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Jewish World Review April 3, 2001/ 10 Nissan, 5761


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Consumer Reports

Bush transcends the
Beltway booboisie -- LAST week wasn't George Bush's best: McCain (propped up by his disgraceful media droolers) preened in the spotlight with his scandalous and unconstitutional "reform" bill.

Liberals were frothing over the administration's rollback of Bill Clinton's last-minute arsenic-in-the-water executive order, one more land mine the former president left his successor. If Clinton was so concerned about tap water (and ergonomics, for that matter), why didn't he and Enviro Al Gore insist Congress pass such a bill several years ago? Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Bush's Cabinet lemon, doddered along, keeping his own eccentric pace, contributing zilch to his boss' tax-cut sell. Joe Lieberman and his Democratic cohorts somewhat successfully diverted attention from Bush's comprehensive tax overhaul with an absurd $300 rebate scheme.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, of all people, continued to lambaste the President with scripted rhetoric. On March 24, in Corning, NY, the novice legislator told a friendly crowd: "[Bush] is not just trying to turn back the clock on the Clinton administration; they want to turn the clock back on the Roosevelt administration." A few days later, in Washington, Clinton ranted on: "More people voted for [Al Gore's] agenda than the other agenda. I still kind of wonder what year we're living in, what decade we're living in, what century we're living in." Judging by the nonchalant greed Mrs. Clinton has brazenly demonstrated since becoming a public figure, I'd say she's emblematic of the darker side of the 1980s, a notch above Ivan Boesky. Please pardon my theft of Harold Ickes' vocabulary, but the woman is one evil demon.

Finally, with the detention (at press time) of 24 American Navy crew members in China, Bush will be forced, sooner than he'd expected, to issue a resolute rebuke to Beijing, and possibly speed the sale of arms to Taiwan. Which is the smart move anyway.

But on Friday afternoon, at a lunch with dozens of Major League Baseball legends, Bush simultaneously exhibited his political cunning and genuine humility. Surrounded by some 40 Hall of Famers, including Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Whitey Ford, Hank Aaron, Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson and Sparky Anderson, Bush announced that a portion of the south White House lawn would be devoted to T-ball games for area boys and girls. All presidents alter the White House grounds to accommodate their interests-Bush's father had a horseshoe pit; Clinton a jogging track; JFK a swimming/tryst pool; and Eisenhower a putting green-but this president is the first to make at least a symbolic gesture to the local community. He explained: "In a small way, maybe we can help to preserve the best of baseball right here in the house that Washington built."


Bush, speaking on a subject that's close to his heart, was eloquent that afternoon, just two days before the 2001 Major League season opened in Puerto Rico with a win by the Toronto Blue Jays. He said: "Everyone who loves baseball can remember the first time he saw the inside of a real major league park, with real big-league players. It stays with you forever-the greenness of the grass, the sight of major leaguers in uniform, the sound of a big-league swing meeting a big-league pitch."

Expressing the sentiments of millions of citizens, he continued by saying that baseball isn't just about money, statistics and the owner-player squabbles that dominate the sports page headlines. Cynical reporters are speculating that the National Pastime will die if, at the end of this season, there's another strike. It'll anger fans, including me-after the '94 season was aborted, I gave up my Sunday season-ticket plan at Yankee Stadium, an impulsive act I've regretted ever since-but when the furor dies down, the game's splendor will remain. This peculiarly American tradition, the opportunity to lose yourself for a couple of hours at the ballpark, trumps one more set of "labor" negotiations.

Bill Clinton faked his rock 'n' roll credentials, with all that Fleetwood Mac and Judy Collins baloney, and with his alleged familiarity with Bob Dylan's lyrics, but you knew it was a boomer scam. Clinton was about as interested in rock 'n' roll as my parents. It was all political.

George Bush won't even attempt that Summer of Love gambit-the atrocious Oak Ridge Boys are more his style-but his love for baseball is sincere. He continued last Friday: "As much as anything else, baseball is the style of a Willie Mays, or the determination of a Hank Aaron, or the endurance of a Mickey Mantle, the discipline of Carl Yastrzemski, the drive of Eddie Mathews, the reliability of a Kaline or a Morgan, the grace of a DiMaggio, the kindness of a Harmon Killibrew, and class of Stan Musial, the courage of a Jackie Robinson, or the heroism of Lou Gehrig."

A California buddy of mine, pinko through and through, e-mailed last Saturday: "Regular t-ball games on the White House lawn. Finally a Bush initiative I can get behind."

Bush is in for a rough six months. With his tax-cut proposal at the mercy of slow learners like Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee (a Republican) and with the typical blarney coming from opponents like millionaires John Kerry, John Edwards and Teddy Kennedy; an energy crisis that worsens by the week; a yo-yo ball of confusion on Wall Street; and the loud self-righteousness of environmental activists, his approval ratings will inevitably decline. Throw in three more international incidents, maybe some hoof-and-mouth hysteria or Strom Thurmond knocking off, and Bush'll have to be on his toes to prevent a premature meltdown of his administration.

I'm convinced he'll ride it out. With his T-ball shindig on Friday, Bush showed once again-despite the sniping from a snooty media-that, unlike Clinton, he's not a devious man, juggling five different strategies and poll results in his head when he makes a public speech. That's one of the qualities that got him to the White House, despite overwhelming odds. It's a quality that most Americans will come to admire.

Almost forgot: It's time for my annual prediction that the Red Sox will finally win the World Series. Everyone's counting them out, with Nomar Garciaparra injured, a shaky pitching staff and the unreasonable concern about Carl Everett's temper (a dysfunctional clubhouse didn't seem to hurt the Yanks in the late 70s; just ask Reggie Jackson). So, although I'm limiting my wagers this year to just one with one of my employees, Lisa Kearns, I'm up for a Sox-Mets Series in October, with the Bosox winning in six games.

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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© 2000, Russ Smith