Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2005/ 16 Adar I 5765


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One Toe Over the Line: Former Bush Buddy Goes South; The Nation Whiffs | It wasn't the Pentagon Papers, but give The New York Times and reporter David D. Kirkpatrick credit for bamboozling sad-sack author Doug Wead (The Raising of a President) into playing tapes he secretly recorded with then-Texas governor George W. Bush before his 2000 presidential election. Kirkpatrick's Feb. 20 front-pager didn't offer much juicy material, although the inference that Bush "tried" marijuana has a lot of liberals clucking, but some of the anecdotes are noteworthy in historical footnote sort of way.

Steve Forbes won't be too happy, one imagines, with Bush's supposedly private conversations with Wead, an adviser to the President's father. Calling Forbes "too preppy" and "mean spirited" to win over Evangelical voters, Bush said, in reference to the GOP primaries five years ago, "Steve Forbes is going to hear this message from me. I will do nothing for him if he does to me what he did to Dole [in 1996]. Period. There is going to be a consequence. He is not dealing with the average, you, 'Oh gosh, let's all get together after it's over.' I will promise you, I will not help him. I don't care. And he further boasted, "[Forbes] can forget Texas. And he can forget Florida [where his brother was governor]. And I will sit on my hands."

Bush is resolute and holds a grudge, but he's no political dummy. Had Forbes won his 300-1 shot in 2000, Bush would not only have delivered Texas, but might've wound up as the publisher's running mate, figuring (like John Edwards did with John Kerry) that a respectable showing would make him the front-runner for 2004.

Bush also takes shots at Dan Quayle ("He's gone ugly on me, man"), Al Gore ("pathologically a liar") and like most everyone in the political world, prematurely dismissed John McCain's appeal to independent voters (and the media).

Still, Kirkpatrick admits: "The private Mr. Bush sounds remarkably similar in many ways to the public President Bush. Many of his taped comments foreshadow aspects of his presidency, including his opposition to both anti-gay language and recognizing same-sex marriage, his skepticism about the United Nations, his sense of moral purpose and his focus on cultivating Christian voters."

That's what you call a smoking water pistol.

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The Nation Whiffs

The Village Voice's Jarrett Murphy wrote an interesting online "Press Clips Extra" item on Feb. 17, detailing the rejection by Fox News Channel of an advertisement for The Nation. The left-wing weekly, which has seen its circulation rise dramatically during the Bush presidency—much as The American Spectator's did when Bill Clinton was in office—is showing the sense of humor missing from its editorial content by spending capital on a limited television buy.

While Fox rejected the spot, Bravo, CNN, MSNBC and TBS/TNT accepted the dough, not objecting to this promotion: "[The Nation] peels away layers of obfuscation. Shreds lies. Slices through White House fog. And you can try it for four weeks absolutely free. It's The Nation— America's hottest, most widely read journal of opinion. Nobody owns The Nation— not Time Warner, not Murdoch. So there's no corporate slant, no White House spin, just the straight dope."

Fox, which advertised in The Nation last year, causing serious tsouris among many of the magazine's readers, didn't return Murphy's phone call about the matter, but a spokeswoman told that "We reject ads all the time for different reasons."

It's a little hard to believe that the business department of Fox nixes spots "all the time," but in any case it's their prerogative. TBS/TNT accepted the ad only after the reference to Time Warner and Rupert Murdoch was excised.

Anyway, this minor advertising controversy wouldn't have caught my attention had it not been for a somewhat similar incident back in the mid-90s before the Voice switched to free circulation. New York Press attempted to buy a full-page ad in the Voice, willing to pay its highest rate, promoting the annual "Best of Manhattan" issue. After some hemming and hawing, our publisher at the time was told that then-owner Leonard Stern's management team, had rejected the ad. Which, frankly, was what I expected; nevertheless it's kind of funny to see Murphy on his high horse about the evil Murdoch empire when in fact this is the sort of business that goes on all the time.

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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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© 2005, Russ Smith