Jewish World Review March 4, 2002/ 20 Adar 5762


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Loose lips -- JIMMY CARTER, contrary to his reputation as America's model ex-president, is one bitter bastard. Instead of meddling into foreign policy debates-Carter was an unnecessary distraction to Bill Clinton-the ex-peanut farmer would serve the country better by building houses and writing lousy poetry.

On Feb. 21, at Emory University, the big-mouth Georgian was at it again, calling Bush's "Axis of Evil" doctrine "overly simplistic and counterproductive." Carter, whose own forays overseas resulted in one brief moment of Mideast glory, an amateur's reaction to Iran's revolution, and the creation of ABC's Nightline, isn't exactly an expert in that arena. In fact, his further statement that "I think it will take years before we can repair the damage done by that statement," is clear evidence that Bush was correct to issue a stark warning to countries that are developing the means to destroy modern civilization.

North Korea's brutal dictatorship gets the message: during Bush's Asian trip last week, a flack from that country said, in addition to calling the President "a politically backward child": "We are not willing to have contact with his clan, which is trying to change by force of arms the system chosen by the Korean people." Translated: Bush's resolve against countries with nuclear capabilities really, really sucks.

Carter wasn't the only sad-sack seeking media attention last week. Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor whose increasingly dotty rhetoric will, one hopes, doom his son Andrew's chances to defeat Gov. Pataki, spoke before a Boca Raton audience on Feb. 21, and after paying lip-service to supporting the war, lobbed grenades at Bush. According to Sun-Sentinel reporter Jonathan Baum, "Instead of just military action, Cuomo said the United States needs to try to understand terrorist motivations, and eliminate them where possible. He said America needs to become more socially responsible worldwide-helping Argentina cope with its economic disaster, for example."

It's clear Cuomo is living in another political era. He also said, "Sept. 11 united us just like World War II united us. It's good to be united during a crisis, but the true character of a nation is tested during the lapses between crises. Why don't we declare war on education, or do something about the 40 million people who don't have health insurance?"

What the 69-year-old lawyer is thinking is anybody's guess. Does he really believe there's currently a lapse between crises?

And, as always, there's Bill Clinton, the "cash and carry" ex-president who's making worldwide speeches that have the effect of undermining the Bush administration's wartime policies. At a "peace conference" in Sydney last week, Clinton delivered remarks (for a reported $300,000) that amounted to little more than taking jabs at his successor and fattening his wallet.

According to local media reports, Clinton said: "This is a brief moment in history when the United States has pre-eminent military, economic and political power-it won't last forever. The Chinese economy is growing, the Indian economy is growing and the European economy is growing together. It seems to me if we would think about it like that [when the U.S. is no longer the world's lone superpower], it would be much more likely to lead all Americans, without regard of their party, to making the right decisions about how we should approach a lot of the problems that we face. We should be humble about this; this is a fleeting moment in history."


Incredibly, con-man Bill Clinton still has supporters in the U.S. media. On Feb. 13, Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh, normally fairly sensible, came up with a whopper of a proposal. Lehigh, plunging dangerously into Sidney Blumenthal territory, suggested that Bush appoint Clinton as a Middle East negotiator. According to Lehigh: "First, there could be no higher-level envoy save President Bush himself, and as he leads the campaign against terror, the president clearly doesn't have the time to become intricately involved. Clinton does. Placing him in that position-and putting foreign policy above domestic politics-would be a signal to the world about just how committed the United States is to brokering peace in the Middle East. Second, in the last year of his administration, Clinton came tantalizingly close to getting an agreement. 'Bill Clinton is a master negotiator, and those skills were evident not only in the Middle East negotiations but in Northern Ireland,' says US Representative Martin Meehan."

Sure, let's send Clinton-who hosted Arafat at the White House more than any other foreign leader-to the Mideast to sort things out. Why not make things more confusing?


Time to check in with Newsweek's Anna Quindlen. Her Feb. 18 column, which was a feeble attempt to defend media colleagues, was a reminder of how pleasant it is with this woman no longer commanding space on the New York Times' op-ed page. (Not that her successors deviate from Quindlen's sanctimonious lectures. The creepy Frank Rich's Feb. 24 Times Magazine piece on the confused-and-proud-of-it David Brock is a monument to the paper's intellectual disarray.) She writes: "Only people with the world's most free and open press and greatest cornucopia of media outlets in the history of the planet could feel so comfortable trashing the entire enterprise... Misled by Katie Couric's $65 million contract and the opportunities for Vanity Fair correspondents to hang with Tom Cruise, readers and viewers probably don't realize that the median salary of a reporter in this country is around $30,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporters and editors in both print and broadcast news are paid on a par with nurses, teachers and firefighters."

I'm not sure if Quindlen consciously meant to denigrate "nurses, teachers and firefighters," but she conveniently omits the fact that most of those $30,000 reporters and editors-who weren't forced into the profession-probably aspire to the six-figure annual fee Quindlen receives for writing a column every other week.

It must gall small-town journalists, who aren't as well-connected as Quindlen, to read her work. Her smug, quasi-feminist-with-a-yuppie-twist essays are cookie-cutter diatribes against anything that doesn't conform with her East Coast liberal nostrums. How difficult, for example, would it be for anyone with a high school education to duplicate Quindlen's March 4 kneejerk reaction to Bush's State of the Union speech?

This excerpt is priceless: "If, as another bit of presidential phrasemaking has it, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, America is in deep trouble. The American people are afraid. They are afraid of additional acts of terrorism, of always looking over their shoulder on planes and in skyscrapers. They are afraid that huge corporate entities that once promised secure employment and investments are hollow at the core. And they are afraid their children face a future far less certain and far more terrifying than the past. That is the crisis that grips the country. Attempting to answer it by using saber-rattling to attack an amorphous axis of enemies is a great failure of leadership. Much greater than not knowing to how to scan a box of cereal in the supermarket."

What does Quindlen advise President Bush to do? She doesn't say, although I'm sure it would include meaningful discussions with terrorists to find out why they hate the United States so fervently. As for "those huge corporate entities" who trample on the "real people" (unlike Quindlen), for every Enron or Global Crossing there are thousands of companies that don't cook books or offer special investment deals to Terry McAuliffe. But that fact of life somehow escaped Quindlen's limited repertoire of socially conscious topics.

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