Jewish World Review May 28, 2003/ 26 Iyar 5763


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Below the Belt: Goldstein puts Bush's eggs in one basket | Sixteen months before the 2004 presidential election and already the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party," as Ben & Jerry's favorite son Howard Dean puts it, is in a state of panic that George W. Bush will remain in the Oval Office until Jan. 20, 2009. At this point, there's no reason for such histrionics. It's likely that Bush and his eventual challenger will engage in an extremely competitive campaign (unless Dean or Sen. John Edwards is nominated). The race will hinge on the economy, Iraq's reconstruction, more terrorist attacks within the United States and the wild card of a GOP scandal that implicates the president.

It's my view that Bush's tax cuts will lift the economy, from sluggish to satisfactory, which takes the issue off the table for most Americans, and his continuing engagement in global crises ought to dwarf the credentials of any Democrat who faces him. Syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who opposed the Iraq war, speculates that Bush's tentative plans to visit the Mideast in hopes of beginning a peace process with the Israelis and Palestinians will erode his burgeoning Jewish electoral support. I have no faith in this "roadmap" jazz-certainly with Arafat still alive-but ignoring the turmoil carries more risk. An honest attempt to broker at least a cease-fire, with Ariel Sharon's support, has both moral and political advantages.

Still, it's a long time before I'll commit even $50 to an election bet.

The mainstream liberal media is attacking Bush with shopworn rhetoric, such as class warfare, the myth that neoconservatives dictate foreign policy, the failure to suck up to Germany and France and, naturally, the environment. Newsweek's June 2 "Conventional Wisdom" was typical of Beltway presidential coverage. Bush receives a sarcastic "up" arrow, reading "Gets his big tax cut with 'sunset' gimmick that hides the true cost. Now we'll see if it creates any jobs." The "media" gets a "down" mark: "Aim for 'balance' on tax cuts but miss the truth: They're unlikely to create jobs and will burden our grandkids." Yes, summon crocodile tears for future generations, when no one in the world knows what shape the economy will be in 20 years from now.

Besides, what newspapers do the drones at Newsweek read? Aside from the Wall Street Journal, which editorialized that the cut was too small, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and Baltimore Sun were all relentless in toeing the Tom Daschle/Teddy Kennedy fiction that Bush's policy is reckless.

Other journalists are lobbing weird weapons in the pages of overt eat-the-rich publications. As a relentless critic of the corrupt Bill Clinton for more than eight years, this doesn't particularly bother me-fair is fair-but you'd think Bush's sworn enemies might consider their tactics.

Let's start with the Village Voice's aging-faster-than-Robert-Byrd Richard Goldstein, who attained a degree of notoriety in the fall of '94 when, baffled by the GOP takeover of Congress, he asked, "When did conservatives become cool?" (The New York Times last Sunday, in its magazine, ran a cover story on "The Young Hipublicans," proving that at least Goldstein has a jump on the former paper of record.)

In last week's Voice, Goldstein revisits Bush's fighter-jet arrival on the U.S.S. Lincoln several weeks ago. Frankly, I thought the maneuver was a bit over the top, but after reading the euphoric comments of the military men and women whom Bush spent the night with, after delivering a notable speech about Iraq, I figured it was a benign stunt. The rapport between the young soldiers and Bush was particularly striking since Bill Clinton, in similar settings (and also dressed in fatigues) always seemed like such a phony.

The gay editor, after noting that the occasion was an opportune photo-op, then fished in very murky waters for the real meaning of it all. Goldstein writes: "Actually there was something novel about this occasion, but it passed utterly below the radar. Discretion prevented anyone from mentioning that Bush's outfit gave him a very vivid basket. This was the first time a president literally showed his balls. Check it out [the Voice presents a blowup of Bush's crotch]-your subconscious already has... I can't prove [GWB's media team] gave him a sock job, but clearly they thought long and hard about the crotch shot."


Has Goldstein reached such a state of despair that he's making the size of Bush's genitals a campaign issue? It's an accurate assessment that the Voice's roster of writers resembles an old-timer's team from the 60s, but poor Goldstein is clearly off his rocker.

Enter Andrew Sullivan, the omnipresent, self-aggrandizing blogger and contributor to numerous publications, who has his own problems with the president. Sullivan, who contradicts himself almost daily in his online commentary, appears on the verge of flipping from the GOP because of one issue: Rick Santorum. The Pennsylvania senator's muddled remarks about homosexuality last month, and Bush's tepid support of him, so incensed Sullivan that he's concluded reelection might not be in the cards. Granted, it's a sensitive issue to Sullivan, the British gay conservative former editor of the New Republic, but if Bush loses, it won't be because of Santorum.

Sullivan, who inexplicably writes for Salon, the marginal website that was more supportive of Clinton than even sycophant Sidney Blumenthal, awarded Goldstein his "Idiocy of the Week" in a May 23 essay. To his credit, the 15-fingered word processor eviscerates the Voice's self-proclaimed "proud sissy," writing that "the essence of Bush's presidential masculinity is its undemonstrative nature." He then recounts Al Gore's poll-jumping long kiss with Tipper in 2000, as well as a Rolling Stone photo of the vice president in tight jeans. Sullivan concludes: "Bush is a milder, stronger sort of guy. Which is why he comes across as so eminently likable-to both men and women. And sometimes, Mr. Goldstein, a jumpsuit is just a jumpsuit. With straps on."

The following day, Salon printed 10 letters to the editor about Sullivan's piece, all of them belittling the author. Again, why Sullivan, who publishes in Time, the New York Observer, London's Sunday Times, among other outlets, contributes to Salon is anybody's guess. I don't suspect he really needs the money-the pledge drive for was enormously successful, arousing the ire of less prominent bloggers. So maybe Sullivan just likes to read his byline.

But he really doesn't need the abuse. For example, Nancy Richardson wrote the following bit of lunacy in protest of Sullivan's blast at Goldstein. "Thank you, Andrew Sullivan, for drawing attention to Richard Goldstein's astute comments about our manly man president. I am stunned that you, a proud, bareback-riding guy, didn't notice that Bush's appeal, gender-wise, is to country-club closet cases."

One of Salon's more berserk columnists is Anne Lamott, who wrote on May 23, after returning from some r&r in Kauai, that fear not, Bush really is as dumb as the Never-Forget-Florida contingent believes. This passage is a pip: "The important thing to remember is that we survived Ronald Reagan, and we will survive Bush. It gives me hope to remember this, because that was really scary-under Reagan's happy-go-lucky demeanor was true malevolence." I'm sure the millions of people under communist rule during the 80s will agree with this nutty chick.

Lamott continues: "On the other hand, I don't think Bush can pull it [reelection] off. He just doesn't have it. He's Alfred E. Newman [sic] in 'Top Gun.' He's still just a bad boy trying to redeem himself and his father."

I half-expected Lamott to then recommend that Bush respond to one of those email spam "penile enlargement" scams, but no doubt a yoga class or PETA emergency meeting forced her to cut the column short.

Yanks Poised

I'M FINISHING this column just moments before taking the 4 train to Yankee Stadium with the family to see the opener of the Yanks-Bosox three-game series. Naturally, I'm expecting a New York sweep-and don't relish seeing Roger Clemens win his 300th game in person-rejuvenating George Steinbrenner's club for a 20-game winning streak. It's not just that Pedro Martinez is slightly injured (and I don't believe for a second that he'll pitch again before June 15), but the Yanks are due to bust out. Either that or George will explode and do something rash like firing Joe Torre, Brian Cashman or sending Jeff Weaver down to the minors.

I've had a running email exchange with two fellow Sox fans the entire season, and we agree on almost everything. Ramiro Mendoza is still on Steinbrenner's payroll; Jeremy Giambi ought to be swapped for a high school prospect; Bill Mueller and Todd Walker are GM Theo Epstein's key off-season acquisitions; and Nomar Garciaparra is a far superior shortstop to the vastly overrated Derek Jeter.

One delicate split is how a Sox fan should react to the rash of Yanks injuries. Two of us feel no guilt whatsoever in cheering the woes of walks-machine Nick Johnson and Bernie Williams. The third is uncomfortable in taking pleasure at an athlete's pain. Bosh. It's not as if these superstars are fighting snipers in Baghdad or rushing into burning buildings; they're wealthy ballplayers, and the occasional hamstring pull or shoulder dislocation is just part of the game. It wouldn't have bothered me one bit last week if Clemens suffered a broken finger upon trying to field a Mueller smash. I doubt many Yankee fans were sympathetic when Garciaparra missed most of the 2001 season or Manny Ramirez stupidly slid headfirst into home last year, causing him to miss six weeks. And when Martinez was scratched from the lineup at Fenway last week, several Yankee players immediately perked up.

But one has to persevere. Maybe Clemens, so pent-up about reaching this milestone, will fall apart by the fifth inning. Maybe Jason Giambi ends the season batting .240. And maybe Richard Goldstein, so enthralled by Bush's dick, endorses the president for reelection.

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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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