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Jewish World Review July 12, 2000/ 9 Tamuz, 5760

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Edicion Internacional MUGGER: Tres Pueden Jugar Tambion


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SHUCKS, SINCE Al Gore (wearing a Ricky Martin mask) and G.W. Bush are pandering like crazy to Hispanic voters, I'm going for some of the action. As Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs sang in "Wooly Bully" back in the days when a slice cost a quarter, a Coke just 10 cents, just a couple of years after Marilyn Monroe got snuffed, "Uno, dos, one, two, tres, cuatro!"

UNO. Independence Day was a quiet one at our homestead here in Tribeca, where residents squabble over what kind of retail establishments are worthy enough to rent space in the neighborhood. The butter-side-down crowd opts for precious antique shops that sell pieces of furniture for more than $300,000, thinks there are too many restaurants and wouldn't dream of a store as pedestrian as a Gap. My family's with the butter-side-up team: we wouldn't mind seeing a cineplex, a mammoth bookstore, reliable fishmongers and butchers, more trendy boutiques, a cool novelty store like the East Village's now-closed Little Rickie and a Virgin (or Tower) music/videos/books/cafe mall. Shoots up property values and life is less of a headache.

It makes me laugh to remember the hubbub a couple of years ago when King's Pharmacy opened at Hudson and Reade Sts. Goodness gracious, the Luddites clucked, we mustn't have anything so common soiling Tribeca, it just won't do! Horsefeathers. King's is now a central outpost in the community-we're in there at least twice a day-and I wouldn't trade it for 100 seventh-rate Sotheby's knockoffs. It's too much fun gabbing with the gals behind the counter, the Tuesday-Friday team that gives me a lot of good-natured ribbing about all the film and day-glo printing paper I buy. And when we're coming back from the action-packed St. Mark's Comics on Chambers St., the boys riding on their Razors, we automatically make a pit stop in King's, just to check if there are any new videos or baseball cards. Hey, I wouldn't mind a Chippendale chair or Francis Bacon picture in the apartment, but that's a rarity you can go uptown for. I'll take the convenience of walking down the block to pick up prescriptions, sunblock, tampons, manila envelopes and last-minute birthday presents.

Back to the holiday. We had a subdued but fanciful barbecue on the roof with several friends, yours truly on the grill, after Mrs. M completed the far more arduous job of setting up the space, making salads and arranging the plants just so. Junior got a good workout hauling ice, from the nearby deli, upstairs and then the four of us took a peek at those boats that were in the news. That Bill Clinton was on the Hudson, blubbering to the press from the flight deck of the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier, was bad enough; probably worse is that I've seen enough tall ships to last a lifetime.
The Babe
Back in '76 the old vessels came to Baltimore for a spell and you'd have thought Babe Ruth had returned from the dead, such was the ongoing hype in the city's dailies-The Sun, The Evening Sun and The News-American. I've been aboard the Constellation and the Constitution; they're curious old boats, living history, but hardly a subject worth all the column inches imagination-deprived journalists turn in to their equally dim editors.

The Sun simply provides bad writing; The New York Times, on the other hand, likes to jazz up the prose, but it falls equally flat. For example, on July 5, Alan Feuer wrote a story called, "Tall Ships Render a Stately Tribute to Independence," that was one of the strangest I've read in that paper in at least a week. Feuer went through the usual motions, mentioned Clinton, the ships, fireworks, the poorly explained snag that left uptowners p---ed off because the armada never made it to 100th St., and of course a synopsis of a frankfurter-eating contest in Coney Island.

Then the story turned bizarre and condescending in that Timesman way, as if the author thought he was writing in 2025, for posterity. Feuer: "For many Americans, though, the Fourth of July was not a day of grand, or even goofy, celebration but simply a day off from work-a pleasant patch of summer on which to kick back and forget the job, catch up with distant cousins over the smoke of a charcoal grill or sit alone on a plastic lawn chair with a cold can of beer and a hot slab of ribs, thinking of nothing more profound than a second helping of potato salad.

"The nation was at peace this Independence Day and enjoying unmatched prosperity. The country's scientists had cracked the human genetic code. It was a nation where taxi drivers traded stocks by cell phone from their cabs and young people enriched by the Internet could retire to lives of leisure.

"Still, there were problems. Pockets of poverty remained outside the citadels of wealth. Schools struggled to educate the young. Many in the nation lacked health insurance."

What? How did an Al Gore commercial get inserted into a dispatch about tall ships? And when was the last time your cabbie ran a red light because he was nervous about the market rather than speeding so he could cadge another fare? I'll leave it to my friends a generation younger to describe the villas and Caribbean islands to which they've retired at the age of 27.

I have little patience for fireworks demonstrations at this point in my life. At 17, from a hill on the French Riviera, looking down at the beach in Cannes, I witnessed the most spectacular bombs bursting in midair imaginable-but Junior understandably insisted we go upstairs to check out the baby blasts from the barges. I was a little grumpy since he was interrupting my viewing of Wag the Dog, while Mrs. M and MUGGER III were fast asleep, but up we went and stood silent staring at the Hudson and beyond. After about five minutes, he'd had enough, and to our horror I discovered that our roof door was locked; even worse was that I'd fastened the inside clasp above the lock on the front door to our apartment. We were in trouble.

After about an hour of trying various means of breaking in, I finally relented and called home from the lobby, hoping to jog my wife from her well-earned slumber. It worked and everyone was happy. My seven-year-old was especially excited: "Yeah, Mom, it was rough. We tried to jimmy the lock but had no luck. Dad really messed up." Mrs. M looked at me and mouthed the words, "jimmy the lock!" She then said, "When I went to bed he was an innocent boy who just wanted to play Nintendo and baseball; now he's a crook!"

This is ketchup? This is ...
Just two more notes before moving on to politics. I think H.J. Heinz's plan to introduce a green ketchup to the market this October is simply goofy-my kids were horrified-and destined to flop with plenty of embarrassment to go around at the company. But in a July 10 Times story, there was the following gem from a Heinz spokeswoman, explaining why children will instantly take to the goo: "It's empowered them in a way that they have always desired but haven't had an opportunity, until now. It's a ketchup they can call their own." If Bush is elected this November, maybe Clinton-speak will vanish as quickly as James Riady.

And I love how Rudy Giuliani is once again waging a war on jaywalkers, even though citizens are being attacked by aggro bums and crime in the city is quickly returning to Dinkins-like levels. Doctors, please: don't screw around with the Mayor's medicine.

DOS. Rick Lazio's a whussy. Sorry, but there's no other way to describe his timid behavior in contesting Hillary Clinton for New York's open U.S. Senate seat. The word "wimp" just won't do. After Mrs. Clinton's campaign aired some negative television ads about Lazio's eight-year career in Congress-as if such tactics are unique, especially for a Clinton-the Long Island legislator whimpered to The New York Times: "I know what these attack ads are all about. They're about fear. If these attacks continue, my opponent will learn this about New York: Bend the truth, and you will face the consequences. New Yorkers will not elect a person they cannot trust."

Grow up, Enrico. You chose to run against Hillary Clinton; you were the one who appeared on talk shows last summer in a naked, smarmy display of ambition-even though at that time the Senate nomination was wrapped up for Rudy Giuliani. So now that your dream is achieved, how about running a campaign that conservatives can respect? Right now, I certainly don't.

Lazio has everything going for him: a residual resentment against Clinton on the carpetbagger issue; the staggering number of women who despise her, even on the Upper West Side; her specific involvement in numerous White House scandals and avoidance of others; and her refusal to be interviewed on television by a host more threatening than Rosie O'Donnell. Hillary can't break out of the mid-40s in any poll; this election should be a lay-up for any pol who's clean on the morals front. She's stupidly dubbed his campaign bus the "Double-Talk" express, instead of letting surrogates do the dirty work. Even Lazio's suspect Quick & Reilly transaction is completely washed out by Hillary's larger profit on cattle futures.

Lazio
Yet he's trying to blow the election.

Last week, the press printed a fundraising letter, signed by Lazio, that read: "Hillary Clinton and her husband have embarrassed our country and disgraced their powerful posts. She covets power and control and thinks she should be dictating how other people run their lives. No other Senate hopeful enjoys a liberal national press that hangs on her every word and treats her never-ending soap opera of scandals as 'irrelevant' and 'yesterday's news.'"

Yeah, that's what most sentient candidates, hoping to open the wallets of Republicans across the country-not too hard when your opponent is Hillary-would do. But no, Lazio has to dissemble when confronted with the solicitation, saying: "Frankly, these letters are not written by me. I'm not disowning it, but they're not written by me. I just think this is a huge smoke screen."

Clinton's spokesman called the letter a "personal insult" to the First Lady. Big deal. What's he supposed to say: "You know, Enrico, I've seen the light. Can I sign up with you, maybe bat some ideas around with Mike Murphy?" This is scary stuff. I've distrusted Lazio from the beginning, hoping that Gov. Pataki or Rep. Jack Quinn would replace Giuliani, but the Suffolk County mushmouth is performing worse than I imagined. I just thought he was sleazy, but his buckling under pressure is a surprise. So we've got a minor leaguer going up against the Clinton machine for a valuable U.S. Senate seat. Terrific.

There's time for Lazio to sail straight, but it's not encouraging. Any seasoned politician would salivate at the chance to run against Hillary Clinton, especially since her grab for power is so transparent. She threw a dart at open Senate seats on a map of the United States and came up with New York. Already, the Queen of Choice is backtracking on the horrific partial-birth abortion procedure. She's a sitting duck, especially if Al Gore doesn't win huge in New York against Bush this November.

But Republicans had better hope that Lazio, a wormboy if I've ever seen one, gets a spine transplant very, very soon.

MAS FROM MUGGER
TRES Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, the ditzy GOP pollster whom desperate tv hosts must call at the last minute to replace sages who can't make it-say, Lanny Davis, Peter Fenn or Alan Dershowitz-made a stupid goof in a July 5 National Review Online column. Pushing Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning for Bush's veep-about as likely as Patrick Kennedy getting the nod-Fitzpatrick lists among his attributes: "He pitched a perfect game on Father's Day 1963 at Shea Stadium."

How insulting to New Yorkers. I mean, who could forget the year 1964, when aside from the Beatles breaking in the States, the World's Fair was held in Flushing and the Mets' new stadium opened on April 17? Perhaps Bunning is a former client of Fitzpatrick's, but she does the GOP no good with her brain-dead commentary on the presidential election. I wouldn't be surprised if she was on James Carville's payroll.

On the same day, the New York Post's Eric Fettmann proved that he needs an American history refresher as well. He wrote, in a dumb column about vice-presidential selections: "In 1968, Richard Nixon selected Delaware Gov. Spiro Agnew, an out-and-out thief, for vice president after his other choices were vetoed by party leaders." Ahem.

One, Agnew was the governor of Maryland. Two, his thievery-accepting cash in brown paper bags both in Annapolis and Washington (it's a "Land of Peasant Living" tradition)-wasn't revealed until 1973, when Nixon threw him overboard because of his own Watergate troubles. Three, Agnew, according to Theodore H. White's The Making of the President 1968 (an author Fettmann cites in the very same column!), was Nixon's second choice, a sop to Rockefeller Republicans, of whom Agnew was one. His first choice, California's Robert Finch, turned him down.

I wonder if Fettmann knows who William McKinley was?

And an editorialist at The Wall Street Journal, on June 22, revealed a shocking lack of familiarity with pop culture. Goofing on Al Gore for his latest incarnation-if it's early summer, the Vice President, looking at California polls, must be Ralph Nader-the writer takes the hapless Democratic candidate to task for his exercises in class warfare. So far, so true. An excerpt from the editorial: "'Big Oil' was one of politics' all-time greatest hits-back around 1975. 'Price-gouging' was also a rave among politicians, back when Mr. Gore was swinging to Petulla Clark."

Love the sentiment, and Gore's become even more demagogic since the WSJ edit was published-his attacks on pharmaceutical companies come to mind, particularly ludicrous when one of his advisers, Carter Eskew, lobbied for that industry's advertising business-but let's correct a few facts.

Just one "L" in Pet Clark's name; and Gore, who couldn't have been cool enough to even recognize her '65 smash "Downtown," was probably humming along with the lite-rock group America in the 70s. Clark's major hits were in the 60s.

CUATRO. This following snippet of journalistic brutality is so disheartening that I'll be brief. The Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times Co., this past weekend reaffirmed, 10-fold, its status as the laughingstock of New England. The paper suspended its finest columnist, Jeff Jacoby, for four months, without pay, because of a piece he wrote on July 3 called "56 great risk-takers." Jacoby updated a common story that pops up with regularity at this time of the year: the fate of the Declaration of Independence's signatories. Much of what he wrote-as he acknowledged in an e-mail to 100 people before the column was published, but inexplicably not in the piece itself-was not original, but rather an effort to correct some errors in the folklore that's been handed down for two centuries.

Globe editorial-page editor Renee Loth, in a caricature of a Times Olympian, issued the following statement last Friday: "[Jacoby's column was] a serious violation of the relationship between the Globe and its readers... We considered mitigating factors as well as the blow this is to the Globe's credibility, and we came up with a balanced response that's appropriate."

Three questions. One, if the Globe is so concerned about its relationship with readers and the newspaper's credibility, where the heck were Jacoby's editors when the column was submitted? Are they being punished as well? Two, how can Loth mete out such a harsh rebuke to Jacoby, a nationally recognized writer, when she prints hacks like Thomas Oliphant-who functions merely as an errand boy for millionaire Democratic consultant Robert Shrum and the Gore campaign-and David Nyhan, another lazy liberal apologist who taps out conventional wisdom a few times a week and gets on with his affluent life? Finally, I don't believe it's an accident that Jacoby, the paper's token conservative op-ed contributor, was singled out for such a heavy-handed paddling.

Jacoby's now a martyr, the John Rocker (with brains) of New England.

I wouldn't be surprised if he sought employment elsewhere; if New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch were clever he'd match Jacoby's salary at the Globe and move him to the city, giving the conservative tabloid a well-needed dash of class and severity. After all, when John Podhoretz, Dick Morris and Eric Fettmann anchor your op-ed pages, an uptick in quality is called for.

In fact, since Murdoch hasn't taken my good advice and lured National Review editor Rich Lowry away from his perch at the biweekly, I believe Jacoby would be an excellent substitute. The Globe's loss would be Manhattan's gain.

Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy (a bleeding heart, yes, but a very nice fellow, unlike most of his ideological comrades) agrees that Jacoby's been unfairly treated by the Globe's management. He e-mailed me on Sunday: "Jacoby writes a well-written, well-researched, thoughtful column that is one of the better reads on what is, in general, a pretty dreary op-ed page. I think what's going on is that you've got a new publisher (Richard Gilman) and new editorial-page editor (Renee Loth) who know how angry Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was over the shoddy handling of the [Mike] Barnicle and [Patricia] Smith situation two years ago, and who know that the safest route they can take is to make an example out of Jacoby in order to show how tough they are.

And Jacoby, as a conservative columnist with very few supporters inside the building, is a very easy target for them to go after... Suspending Jacoby for four months without pay is clearly an attempt to ruin him. It's a gross overreaction, and it doesn't bode well for the Gilman era."

Jacoby's response, published online by the Jewish World Review, read, in part: "No one deserves to lose his income for a third of a year because a column lacked a sentence that might have underscored how common the column's theme was. I am deeply concerned about my family's future, of course. And I am deeply concerned about my reputation... I thought my future at the paper was limitless. It has been shocking and traumatic to discover how wrong I was."

CINCO. I'm not given to praising Tina Brown's ludicrous Talk, but the August issue does contain an excerpt of Joe Eszterhas' forthcoming book American Rhapsody, which is worth the embarrassment of buying the monthly at a newsstand. (A source deep in Disneyland says that Talk, which in September is pulling an Al Gore and reinventing itself once again, has until December to prove itself. The word is that Miramax's Harvey Weinstein is bored with the magazine, thinking it would've been more fun.)

The accompanying article on Eszterhas, written by Jonathan Mahler, is typically Talk-obsequious, but it's splendid to see the onetime Rolling Stone writer back in top form after spending too many years-albeit years spent accumulating wealth-in Hollywood writing screenplays.

Top billing goes to Bill Clinton's talking penis, Willard, but Monica (the President's "piece of cake"), "Hilla the Hun," Linda Tripp, Lucianne Goldberg and the iconic film moguls of the 40s and 50s have hilarious supporting roles. Not only does the author provide the precise definition of a "Hollywood loaf," but he has an imaginary section in which George W. Bush outlines his plans for the presidency. I doubt Bush, and especially his brother Jeb, will appreciate the treatment, but it's nothing compared to the treatment the man Jann Wenner described as America's first rock 'n' roll president gets. First black president, first gay president, first female president, first Native American president; man, old lame duck Clinton's had a busy eight years.

And now he's preparing to steal Al Gore's thunder at the Democratic Convention this August in Los Angeles. What a putz!


JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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