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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2001/ 21 Teves, 5761


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It's almost over -- THAT MR. CLINTON, he been a berry, berry bad boy. Taking a taxpayer-funded "victory lap" around the country last week, the President delighted Democratic crowds by taking potshots at his successor, breaking with the tradition that an outgoing chief executive mind his manners, no matter how divisive the election had been.

At a hotel gathering in Chicago on Jan. 9, Clinton praised Al Gore's shady campaign chairman, Bill Daley, with the following remarks: "I think [Daley] did a brilliant job in leading Vice President Gore to victory. By the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida." And, in a continuing, but ultimately futile, attempt to burnish his own legacy, Clinton added, "I'm telling you, there's still a lot of big challenges out there. But I'm leaving this country in good shape."

Ho-ho. But I did like the phrasing of the Bush barb. In fact, Clinton was inadvertently admitting that Daley and his thieves-for-hire were still voting after the polls had closed in Florida. They called it, in the laborious hand recounts, deciphering the "intent" of citizens who cast ballots on Nov. 7.

The day after, at a fundraiser for Montana's Sen. Max Baucus, Clinton congratulated Democrat Maria Cantwell on her victory over incumbent Slade Gorton. Again, he chuckled: "They have this unusual system in Washington State-they actually count all the votes."

Two weeks ago, at the funeral of Terry McAuliffe's father in Syracuse, Clinton shamelessly promoted his own agenda in a eulogy for the 83-year-old man. He said: "I like the fact that he didn't lose his spirit when it didn't all work the way he thought it should. I mean, he thought Notre Dame should never lose, and he had what in this year turned out to be a bizarre idea: he thought all votes should actually be counted."

By the end of last week, the Man From Hope felt the need to back off, telling reporters at a White House press conference that he was just joshing around. "It's not the first time or probably the last time the Supreme Court will make a decision with which I do not agree, but I did not call into question [Bush's] legitimacy. I intended to have no impact on that... I was having a good old-fashioned little bit of fun with Bill Daley and his brother and his friends and my friends in Chicago."

The night before, on Air Force One, "waving an unlit cigar," he assured a Reuters reporter: "I wasn't trying to be sarcastic or hateful or even make any kind of deliberate point."

JWR pundit George Will is no ally of the country's 42nd president, but the closing line of his Jan. 11 column is an unassailable appraisal of Clinton's eight-year administration, one that the old Joe Lieberman would probably agree with. Will wrote: "Clinton is not the worst president the republic has had, but he is the worst person ever to have been president."

Will's colleague, the centrist David Broder, was only slightly less forgiving last Sunday, when he wrote in the Post: "Between the fumbles of the first two years and the frantic evasions of the last three, we got less than half of what we deserved from Clinton. It was a waste."

On the same day, as a long New York Times editorial issued yet another apologia for the disgraced Clinton-citing, in nauseating paeans, his tireless efforts to secure peace in the Mideast, as well as the screwball notion that, with discipline, he might "enrich the world" as an ex-president-the more realistic Post begged to differ. "Views of the Clinton presidency, as of every presidency, will change. But it seems to us that this was a president whose character betrayed his skills, and in the process betrayed his party and his politics as well."

It's no wonder that The Washington Post has replaced the Times, one of the election's biggest losers, as the liberal newspaper of record.

SPARE CHANGE? Here's a challenge for readers of this column: I'll offer $250 to the person who can best decipher the following excerpt from Hendrik Hertzberg's "Comment" in the Jan. 15 New Yorker. The rules are simple: in a minimum of 200 words, please tell me what the heck the weekly's glue-farm candidate is trying to say. Send entries to by Jan. 20. The winner will be announced in this space next week.

Here's the brainteaser: "Yet as recently as last week some newspapers were still referring to the election of 2000 as the closest in American history. It wasn't. It wasn't even the closest since Gore and George W. Bush were in junior high school; it was the third-closest. Gore's plurality is nearly five times the size of John F. Kennedy's over Richard Nixon, in 1960, and thirty thousand votes bigger than Nixon's over Hubert Humphrey, in 1968. The margin in those two races is routinely described as razor-thin. This time, the margin is razor-thin, too, but it's a strange sort of razor: a negative razor, a Rogaine razor, a razor that would grow whiskers on Occam himself-a razor whose edge, like some post-Newtonian astronomical singularity, is so exotically thin that it pops through a wormhole into an alternate universe where the dull outcuts the keen."

Get to work.

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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© 2000, Russ Smith