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Jewish World Review August 9, 2000/ 8 Menachem-Av, 5760


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Consumer Reports

Bubba feels his own pain -- PRESIDENT CLINTON had proved his still-adolescent approach to life just a few days before George W. Bush's convention speech when he complained that his critics were intent on crushing the First Lady's doomed Senate candidacy in New York. During a television interview in Tampa on July 31, Clinton said: "It hurts me...everybody that always hated me all those years and were so mean to me, they've all transferred all their anger to [Hillary Clinton] now. It's almost as if they've got one last chance to beat me." As usual, everything is about him. It hasn't occurred to the President that his wife's adversaries have enough reasons to oppose her campaign against Rick Lazio.

Also, isn't it ludicrous that a 53-year-old man, the leader of the free world, is complaining about the opposition being "mean" to him? Aww, chubby Billy, have some cocoa and everything will be okeydokey.

Of course there were catcalls that Bush didn't offer substance in his remarks to the GOP delegates, just a shrewd series of jabs at the current administration. This is completely untrue: the Governor said he'd lower tax rates; sign a bill banning "partial-birth abortion"; strengthen Social Security; and redefine the current concept of education in this country.

My chief complaint about the convention was that the meticulous planners didn't include at least a brief tribute to the brave House managers who argued for Clinton's removal from office after he was impeached. True, Democrats might've seized on this moment, but surely a nod to James Rogan, who's waging an uphill battle in California to keep his House seat, would've been appropriate. And Henry Hyde, Lindsey Graham, Asa Hutchinson, etc., deserved a round of applause for their profiles in courage.

There was a lot of bitter hoopla in the media about the admittedly gooey parade of blacks, Latinos, Asians, etc., center stage in Philadelphia; the obvious preference was for bitter walkouts over abortion, Pat Buchanan-style tirades about immigration and homosexuality and Sen. John McCain making a few off-color jokes about old folks who suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Not only would such divisive battles provide better soundbites and lead paragraphs for the well-feted hacks who clogged the city, but tremendous ammunition would be handed to Gore, who needs all the help he can get: if the Veep doesn't start convincing voters soon that he's nothing more than a Clinton-clone creep, next year will find him shooting hoops with former Rep. Tom Downey and doing lobbying work for the tobacco industry.

One statistic was cited over and over by the mostly cable pundits over the four days: the simple fact that the percentage of black delegates at the GOP convention this year was no larger than that of President Bush's abysmal Houston session in '92. True enough. But I believe Gov. Bush when he says he wants a more inclusive Republican Party. That's why he addressed the NAACP gathering in Baltimore last month-an event the doddering '96 nominee, Bob Dole, boycotted, knowing that he'd be met with a tepid response.

THe highlights of the GOP convention last week? Gov. George W. Bush's acceptance speech, well-written and delivered with more panache than anybody would've expected two months ago, was a spike through the black heart of Vice President Al Gore's meandering presidential campaign.

Almost as effective, at least to this viewer, was the conclusion to Monday's program: the grainy black-and-white video of a young Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" while the giddy delegates filed out of the Philadelphia hall and toddled off to the corporate parties that fuel both the Republican and Democratic quadrennial galas.

The juxtaposition was stark. Smith's famous tune is from another era, a Norman Rockwell painting with sound, when at least a veneer of American patriotism was at an all-time high. Bush's strategists, who were roundly lampooned for their "It's a Small World After All" four-day gathering, were shrewd in selecting this anthem, as a reminder both of a time when Washington politics and Hollywood morals weren't intertwined, and when there was a lack of cynicism in the country, especially in the Rust Belt states that might decide the election this November.

And then, three nights later, the Texas Governor stood and enumerated 21st-century themes, finally shedding his image as a "lightweight"-even to some of the 15,000 predominantly liberal journalists who attended the convention, complaining all the while about the lack of "news" but not missing the booze & gossip fest for all the scoops in the world.

Bush came across as a man who didn't thirst for the presidency. He wasn't "raised" for the job like his opponent; nor did he calculate his every public statement since the age of eight, as did our current and corrupt chief executive, Bill Clinton. One of Bush's most effective lines in the speech, which offered praise to Clinton while simultaneously slitting his throat, was: "Our current president embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill. But in the end, to what end? So much promise to no great purpose."

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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© 2000, Russ Smith