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Jewish World Review May 1, 2001/ 9 Iyar, 5761


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The Times: Bush’s new political adviser -- LAST SUNDAY The New York Times took a break from its strange mission to remove New Jersey's Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli from office-I swear it was the 10 Italian suits Torricelli accepted from David Chang that goaded the infuriated Times gentlemen into a full-bore investigation-to issue its carved-in-stone opinion about President Bush's first 100 days in office. As expected, the verdict was mostly thumbs down, although speckled with mock-support and advice for the man whose campaign promises and first White House initiatives have been misrepresented in the paper even more vehemently than by official opponents like Tom Daschle or the hapless Dick Gephardt.

The April 29 editorial reads: "...George W. Bush has had a placid 100 days. Yet as we measure them today, the most striking feature on the domestic front is the emergence of a deep-rooted, unnuanced and sometimes almost truculent conservatism from a man once regarded even by many Republicans as a moderate."

Obviously, this statement is disingenuous, but taken at face value, the reader must ask: What was it about Bush's agenda last fall that the overstaffed Times didn't understand?

Bush's platform, in comparison to Al Gore's (and John McCain's), was extraordinarily straightforward. He proposed a large across-the-board tax cut; was against gun control and campaign finance reform; was unambiguously pro-life; was in favor of the partial privatization of Social Security; advocated tort reform and a significant change in U.S.-China diplomacy; and was an unapologetic booster of free trade and immigration. He was the most conservative GOP presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, even if his rhetoric was purposely toned down to differentiate it from that of the demonized Newt Gingrich. A commitment to education might be considered liberal-since Democratic legislators, most of whom send their children to private schools, are in constant hock to the teachers' unions-but even as Bush and Gore competed to see who could visit the most fourth-grade classes, the Republican favored vouchers and strict accountability. It's very unlikely that his preferred education legislation will win approval in the 50-50 Senate, but that's what he campaigned for.

The Economist cut through the devious drivel that the Times and other elite U.S. media outlets have spoon-fed their readers and viewers with its own, mostly favorable, editorial of April 28. It read: "America's political commentators have had some stunning surprises to cope with since the turn of the year. First came the shock of Bill Clinton's misconduct during his final days in office. So bizarrely out of character. Still reeling over that, they next began to suspect that George Bush may be, get ready for this, a conservative. That's right, a conservative. Now, as he approaches the end of his first hundred days, Mr. Bush's shocking conservatism is becoming hard to deny... Obviously, a 'compassionate conservative' cannot be an actual conservative: compassion is good, whereas, it is widely recognized, conservatism is bad. Mr. Bush said he was a good man, and now he turns out to be a conservative. Not only that, but one who wants to keep his promises. America just isn't used to this."

After denigrating Bush for his "clumsy and amateurish" public statements, his "bankers' hours and long weekends," the Times editorialist attempts to portray Reagan as a bleeding heart compared to the current president, suggesting there's "something almost Oedipal" in Bush's allegiance to those who voted for him. That Bush learned from his father's political mistakes hasn't seemed to cross the writer's mind. The editorial continues: "Mr. Reagan concentrated so fiercely on cutting government spending and taxes that he was willing to set aside the harsh agenda of the socially conservative members of his so-called base. His aides worked hard to minimize his image as uncaring and disengaged from the problems of working Americans."


In addition, the author notes that Reagan's first Supreme Court appointment was Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate, while Bush-even though the opportunity hasn't yet presented itself-is certain to nominate someone who will decimate Roe v. Wade. This is standard Times demagoguery. With a divided Senate, it's clear the Bush administration, when a vacancy occurs, will tap a person they believe can survive the vicious smear tactics that'll be waged by the same Democrats who outrageously defamed John Ashcroft, Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork (a failed Reagan nominee).

It's odd that the Times, which has devoted so much space to distorting Bush's tax cut plan as a sop to the rich, would praise Reagan for doing the same, while omitting that a defining moment in the early years of Reagan's administration was his bold intervention in the air traffic controller's strike, hardly an action the Times would consider as "caring" to "working Americans" who belong to unions.

Hypocrisy imbues Times editorials, but that knowledge doesn't make them easier to digest. The paper proclaims, "Although we would be happy to be proved wrong, our conclusion from the record of the first hundred days is that on domestic policy, Mr. Bush will go to the right every chance he gets." The first part of that sentence is a lie. The wealthy men and women who run The New York Times, in their revolting condescension to 99 percent of the American population, don't want to be "proved wrong" by Bush. They'd prefer him to fail on every single proposed initiative; suffer a Clintonesque congressional disaster in the 2002 elections; and have a Democrat, preferably one who doesn't wear flashy suits, reclaim the White House in 2004.

But the word "honesty" doesn't appear in the Times stylebook. On the op-ed page Sunday, Maureen Dowd offers her own assessment of Bush's first months in office. (For those keeping score, the obligatory pop culture reference in this column is the 1937 film Damsel in Distress.) Dowd cites one question in an April 22 ABC/Washington Post poll that shows 51 percent of Americans believe Bush doesn't "understand the problems of people like you."

She omits the Gallup Poll finding that Bush currently has an overall approval rating of 62 percent, compared to Bill Clinton's 55 percent and former President Bush's 57 percent at the same time in their administrations. The Zogby Poll shows Bush at 63 percent. That same ABC/Washington Post poll has Bush also at a 63 percent approval rating, as well as at 55 percent favorability in his handling of the economy, a strong number considering the current economic climate. And in the same poll Bush gets a 62 percent mark for international affairs, despite all the liberal nattering about the President angering every major foreign leader.


But Dowd doesn't let that latter poll result get in the way of her presenting Bush as a moron. (Talk about being behind the curve: I think Maureen's been lunching too often with Tina Brown.) She writes: "Last week, the president threw the planet into a turmoil when he went on 'Good Morning America' and said he was willing to 'do whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself' against a Chinese attack, including sending American forces. Obviously, Mr. Bush did not set out to change nearly 30 years of American policy on a morning chat show. But, sensitive about W.'s reputation as a featherweight, his aides did not want to have to admit he made a boo-boo and is a yo-yo who can't be trusted to carry on a brief discussion about his own policies with hard-hitting Charlie Gibson."

So who's working bankers' hours, Maureen? Of course Bush "set out to change nearly 30 years of American policy" on the question of China and Taiwan. If you weren't so busy worrying about a possible SAG strike in Hollywood, perhaps you'd have followed the story throughout the day and found that out. But no, you were wondering what to wear for the opening of Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles.

An antidote to Dowd's I'm-officially-burnt-out rant was found in Sunday's Washington Post, where George Will, not a fan of Clinton's predecessor, writes with cautious admiration for the younger Bush's embryonic presidency. Among the more memorable lines: "In domestic policy, Bush's presidency is pervasively pro-choice, other than about abortion. Democrats are pro-choice about killing unborn babies but not about much else-not about school choice for children who survive the abortion culture, or about giving individuals the choice of privately investing a portion of Social Security taxes, or about increasing individuals' choices by increasing disposable income through tax cuts, or about guns or smoking get the idea."

Will concludes: "He has underestimated the problems of governance posed for a Republican by the media's increasing partisanship and decreasing intelligence-witness the gullible and hysterical coverage of environmental matters. However, his remarkable carapace of confidence serves his executive temperament. To govern, said Churchill, is to choose. Bush makes choices, and moves on, a moving target."

Now that Bob Kerrey has, with hardly a trace of subtlety, unofficially announced his candidacy for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, he's instantly the frontrunner. Sen. John Kerry-also a Vietnam vet-who's spent more time in television studios criticizing President Bush than even Sens. Joe Lieberman, John Edwards or Joe Biden, must be one depressed dude.

I'll leave the moralizing about Kerrey's admission that he killed civilians 32 years ago in Thanh Phong to other journalists; besides, everyone in the business aside from Esquire's David Granger has already offered their opinion. Frankly, even though Kerrey was forced to do damage control last week because of Gregory L. Vistica's April 29 New York Times Magazine story, I wish he'd kept his public confession to a terse three or four sentences. But his Clinton-like blab blab blab, which the media focused on with a Columbine intensity, was the tip-off that, despite protestations to the contrary, he's back in the political sweepstakes.

Kerrey's advantages over his slew of challengers are enormous. Despite a few critics, notably JWR's John Leo, Mickey Kaus (, Christopher Caldwell in his current New York Press column and Korean War veteran James Brady in the April 27 New York Post-not to mention the Times, which has always despised Kerrey-the former Nebraska senator has been deluged with support from a dizzying array of media outlets. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, pundit Joe Klein (who first anointed Bill Clinton in 1992 as the frontrunner in that Democratic primary battle) and Times columnist William Safire have all, for their own reasons, exonerated Kerrey from criminal behavior.

It doesn't hurt that Kerrey now lives in New York, with its huge donor base, and isn't burdened by congressional duties. More significantly, what's the political downside for the tortured Kerrey? It's not as if he'd lose the Democratic base of blacks, unions, trial lawyers or loudmouth show business personalities because of his past. He's the new John McCain, who used his own experience in Vietnam (as well as his soul-cleansing involvement with Charlie Keating) to sucker the media almost to the point where McCain could defeat Bush last year in the primaries.

In addition, Kerrey is a less predictable pol than the liberal Kerry, and would have an easier time picking off soft Bush supporters, especially in the crucial swing states.

The Bush 2004 reelection team had better prepare for Kerrey, even as he insists he's not a candidate. Pete Hamill, writing in the April 30 Daily News, offers a hint of what's to come three years from now: "For Bob Kerrey, it was a short war. He left a leg in Vietnam, along with his youth and innocence, and when he came home, he insisted on living a decent life. He went on to an honorable career in politics and did not add a single sentence to the history of American lousiness. Now he's in New York, the one American city that understands memory and forgetting. He's an educator now, and has much to teach us all, about pain and remorse and how the unexamined life is not worth living. Today is the anniversary of the end of the war that never ends for Bob Kerrey. No matter what happened that night in Thanh Phong, we should cherish him."

The Straight Talk Express has a new driver.

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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