. The Yanks, despite pitching woes, can be counted upon to win the World Series.


Like most sane New Yorkers, I didn't get near Times Square on New Year's Eve. Instead, while Mrs. M and MUGGER III were sound asleep by 9 p.m., I spent an insufferable two hours watching MTV's insipid ball-dropping celebration with Junior. He insisted we both wear corny hats, eat lots of junk food and switch to South Park reruns during commercials; so his enthusiasm was contagious. My son was excited when Sum 41 played three songs. I tried to explain that the popular Canadian band is a so-so knock-off of Green Day, the Clash and the Who, but he wasn't interested in the musical musings of a 46-year-old who was dozing off in the easy chair.

The next day I viewed The Falcon and the Snowman, that fine 1985 film that should've been a superstar-launch for Timothy Hutton, who instead, for whatever reasons, frittered away his career. Sean Penn, playing a sniveling druggie opposite Hutton's intelligent-if-confused protagonist, was excellent, although proving as a young man that he's as repugnant onscreen as in real life. More than two decades later, Penn's boorish public declarations continue. As Mitchell Fink reported in the Jan. 2 Daily News, the nutso actor spews a load of crap in the upcoming Talk.

Penn says: "I think that people like the Howard Sterns, the Bill O'Reillys and to a lesser degree the Bin Ladens of the world are making a horrible contribution... I'd like to trade O'Reilly for Bin Laden... This is not a man sitting on the toilet with a smile on his face. He's a grumpy, self-loathing joke. There's a long history of people capitalizing on the lowest common denominator of people's impulses, Adolf Hitler being one of them... These guys-Joe McCarthy, Bill O'Reilly-die like everyone else. And when they do, their legacy is one of damaging the spirit of good things, and they become rather broken, pathetic figures. And that is going to happen to [O'Reilly]."

I happen to believe Fox's O'Reilly has become too big for his britches-and his self-portrayal as a "common man" doesn't compute anymore, not with a well-earned enormous salary and astonishing tv ratings-but the newsman/pundit has done more for the American public than Penn ever will. O'Reilly's relentless pursuit of the Sept. 11 charities that have delayed payments to the families of victims is heroic, even though the mainstream press doesn't dare give him credit. Likewise, his ongoing investigation of Jesse Jackson's financial scams is a noble service; another topic that the elite media won't touch for fear of the pitiful preacher's reprisals.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith