Jewish World Review May 16, 2001/ 23 Iyar, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- GRANTED, Master Peter Beinart's place-holder editorship of The New Republic has produced a pale version of the provocative magazine two of his predecessors, Michael Kelly and Andrew Sullivan, oversaw during the 1990s, but it has a herky-jerky quality that's not altogether boring.
The May 21 issue is an apt example: The cover, which shows an irritated President Bush against a blue background holding up a couple of dollar bills, is a sizzler, especially with the sensationalistic headline "He's Lying." That art direction is the highlight-along with an astute "Cambridge Diarist" column by owner Marty Peretz, in which he praises Germany as Israel's "best friend in Europe"-since the two lead stories about Bush's tax policy are rehashed yawners.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's contribution, "Going for Broke," is "adapted" from his book Fuzzy Math, and so is already out of date, containing nothing substantial about last week's congressional passage of a $1.35 trillion tax cut. It's the same tiresome argument Krugman has beaten into the ground for the past nine months at his Times perch, and concludes: "No previous administration has tried to sell its economic plans on such false pretenses. And this from a man who ran for president on a promise to restore honor and integrity to our nation's public life."
Krugman, whose economic philosophy is every bit as suspect as his Princeton colleague Peter Singer's novel ideas about human/canine sexuality (just for starters), is just being typically dishonest, as he shows with his denunciation of Bush for a supposed betrayal of his campaign agenda. In fact, Bush touted his tax reform plan since the fall of '99 and has indeed kept his promise to make it a centerpiece of his administration. You can argue about the merits of the legislation-which Jonathan Chait does in an accompanying piece, proclaiming for the 118th time that it's just not fair-but Bush has kept his word about what goals he'd pursue in his first term in the White House. Maybe Krugman's dictionary is different from mine-and considering his twin employments at Princeton and the Times it's entirely possible-but I'd say that's an example of "integrity."
Actually, the most disturbing development last week was that Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) huddled and came up with a compromise that would drop the top tax rate to 36 percent (from 39.6 percent) instead of Bush's still-too-high 33 percent. I hope the President stays firm on his much-ballyhooed proclamation that no American should fork over more than a third of his income to the feds: any capitulation would be a severe disappointment. Yes, he'd still have shifted the debate in favor of a broad-based tax cut, but, considering the backloading of his initiative, it'd be a t-ball victory at best.
It's bad enough that the White House found it necessary to gut Bush's education bill in order to appease Democrats, but that's acceptable if he can hold firm on taxes, Social Security reform and ditching the ABM treaty in favor of the missile-defense shield.
Beinart's own contribution to the issue, a liberal's tribute to hyper-focused Grover Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, hints at the Democrats' major political problem: the absence of a credible national spokesman who can unite the party's diverse factions. Beinart doesn't quite say it, but Sen. Tom Daschle is a public-relations nightmare, and is quickly shedding his (exaggerated) reputation as a quiet but tough negotiator in favor of a Maxine Waters/Teddy Kennedy-type rhetorical bomb-thrower. The Minority Leader has become a comical figure with recent statements such as this criticism of missile defense: "The single dumbest thing I've heard so far from this administration"; and that Bush's budget is "a nuclear bomb for fiscal discipline in this country," as well as a "major degradation of the rule of law."
Rep. Dick Gephardt, who's joined the editorial board of The New York Times in its "America Last" view, is freezing before our eyes into a Fred Flintstone figure from the early 1970s. Gephardt's time has come and gone: he hasn't been able to wrest back control of the House for the Democrats in the three elections since '94, and the GOP can only pray that somehow he'll win that 100-1 shot and snag the nomination to oppose Bush in 2004.
After the U.S. was booted off the United Nations' Human Rights Commission, Gephardt, in at least symbolic solidarity with countries like Sudan, China and Sierra Leone, blamed Bush. He said: "Unfortunately, today's action demonstrates that U.S. unilateralism in foreign policy has consequences… I hope the Bush administration shifts course, and learns that our government must work cooperatively with our allies and other nations when possible to have influence abroad."
The Euro-centric Times, in a May 13 editorial, took another swipe at the United States, in this instance using Timothy McVeigh's ongoing drama as a vehicle. The writer said: "Americans who travel in Europe, whether as tourists or ambassadors, marvel at the frequency with which they are called on to defend the American legal system's reliance on capital punishment. At least among European elites, the death penalty has become an even stronger metaphor for America since the nation is led by a man who presided over 40 executions in 2000 alone and the government was preparing, until Friday, to carry out on May 16 its first federal execution in 38 years."
It's just a hunch, but I doubt that the relatives of McVeigh's Oklahoma
victims give a damn about "European