Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2002/ 8 Adar 5762


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Consumer Reports

Veto with a rusty knife -- UNLESS Sen. Mitch McConnell is successful in knotting up the disastrous Shays-Meehan campaign finance "reform" bill the House passed last week, President Bush has no choice but to veto the sham legislation. The reasons are numerous: the assault on the First Amendment (banning advertisements by independent groups‹both left -- and right-wing -- 30 days before a primary and 60 days prior to a general election); the unconscionable increase of media influence (there's a reason why George Will, in his Feb. 25 Newsweek column, called this travesty the "Shays-Meehan-Times-Post-Couric bill") in the absence of say, NARAL or NRA ads; the lack of "paycheck protection," which means that union members can have their dues docked to support candidates they may or may not support; and the "millionaire's" proviso, in which a candidate who's opposed by a person as wealthy as Jon Corzine is allowed to raise more cash than other aspirants.

Never mind that the public doesn't, in general, give a hoot about money in politics: most citizens are so inured to the cynicism, hypocrisy and corruption that defines Washington, DC, that they've long tuned out legislation that's a favorite of affluent reporters and incumbent office-holders.

The Beltway's "conventional wisdom" says that Bush will sign this bill if it's hoisted out of the U.S. Senate. The Permanent Government advocates (i.e., all of Congress and the elite media) predict that the President will want to jump on the bandwagon of "reform" and get John McCain out of his hair. They also note that the GOP historically is more adept at collecting "hard money" than the Democrats are, a reality that will result in a record-breaking reelection kitty for Bush in 2004. Also, parts of the legislation will be delayed by court battles, in particular over the abridgment of free speech.

Nonetheless, it's this President's duty to veto the bill on purely ethical grounds. Here's the smart move for Bush: demand that "paycheck protection" be eliminated, and then flummox the zealots by saying he'll only sign the bill if it takes effect immediately. Largely overlooked in all the self-congratulatory editorials in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post is the outrageous provision that campaign finance "reform" won't become law until after this November's midterm elections, giving both parties (but especially Terry McAuliffe's Democrats) plenty of time to line their pockets with "soft" money. This strategy would cause explosions on Capitol Hill and also immediately flip over to Bush the high ground on the bogus issue of money in politics.


I haven't the stomach to cite more than one pundit's take on last week's Black Thursday, so The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, a hack of the first order, will have to do. On Feb. 15 he wrote, in a column laughably called "A Reforming Tide": "This week's achievement was, well, Olympian. The mild, quietly confident [Chris] Shays and the peppery, fast-talking [Marty] Meehan did what almost never happens in the House of Representatives. They took on the entire Republican leadership‹which usually commands the results it wants‹and won. Democrats, who were said to be straying from reform at the very moment when it might finally triumph, were cajoled into line by Richard Gephardt. For this moment, their leader transformed himself from a political mechanic into an apostle for a cause."

That's fairly noxious commentary: I'd advise you to open a window immediately. Gephardt's an "apostle"? Please. He's a career pol who's simply trying, against all odds, to position himself against Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards (who's blowing a nascent campaign by his despicable "borking" of District Judge Charles Pickering) and Al Gore for the opportunity to challenge Bush two years from now.


One of The Boston Globe's unmistakable characteristics as a third-tier newspaper is the throwaway editorial. I'm not sure if it's Harvard or Brandeis interns who are responsible for the reflections on weather, daylight savings time, Groundhog Day, Native-American summer or traffic patterns, but it's clear these bits of nonsense are written after the "grownups" have punched the clock at 5 p.m.

Monday's stop-before-I-keypunch-again effort, headlined "Everybody's day," concerned the abominable federal boondoggle known as "Presidents' Day." The Globe doesn't particularly care that today's kids have no conception of the date when George Washington or Abraham Lincoln was actually born; it's the three-day weekend that's most important.

The editorial concludes: "Other people think of this weekend as a tribute to automobile dealers and might assume, from the advertisements, that Washington and Lincoln were in retail. These two figures are, of course, much bigger than a fuzzy holiday. Their mark on the nation is indelible and felt every day. [That's worth a snort: one look at the grandstanding jokers in Congress dispels that myth.] Another sure thing is that Presidents' Day moves us closer to spring. The days are growing lighter, the birds are crowding the feeders, and the garden is starting to become a possibility. All that, plus a day off, is worth celebrating, no matter whose birthday it is."

Who knows, maybe sometime this year a brown-nosing Globe employee will advocate a day off that commemorates the birthday of Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the weak-kneed feminist publisher of The New York Times, whose company owns New England's largest daily, not to mention a tiny share of the Boston Red Sox, a subject I'm not quite ready to comment upon.

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