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Jewish World Review May 10, 2000/ 5 Iyar, 5760


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Consumer Reports


Okay, listen up -- IT WAS A QUIET AFTERNOON, the kids playing with Dragonball Z action figures, Mrs. M holed up in the bedroom with an old Woody Allen movie, and MUGGER in deep despair after finding out the Bosox's Pedro Martinez lost his first game of the year, 1-0, despite fanning 17 Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

I riffled through the pages of Brill's Content, still alive after two years, and had to admit the self-righteous journalistic watchdog has improved of late. (I've lost a few dollars on the magazine's survival: while Capital Style, Details, Mirabella, Blaze and Talk have all gone belly-up, Steverino chugs along.) Not that editor-in-chief David Kuhn's writing is anything less than atrocious, evidence presented by his intro: "This issue offers-in addition to bulletins from the cutting edges of the media culture... Believe it or not, journalists are human beings, too." But I read a decent story on Richard Blow's Little, Brown tell-all about his days as an editor at George, a controversy so gargantuan among a small circle of former friends that the book was scrapped.

(This happened after the Brill's deadline: as much as the monthly might make strides toward readability, they'll never beat their lead time, which often makes several of their articles obsolete.)

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter contributed an embarrassing apology for the media's fawning coverage of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. Alter writes that he and his colleagues had a "mind-blowing" experience on the Straight Talk Express, that it was a "gas" and "nirvana" to have access to the conservative Senator and eat donuts and drink coffee while wending their way through America's backroads. Charles Kuralt lives.

But the touchy-feely question-and-answer sessions with McCain didn't compromise the media's mission to report in an objective way, Alter disingenuously continues; in fact, McCain's loose-cannon approach might've resulted in even tougher stories. Included in the two-page spread is a large picture of a beaming Alter on the bus with McCain and his wife Cindy; no doubt the original is now framed in Alter's suburban home. You see, the Newsweek and NBC correspondent points out, McCain's biography was "a thousand times more interesting" than George W. Bush's, so it was jest natch'll that while he never addressed the Senator as "John," he did nickname him "Uncle Fun." As in "Uncle John's Band." Alter, you sly old Deadhead; after all, it's a Buck Dancer's Choice, my friend.

This is hooey. It's water under the bridge by now, but of course the media was biased in favor of McCain; of course the Senator's strategist Mike Murphy played reporters for the suckers they are; and of course the hagiography continues to this day. How else to explain NBC paying McCain's way to Vietnam last month and the gaggle of reporters who followed him like puppy dogs. McCain's slow withdrawal from the spotlight is rather pathetic: he's preserved the Straight Talk Express bus as an instant museum piece and still entices reporters to climb aboard.

But I do give the Arizonan credit for a major feat: inadvertently, he's persuaded liberal press hacks that not all Republicans are icky prison wardens. This isn't at all good news for Al Gore. As the Veep flails away daily with attack upon lying attack on Bush's record, his father's presidency and the Third World conditions in Texas, he's losing sympathy with a constituency that's just as important as the union goons and minority voters. I think that's why Bush-who's made himself far more available to the media postprimaries than Gore-is getting an almost even hearing among the Beltway cognoscenti.

Meanwhile, in the wee-hours department, MUGGER III has taken to wailing on an harmonica and bugging me with his talking blues at 4 a.m. each morning. I'm glued to the iMac, reading about Gore's latest misadventures with the truth, and the little tyke sits in my office, playing mournful licks, punctuated with made-up lyrics that he knows will get my goat. Like: "It's a rainy day and I got no toys"; "My brother's still asleep, I think I'll pour water on his head"; "Mom's pretty, but Dad's got a green butt"; and "I got a pizza party at school, but I wanna play hooky." I've got him working on a new composition: "The Ballad of President Impeachment and Elian Gonzalez." Fidel's not the only one who's a master at indoctrination.

I'm not going to nuke Al Gore this time around; too many others, unlikely messengers at that, are taking care of business. For example, on the front page of The New York Times last Saturday there was a large photo-above the fold-of a forlorn Gore sitting in a Michigan high school seat that was way too small for him. He was wearing khakis and a polo shirt (I think the Vice President is taking this dress-down look a bit too far; after all, he's not running for the position of head football coach at Exeter), with a bottle of water and pen on his desk, daydreaming, perhaps about campaign chairman Tony Coelho's upcoming dates in court.

Last Friday, former JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen was feted in his native Nebraska; according to the Lincoln Journal Star, he believes that Gore wins the election because Americans will vote "not to take a chance." That was the end of the good news for Gore, as Sorensen praised George W. Bush as being "at ease on the stump, a glad-hander and backslapper.
Sobering pair?: A drunk and a ...
He likes people, and they like him." Gore, the septuagenarian said, doesn't possess "quite the same zip and zest or warmth." Sorensen also heaped accolades on Nebraska's retiring Sen. Bob Kerrey, who's sided with Bush on his Social Security partial-privatization plan-apparently that Democrat, along with New York's Sen. Pat Moynihan, doesn't think the idea too "risky"-as well as Nebraska's Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. Sorensen said: "The first time I talked to Senator Hagel, I told him I was very proud of his leadership role in the Senate and in his party, particularly on international issues. In many ways he is a logical running mate for Bush."

In the middle of the week, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led the charge in a suit against Majority Whip Tom DeLay, accusing him of extortion and racketeering in his fundraising efforts. Those Kennedys, with their grand sense of entitlement, do have balls the size of a rhino's, no matter how dimwitted they may be. Kennedy thundered: "Never before has a senior congressional and party leader devised a scheme like this: hammering contributors for money, threatening to punish those who decline and setting up a shadow party structure outside public view and outside our laws to make it possible." After that burst of rhetoric, obviously written for him (it was in English), Kennedy presented no evidence.

Gore doesn't need distractions like this. Especially from a brat like Patrick Kennedy, who's raised millions of dollars for the Democrats-Minority Leader Dick Gephardt has shamelessly exploited the kid's family name-often with promises for meet & greets with his famous relatives. Young Kennedy is no stranger to legal proceedings himself; just last month he got into an ugly scrape with a security official at LAX in Los Angeles. It didn't help Gore's or Kennedy's position that, on May 24, the Democrats will hold a fundraiser in DC with tickets going for as high as $500,000, a record for either party.

Even The Washington Post, on May 5, gently ridiculed the suit against DeLay. An editorial read: "Mr. Kennedy is filing under the federal racketeering statute, a notoriously stretchy provision that prohibits 'extortion.' If a court can be convinced that the suit has merit, it seems unlikely Mr. DeLay is the only offender; both parties could be said to 'extort' money from business, with varying degrees of crudeness. Success against Mr. DeLay would therefore trigger a barrage of copycat litigation."

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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