Jewish World Review July 14, 2004/ 25 Tamuz, 5764


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With endorsements like these … | A nagging splinter in John Kerry's manicured pinky fingernail this past year has been the commentary of blogger Mickey Kaus (, a former New Republic writer and disciple of Michael Kinsley, who regularly suggests that the Senator fares better with the public when he's in seclusion and therefore unable to utter yet another policy contradiction or embarrassing gaffe. Yet Kaus, despite his carping, admitted last week that he donated $300 to the Kerry campaign, coupled with this confidence-inspiring endorsement: "We survived [Jimmy] Carter and we'd survive Kerry (though it will be a long, hard slog!"

This rationale escapes me, considering Carter's image as a doormat abroad and atrocious economic record, but Kaus is a lifelong Democrat and believes the country needs a "break" from George W. Bush's "swagger" and "apocalypticism." Clearly, Kaus is not in the same category as rabid Bush-bashers, such as the noted political scientist Chevy Chase — for younger readers, Chase was once a moderately successful actor — who on July 8 at a Radio City Music Hall fundraiser declared that the President is "as bright as an egg timer."

You also won't find Kaus in the same pew as Archbishop of Canterbury, who, as London's Times reports on July 11, says that Prime Minister Tony Blair's in dutch with the L-rd above. The Archbishop, aka Dr. Rowan Williams, said that Blair will have to answer directly to G-d on Judgment Day for his courage in joining with Bush for the Iraq invasion and thus perhaps saving countless European lives.

But a vote's a vote, unless you live (or are buried) in Chicago, New York City or St. Louis, where a ballot in favor of the Democrat sometimes is miraculously doubled or tripled.

The elite media's gushing over John Edwards was a sight to behold, and even the Times' Maureen Dowd (July 8), while trashing Dick Cheney, still wrote as if she'd just consumed 18 lemons. Dowd delivered an endorsement of Teresa Heinz Kerry, a woman who is by far the most intriguing potential First Lady since Jackie O. Already on a first-name basis, Maureen gushes: "Teresa has the air, as Chris Matthews noted, of an old-fashioned European movie star. She projects a quality like Marlene Dietrich or Jeanne Moreau, a sultry touch-me-and-you-die look with an accent to match: a rare political perfume of I don't give a hot, I'm worth a billion dollars and you're not and he's not and the Bushes are not; of I have four mansions and he doesn't; of I'm so confident I can admit to using Botox and can wear Chanel while my husband complains about manufacturing jobs' going overseas."

Perhaps paranoid that her rare instance of telling the truth might not go over well with Times editors, and readers, Dowd quickly rode another horse. "Ordinarily," starts the backtrack, "the John-John ticket might seem a bit off-putting — a little too glib, a little too ingratiating, a little too forced, a little too expedient, a little too eager to please. But when the competition is two oilmen who don't seem to please anybody but Halliburton and the Saudis — ask Pat Leahy, Old Europe and the 9/11 panel — overeagerness is a relief."

Man, that was a close one! Dowd was on the brink of being excommunicated by the Church of Bush is a Nazi. Further brown-nosing Kerry and Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Dowd sneered at the answer Bush gave to a reporter in North Carolina last week, one that Kerry flack Tad Devine declared an "unprovoked attack on a positive ticket." Bush, when asked how Edwards compared to Cheney, replied: "Dick Cheney can be president. Next."

Kerry's $7.5 million bash must've been a curious event, judging by the to-and-fro both campaigns engaged in the following day. The Bush crowd, put off by wealthy entertainers — representing the fortunate half of veep nominee Edwards' "Two Americas" — calling the incumbent a "cheap thug," among other imaginative epithets, compared the event to Sen. Paul Wellstone's raucous funeral just before the 2002 midterm elections. Paul Newman said Bush's tax cuts were "borderline criminal," although it's doubtful he'd criticize John F. Kennedy for also lowering taxes.

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It happened that Kerry appeared on Larry King Live the same night, and reacted to Tom Ridge's warning about increased al-Qaeda threats in the U.S., by saying, when asked for a reaction: "Well, I haven't been briefed yet, Larry. They have offered to brief me; I just haven't had time. But all Americans are united in our efforts to defeat terrorism."

That's swell, John. Getting ready to strum a guitar with Jon Bon Jovi and John Fogerty is infinitely more important than learning about a possible attack that will actually kill people, even if they reside, as Michael Moore lamented shortly after Sept. 11, in states that voted for Bush.

The dailies struggled to explain some of the "blue" material dished out to the energized crowd, but The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash, who forfeited $500 to sit in the "cheap seats," had no such problem. Labash, as I've mentioned before, is one of Washington's most gifted journalists and he didn't disappoint with his dispatch that appears in the magazine's current issue. Saying that John Mellencamp "trekked over to Edwards's seat for some sort of huggy/chest-bump," Labash continued: "With so many blue-collar poseurs [I'm assuming the writer includes Edwards in that group] keeping company, it left one feeling sorry for Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen, who must have been unable to knock off early from the factory."

Whereas the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson sanitized Whoopi Goldberg's turn in the spotlight, writing that she "included a sexual pun on Bush's name," Labash spelled it out for readers of the conservative weekly owned by the satanic Rupert Murdoch. Goldberg's predictable comments didn't particularly offend me, but Kerry's staff, if not the candidate himself, had to be speed dialing "Damage Control" upon hearing the celebrity letting Whoopi be Whoopi.

As Labash recounts, she said: "Nothing has given me more pleasure than bush…Someone has tarnished the world in the name of Bush. We went to war in the name of Bush… attempted to amend the Constitution in the name of Bush… Keep bush where it belongs, not in the White House." Labash (who, by the way, opposed the invasion of Iraq) summed up: "And that, to quote John Edwards's laudation of Kerry, is what this night, and this campaign, is all about. It is a 'celebration of real American values.' It's about can-do optimism, a front-porch heartland ethos, and the telling of good, wholesome vagina jokes."

No wonder Kaus thinks he's not getting his $300 worth when Kerry appears before a crowd of more than 100 people, rather than reading Chaucer, Kant or Sontag in Nantucket, Georgetown or one of his wife's other homes. Still, as entertaining as Goldberg and her populists were in Manhattan, I think the candidate himself topped them all over the July 4 weekend while appearing Wisconsin. Attempting to woo rural voters, Kerry (someone forgot to tell him that button-down shirts are traditionally a presidential fashion faux-pas) waxed nostalgically about growing up and tilling the farm fields.

At an Independence, WI barn Kerry told the assembled, reprising Al Gore's stories of tobacco-picking days, that he, too, was an Earth Papa. The candidate, who spoke in English, not French, Farsi or German, explained: "My parents had, when we lived in Massachusetts, we lived on a farm. I learned my first cuss word sitting on a tractor with the guy who was driving it… When I was 12 years old, my passion was being allowed to go out and sit on the John Deere and drive around a field and plow. And I learned as a kid what it was like to look in back of me and see those furrows, and see that pattern, and feel a sense of accomplishment and end up dusty and dirty and tired."

According to the Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold, "Margaret and Ralph Segerstrom, who own a 286-acre dairy farm nearby, were impressed. 'He talks our language,' said Margaret, 79. 'I guess he, too, lived on a farmland when he was a kid,' added Ralph, 80. 'Same with me — that's what I did all my life.'"

Gold, a Kerry-friendly reporter, was delicate about the subject, saying the nominee's "passion" for farming "until now had not been a well-publicized part of his biography." Seeking clarification from Kerry's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter (a bona fide viper, but not yet in the same league as Gore/Wesley Clark/Michael Moore flack Chris Lehane), Gold did learn that when Kerry was "4 or 5," his parents lived adjacent to a farm. In addition, his aunt and uncle owned a dairy farm, where young John "frequently visited."

Presumably, at that stage in his life, Kerry didn't own an $8000 bike and his mind wasn't yet set on marrying extraordinarily wealthy women.

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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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