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Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2000/ 7 Elul, 5760


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Consumer Reports

Choo Choo Lieberman -- I GIVE CLINTON credit for following the GOP Congress' lead after the '94 elections, as well as heeding Robert Rubin's advice on the economy. Rubin, as I've said, would've been the smarter choice as Gore's runningmate: not only would Gore reap the same political capital for his "groundbreaking" nomination of a Jew, he'd have a man of real substance at his side.

And watch for the Lieberman Backlash. The Connecticut Senator's nonstop comparison of Gore to Moses is revolting, as is his constant sermonizing. That a conservative politician couldn't get away with Lieberman's preaching is obvious-he'd be hounded off the ticket faster than Tom Eagleton. Originally, Gore's veep pick demonstrated a bold stroke few thought he was capable of. (Even more crucial to Gore's surge was his disengagement from Clinton. Gore was stunned at the level of hatred, outside of Hollywood, for the President.)

Also, Joe's Henny Youngman shtick is getting old. When former President Bush referred to Al Gore as the "Ozone Man" in the '92 election, he was widely mocked by the media. Eventually, Joe the Token Jew will not be able to get away with his lame one-liners and his calling Bush an intellectual soulmate of Barney Rubble. That will only energize the GOP base.

The criticism of Lieberman's sanctimony is coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Writing in Slate on Sept. 1, Bruce Gottlieb asked: "Is Lieberman suggesting that no person who lacks faith follows these religious ethical rules? Surely he doesn't believe that. My own dear mother is an agnostic, and she's about as ethical as they come. Does Sen. Lieberman have a problem with my mother?"

And Gersh Kuntzman's column, in the Sept. 4 New York Post, was all over Lieberman's stupid jokes: "'I look at it this way,' said Tom Hertz, co-executive producer of 'Spin City' and a standup comic. 'When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, he was one of the greatest players. So here we are, about to have the first Jew in the White House, but instead of getting the Jackie Robinson of Jews, we got the Choo Choo Coleman of Jews.'"

Aside from that, what's with Lieberman, who made his reputation by blasting Bill Clinton in '98 for his amoral behavior in the White House, now praising the President for his two terms in office? Since being selected as Gore's runningmate, this guy's gone from being high-priced call girl who'll sacrifice all his principles for political gold to a scag who works the West Side Hwy., a little plump and over the hill. At every campaign stop, Lieberman lays it on thick: noting Clinton's "brilliant leadership," "extraordinary record" and that "There's a lot for the President to be proud of."

Contrary to most journalists, I don't understand what all the fuss is about Bush's advertising rollout last Friday. The ad ridicules Gore for his Buddhist fundraising misadventures, as well as for his penchant for needless exaggeration. This is a "Hail Mary Pass," as Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote in the Sept. 11 edition? Please. When it comes to Gore and his cohabitation with Bill Clinton, that ad is just a teaser, and anyone who believes Gore when he says he won't get nasty in the campaign has never heard of James Carville.


Alter, to his credit, finds nothing wrong with negative advertising, writing, in a clear indictment of his hypocritical Beltway/New York colleagues, "What I'm sick of is the pretense that politics should be a tea party." Both Gore and Bush are guilty of nice-guy doubletalk, as they speak of raising the tone of politics and getting rid of Clinton's "politics of personal destruction." As Gore and Bush both proved in the primaries, when they were behind they went down in the gutter. So did Bill Bradley, although much too late. As did John McCain, although his mischief in Michigan and South Carolina is largely forgotten by now.

What I do find disingenuous in Alter's essay is the following paragraph: "And even if the arrogant corner-cutting of the Democrats' 1996 fund-raising blitz is ultimately Gore's responsibility, that hardly makes him a hypocrite for advocating campaign-finance reform now, as [Bush's ad] suggests. Bush, who broke all records for vacuuming up special-interest money and whose campaign-finance reform proposal was labeled a hoax by John McCain, is in no position to lecture anyone about fund-raising."

In fact, Bush, who's made no such high-minded pledges to abridge the First Amendment and limit a person's right to contribute freely to the candidate of his or her choice (as long as it's fully documented), is certainly entitled to blast Gore for his baloney about campaign-finance reform. The Democrats didn't just "cut corners" in '96: they accepted illegal donations from the Chinese (for what favors is still in question), and they sold the White House to the highest bidder. Gore still won't tell the truth about his own culpability in those shenanigans. And let's not forget that Gore, who has ridiculously promised to make the McCain-Feingold legislation his first priority, publicly praised Terry McAuliffe as the world's greatest fundraiser. That he'd wrap his arms around McAuliffe, who's no Boy Scout in financial matters, as the Teamsters well know, and make him chairman of the Democratic convention, is a better indication of how Gore really feels on the issue.

But Bush would be unwise to limit his advertisements to just the "battleground" states and to bashing Gore. I don't suspect he will; look for a mix of his own policies on healthcare, education, Social Security reform, strengthening the military and economic-driven tax cuts, as well as spots rightfully questioning Gore's credibility and honesty.

Gore is cocky right now, which is premature. If Bush really is ready for the eight-week "sprint," maybe these past three weeks will be remembered as just another bump in the road.

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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