Jewish World Review July 17, 2002/ 8 Menachem-Av 5762

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Bush: Temporary like Achilles


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | All savvy politicians, regardless of their unique abilities, have one gift in common: luck. And George W. Bush, throughout his career in public service, has had four-leaf clovers growing out of his ears.

He defeated the popular Democratic governor Ann Richards in Texas amid the nationwide Republican 1994 landslide. After Bob Dole's disastrous '96 campaign against Bill Clinton (talk about luck), GOP powerbrokers immediately anointed Bush as the most likely nominee, by dint of name recognition, relative youth, immense popularity in Texas and fundraising ability, to win the presidency in 2000. Despite an economy that was perceived as robust and a global terrorism network still not considered a threat to the U.S., Vice President Al Gore conducted one of the most inept campaigns in modern history, unable to capitalize on any number of Bush's strategic blunders. Had Bush disclosed his innocuous DWI arrest in the 1970s early in the campaign, instead of allowing Democrats to spill the beans the weekend before the election, he'd have won the popular vote.

Currently, with the media and Congress awash in an avalanche of contradictory (and confusing) reactions to the burst of corporate scandals, Bush has almost matched his politically motivated detractors with a lot of mush on the subject. Why in the world did the President give his speech about cleaning up Big Business on Wall Street last week, during the day-when it could and did affect the markets-instead of addressing the nation in a primetime address televised from the White House? I had little quarrel with his actual rhetoric, and he's correct to tread more lightly than Rip Van Sarbanes (D-MD), the Eliot Spitzer of the U.S. Senate who hasn't made headlines since the Watergate hearings, but Bush insulted the American public by not speaking to them directly.

However, despite the obits written daily about Republicans in the November midterm elections, and Bush's own campaign in 2004, the soothsayers forget that it's July, probably the best month of the year for unfavorable publicity to be spilled across the front pages of The New York Times. I suppose it's possible that the uproar over criminal activities in the boardrooms of blue-chip, and less prestigious, companies (and when, I wonder, will the questionable accounting practices of the entertainment industry be put under the microscope?) could continue until this fall, but it's unlikely. The Dow and NASDAQ will probably stabilize by Labor Day; the overall economy is slowly improving; and the media, once it's tired of rehashing Bush's small-beer involvement with Harken Energy, will turn to other targets.

Lieberman

Like moral crusader Dick Gephardt's unsecured $125,000 loan in 1988 from Federal City Bank, founded by current DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Or Joe Lieberman's cozy relationship with insurance firms, military contractors and pharmaceutical companies in Connecticut. Lieberman, appearing on ABC's This Week last Sunday, put on his customary holier-than-thou mask and claimed, "Because of the President's involvement in the Harken Energy case, there is a large cloud hanging over his head. I am afraid if he doesn't eliminate it soon by giving full disclosure [the suspicions] will diminish his moral authority..." Commerce Secretary Don Evans said on Fox News Sunday: "This [the Harken nonstory] is nothing but political garbage that the American people are sick and tired of."

In the latest Gallup Poll, conducted July 9-11, those surveyed gave Bush a 73-percent job approval rating, and 61 percent said that the President did nothing wrong in the Harken matter or had no opinion about it.

And, as the New York Post's Deborah Orin reported on July 11, Tom Daschle's personal financial record isn't pristine. His lobbyist wife Linda does business with dozens of major companies, including American Airlines, Boeing, Northwest Airlines, L-3 Communications and Loral Space. The Daschles, unlike Bush, won't release their tax returns. But although Linda Daschle's 2001 $460,000 fee from Loral-which paid a $14 million fine for illegally sending missile technology to China-may be completely honest, it's a bit rich when the Majority Leader insists Bush release every document relating to his Harken loan.

THERE ONCE WAS A SENATOR FROM NANTUCKET...

The Washington Post's Thomas Edsall, on July 13, ran a short item on page five about 16 U.S. senators flying from DC to Nantucket on corporate jets "for a weekend retreat with 250 major campaign donors." It happens that these members of Congress were all Democrats, otherwise it would probably have been on page one in the Times that day.

Edsall reports: "Asked about the propriety of Democrats-many of whom have criticized President Bush and Congressional Republicans for their ties to corporations accused of accounting abuses-voting to close debate on corporate-accountability legislation and then flying to a resort on corporate jets [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Tovah] Ravitz-Meehan said: 'I don't think there is any tie between the vote and their mode of travel.' Getting to Nantucket, she said, is 'logistically difficult, and expensive to reach commercially.'"

This is a hoot. First of all, I've flown to Nantucket some 25 times and it's neither expensive nor "logistically difficult" to get to. Second, among the impoverished senators who needed to hitch rides on the jets of companies such as BellSouth, Eli Lilly and AFLAC, were multimillionaires John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Teddy Kennedy and Jon Corzine. You'd think that Kerry, an all-but-announced 2004 presidential candidate, might've dipped into his personal fortune and paid for the jaunt himself, if only to prove he's not beholden to corporate charity.

I'm not saying it's only Democrats who'll get the treatment from reporters who can't read a spreadsheet: every politician, especially those running for office in November, will be investigated. Already, the Senate race in North Carolina pitting Elizabeth Dole against former Clinton adviser Erskine Bowles (assuming he survives a nominal primary fight) is a casualty of the media's laughable moral fervor.

Gov. George Pataki, on the other hand, is in the pink. Not only has he received union endorsements and snatched Hispanic support from challengers Carl McCall and Andy Cuomo, but as the Daily News reported on Monday, diehard Democrats like Miramax's Harvey Weinstein and DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg have donated close to $70,000 to the incumbent Republican so far. Weinstein, who dined with Pataki and Katzenberg recently at Tribeca Grill, said: "I will be raising a significant amount of money [for Pataki], as will Jeffrey." He added that the names of other Democratic contributors "will be surprising."

More importantly, what are the odds that between now and November a series of international or domestic crises won't occur? Maybe the Democrats do have a bulletproof issue to win back the House and expand their slim majority in the Senate, but I'll wait until after Labor Day before making any predictions. As for Bush's reelection campaign, has everyone forgotten how vulnerable Bill Clinton was (and this was pre-Monica) in the spring of 1995? Just before he effectively mourned with the country over the Oklahoma City bombing, Clinton was forced to claim he was still relevant. (Not that Clinton even visited the site of the first attack on the World Trade Center in '93, figuring why bother since New York was already in the bag for him electorally.)

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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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© 2002, Russ Smith