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Jewish World Review August 25, 2000/ 24 Menachem-Av, 5760


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Consumer Reports

Thank heavens
for Clarence Thomas -- THANK HEAVENS for Jeb Bush's visionary governorship in Florida.

Thank heavens for the grace and civility of President and Barbara Bush, two model citizens who stand in contrast for Americans to the craven, me-generation Clintons.

And thank heavens for George W. Bush's refusal to cave into the politically correct notion of hate-crimes legislation. Texas is not a good state in which to kill people; you'll pay for it with your life. Liberals, who are against capital punishment, yet remain adamant about hate-crimes law, seem to think that some murders are more "hateful" than others. What a bunch of baloney. Murder is murder; rape is rape; terrorism is terrorism; and every single crime should be prosecuted. They don't need any fancy mustard to dress up the punishment.

Teddy Kennedy, who's long been a self-parody, was fairly pitiful onstage, barely able to move the audience with his windy words about healthcare. Give him his due: he's 68, and a hard 68 at that, and so his stuttering and stumbling over teleprompter lines could be expected. He doesn't have the juice that he displayed at the '80 convention after his loss to Jimmy Carter; he doesn't have the youth and charisma that might've, had he chosen to run, given him the Democratic nomination over George McGovern in '72. Pundits say that Chappaquiddick was too damaging that year, and so he passed, but I think it was a blunder. The assassinations of his brothers were still fresh, the apprehension about Nixon was palpable, and his sloppy accident of 1969, ironically, would've been less a problem than it was when he actually ran eight years later.

Anyway, Kennedy's conclusion was strange. In speaking about the future, he read from a speech that could've been delivered by George W. Bush, the candidate this fall who truly is looking forward to the challenges of the 21st century, instead of reverting to cheap populism like Gore.

Kennedy said: "This nation has always been a work in progress, and it always will be. We have it in our power to take America to new heights, to make this new century a new progressive era of high achievement for working families, a time in which all Americans advance together. That is our challenge. That is our new frontier." The Democratic Senator, now seeking an eighth term, hopes that 40 years from now, a future generation will look back at the year 2000 as a time when "America dared to dream again."

Bush couldn't have said it better. And with his platform that includes meaningful education reform, the elimination of unfair marriage and death taxes, the creation of a protective missile system, an unencumbered policy of free trade and a pro-immigration stand, it's clear that he's the candidate who will inspire this country's citizens to "dream" again, much as John F. Kennedy-who was closer in political philosophy to Bush than Gore-did a long, long time ago.

Joe and Hadassah

Wednesday night belonged to grinning Joe Lieberman, a man who's sold his conscience for about two wooden nickels, and was introduced by his drama queen wife Hadassah, who basked in the audience's applause and kept crossing her hands over her heart, looking to the sky, for what seemed like at least an hour. Lieberman mended fences with suspicious black delegates earlier in the convention by saying, "I have supported affirmative action. I do support affirmative action. I will support affirmative action." And then he opened his speech by saying, as if he were a black lesbian-which would truly break a few political barriers-"Is America a great country or what?" Well, Joe, yes it is. And you're certainly not the first Jewish person in politics to realize that. So knock it off with the bold-move-by-Gore shtick. And please, stop laughing at your own lame jokes.

The first three nights of the convention were impossible to figure out.

For example, why was Robert Rubin, perhaps the most influential member of Clinton's cabinet, relegated to a six-minute speech in a crummy time period? Rubin, as opposed to Lieberman, is the man who embodies the message-prosperity-that could actually elect Gore. And, unlike Lieberman, he doesn't remind voters of Clinton's scandal-ridden two terms. The Connecticut Senator was potentially a valuable ally, but now, instead of being positioned as Joe the Conservative, he's been tokenized as Joe the Jew. An astonishing political mistake.

As the week wore on, Bush actually gained a few points in the polls. It was shaping up to be worst Democratic convention since Michael Dukakis' in '88.

BUT AL GORE, faced with the most difficult challenge of his long political career, saved his bacon on Thursday night with a speech that was long on personality-for Gore-if just as long on Big Government populist gibberish. I happen to like Tipper Gore-even though the ghost of Frank Zappa will forever haunt the poor woman for her stupid attempt to censor the music industry in the 80s-and her introduction of the newly humanized Gore was a hit on the tube. How could it not be? After eight years of seeing Clinton and his wife barely touch, the Gores engaged in a racy soul kiss while the whole world was watching, a transparent if inoffensive reminder that they're faithful to each other.

Al's daughter

Karenna Gore Schiff, an adviser to her father, might be a cutie, but her supposed brainpower was in scant evidence on Wednesday night. She's the star of the four Gore kids-Albert III, who'd been arrested in North Carolina for driving 97 mph just before the convention, was hardly visible-but her speech was a dud. Her task was to humanize the old man, but she came across as a pampered DC Valley Girl who spoke about cocoa and curfews and toast with lots of butter. She doesn't fit into the populism scheme. How could she? This is an affluent young woman who can't possibly relate to the voters her father is trying to con with his Big Government message. It was an offputting and naked noblesse oblige address.

However, while Gore at least temporarily shed his robotic image, which resulted in the temporary vault in the polls immediately following the convention-a not-insignificant achievement-his actual speech was really weird. What's weirder still is that Gore, who allegedly wrote the address himself, actually believes what he said.

In a sense, it was Gore's bar mitzvah, several decades too late. I found it pathetic that he had to prove his independence from Clinton by saying, "I stand here tonight as my own man." As if that one sentence absolves him from so many transgressions in the past seven years: his complicity in the criminal '96 Democratic fundraising; the cowardly loyalty he showed to an ungrateful Clinton after the latter was impeached; and his irritating insistence that he's a campaign finance reform champion-a foxhole buddy of Sen. John McCain-when he's raked in dough by the boatload from trial lawyers, Hollywood morons and Hamptons dilettantes.

Gore's faux populism is a "risky" strategy for the fall, one that puts a ceiling on his potential support. Most Americans don't feel they need a president to "fight" every day for them. The middle class is content with their 401(k) investments and the conveniences that the new technology has given them; they don't feel that evil corporations are denying them their slice of the American dream. In fact, while Clinton and Gore take credit for the economic good times, their administration has also prosecuted Microsoft, just one example of an entrepreneurial company that has provided employment as well as demonstrated that it's the American people who make the country great, not the government.

And what's with the class warfare? Gore spits out bromides against pharmaceutical companies as if they're pushing heroin. Does he actually believe that medical breakthroughs happen by accident? Does he believe that he or Bill Clinton had anything to do with genomics, proteomics or digital technology? Gore has a worldview that puts Big Government at the center. The real world puts ideas and imagination at the center and ignores the politicians, who haven't the vaguest idea of what they're trying to accomplish.

Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 21, was dead-on about the contradictions of Gore's appearance last Thursday night. "The pose was populist," she said, "but promised to be problematic: If you're going to wage class warfare you'd better do it with the passion of George Wallace or Pat Buchanan, and you probably shouldn't do it at all when the biggest demographic shift in America is the number of new investors."

What's scary about Gore's speech is that it was, at least in part, honest. He told Americans how he looks at the world: the problem is-and this is why there's at least an unconscious unease about him as a leader-that Gore doesn't get it. He's had all the advantages of being at the epicenter of intelligence flow, but simply misreads the data.


I suspect once the glow of Gore's human touch wears off, the polls will settle down and Bush will be leading at Labor Day by a few points. If the Texan doesn't get sidetracked by dwelling on Clinton's immorality and congenital lying-something the Democrats are praying for-probably the only thing that will deny him the Oval Office is a terrible series of debate performances. In the close election that most predict, that's certainly a possibility. But as any honest Democrat will admit, Bush is a much stronger opponent than any of them thought back in March.

A huge problem that Gore will face is the number of Democrats who want to butt in. Sean Wilentz, the remarkably tone-deaf Princeton professor, offered this advice in the Aug. 21 New York Times: "The impeachment of Bill Clinton is arguably the most important and traumatic political event of the last two decades. It is simply a disservice to voters for Democrats to let the Republicans get away with their not-so-veiled attacks." Sure, Sean. If Gore could relive one day as vice president, it would undoubtedly be Impeachment Day, when, in the Rose Garden, Gore lost his mind and outrageously said that Self or Morality would be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

The L-rd only knows how Clinton himself will bollix up Gore's chances. He clearly is more interested in Hillary's election: a victory this year, God forbid, will be the family's possible ticket back to the White House in 2004. So when the First Black/Gay/Hispanic/ Feminist President bombs some Third World country in October, we'll see whether it helps Gore or not.

And look for infighting among Gore's campaign staff. Already, the gaffe-prone Donna Brazile gave an earful of loony comments to New York Post gossip Cindy Adams, printed on Aug. 20. She said: "I'm a woman, 40 years old, whose birth certificate says 'Negro.' With all that laying on top of me, nothing scares me. My whole life's been a victory. This will be the first campaign an African-American woman ran to victory. And I've done it all with a combination of guts, brains and sheer willpower. In my situation you can't be as good as the boys. You have to be one more than the boys. I'm like the eighth wonder of the world."

Say hallelujah, Sister Donna! And just hope you get a nice golden parachute when Bob Shrum fires you from the Gore campaign.

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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