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Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 1999/19 Tishrei, 5760


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Former Friends Turn On Buchanan; Gore Still Slip-Slidin’ Away

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT WAS ANOTHER tumultuous political week, contradicting once again all the left-wing, and left-behind, pundits and elected officials who claim the 2000 presidential race is “boring.” Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, a steadfast supporter of Al Gore (now that’s an unholy marriage of convenience) pooh-poohed the sudden rise of Bill Bradley, saying on CBS’ Face the Nation that the Vice President was in solid shape because “[t]he campaign hasn’t really begun yet.” Gephardt really is from Pluto: not only is he betting on the wrong horse, but his faceoff with hapless Speaker of the House Denny Hastert over the $792 billion tax cut Bill Clinton vetoed was so politically transparent, and misleading, that I can only hope The Weekly Standard soon dedicates an entire issue to detailing what a deceitful man he really is.

The most fascinating item I found in reading newspapers was a “minor memo” on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last Friday. Ronald Shafer tells how Clinton and Gore recently used a 17-car motorcade to make the one-block trip from the White House to the Hay-Adams hotel.

That’s the Dogpatch in Clinton for you: Why walk, with Secret Service agents in tow, when you can take an ostentatious one-minute limo ride, a la faux-populist Michael Moore? Gore, a wealthy creature of Washington, takes such excess as second nature, but it certainly doesn’t square with his Jesse Jackson cadences when he’s in a black church speaking passionately (for Gore) about the plight of the working and poverty-stricken classes, held hostage to those arrogant Republicans with their “risky tax scheme,” most of whom grew up in less opulent surroundings than the Vice President.

It reminds me of the ’92 campaign when Clinton, lying and pandering his way to the Democratic nomination, stayed at the Waldorf in New York, all the while talking about the corruption of money in politics. Meanwhile, Jerry Brown slept on the couches of friends and used a 1-800 number to solicit small donations to his budget-conscious, yet enormously influential, campaign. When history is written about the political events of this past generation, Brown will be revered as an eccentric visionary, while Clinton, even though he was president for eight sordid years, will be sullied. That’s the punishment he deserves and fortunately he’ll be still be alive to read it.

I dislike Sen. John McCain intensely, but can you imagine him ordering up a 17-car motorcade for a one-street trip? I can’t. Same goes for Bradley, who’d just be disgusted by the waste of it all; likewise, George W. Bush would scoff at the very notion and, like the other two, do what almost any other American would: walk. On the other hand, protectionist/bigot Pat Buchanan would revel in the pomposity of it all and probably expand the entourage to include 20 vehicles. It’s an Outer Limits world in Washington and I’m just thankful I don’t live there and get sucked into that sick culture. Cheers to Chris Caldwell and Tucker Carlson for retaining a certain amount of civility.

I was disappointed that Gov. Bush urged Buchanan to remain in the Republican Party. It was an unnecessary act of appeasement, to use the word of the week, and didn’t demonstrate the leadership he’s capable of.

Even though Bush hasn’t promised Buchanan even a janitor’s job in the White House, in the absence of denouncing this kook, he could’ve remained silent. On the other hand, it was probably smart politics. Let McCain (who said, “I don’t believe Pat Buchanan is a part of the Republican Party when he uses statements and beliefs that we should not have fought against Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan”), Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Dole bash away; they’ve got nothing to lose in their desperate quests for the GOP nomination. Buchanan called Bush’s remarks “gracious” and if that helps in the general election, I suppose it’s a strategy I can reluctantly live with.

The most vivid fireworks on the Buchanan front came from the Clinton News Network (CNN) last Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday’s “Inside Politics,” Corespondent Bruce Morton delivered a scathing editorial about Buchanan’s book A Republic, Not An Empire, quoting the now-infamous passages that suggest the United States, along with France and Britain, should’ve ceded Poland to Hitler.

Morton: “We learn that he is a 1930s anti-Roosevelt isolationist who would have stood aside and hoped Nazi Germany and communist Russia would fight.” He then reads a Buchanan excerpt: “Hitler saw the world divided into four spheres: Great Britain holding its empire; Japan dominant in East Asia; Germany, master of Europe; and America, mistress of the Western hemisphere.”

Morton continues: “That would apparently have been fine with Buchanan, never mind Germany’s Jews, though he notes elsewhere that the Dachau concentration camp began receiving prisoners as early as 1933. Jewish influence on U.S. policy worries Buchanan... Nowadays, it’s immigration Buchanan worries about... You can argue over whether that’s racist, whether the stuff about Jews is anti-Semitic. What voters—perhaps in the Republican Party, perhaps in the Reform Party—must decide is, Does this man speak for us.”

The following day, Buchanan appeared on “Inside Politics” and engaged in the following exchange with anchor Judy Woodruff (married to The Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt, just to give a hint of her bias).

After saying he wasn’t interested in an apology from McCain, since “these apologies are mostly synthetic and false,” Buchanan turned up the volume.

Buchanan: “But let me say, my problem is more with CNN, Judy. I thought that was a piece of political hack work by Bruce Morton, yesterday. A dishonest journalist that really was trying to win him the Peter Arnett Trophy.”

Woodruff: “Well, I think that’s an unfair statement, because...” Buchanan: “I know you do, and I appreciate your indignation on his behalf. I wish there were more on mine. But let me say this: If I were really—you know, basically indifferent to the suffering of the European Jews and when the Holocaust started, and I’m that kind of person, really, CNN should never have hired me, and should not have brought me back after three leaves of absence. And if I am not that kind of person, why would CNN allow something like that to go on the air when they know me very, very well. They know Pat Buchanan is not a hater, or a bigot. He’s done 3,000 shows on Crossfire. I don’t think ever once have I had to apologize for something I said on the show.”

Score one for Buchanan; CNN has always been interested in ratings over solid reporting and commentary.

Woodruff: “But to suggest that Bruce Morton is a dishonest journalist, I can’t let that lie there... I can assure you, I was not part of yesterday’s program. But whether I was here or I wasn’t, Pat Buchanan, I can assure you that CNN’s interest is in getting the news on the air. There is no desire to go after, to attack any one candidate or any other...”

Then, Buchanan jostled with The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol. The Standard’s editor said on Tuesday’s Hardball: “Pat Buchanan, I think, is leaving the Republican Party. It is a good thing for the Republican Party. It’s a good thing for conservatives. And I say this as a conservative Republican. I’ve worked for Bill Bennett, I worked for Dan Quayle. I’ve been on the right wing of every administration I’ve been in, I think. I’m pro-life. It is good for conservatives to lose Pat Buchanan. He is not an authentic American conservative... He is willing to play with people who were appeasers of Hitler... He hates Winston Churchill. He does not want America to be strong in the world... I think Pat’s argument is ridiculous. If you read [his] book carefully, it’s not good history. He cites various, sort of, revisionist, flaky historians in a somewhat haphazard way.”

Buchanan responded to Kristol’s criticisms in both the Standard and on tv shows, by saying that the editor and GOP strategist is a “teeny character,” spouting off with “cheap little shots” with his “dinky magazine,” and who doesn’t have his history in the Goldwater movement. Kristol told Howard Kurtz on Saturday’s Reliable Sources, “No, Pat can dish it out, but I guess he can’t take it.”

Even P.T. Sharpton got in his digs, commenting to the Times’ Gail Collins about the fraud that’s taking place in the Reform Party right now, where left-wing extremist Lenora Fulani is shacking up with Buchanan. Sharpton said about Fulani, who withdrew her support from the carnival barker because he was too “mainstream”: “To go from Al Sharpton to Pat Buchanan would make a dead person suspicious.”

It’s telling that one of Buchanan’s few remaining supporters is the New York Post’s brain-dead Steve Dunleavy, who, on Sept. 20, pleaded with the insurgent not to bolt from the GOP. He wrote, after dismissing other third-party candidates, and presumably knocking back several pints: “But not Pat. He is too valuable to a Republican Party which has forgotten that Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were the real reform leaders.” My deadline approaches rapidly this Monday afternoon, so just a few more comments. When will mainstream journalists stop referring to Donald Trump as “The Donald”? It’s an infuriating tic that should be axed by editors, although they probably take lunch with Trump and so don’t want to give up the charade.

The New York Post’s “On the Newsstand” for Sept. 27 gives high marks to Newsweek for having “the guts to call Pat Buchanan a ‘crackpot’ in a headline.” At this point, that’s about as “gutsy” as predicting that Gov. Bush will win the GOP presidential nomination. Once again: Rupert, you’re not minding the store. Get rid of John Podhoretz. Now! Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, to his credit, was one of the first pundits to trash Buchanan, but in his Sept. 16 posting he devoted most of his anger to the candidate’s obvious anti-Semitism, when there’s so much more to criticize. He writes: “If dabbling in Holocaust denial doesn’t convict Buchanan of anti-Semitism on its own, it makes a powerful case in combination with the many things he has said and written pointing to Jews as a surreptitious, sinister force in American life.” Weisberg says that Buchanan will attack “New York bankers” like Goldman Sachs, but never Bear Stearns or Salomon Smith Barney. Uh, Jake, Bear Stearns, like most financial firms, is controlled by Jews; that’s just a fact.

Weisberg also complains that Buchanan uses code words like “media elites” to say that the communications and entertainment industries are populated by a disproportionate number of Jews. That’s also a fact. And frankly, I don’t give a hoot. But it seems that Weisberg is getting a little touchy here, to the exclusion of Buchanan’s other myriad prejudices and 18th-century political views.

Dan Quayle, an excellent candidate for president, unfairly tarred by a malevolent press, has dropped out of the GOP race. He’s finally convinced that Gov. Bush will be the nominee, saying, according to an adviser to his campaign, “At some point, your head takes over your heart.” There’s a bit of bad blood between Bush and Quayle, but a fast endorsement by the latter would go a long way toward securing him a key position in the Bush administration.

Martin Peretz, the sad-sack owner of The New Republic, is not at all pleased that his former pupil Al Gore is stumbling so badly. In a “Washington Diarist” column in the Oct. 11 issue, Peretz takes the opportunity to viciously eviscerate Bill Bradley. Fine by me, I think both Gore and Bradley are sanctimonious nobodies, but Peretz’s column no doubt caused internal strife at his magazine. He writes: “The New York Times’ Richard L. Berke reports that many important Republican operatives think Bradley would make a stronger candidate against Bush than Gore would. Thanks for the free advice, gentlemen. You may be able to gull Berke into believing that this is neutral analysis. But if I were a GOP state chairman or a Republican senator, I’d be saying exactly the same thing. They want the Democrats to select a loser. So they disparage Gore to strengthen Bradley.”

This is hogwash. The Bush campaign would far prefer Gore as a challenger because of his ties to Clinton. Bradley, on the other hand, takes away some of Bush’s luster as a “new face,” and a Washington outsider who’ll help remove the stench from the past seven years.

Peretz concludes with this dopey remark: “One more consideration: Bradley is not boring; he is deadly boring. Compared to Bradley, in fact, cerebral Al Gore is Ricky Martin.”

Finally, Time’s cover story this week on Bradley, “The Man Who Could Beat Gore,” was a mushy, conventional-wisdom piece that needn’t have wasted so much space. Reporter Eric Pooley unearthed nothing new about his subject, instead relying on the cliches that we’ve read countless times. This one’s especially lazy: “Bradley is confident, watchful; when he left the Senate in 1996, he spent two years traveling the country, talking and listening to people, looking inside himself. And when he decided that he was ready and that those who said the nomination belonged to Gore were wrong, he committed himself to the race with a shrewd, methodical relentlessness that harks back to his Scotch-Irish forebears...”

In addition, Pooley, in his article, which could’ve been written by Bradley himself—a Sidney Blumenthal example of unctuous hagiography—talks about the “chattering classes” who are finally realizing that the former senator has a real shot at the nomination. “And,” Pooley writes, “surely it doesn’t hurt that he had that wicked jump shot way back when.”

I’m done. I just can’t stand to write about any more “listening tours” and “chattering classes.” Next week, I promise I’ll finally get to John McCain, the sleazeball who amazingly hasn’t yet been discredited by the Beltway media.

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.

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©1999, Russ Smith