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Jewish World Review April 14, 2000/ 9 Nissan, 5760


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Lazin' on an Austin afternoon -- AS USUAL, Bush's week wasn't as noisy as Gore's, and that won't always benefit his campaign. For example, he was almost silent on one of the most significant news stories of the past decade: the Dept. of Justice's (so far) successful, and grossly unfair, jihad against Bill Gates and Microsoft. Bush, who's on the record as being opposed to excessive litigation, and if elected president would certainly short-circuit the government's wasteful prosecution-and persecution-of MSFT, opted for safety over courage in the wake of last Monday's ruling.

(Not that Gates helped himself along the way. Microsoft was far too arrogant years ago when they knew litigation was only a matter of time; instead of schmoozing legislators and lobbying the boobs in DC who make decisions, they pretended that Redmond, WA, was the capital of the country and ignored the U.S. government.)

Several conservative colleagues of mine were justifiably distressed, arguing that this was a perfect vehicle for Bush to starkly contrast his vision of government against that of Gore. And they're correct. The Clinton-Gore administration, while in favor of free trade, still believes that closely regulated commerce is preferable to market-driven economics. Had the GOP not captured Congress in '94, their natural inclination would be even more oppressive toward entrepreneurs and innovation.

Bush could give a speech saying that standing up for MSFT is a vote of confidence in America's free enterprise system, and a raspberry to the government assaults on tobacco and guns. He might've spelled out why the Sherman Antitrust Act doesn't apply more than 100 years after it was enacted. The rapid technological expansion of the 90s, which has extended the long wave of prosperity (something Clinton and Gore take credit for, even though it was beyond their control), is something to be applauded, not punished. In addition, the number of Americans who've invested in NASDAQ, whether directly, or in the form of mutual funds or 401(k)s, is enormous, and in a just political world, Bush speaking the truth would blow Gore out of the water.

However, in this instance I think Bush was wise to hold his tongue. It's true, an hourlong stem-winder the day after the ruling would've exhilarated conservative commentators and The Wall Street Journal. But the reality is that the media would distort the issue beyond recognition, choosing five-second soundbites for their TV newscasts and isolated quotes for the daily newspaper reports. One can imagine the headline in The New York Times: "Bush Sides with Gates; Vows to Fight the Justice Department."
The liberal pundits would have a grand time describing how the patrician Bush protects one of his own, the billionaire Gates; never mind that MSFT has always tilted left in its limited political involvement. Dick Gephardt and David Bonior would ratchet up the class warfare machine, and G-d only knows what verse Jesse Jackson would compose to take advantage of the situation.

I think the Microsoft case is one that Bush has to handle with kid gloves; he's too open to misrepresentation by a hostile media. Even those Americans who've dabbled in the markets can be persuaded that Gore's for the little guy and Bush for behemoth companies. Better that Bush get out in front on international issues, perhaps starting with the string of foreign policy failures Clinton and Gore have racked up. What about Saddam Hussein? There's enormous material here: from Clinton's toothless saber-rattling to his calculated bombing of Baghdad on the eve of his impeachment in the House of Representatives.

I'M NOT SURE what was more nauseating last week, the glee of The New York Times splashing the results of its poll showing Hillary Clinton leading Rudy Giuliani on the front page, or an increasingly confident First Lady on the stump. Since I'm inured to the Times' left-leaning polls-remember, the paper had Bill Clinton defeating Bob Dole by a grossly inflated 22 points just days before the election-I'll go with the latter.

In Oswego on April 8, according to Times reporter Thomas J. Lueck, Hillary told a crowd of Democrats: "I've had more and more Republicans coming up to me. They came, both men and women, and said they would support my campaign both because they really want to continue the policies of the president, and because they want somebody in the Senate who will work with everyone in New York."

Quick! Submit this wacko to a lie detector test.

That's not to say that Giuliani won't blow this election. I suggest he take the advice of Mickey Kaus (one of the few journalists who's emerged from Charles Peters' Washington Monthly hothouse with the same number of brain cells as he went in with) and apologize for his disgraceful conduct after the death of Patrick Dorismond.

First of all, it would be the right thing to do. More importantly (since I'm not sure Rudy cares about manners, tact or sensitivity), it would stun New Yorkers. Has Giuliani ever apologized to anyone in his life? His poll numbers would tick up 10 points in the course of three days. Talk about April surprises: Hillary would be flummoxed, take to her bed, channel Pat Nixon and maybe even call on Dick Morris. The Mayor would lock up his considerable base of voters and wrap up the election by winning the hearts of citizens who are looking for reasons not to vote for Clinton.

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