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Jewish World Review May 26, 2000/ 21 Iyar, 5760


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Consumer Reports


The media's at it, again... -- FRANKLY, I don't quite know where to begin in discussing the media's nonstop coverage of Mayor Giuliani'swillful soap opera that he's played at full tilt in the last three weeks. (I'm not minimizing his cancer at all, just the theatrics that followed that unfortunate diagnosis. A more circumspect person would've immediately, and more gracefully, departed the political arena and concentrated on his health, for his own sake and his family's.)

But let's start with the New York Post, a potentially important newspaper that has steadily deteriorated in the past year-the wall-to-wall McCain endorsements you can understand; they were in owner Rupert Murdoch's financial interest-mostly because the tabloid that condescending press critics like The New Yorker's Rick Hertzberg like to call "feisty" hasn't had the good sense to gut most of its staff and become a respectable conservative organ. Andrea Peyser, one of the paper's weakest links, was typical in her praise of Giuliani's half-hanky press conference last Friday. She wrote on May 20: "Health. Family. Friends. City. All these things are far more important than pulverizing Hillary. And so it was that when Hillary appeared, just a few minutes later, at her own hastily called press conference, she looked pinched, uncomfortable. For perhaps the first time in her life, she couldn't wait to get off the stage.

"Class, you see, is a tough act to follow."

To paraphrase a famous quote from the original Woodstock festival, watch out for the brown acid, Andi, it's poison. "Class" is not a word that can possibly be used in conjunction with either Giuliani or Clinton. Yes, I think it was proper that Rudy expressed regret last Thursday night, on an NBC show with Andrea Mitchell, for his conduct after Patrick Dorismond's tragic death. Funny how he didn't also apologize for the lives he literally ruined back in the 80s, when as a prosecutor he was hell-bent on indicting, often without grounds, Wall Street professionals in a naked attempt to grab headlines. If Giuliani is truly a changed man, closer to God, he'd provide somehow not only for the family of Dorismond, but Timothy Tabor as well. But of course that wouldn't play with the media: Tabor, a white man, got what was coming to him for working his butt off in the financial sector and, unlike the First Lady, "playing by the rules."

A Post editorial on May 18 revealed that Giuliani's strange behavior is contagious. At least he has an excuse: all those meds have reduced the Mayor to a puddle of his former self. The hunt and peck geniuses at the Post wrote: "In the end, however, there must be a race. The GOP will field a candidate-but it is inconceivable that the party can find a more suitable standard-bearer than Rudolph W. Giuliani... Giuliani is obviously keeping his own counsel. But if his health is the paramount issue, there is no reason why he can't first announce his intention to run-and then say he's taking the next six weeks off to tend to a full recovery... Run, Rudy, run? Maybe not quite yet. Walk, Rudy, walk? You bet."

It's distressing that the editorial board of a major metropolitan newspaper actually believes a prostate cancer victim can attain a "full recovery" in six weeks. In addition, how could anyone with any sense at the Post really believe that as late as last Thursday Giuliani, a man who personifies the phrase "damaged goods," was the best GOP candidate?

Perhaps former editorial page chief John Podhoretz still sticks his nose into the paper's policy decisions. Judging by two successive columns last week, equally ignorant, Johnny Pod must exert some influence at the tabloid. On Friday, commenting on Giuliani's televised "town meeting" (when will those two words be retired from the dictionary of politics? One more Clinton legacy) at the 92nd Street Y with NBC's Mitchell, Podhoretz let his imagination-without the aid of hallucinogenics, to give him the benefit of the doubt-go where few have traveled before. He begins: "Last night...Rudy Giuliani put to rest the notion floated over the past week that somebody else might make a better Republican candidate in the race against Hillary Clinton. It's hard to recall a more dazzling performance by any candidate for any office-ever."

"I did have ...."
I watched the show. Rudy was uncharacteristically humble and cracked a few jokes. It was a game performance under difficult circumstances. But the most "dazzling" political "performance" ever? Please. Let me rattle off just five, off the top my head, that blow Giuliani's touchy-feely act away: Bobby Kennedy at the '64 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City; Ronald Reagan smashing Jimmy Carter in their one campaign debate of 1980; Jerry Brown at midtown's Sheraton, speaking at a rally during the '92 primary campaign and explaining the Banana Republic of Arkansas that Clinton came from; John F. Kennedy's inaugural address of 1961; and, for sheer chutzpah, and fraudulence, under extreme pressure, Bill Clinton's wag-the-finger denial of sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky back in 1998.

J. Pod concluded his delusional column with this whopper: "Even if the treatment for [Giuliani's] cancer leaves him at 50 percent strength, the man who melted Andrea Mitchell last night is still 10 times stronger a candidate than anybody would be."

Apparently, not cognizant that his Friday column will rank right up there with any of the Times' Frank Rich for sheer idiocy, J.P. gave advice to substitute candidate Lazio the very next day. He cited the bogus Quinnipiac poll showing the Long Island House member 19 points behind-even a copyboy at the Post had to realize that those were fleeting numbers-and concluded that Lazio has to run a mad-dog campaign. He wrote: "So Lazio has no choice but to go on the attack. And that's where the hope comes in. If Lazio and [Mike Murphy, John McCain's media man] can figure out an effective way to discuss Hillary's checkered White House career and her central involvement in Clinton sleaze, they will succeed where conservative editorialists and columnists (like me) and the impeachers so sadly failed."

I'm on the same side as The Pod, so I don't feel any particular glee in lambasting his incredibly moronic take on politics. But the plain facts are these: Hillary Clinton is now the issue in the Senate campaign. Lazio's a bit player, an earnest, if self-aggrandizing, House member who can proudly point to his accomplishments for his Suffolk Country district, his legislative experience-where Clinton has none-and the fact that he's actually a New Yorker. Of course a part of Lazio's campaign will be to point out the key role the First Lady played in her husband's scandalous administration; of course he can point with pride that he voted for Bill Clinton's impeachment. However, when the hubbub settles down, you'll find a dead heat in the polls, since so many residents of this state just can't abide the idea of Sen. Hillary. AND AGAIN... I'm not a fan of the Daily News' Lars-Erik Nelson, a McCain yes-man who paradoxically is tied to paleoliberal principles, but he has the Senate race in proper perspective, even though I'm sure he prefers Hillary.

While acknowledging that Rick Lazio was a "team player" for Gingrich, Nelson's one of the few pundits who admits that the Congressman-who's even worked with Andrew Cuomo on legislation-is a political moderate. On Sunday he concluded: "Lazio is a relative unknown in the state. He may not have much support yet, but he also does not suffer from that ceiling [the fact that Clinton has never risen above 50 percent in any poll]. He will benefit from the national hate-Hillary crusade that poured millions into Giuliani's campaign. Giuliani's biggest drawback-and Hillary's biggest asset-was Giuliani. Whatever other problems Lazio may have, he doesn't have that one."

Jack Newfield was the most sensible columnist at the Post. On May 16, the old dog got it right: "Rudy Giuliani, the moralist with a mistress, is in no shape to continue his campaign for Senate." Newfield, a cultural conservative (as he's wont to point out again and again), who says he voted for Giuliani twice, correctly whips the Mayor for the public humiliation of his estranged wife, Donna Hanover. That was refreshing to read after all this nonsense from the likes of imbeciles like George Stephanopoulos that New York is like France in that its citizens don't give a hoot about moral hypocrisy.

Where I depart from Newfield, who was hoping that Pete King, the GOP traitor who refused to vote for Clinton's impeachment and then this year stabbed George W. Bush in the back, is with his assessment of the Lazio-Clinton race. Newfield's all wet on this prediction: "Lazio has no experience on the brutal stage of statewide politics with its negative research experts and constant media pressure. Going from one rural Long Island congressional district to running against the first lady is like going from playing against Seton Hall to playing against the Miami Heat."

Jack, Jack, Jack, come back to planet Earth: Duke Snider would approve. Hillary Clinton has never even held elective office; at least Lazio has succumbed to the judgment of voters before, memorably knocking off Al Gore's buddy Tom Downey in 1992. And why in the world would anyone suggest that Clinton, who has yet to issue anything but mushy platitudes, and puts people to sleep once they get over her celebrity, is such a strong candidate? She shares many of her husband's characteristics-being a dreadful, narcissistic human being, convinced that she's smarter than "the people" she's trying to con-but none of his political savvy. Bill Clinton would win this race with his eyes closed-he's that successful at fleecing voters of their cash and dignity. But Hillary's a dud on the stump and also a bit deranged, as proved by her "vast right-wing conspiracy" charge two years ago while the President was making a fool of her and their daughter.

Finally-on the Post: I appeal to Murdoch once more, this time with a new idea. Buy the National Review (it matters little that NR competes with your own Weekly Standard; it's New York and DC, different as jelly and jam) and forge a semi-merger of the staffs. NR has by far the best political online operation going today, making up for its biweekly print schedule with frequent daily news and opinion dispatches.

Over at Newsday, Ellis Henican proved twice more in the past week why he's the no-hit, no-field political columnist at the tabloid. On May 16, he wrote: "God, I hope Rudy runs. Not to win, of course. Just to place or show... Rudy vs. Hillary was always going to be a riveting campaign [thanks for the heads-up, El]. Add an illness, an impending divorce and some flaunted promiscuity to the Republican side of the seesaw. All I can say is 'Let the games begin!'" I wonder if Henican would be so giddy if there were disease and marital strife in his household?

After Giuliani dropped out, Henican, in a hasty toss-off, wrote on May 21: "Rudy's bad news was my bad news too. And not because I love the guy. I too wanted something from him. For months, I had been salivating at the prospect and then the reality of Rudy vs. Hillary, the championship bout. This was going to be the most fun any of us ever had with our clothes on, even before all the craziness of the past two weeks. These two dreadful people, clawing each other's eyes out."

Granted, Henican's last sentence is entirely accurate. But how to respond to the cliche about "the most fun with our clothes on"? How about: Henican is the Mother of All Lazy, Barely Literate Columnists? Or: I'm shocked, shocked, that a journalist would take pleasure in the undeniable pain that the Giuliani children are in right now?

The New York Times' Frank Rich, on May 20, made a feeble attempt to present Giuliani's caddish behavior as comparable to Bill Clinton's. He wrote: "How many moralists can dance on the head of a pin? The more the merrier... But none topped the spirited tap-dancing of Clinton-bashers as they labored to draw fine distinctions between White House and Gracie Mansion infidelities."

Rich's defense of Bill Clinton is utterly predictable and narrow-minded. I've no interest in communicating with Arthur Sulzberger's pet columnist, but in the event such a disagreeable encounter took place, I'd recommend that Rich turn off the Broadway show tunes and read the following paragraph that Bill Bennett wrote in the May 19 Wall Street Journal.

For those of you behind the curve, this is what America's Virtues Secretary chipped in: "But it must be said that while what Mr. Giuliani did was loutish, the mayor has not been cited for contempt of court, as has Mr. Clinton. Nor has Mr. Giuliani lied under oath in a civil deposition, provided false and misleading testimony to a grand jury, obstructed justice, or sent his aides to spread lies about, and destroy, the reputations of women with whom he is alleged to have had affairs. Nor has he agreed to pay more than three-quarters of a million dollars to a woman in return for her dropping a sexual harassment lawsuit. Nor has Mr. Giuliani been credibly accused of rape. So there are crucial differences between the two. Mr. Giuliani is no gentleman-but neither is he Bill Clinton."

And lastly, this doesn't happen often but I'm in half-agreement with the Times' Bob Herbert in his assessment of the Giuliani saga. I think Rudy's been an outstanding mayor; he's just a piece of garbage as a person. Herbert wrote on May 22: "But with all due respect, [Giuliani] comes a little late to the table of fair play and brotherhood. Too late. This instantaneous conversion from the man who wielded the whip to the tender and ultra-sensitive soul concerned about the blacks and the downtrodden, the people without health insurance, and those who have to face the dark night of grave illness alone-well, it's a little tough to take seriously. This sudden abstract embrace of all things humane is conveniently timed to cast a helpful glow on Mr. Giuliani's image of himself as he does battle with his own grave illness. In other words, it's all about him."

Just like Bill 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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