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Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 2001/ 2 Shevat, 5761


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Above the fray -- IT'S TO Bush's continued advantage that Democrats are still squawking over the election results. On Jan. 21, the Times persisted in this futile tactic, allying themselves with the wealthy white management of The Nation; certifiable congressional crazies like Maxine Waters and Robert Wexler; Al Sharpton; and The New Republic's owner Marty Peretz. Elizabeth Becker wrote in her inaugural story for the Times: "By tradition, the first person George W. Bush thanked after becoming president was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the man who had just sworn him in. But barely six weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to end further counting of Florida's disputed presidential votes, the new president was also thanking the man who had effectively handed him the election."

I hope this nonsense distracts Bush's enemies for months and months to come. But it's not likely, as the new administration starts work. It wasn't reported widely in the media, but the first results of the gratuitous recounting of those ballots by news organizations-an extravagant waste of manpower and money-showed that Bush had actually gained six votes in Miami-Dade County, a Democratic stronghold where Gore's supporters suspected he'd gain substantially had the Supreme Court not correctly put an end to that farce. On Jan. 17, The Washington Post, carrying a brief Associated Press report, printed those findings, which were the result of an investigation conducted by the Palm Beach Post. In addition, on Jan. 20, the Naples Daily News, after its own review of ballots, reported that in Collier County, a Republican bastion, Bush would've gained another 226 votes.

The Democrats have a peculiar way of looking at politics. Must be that entitlement gene in their intellectually malnourished bodies, or a strain of Mad Cow disease that only affects Americans who still believe in quotas, Camelot, random redistribution of wealth and Ms.-era feminism (unless it applies to someone like Kathleen Willey or Juanita Broaddrick).

Fox News anchor Brit Hume conducted a short interview with Bush on Jan. 18, while the John Ashcroft hearings were still in session. GWB addressed the absurd idea that his administration should be a coalition of Republicans and Democrats.

Hume: "Now, there's a belief among many Democrats that your election was not legitimate, that you are a selected, not an elected president. And therefore you are not entitled to appoint nominees of such strong views as Gale Norton and John Ashcroft. How do you react to that argument?"

Bush: "Too bad. I am going to. Here's how I react to the argument. First of all, every time they recounted, I won. It's just when they started to revote that I got a little nervous. And, secondly, the reason I sit here able to talk to you as the person soon to be sworn in as the president is because of the positions I took in the campaign.

"I was running against-basically running against an incumbent-had a pretty good economy going for him, the world was kind of at peace. And I wish I could, you know, say it was my charming personality or the ability to string a couple of sentences together. The truth of the matter is, I am sitting here because I took firm positions on important issues and didn't back off. And I'm not backing off the minute I arrive in Washington."

I understand what Bush is saying: he won the election, and is entitled to govern in the same way as if he'd defeated Gore by a landslide. Think about it. The '86 World Series was a cliffhanger, but in the end the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in seven hard-fought games. When the championship rings were handed out, were they divided on a proportional basis to both teams? Of course not.

But the girls just don't understand. Consider these remarks in the current Newsweek by Jonathan Alter, currently the top contender for the coveted position of Sid Blumenthal's understudy. Alter's Jan. 29 "Between the Lines" column is ludicrous from start to finish-it suggests that the Democrats are rolling over for Ashcroft-but it's this paragraph, propaganda badly disguised as journalism, that makes me want to throw someone like Frank Rich out the window. (Although that would be a hate crime.)

Alter: "Under normal circumstances, a president is entitled to appoint almost anyone he wants, fulfilling his mandate=85The new president has no mandate-and is therefore duty-bound to avoid extremist candidates like Ashcroft... The disputed [election] results may not restrict Bush's legitimacy but they should certainly restrict his leeway, all the GOP efforts to forget November notwithstanding."

Pardon me, Jon, but Clinton had no mandate in 1992, winning just 43 percent of the vote in a three-man race. Yet look at the Cabinet the new President chose. They were all pro-choice men and women, for starters. The Cabinet included Janet Reno, who won confirmation by a 98-0 tally; Robert Reich, an honorary Socialist, who was ratified by a similarly lopsided margin; and Warren Christopher, a hack who was tapped, I believe, as a "gravitas" counterweight to the disorganized bunch of pizza-munching, rap-session kids who were rewarded with White House jobs for their work in Clinton's War Room.

It's strange how the hard right and hard left have interpreted the Ashcroft hearings. On the one hand, there's Alter, criticizing Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold for holding his fire. But on the other, conservatives at National Review and columnist Robert Novak have complained that the former Missouri Senator has softened his views on abortion. Novak even barked that Laura Bush, when interviewed by some airhead morning show host, said that Roe v. Wade shouldn't be overturned, as if she doesn't have the right to an opinion.

The conservative press ought to lighten up. Contrary to Alter's I'm-on-Mars view, Ashcroft has been the victim of a left-wing smear almost as vicious as those waged against Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork. Remember, Ashcroft's immediate goal is to become attorney general; and besides, he is required to enforce the country's current laws, regardless of his personal beliefs.

When Ronnie White, the black Missouri judge whose nomination to the federal bench was defeated by the Senate-the fight against him was led by Ashcroft-testified at the end of last week, he was used as an Amos 'n Andy stick figure by liberals eager to advance their own agendas.

Possible 2004 presidential candidates like Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and John Kerry have to prove their bona fides to the cash-rich special-interest groups that make up the Democratic Party's base; has-beens such as Teddy Kennedy like to grandstand just for the hell of it. Kennedy, who was virtually silent on the Thomas nomination in '91-understandably, given that his own sexual harassments (and worse) of women were infinitely more grotesque than the mild allegations raised by Anita Hill-probably felt he had some catching up to do.

So he made this astonishing statement, directed at Judge White, on Jan 18: "What happened to you is the ugliest thing that's happened to any nominee in all my years in the United States Senate." Even from a cue-card-reading fool like Kennedy, that's over the top, considering that his deplorable '87 depiction of Bork as a 16th-century backwoods butcher led to the latter's defeat, and thus robbed the U.S. Supreme Court of a potentially great justice.

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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