Jewish World Review July 22, 2003/ 22 Tamuz 5763


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Consumer Reports

Ganging up on Bush In these days of hot dogs and beer | Historically, George W. Bush takes a licking in the media and polls every summer. In 1999, after stunning his challengers for the GOP presidential nomination by raising so much money, Bush was dogged by bogus reports of cocaine use and alleged shady business deals. Next August, on the heels of a successful convention, although it was justifiably mocked for its over-the-top display of ethnicity, Al Gore locked lips with Tipper and vaulted into the lead until self-destructing in the fall debates.

The following summer, after winning a tax cut in Congress, Bush seemed adrift, especially after his speech on stem cell research. The content of the address was fine, but the president appeared small and hesitant about his own words. Pundits foolishly started calling him a one-termer, as they lionized Vermont opportunist James Jeffords for giving Democrats control of the Senate, and predicted a string of legislative losses for the remainder of 2001 and beyond. The events of September 11 rendered all that speculation moot as Bush started the presidency fate had in store for him.

Last year, the debate about Iraq and homeland security began, and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe looked forward to an extraordinary midterm election for his party. Once the jokes about Bush's brush-clearing prowess in Texas subsided, he skillfully co-opted any Democratic advantage on those two issues, forced a vote on the war, and took back the Senate in November.

So it's hardly surprising that as soldiers continue to be picked off in a still-unstable Iraq-judging by Bush's critics, you'd think the Iraqi occupation was in its fifth year-and Democratic presidential candidates and their media lackeys hammer the administration on those 16 words about African uranium, the president's approval ratings are slipping.

John Zogby, the pollster politicians either praise or discredit, depending on his numbers, released the most negative survey yet on July 18. For the first time, more "likely voters," by a 47-46 percent margin, would prefer to see "someone new" in the White House in January 2005. Zogby's poll didn't provide any head-to-head matchups with Democratic candidates, and the finding that 48 percent of voters would choose Bush over a challenger (43 percent) if the election were today, does make his results confusing, but the point is made.

Bush has also taken some friendly fire from the National Review, which is running complaints that he's not conservative enough. The editors wrote, in part: "We have never been under any illusions about the extent of Bush's conservatism. He did not run in 2000 as a small-government conservative, or as someone who relished ideological combat on such issues as racial preferences and immigration...[But] we need presidential leadership on issues other than war and taxes. Instead we are getting the first full presidential term to go without a veto since John Quincy Adams."

I doubt NR editor Rich Lowry would prefer Howard Dean to Bush, but one never knows; that the Kansas City Royals are leading the American League's Central division is a loopy development that demonstrates you just can't take anything for granted.

It's the hazy, lazy days of summer, and Bush-bashing ranks as a favorite activity. It doesn't compare with the Laci Peterson murder, the continuing "Kennedy Curse," the discovery that Americans are fat, HBO's haul of Emmy nominations, Kobe Bryant's arrest and Barbra Streisand's $10 million lawsuit against an aerial photographer who posted shots on the internet of the celebrity's Malibu mansion, along with 12,000 other images that he argues proves the erosion of California's coastline. Oh, and let's not forget that a pair of JFK's boxer shorts were sold at auction for $5000.

That's news.

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Anyway, as Bob Dylan (or maybe an obscure Thai poet) wrote in 1970, "If dogs run free, then why not we/Across the swooping plain?" And make no mistake about it-the huskies are galloping on the printed page, despite the silly fears of William Safire, among others, that the FCC is determined to limit free speech. In fact, the First Amendment is in full Woodstock-flower, judging by what I've been reading lately.

Pat Buchanan, in his July 16 syndicated column, defends Ann Coulter's "brave" (I'd say kooky) book Treason as it regards Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Buchanan, confined to the ghetto of journalism after three presidential runs, writes: "On Joe, Coulter is right. McCarthy was more sinned against than sinning, a better patriot and man than those who brought him down, or deserted him in his hour of need, or those who turn their backs on him today, because the social price of saying a kind word over his grave would be too high."

The Wisconsin senator's rise and fall was before my time, but I've read enough about the man, in addition to watching videotapes of his congressional hearings, to safely believe that his histrionics didn't represent the GOP's finest hour.

Buchanan, however, is a clever writer, and the following rub-out of the cursed Kennedys is priceless. "America's young should ask themselves: If Joe McCarthy was such a monster, why did Joe Kennedy back him, the Kennedy girls date him, Robert Kennedy work for him and JFK defend him as a 'great patriot' in his year of censure? And why was McCarthy asked to be the godfather to Bobby Kennedy's firstborn?"

Buchanan is being provocative for the sheer fun of it. He knows, as well as others, that Joe Kennedy had no scruples when it came to seeking power. His association with mobsters, two-bit hoods who'd pay off voters, bribes and commanding machine Democratic officials to obey his sleazy edicts are all well-documented and part of America's political lore.

On the other side of the spectrum, New York Press' Matt Taibbi, in last week's "Cage Match," uses the left-wing staple that Bush steals from the poor to fortify the rich to put down in words a paragraph I'll bet he's been waiting to write for at least a month.

Channeling the dead, incapacitated and born-again scribes from the "underground press" of the 1960s, Taibbi's first paragraph is a rip-snorter, worthy of "Right on, brother!" accolades from Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal. This is high-calorie rhetoric, the equivalent of eating three Big Macs, so I'd advise a meal of carrots and celery after reading the upcoming nonsense. Taibbi:

George Bush should be hung up by his balls. No kidding. He should be grabbed from behind, restrained, forcibly stripped below the waist, and a big hook should be dragged through a pulley at the top of a flagpole, and the president should be hoisted up and left to swing in the breeze, 60 painful feet above the ground.

Let's not leave NAACP president Kweisi Mfume out of the mix. Last week, after three Democratic presidential candidates had the temerity to skip the group's annual convention, Mfume, once a crazy-cat radio host in Baltimore, let it fly. Referring to the convicted-Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich-Mfume described them as "persona non grata" whose "political capital is the equivalent of Confederate dollars." [By the way, Rebel currency commands a hefty price at stores that traffic in such items.] He continued, "When candidates choose to ignore the NAACP, they have no legitimacy when they go into our communities later asking for our votes."

Take it down a notch, Kweisi. The NAACP, which disgraced itself permanently by running advertisements in the 2000 campaign implying that George W. Bush killed James Byrd, won't sit out next year's election, even in the unlikely event that Lieberman heads the ticket. It's a hollow threat.

But Senator Joe (the one from Connecticut, not Wisconsin) couldn't simply apologize to Master Mfume. The New Republic's Jason Zengerle, sympathetic to Democrats, nevertheless spanked Lieberman on the magazine's website last Thursday. Recounting the tawdry suck-up to the aggrieved NAACP, Zengerle records this quote from Lieberman's "make-up" speech in Miami. He said: "We didn't realize at the time, Al Gore and I, that we not only needed Kweisi Mfume fighting for justice here in Florida counting votes, we need him on the Supreme Court where the votes really counted. Maybe that'll happen some day."

Zengerle counters Lieberman's "absurd" comment: "So Lieberman-a man who once questioned affirmative action-is now saying he'll put Kweisi Mfume-a man who, according to his biography on the NAACP website, has not even attended law school-on the Supreme Court? Nothing like compounding an initial mistake."

Taking a different tack on the Supreme Court, last week Pat Robertson, a conservative irritant who causes more mischief than even Jerry Falwell or the post-1994 Newt Gingrich, asked his followers to pray for the retirement of liberal justices. The television minister was driven to apoplexy when the Court last month decriminalized sodomy, and said the ruling "has opened the door to homosexual marriage, bigamy, legalized prostitution and even incest."

Lions, tigers, bears and gay Americans have obviously unhinged the Mad Virginian, as he wails, "I'm not telling G-d what to do, I'm just saying 'Lord, help us.'" I'm not a man of the cloth, but a reasonable person must come to the conclusion that the Lord has a full plate already, and probably isn't concerned about what citizens do in the privacy of their homes.

Then there's Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, a decent fellow who may be asking the Lord to help him guide the team to the World Series this season. Baker caused a ripple of concern in the baseball world on July 5 when he said that Latin and black players perform better in warm weather. (Nothing new about that conclusion: Just ask Boston ace Pedro Martinez.) Baker told reporters: "You don't find too many brothers from New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan... We were brought over for the heat, right?"

Like Matt Taibbi, this columnist might be an honorary brother since my favorite weather is 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity. But that's beside the point.

Where was MLB commissioner Bud Selig after Baker issued those remarks? Considering that he ruined John Rocker's career after the then-Atlanta reliever told a Sports Illustrated reporter that he'd never play in New York City because of, uh, its gorgeous mosaic of residents, I'd say Bud has Kweisi Mfume on his mind. Rocker, after all, was forced to attend "sensitivity sessions" on bigotry, in addition to whiplash media coverage, and never really recovered.

Black Dusty receives a pass and Redneck John gets the business. I suppose, after all, there is a pecking order when it comes to the First Amendment.

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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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