Jewish World Review March 27, 2002/ 14 Nisan 5762


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Consumer Reports

Joe Klein is simply loco | I'm posted right now in Guadalajara, and just finished Joe Klein's let's-make-up-and-smooch valentine to Bill Clinton, The Natural, a mercifully brief glop of revisionism about the former president's deceitful eight years in office. I wonder why New Yorker editor David Remnick, a brilliant journalist, hasn't done an R.W. Apple on Klein and assigned him to the wine & dine beat. You remember the vitriol Hunter Thompson spewed at length about Hubert Humphrey in his book Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 about that year's presidential campaign? Klein's 10 times the hack the unfortunate HHH was: in a perverse way, Klein is still apologizing to Clinton and his peers for the public relations bungling over his authorship of the entertaining novel Primary Colors.

Klein, who took the wrong fork in the road by anointing Clinton as the inevitable '92 Democratic nominee in a New York cover article, concedes the most flagrant calamities of his on-again, off-again friend's tenure-such as the Marc Rich pardon, lax attention to terrorism, Monica Lewinsky and his abhorrent narcissism-but The Natural is largely a defense of the 20th century's worst president. He dismisses Newt Gingrich as a passing player, ignoring that the self-destructive speaker was the architect for the first Republican Congress in 40 years, an enormous accomplishment that forced Clinton to enact welfare reform, among other center-right initiatives. He demeans President Bush as a "former cheerleader," a man "with a public presence that was uncertain at best, before the terrorists struck, and only intermittently better afterward."

But my favorite Klein fantasy is the following: "Clinton's ability to understand the changing economy, and to describe the impact of that change for average Americans, remained one reason why the public continued to trust him even after he had demonstrated his personal untrustworthiness." Talk about lifting lines from the robotic Paul Begala.

Clinton did preside over an economic bonanza, fueled in large part by the tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists willing to take chances. And how did the president respond to that monetary boom on his watch? His duplicitous Justice Dept. sued Bill Gates' Microsoft, attempting to break up the company.


Meanwhile, living in the present, David Gelernter, in JWR, offered the most succinct appraisal of the horrific Mideast gang-up on Israel that I've read all year. As I wrote last week, Dick Cheney's trip to Arab nations, a cosmetic attempt to schmooze a possible "coalition," was doomed to failure, as the violence continued even when supposed "cease-fire" talks were scheduled to occur. It was a waste of time-and you know Anthony Zinni feels like a yoyo at this point-because nothing positive can happen while Arafat not only remains alive but also receives lukewarm acknowledgment as a sane leader by the Bush administration.

Gelernter wrote: "Everything has changed, including (for many of us) our ideas about Islam... We now learn that suicide bombers are told to expect a heaven full of comely virgins as their next assignment. To the suicide-murderers, those waiting virgins are as real as dirt. 'Pardon me, sir or madam, do you know why I plan to murder your child? Because the authorities are offering me great sex-and, after all, I don't get many opportunities.'

"People who think this way are shielded from view, up to a point, by their own sheer evil. They are painful to contemplate. We instinctively look away, as we do whenever we are confronted with monstrous deformity. Nothing is harder or more frightening to look at than a fellow human being who is bent out of shape... How can Muslims of good faith allow such people to call themselves Muslim? But they do allow it. What does that mean? And is it possible that we have located here, in this inspiring version of heaven as a whorehouse, the most loathsome idea in the history of human thought? This is the civilization that condemns 'licentious' America?"

When the elite press gathers in a couple weeks to hand out devalued Pulitzer Prizes to their tennis pals-with the requisite sop to some 30,000-circulation daily west of Pennsylvania-the name David Gelernter won't even be mentioned, despite the fact that he's among the most articulate commentators in journalism today. I don't guess he'll lose much sleep over it. But it's a shame that a wishy-washy columnist/diplomat like the Times' Thomas Friedman is lavished with undeserved accolades while Gelernter and any number of less famous writers are doing the heavy lifting on the subject of 21st-century terrorism.


On paper, the Yanks ought to win 110 games; however, I suspect that Roger Clemens' hamstring problems, contagious this year at the team's Spring Training camp, don't augur well for the club that for two weird weeks last fall was "America's Team." The pick-up of Jason Giambi is a huge boost to their offense, and was the splashy move that George Steinbrenner felt he had to make after losing the Series to the Diamondbacks (you'd have thought from his bluster that the Bombers finished with a record similar to the hapless Orioles'), but I don't think that free-agent signing makes up for an aging pitching staff, decreased speed and only adequate defense.

Giambi alone, who makes long-forgotten Dick Stuart look like a Gold-Glover at first base, will cost the spectacular Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano 10 errors apiece. And even though Giambi, a lefty playing with that short rightfield fence at Yankee Stadium, is a cinch to smack 50 homers, his predecessor, the shabbily treated Tino Martinez, hit 34 last year, was better on the basepaths and a superior fielder. Plus, you just sense the weird juju of the Yanks this year: Jeter's stolen glove; the precarious health of Andy Pettitte and Ramiro Mendoza; the incomparable closer Mariano Rivera blaming Scott Brosius for the team's seventh-game loss in the Series; and the near-impossibility of Clemens repeating his Cy Young performance of last year.

Enough Yankee-bashing for now. My predictions for the 2002 season: In the American League, the Bosox, White Sox and Mariners win the division titles, with the Yanks taking the Wildcard. In the National League, I see the Mets, Cards and Giants coming out on top, and the Braves as the Wildcard. And then it's the Red Sox over the Cards in the Series.

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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