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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2001/ 21 Shevat, 5761


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Splish, splash: Everyone
needs a bath -- WHEN The New York Times doles out guarded praise for President Bush, editorializing that his White House is displaying "a mature insistence on order" and that, unlike Mr. I'll-Take-Manhattan-for-a-Ride, Bush "takes the presidency seriously," there's not much I can add. Why spoil the party? The Times' Feb. 11 editorial, "Between Two Eras," was remarkable for its condemnation of Bill Clinton, leaving the obvious question of why the paper's editors were dead-drunk asleep these past eight years.

The edit continued: "All that said, we think Mr. Bush's desire to simply close the door on the last days of Clintonism may not be possible. We sense a national need to come to grips with the wreckage, both civic and legal, left by former President Clinton. It may not be enough simply to observe that the pardon of Marc Rich is an act so baffling that virtually no responsible member of Mr. Clinton's own party will defend it. As Republican Representative Dan Burton, a man for whom this page has had scant praise, said in Thursday's pardon hearings, 'We think the American people would like to know how it happened.'"

Had the Times called for Clinton's resignation in the fall of 1998, after he admitted to perjury, it's certain Al Gore would be in the Oval Office today. Think about that. No pardons; no pilfering the White House's furnishings; no Florida recount; no cavalier bombing of Iraq to change the news cycle; no President Bush; and no John Ashcroft. Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. must chew his kidneys wondering why the political world turned upside down and just how he and his wealthy class warriors at the paper contributed to a most disconcerting (in their view) GOP victory.

Bush has created his own "honeymoon," and for every Barney Frank, who all but says the new President is a moron, there are moderate Democrats who are at least willing to give the current administration a chance.

And why wouldn't they? The Democrats are splintered: the left-wing fringe is still deciphering disfigured ballots in Florida; Minority Leader Tom Daschle is making a fool of himself by holding up mufflers at press conferences; the Democratic National Committee installed soft-money king Terry McAuliffe as its chairman, giving him a soapbox from which to sputter about police roadblocks and slander Jeb Bush and James Baker; Al Gore gives an "off-the-record" lecture at Columbia Journalism School; and Maxine Waters and fellow simpletons refuse to wish a happy 90th birthday to Ronald Reagan, an American icon who's in failing health.

New Jersey's Robert Torricelli is looking at a nasty campaign finance violation that could conceivably cost the Democrats a Senate seat (which would neutralize the effects of South Carolina's Strom Thurmond possibly not making it till 2002); Michigan's Rep. David Bonior, a straight-to-hell demagogue, is considering leaving the House to run for governor; and Sen. Hillary Clinton can't even hold a press conference without facing questions about her sundry misdeeds. To top it off, Sen. Arlen Specter is contemplating impeaching Clinton again!

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley Chairman Philip J. Purcell issued an apology to the company's clients for hiring Clinton to give a $100,000 speech in Boca Raton on Feb. 5. Purcell's e-mail read, in part: "We clearly made a mistake... We should have been far more sensitive to the strong feelings of our clients over Mr. Clinton's personal behavior as president... [It] was particularly unfortunate in light of Mr. Clinton's actions in leaving the White House."

Sure, John McCain is acting like Teddy Kennedy, still trying to even a score with Bush, but with McAuliffe in charge of the DNC, and openly embraced by Dick Gephardt, it's easy to imagine that Wisconsin's Russ Feingold isn't getting much sleep these days. The delusional McCain (who may be seriously ill) is intent on legacy-building, but you can see a big fat veto by Bush on campaign finance reform from the World Trade Center to the Hay-Adams Hotel.

My biggest beef with GWB so far is that he hasn't adjusted his campaign pledge on tax cuts to reflect the current economic climate. This back-loading is for the birds: the tax cut, contrary to the public's perception, is quite modest. Marginal rates ought to be dropped immediately, rather than phased in; capital gains taxes should be slashed; the alternative minimum tax needs to be eliminated; and the estate tax's repeal cannot be brokered away. The President has a short window during which to use this unprecedented political topsy-turvy to get more aggressive and return more money to taxpayers. When a Democratic dog is down, kick it and then kick it again.

It's inevitable that a foreign or domestic policy crisis will crop up, which may or may not leave Bush with the same strength with which to ram through this legislation. In addition, once the Beltway media stops fixating on Clinton and the Florida vote from last November, the President can expect a daily avalanche of mean-spirited criticism.

It's time for Tucker Carlson to cut his losses.

An excellent political reporter-although his pieces at The Weekly Standard are more and more infrequent-Carlson a few years ago made a splash on the talk show circuit, eventually inking a deal at CNN. It made sense: he's young, photogenic, quick-witted and conservative-a rarity at that, today, beleaguered station. He nabbed George W. Bush in a now-legendary '99 piece for Talk, in which the candidate, not yet prepped for the national media, was a little too forthcoming. He auditioned for the "from the right" slot on CNN's Crossfire, and was a brilliant inquisitor, but was inexplicably passed over for the drab Mary Matalin. Carlson now, in addition to squaring off with Time's ultralib Margaret Carlson (no relation) on Inside Politics, is marooned on CNN's late-night Spin Room with Bill Press, a show that's the butt of insider-tv jokes.

Last week, in Newsweek, Carlson gave Evan Thomas, who was profiling Fox News' rising star Bill O'Reilly, what I think was an ill-considered comment. He said: "Only masochists would go on his show-or watch it. I hate to say it because it sounds snobby, but I don't know anyone who's read his book."

It was "snobby," and played right into the self-consciously working-class O'Reilly's hands. After all, the book has sold about a million copies, and his Fox talk show is swamping competitors in the ratings. O'Reilly's bestseller, The O'Reilly Factor, isn't highbrow stuff-he's not a natural writer and it's sort of a collection of his rants, not dissimilar to Howard Stern's two monstrously successful efforts in publishing. But O'Reilly, reliably annoying, can be a dogged host, and is currently performing a valuable public service in relentlessly investigating Jesse Jackson's shady financial accounting with his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition shell organization. On Feb. 2, O'Reilly pummeled a former IRS commissioner, Sheldon Cohen, about why Jackson's empire hasn't been audited in 12 years.

Cohen, who feebly claimed the IRS isn't properly funded, and doesn't have the manpower to conduct the audits it should-a very shaky premise given Jackson's prominence-was no match for O'Reilly. It was a slam dunk for the egotistical host: with Bill Clinton in office, it's no wonder the IRS didn't go after Jackson, who famously consoled and prayed with the ex-president in his years of need.

O'Reilly concluded his short interview with Cohen by saying, "Mr. Cohen, this is why the bandits are getting away with it. They know you guys don't care. They know that you're not going to do anything about it." After Cohen replied, "Believe me, the people at the IRS care," O'Reilly dropped the A-bomb. He said: "I don't believe you for a second, Mr. Cohen, and I don't think anybody watching this broadcast or our investigation for the last year believes you either. But we appreciate your time. And you may be right. I may be way out of line. But I think this is a disgrace, and I think the IRS is a disgrace."

That's not only good television, but it's also newsworthy. Jackson has been given a free ride for years because corporations and politicians don't dare incur his wrath, fearful that the word "Selma" will be attached to them. Now that Jackson's essentially through as a public figure-his finances are under scrutiny by several news organizations, notably the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Post, in addition to O'Reilly-he'll have to slink back to Chicago and keep hope alive that he's not prosecuted.

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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