Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 1999/6 Tishrei, 5760


JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Suzanne Fields
Arianna Huffington
Tony Snow
Michael Barone
Michael Medved
Lawrence Kudlow
Greg Crosby
Kathleen Parker
Dr. Laura
Debbie Schlussel
Michael Kelly
Bob Greene
Michelle Malkin
Paul Greenberg
David Limbaugh
David Corn
Marianne Jennings
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Chris Matthews
Nat Hentoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Dr. Peter Gott
Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard


Before the flood of invective

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- MY THANKS TO THE MANY READERS who e-mailed last week wondering why MUGGER was aced out. I was sick, laid up for several days from sheer exhaustion. Staying in bed, reading and watching videos has its benefits. I saw a CNN report on Richard Nixon’s funeral and watched Bill Clinton shamelessly talk mostly about himself during his nauseating eulogy. I followed that with Primary Colors and was just amazed it was directed by Clinton bud Mike Nichols: The film made me retch, and reaffirmed everything I’ve always thought about the hypocritical, lying low life who’s inhabited the Oval Office since ’93. Kathy Bates turned in a spectacular performance as Betsey Wright and Emma Thompson was far more fetching than the real-life Hillary.

I returned to the office last Tuesday, in a suit and shaved, with wingtips instead of my Paul Stuart slippers to I received a kind note from my friend David F.X. Mandel, who wished “A sweet and happy 5760 to you, Russ, to Mrs. M., and those fine boys of yours.”

David’s holiday greeting sure beat a cranky letter from a local reader who trashed my kids, calling them “greedy and materialistic.” Up yours. She went to say that her own daughter shows “acts of kindness of every day.” No doubt a fat, guilty liberal who doesn’t let Precious watch tv and buys toys that would meet with faux-environmentalist, animal-killer Al Gore’s approval. And a few other snippets of correspondence were less than friendly. Mildred, no doubt writing from some trailer park in the Midwest, had this comment: “Thanks for the sample copy of NYPress. Your paper is worse than I thought. I sent you an e-mail complaining of one word [reading MUGGER online]. Now I see nearly every other word is vulgar. I am sorry that you lack the intelligence to express yourself without resorting to such obscenities. Do you really have a following for such trash? You will receive no further comment from me.” Buzz off, Mildred: get back to churning butter and making quilts for the state fair. Pat Buchanan will be thrilled to have you as a Reform Party volunteer; maybe you’ll meet him and trade reminiscences from the War of 1812.

As for the Buke deserting the GOP, I say let him go. If he becomes a semi-serious candidate, his friends in the press will stop calling him “Pat” in their articles. (Funny, you never read about “Al,” “Bill” or “George.”) Buchanan’s a charismatic speaker, the best in the business, and I admit that when he makes jokes about chopsticks, I laugh. But he’s a bigot, a protectionist and anti-Semite who appeals to the very worst instincts of the American people. He might start high in the polls, after Ross Perot rigs the Reform Party nomination for him, but when he’s exposed as a 19th-century kook, those numbers will slide. And he’ll have to tangle with Jesse Ventura, a far better choice for the Reform Party (his promise to Minnesotans to serve his full term as governor can be easily finessed).
On Meet the Press last Sunday, Buchanan indulged in this fantasy: He said that in debates against George W. Bush and Gore next fall, he’d argue his positions on “an American foreign policy that puts our own country first, on a trade policy that puts our workers ahead of the global economy, on an immigration policy that says we need a time-out, on a constitutional republic versus an empire—where they agree almost 100 percent—I genuinely believe I could win the presidency of the United States.” So did John Anderson, George Wallace and Perot, Pat-Pat the Water Rat.

And then this charming missive, unsigned: “Mr. Smith: George W. Bush possesses neither the intelligence or the required education to be president. He is too dumb like Ronald Reagan, and too ugly like his father to be president. Furthermore, he lacks sex appeal. It is laughable to think that any woman would want to [have sex with] this governor. Finally, how could poverty-stricken Mexican-Americans vote for Bush, who does not like Hispanics, speaks lousy Spanish, and would like to put them on a reservation?” Unsigned, you a damn riddle. I do know that Bush is far more popular with women than Al Gore or Bill Bradley, reversing the gender gap that Clinton benefited from in his two successful elections. As for Bush’s Spanish: no, it’s not perfect, but I have a hunch it’s better than your command of English.

Dan Quayle cracks me up. Two weeks ago, after deciding to put all his marbles on the New Hampshire primary, he told an AP reporter, “The campaign has been quite boring, frankly. We’re going to turn the temperature up.” Granted, a bitter Quayle was dealt a bad hand: He’s a fine candidate for the presidency, with serious ideas about foreign and domestic policy, but he’ll never recover from his term as George Bush’s vice president. For some reason this year, the mainstream pundits can’t stop using JFK’s famous quote, “Life is unfair,” but it’s certainly true in Quayle’s case. Gore has fumbled and fibbed far more often than Quayle but he generally gets a bye from the liberal press; he has no honor left after serving the felonious Bill Clinton, and famously remarking, on the day of the President’s impeachment, that his boss would be remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents. That clip will be seen on television commercials endlessly next year—if Gore isn’t defeated by Bill Bradley.

Take a look at Quayle on any of the talk shows and you’ll see a mature, thoughtful man; had he run for governor of Indiana after vacating the vice presidency, I think he would’ve had a better shot in the 2000 race. Instead, he’s at the bottom of the heap in the GOP contest. Imagine how galling it must be to trail the automaton Elizabeth Dole (who, if she minds her manners, might get a reasonable job in the Bush administration); the lunatic John McCain (who’s really running for secretary of defense); Mr. Vanity, Steve Forbes, who, if not addicted to presidential politics, would wise up and run for the Senate in New Jersey and win in a landslide; and even Gary Bauer, the only candidate this year the Times’ Maureen Dowd says she wouldn’t go to bed with. On Chris Matthews’ Hardball last Thursday, Quayle waffled on the obvious need for Janet Reno’s resignation—an event that should’ve taken place over a year ago—but he still had a few excellent comments. “But if it’s just bad judgment, that’s not a reason for resignation. If you’re going to have poor judgment as a reason for resignation, the entire Clinton Cabinet ought to resign...” On Clinton’s impeachment, he said: “At least the members of Congress have voted for impeachment on that in the House... The votes were not there [in the Senate] to remove him from office and he’s still there, even though I do believe that he was involved in the obstruction of justice. But that’s the political process, and he won that one.”

I’ll have a lot more to say about the left-leaning New York Times next week, but here’s just an example of their transparent bias. On last Friday’s front page, there were two political stories: at the top left, the headline read “Bush Is Detailing All Contributions On Internet Site: Critics Call it Public Relations Gesture—Rivals Are Not Likely to Follow Suit”; the lower left saw “Selling Books and Stumping, McCain Defines His Message,” a puffball piece on the Republican “maverick” Democrats are gooey over, unless lightning strikes and he wins the nomination.

Now what is Bush supposed to do? He’s the only candidate to reveal donations—daily—on the Internet, but that’s not good enough. Common Cause’s Don Simon gave lukewarm approval to Bush’s unnecessary gesture, but still said, “What he did is a step in the right direction, but only a small one,” complaining that the site wasn’t user-friendly. Hmm. Here we have all the Democrats, and honorary Dem McCain, ranting about campaign finance reform and Bush is the only candidate to provide full data about his contributions. Bradley and Gore are incredible hypocrites: They’ve both raised a ton of money—and not all $1 donations, Jerry Brown-style—and yet they have the hubris to claim that Bush is trying to buy the election. As for McCain, whose platform is a mess of contradictions, I doubt he’d be so strident if he’d raised even a quarter of Bush’s total. What will next be required of Bush? Have his rivals, and public-interest groups, most of them on the government dole, measure his dick and say, “Sorry, it’s just not big enough”?

David Limbaugh, in his JWR column had the smart suggestion that Bush should take advantage of his popularity and intervene in the budget showdown between Clinton and the chicken-little Congress. Limbaugh: “Bush should seize this unique moment and assume de facto leadership of the GOP, indeed of Congress itself, by using his campaign bully-pulpit to: urge Congress not to break the spending caps; stick to their guns following Clinton’s veto of their tax cut bill; and make the case the that education is not, as Clinton says, a federal matter.”

I think Bush should do exactly that, but in the context of a larger economic platform that throws down the gauntlet. The Bush campaign needs to draw lines in the sand (against Clinton/Gore) so that voters can measure success or failure. The whole purpose of going “up top” on issues is to (a) create distance from your intra-party rivals and (b) engage the opposition on terms favorable to you. I would go after the tax cut, blaming it on Washington and Clinton, and lay down markers for what is minimally acceptable. Clinton, of course, will fail to meet the markers.

Back to the Times, the New York Post ran a ridiculous item on Sept. 2, grousing that the city’s leading broadsheet will now charge a whopping $.75 per copy. Lisa Brownlee, an awful writer, complains: “It’s going to get more expensive to wake up with the Old Gray Lady. Scrambling to make up for sinking classified advertising, New York Times Chairman Arthur ‘Pinch’ Sulzberger Jr. said the paper’s newsstand price will jump to 75 cents beginning Sept. 13.” She said that represented “a whopping 25 percent increase.” What baloney. I can’t stand the Times, but newspapers are a bargain: there’s more to read in the Times and Wall Street Journal on a given day than any magazine, most of which charge at least $3. To put it in perspective, a cup of coffee, almost anywhere in the city, costs about a buck; newspapers are probably the best deal in the current marketplace.

I don’t always see eye to eye with has-been Post columnist Jack Newfield, but when he strays from his nostalgia for Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella, he can still work up a lather. Especially about the Clintons. Newfield rocked on Hardball last Thursday, excoriating the First Couple. Just a sample: “I think [Hillary Clinton] is really one of those backstage manipulators. She’s really more like George Mathers or Strauss or Vernon Jordan. She has no beliefs. She just wants to stay behind the scenes manipulating, and now because of some incomprehensible politics within her marriage, her husband has decided [that] instead of bringing home a diamond ring or flowers, he’s trying to bring home a Senate seat. But my view is that a Senate seat is not an adequate substitute for couples therapy... Everything she’s done has felt bogus. You can see Ickes and Mandy Grunwald sitting in a room in Washington writing the script, assuming that we’re stupid. The Clintons can’t even get a conventional bank mortgage. They’re political gigolos. Their whole career is seducing rich people to keep them in public life.”

Terry McAuliffe, the shady fundraiser who lent the Clintons the money for their suburban house, will get his. In court. Meanwhile, I think it’s doubtful that Hillary will actually run for Pat Moynihan’s Senate seat. Considering the FALN atrocity—as if she didn’t know all along what her husband was up to, her phony protestations notwithstanding—her flip-flop on Palestine, the patronizing “listening tour” and Rudy Giuliani’s lead in the polls, I’d say she pulls out sometime around Christmas. She’ll lie again, telling the press that she’s decided to put her own political ambitions on hold, that she needs to ensure the Democrats take back the House, blah, blah, blah. Now what if Bradley—right now a 50-50 shot for the Democrats’ nomination—is running for president instead of Gore, a loyal man whom the Clintons have constantly dumped on? What does the White House war room do then? With Bradley as the standard-bearer, Dick Gephardt can kiss his speakership goodbye. Doesn’t matter how much money puppet Patrick Kennedy raises; without the White House’s involvement, the entire Democratic machine will be in disarray.

There’s no doubt that Ty Warner’s cryptic message on his website a few weeks ago that all his Beanie Babies will be retired on Dec. 31 is simply a marketing ploy to clean out his current inventory. I’m sure the clever entrepreneur is currently producing his next line of lucrative toys. Nonetheless, he got Junior back on his hook: Suddenly, Pokemon is “uncool” and collecting Beanies, calculating their worth, takes several hours of his day. The local beneficiary? Why, Balloon Saloon, on W. Broadway, where my eldest son has added Valentina, Twigs, Stinky, Stilts, Spangle, Pumkin’, Mac, Kicks, Glory, Erin, Almond and Holiday Teddy to his collection. Most of them aren’t worth squat, save the entirely rare Britannia—on the block for $330, according to Ty’s Collector’s Value Guide—that we scoured most of London for last March. I don’t get it, especially seeing how a stuffed toy like #1 Bear is available for no less than $10,000, but that’s the 1999 economy for you.

Finally, the second issue of Talk was released with little fanfare. Liz Taylor’s on the cover—Johnny Depp was ditched at the last minute—and I happened to see editor Tina Brown on some mindless entertainment tv show, speaking, in grave tones, about the mummified Liz as if she were Margaret Thatcher. Brown likes to say that Talk is a “picnic” of literary treasures. Fine by me: self-deception is an understandable reflex when your picnic is overrun by red ants. It can’t help that co-owner Miramax is feeling the pinch from parent company Disney and just laid off a slew of employees.

I was at a local newsstand the other day and the owner told me that in contrast to the debut issue, which had the White House-vetted story on Hillary Clinton by Lucinda Franks, the second number is a dud. “No one, all week, has asked for the magazine. It’s very curious,” the proprietor told me. A few days later, she reported that Vanity Fair is outselling Talk by a wide margin; no surprise, since VF is a far superior magazine.

And, unlike the first issue, there’s been none of Brown’s patented buzz over the Taylor cover. One local media critic told me last week, “Yeah, I guess I’ll pick up a copy. If it stops raining.” Another well-connected journalist, when told of the poor newsstand performance, said, “Not surprising. And I’m afraid the report does give me a small ungenerous jolt of schadenfreude. According to reports from inside [Brown] is still overworking her staff like a crazy person.” That journalist still hasn’t bought the current Talk.

I didn’t read much of the issue, but what I did was simply dreadful, starting with “First Talk,” a photo essay about the magazine’s Statue of Liberty party on Aug. 2. Along with too many celebrity snapshots, here’s a sampling of the embarrassing prose: “But on this night, as temperate and soft as dusk in Miami, who were we to argue? It was Talk’s first night, and guests had come calling. Here was Paul Newman, profiling like a Brooklyn deckhand on tugboat-man’s holiday, and Natasha Richardson in magic-hour necklace, while Demi Moore strode purposefully toward her ship. Here was Fab Five Freddy under Robert Isabell lanterns, and stylish George Plimpton getting ready to emcee Grucci fireworks off a barge. Here was Hugh Grant in perfect suit, and Elizabeth Hurley in something quite a bit more than that—and very much less... In the distance, beneath Madame Liberty, feline Kate Moss, fearsome Robert De Niro, bronze-bonded Pierce Brosnan in open shirt. Here was John Waters wiping a hint of grease from his tiny mustache.”

This is what some $50 million buys? I’ll stick to Fishwrap, Marty Wombacher’s cash-starved quarterly that doesn’t have the flash or stable of retread writers of Talk, but a lot more passion and humor.

Tucker Carlson, supposedly a monthly political columnist, didn’t appear in the second issue; nor did George Stephanopoulos, an overexposed, mediocre “journalist” who’s probably being paid handsomely to satisfy Brown’s outdated sense of masthead glamour. Max Boot, editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal, contributes a phoned-in puff profile of George Pataki, based on interviews that took place in August, when the New York chief executive announced his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani for Senate. Pataki’s a good governor, far superior to Mario Cuomo, but Boot wildly exaggerates his political future, suggesting that he’s on George W. Bush’s short list for a running mate. Ain’t gonna happen.

Boot: “But New Yorkers in the last few years have caught on to the fact that while Pataki may act like Gomer Pyle, he’s actually got the political instincts of Lyndon Johnson... The New York Observer, the biting, iconoclastic weekly, even dubbed him, half seriously, a ‘political genius.’” We’ll leave Max’s 1995 assessment of the Observer alone—he must not read many periodicals besides Scientific American—but a comparison to LBJ? Please. Pataki’s a run-the-mill pol who got swept into office in 1994, a year when no Republican could do anything wrong.

Any guesses for Talk’s next cover star? Milton Berle’s not a bad pick, since Brown seems intent on raiding National Enquirer readers, but I’ll go with Rosie O’Donnell, interviewed by the “stylish” George Plimpton.

After all, an unintelligible conversation about gun control would be sure to meet with Sidney Blumenthal’s approval.

And despite current wisdom that Bush will have to pick a pro-life veep, that’s just not so. It’s Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Period.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

MUGGER Archives


©1999, Russ Smith