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Jewish World Review Oct. 5, 2000/ 6 Tishrei, 5761


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Consumer Reports

Fie on Elton and Christiane -- I DON'T THINK a more nails-on-the-chalkboard news clipping has passed my desk in the past month than the Sept. 20 Associated Press report that alerted readers across the nation that Elton John, that forgotten English lump, has endorsed Al Gore for president. The decaying singer, who displayed a flicker of talent back in the mid-70s, told a Silicon Valley crowd that "The vice pr esident wants this country to go forward, and if you vote for him, it will go forward. But it's back to the Dark Ages, I'm afraid, if you vote for the other guy."

Well, not to be uncharitable, but I find it difficult to trust a man who wears a rug. Besides, at the $10,000 per that the Silicon Valley attendees were required to pay in order to fill the veep's coffers, there probably wasn't much of a chance that many Bush backers were present. Excepting, of course, the inevitable double-dippers, like Rupert Murdoch, who donate to both the Democrats and Republicans.

Leave it to a moron like Elton John to invoke something as absurd as the Dark Ages. I don't begrudge the singer his celebrity one bit: He was a talented musician who chanced upon stardom. Then came drug addiction, a fake marriage, obesity and assorted tawdry shenanigans that can't be detailed in a family newspaper, so it makes sense he's rooting for the Gore-Lieberman ticket. After all, that pair is just going to "noodge" entertainers such as John, who are such wholesome examples for America's youth. Mind you, I'm just speakin' hypocritical Al and Joe's lingo here; I don't give a hoot about the lifestyles of rock stars.

Now, if as many artsy types had actually made good on their threats to leave the United States if Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, both Hollywood and the Upper West Side of Manhattan would've been significantly less populated during the 80s.

Maybe some of the deadwood at CNN will be shoving off to Europe with Alec Baldwin and Robert Altman if Bush is elected next month. Still, even with their blatant bias against the GOP, you'd think that CNN's new management would've disciplined foreign reporter Christiane Amanpour for the remarks she made at the RTNDA 2000 convention on Sept. 18.

Amanpour, who's married to Jamie Rubin, Madeleine Albright's former mouthpiece-a dodgy enough alliance-was on sure enough footing when she denounced the focus groups that politicians and entertainment executives use. And she made the following point that CNN might, but won't, heed: "[W]hy are we terrorizing the country at large, leading with murder and mayhem, when crime is actually on the decline?" Uh, it's called ratings, C.A.

But then: "Why have we given George W. Bush such an easy ride, until now, when actually his qualifications are questionable?" Amanpour later backtracked by saying that since she covered international news, there was no conflict of interest. But what if Bush is elected and she does have to report on a conflict abroad? Will she lead the segment with: "President Bush, once again displaying his naivete about the Mideast, made the following stupid analogy today while meeting with Yasir Arafat."

Give her the sack.

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman took advantage of the furor that George W. Bush's candidacy generates among left-wingers with a splendid column on Sept. 28. He mentioned Elton John, of course, but also noted that Minnesota's Sen. Paul Wellstone has said that if the Texan is elected he'd "repeal the 20th Century" and that pro-choice activist Kate Michelman claims Bush will "de facto end legal abortion." Chapman continues: "From all this, you would think the Republican presidential nominee is the eldest son of Jesse Helms, not George Bush... At least since Barry Goldwater ran, Democrats have delighted in portraying their opponents as dangerous extremists. But Bush has about as much in common with Barry Goldwater as he does with Barry White."

As for abortion, will that single issue ultimately decide this presidential campaign? Democrats, including Al Gore, predict that Bush will concentrate all his efforts on overturning Roe v. Wade. That's ludicrous: Bush is pro-life, but until last week's approval of the abortion pill RU-486, he's stayed far away from the topic. When pressed, he's said that the ruling will stand until a majority of the American people are in favor of reversing it, adding that the debate is complicated. Translated: Like my dad, I'm taking a pass on this one. Priority number 83.


Although Gore maintained on a Larry King Live appearance last week that "[Bush] said he will do everything he can to overturn Roe v. Wade," that's not true. Bush, like many Democrats, is for a partial-birth abortion ban, but he simply doesn't have the passion, for better or worse, on the abortion issue that his vanquished GOP primary opponents Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes do. Don't you think that if Bush was a demagogue on this one position-like Gore is on everything from Medicare to campaign finance reform-Bauer, Keyes, Pat Robertson and James Dobson would be a lot more visible in his campaign?

Bush didn't even attend the annual Christian Coalition conference this past weekend, sending along videotaped remarks instead. And on the abortion issue, he said: "Should I be elected, I will lead our nation toward a culture that values life-the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn." Not exactly the fiery oratory that one would expect in front of such a group.

Of course, every nuance in this race is put through the Midwest "battleground" filter. A lot of Catholics, even those who are essentially pro-choice, are going to feel squeamish about RU-486, fearing that it will lead to more abortions. Others in those states, who've put the issue on the back burner, will be newly energized for Gore.

Since the topic will certainly come up in the Oct. 3 debate (I'm writing a day before), Bush should hammer the politically motivated and cynical timing of the FDA's announcement. I suspect that he'll repeat that while abortion will remain legal because a change of that magnitude requires a consensus of American opinion, he himself is opposed to it and disdains politicians who promote the issue for electoral gain.

I love how Gore, according to an Oct. 2 Washington Post report, prepared for the debate in Florida over the weekend with a number of "ordinary citizens" he's met along the campaign trail. Still, while Gore was accepting pointers from people who haven't been groomed for the presidency since the cradle, even sympathetic journalists knew the ringers were mere props. The Post's Ceci Connolly noted: "Even with all the attention his new group of advisers received, Gore was relying heavily this weekend on a high-paid, high-octane group of political consultants. No less than 20 professional advisers joined Gore in seclusion at the Mote Marine Laboratory for briefings and mock debates."

Winifred Skinner, the 79-year-old Des Moines woman who collects cans to earn money, was in Boston, at Gore's invitation, to offer the candidate support during the debate. Skinner, dubbed the "Aluminum Can Lady" by the media, has emerged as this year's Clara Peller, the woman famous in the 80s for those terrific "Where's the Beef?" tv commercials.

Skinner was a Gore plant at a town meeting in Iowa last week, to illustrate (what else?) his prescription drug proposal, and has become a sudden media darling. Although not to Rush Limbaugh, who called her a "hobo."


According to the Sept. 30 Des Moines Register, Skinner has refused financial assistance from her own son, who lives "comfortably" on a ranch west of Des Moines with his wife. Also, since her hug with Gore last week, strangers have offered Skinner donations totaling over $100,000, but she's turned it all down.

The Vice President really is shameless in his trolling for the votes of Americans over 65. But as Andrew Sullivan writes in the Oct. 9 New Republic, this country's retirees are among its wealthiest citizens, and only 10 percent pay more than $1000 a year on prescription drugs. But they vote at-for the United States, at least-a reliable rate. After describing the relative affluence of the elderly, Sullivan suggests raising the retirement age to 68 and "devolv[ing] Medicare, Bush-style, to the private sector." He also says that if money is needed to expand healthcare entitlements for the poor, then some retirees ought to buck up and get a job to help pay the freight.

Sullivan concludes: "Gore is right about one thing in this election. This is a battle between the people and the powerful. It's just that on this issue, at least, he's for the wrong side."

On the subject of The New Republic (and unlike Mickey Kaus, who says the magazine has lurched to the left, I've been surprised at owner/Gore guru Martin Peretz's relative restraint), Jacob Weisberg, who once worked at the magazine, wrote a zinger last week for Slate. Reporting on Sept. 26 about Gore's MTV appearance-I saw clips and it was gag-inducing-Weisberg was critical of the candidate's programmed responses to youth-oriented questions. He writes: "Asked what entertainers he would ask to perform at his inauguration, he took a long time to come up with the name of Lenny Kravitz, announcing it in the manner of 'Eureka!' A better and more honest approach to this territory might be, 'I'm a very busy 52-year-old government official, and I don't keep up with pop music that much.'"

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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