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Jewish World Review Oct. 6, 1999/26 Tishrei, 5760


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Lunatics Take the Spotlight
While Bush Cruises Along

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHAT THE MAINSTREAM PRESS isn’t paying attention to, willfully or out of sheer stupidity, is that in the freakshow that’s turned out to be the presidential election of 2000, Gov. George W. Bush is methodically locking up not only the GOP nomination, but coalescing a coalition that could lead to a decisive victory 13 months from now.

Defying the hopeful cries of critics that he’s a “waffler,” last week Bush gave an address to the Christian Coalition—in which he barely mentioned, or perhaps ignored, their keystone issues of abortion, gay rights and school prayer, and still received an outstanding reception as well as an enthusiastic endorsement from Pat Robertson. In addition, he effectively became the GOP’s putative leader when he criticized the Republican Congress’ backing of a bill that would defer tax breaks for poor families. Some members were annoyed, others more practical, like Majority Leader Dick Armey, who conceded, in so many words, that Bush is who they’ll have to answer to. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told the Los Angeles Times: “Austin says jump and the Republican establishment—including its congressional leadership—asks how high.”

The New York Post ran a Buchanan-like editorial on Oct. 4 slamming Bush’s rebuke of Congress and questioning whether he has the conservative credentials to earn the GOP nomination.

One more reason new Post publisher Ken Chandler should immediately fire associate editor John Podhoretz.

Claiming that Bush’s remarks made him a de facto Democrat, the bizarre editorial said: “But this episode illustrates why many conservatives are still holdouts on the rush to [Bush’s] coronation. The incident reveals a casual arrogance, and causes one to ponder how serious Bush is about the ideas of the party he wishes to lead.”

This is nutty.

First of all, I don’t see, judging by the polls and the endorsements Bush has received from conservatives, that many holdouts exist in the party. Sure, Alan Keyes: Think he’d do well against Bill Bradley or Al Gore? The Republicans simply aren’t used to a passionate campaign, headquartered in Austin, where the desire to win is just as intense as it was in Bill Clinton’s take-no-prisoners Little Rock war room eight years ago.

Liberals as well can’t stand the prospect of what’s coming up in November of 2000. Clintonite Joe Conason wrote an odd column in last week’s New York Observer claiming that Gov. Bush was dishonoring his father—like Conason was ever a fan of the former president—by refusing to pile on Pat Buchanan like the no-chance John McCain, Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Dole, who have nothing to lose by making strong statements against the bigot who may or may not win the Reform Party nod. Conason: “But every vote certainly is what matters to Dubya and nothing more—no matter what the price to his father’s legacy and his own self-respect. At least now we know what kind of leadership to expect from the son of that old Navy pilot.” Yes, Bush wants to win, and assure the continuation of a Republican Congress. That’s politics, Joe, and you, of all people, know it as well as I do.

Now consider the political events of the past week. Dan Quayle dropped out of the Republican race, realizing that he’ll never live in the White House while lazy key-punchers like Newsweek’s Howard Fineman dwell on inconsequential spelling gaffes from years ago, rather than the bold domestic and foreign policy programs he proposed. If Quayle had not been constantly ridiculed during his short run, his emphasis on tort reform and meaningful tax cuts would’ve remained in the campaign, even though he didn’t. Dole continues her robotic quest, but gives no compelling reason why, except her gender. A woman president would be a dramatic and welcome revolution in American politics; but can you think of someone with Margaret Thatcher’s or Golda Meir’s stature in this country? I can’t either.

Gary Bauer, who never had a chance, made the disastrous mistake of addressing at a press conference, family in tow, rumors of his alleged sexual misconduct. Two staffers resigned over the rumored improprieties; one now works for the fading Forbes campaign. Forbes is an odd bird: He could easily be elected the next senator from New Jersey, giving him credentials for a future presidential run, but instead rolls along with his nasty, quixotic campaign.

Just two weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law saw him once more in a local Jersey restaurant and again he wasn’t recognized by a soul. Why he was in his home state at this juncture of the campaign is anybody’s guess. There’s word that he’ll be running a series of muted attack ads on Bush in the coming months; however, unlike the hapless Bob Dole in ’96, the Texas Governor will have the resources to strike back.

Sen. John McCain is still raking in the virtual endorsements from starstruck journalists who think that because he had the bad fortune to be imprisoned for five and a half years in Vietnam (it’s incredible that writers give different numbers for his confinement; haven’t they read his book?), every flaky political proposal he makes is simply brilliant. It’d be liberating if annually, by some act of God, 100 pundits across the country, but especially those posted in Washington, would be fired, never to be heard from again. It’s a common assumption that McCain would be a supreme foreign policy president, all because he was tortured a generation ago.

That makes me nervous: all those years of captivity must’ve scrambled his sanity, and would likely give him an itchy trigger finger. Military service is not a necessary prerequisite for conducting a war; after all, FDR never served in the armed forces and he, Buchanan’s comments notwithstanding, carried out World War II with precision, and defeated Hitler. Yes, he was too feeble to adequately match wits with Stalin at Yalta, but had the United States not intervened the world would have a different makeup today.

Warren Beatty made a fool of himself in Beverly Hills, giving a speech that was filled with musty liberal propaganda while receiving applause from rich, pampered socialites. This is my favorite line from the actor’s remarks: “The primary cancer in this sick system, the big money in politics, has so metastasized into every area of government that we can’t afford to ignore that the patient—American democracy—is in mortal danger of dying on the table.” Aside from the obvious infringements of First Amendment rights that Beatty apparently supports, where in the world does he think his heroes Jack and Bobby Kennedy got their campaign funds from?

The Reform Party is now deservedly in shambles, as Buchanan will never recover from his frightening World War II revisionism and associating with brainless kooks like Lenora Fulani, a woman so scrambled in her extreme left-wing thought process that she makes the gifted intellectual Alexander Cockburn look like The Wall Street Journal’s Robert Bartley.

Additionally, while Ross Perot stews away in Texas, scheming to no apparent purpose but to destroy another Bush, Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura completed his political nervous breakdown magnificently by giving an interview to Playboy in which he ridiculed Christians and said he’d like to be reincarnated as a DD bra. And Brits thought Prince Charles was daft. When Ventura says stupid things like, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” he’s not only offending his intended target, the Christian Coalition, but Americans of any faith. This a man of the people?

Ventura’s rambling is as irritating as McCain’s fraudulent campaign. When Ventura’s in control of his faculties, he can speak with a commonsense passion that resonates among America’s voters. True, he’s not particularly articulate, but neither are most citizens, and his libertarian views tap into a political vein that few others dare to express. But remember that Ventura’s election was an aberration; he won in a whirlwind three-week frenzy, competing against boring, machine candidates and taking advantage of the unusual state practice of same-day voter registration.

The Donald
But when you say ego, I say Donald Trump. In an outrageous op-ed piece in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal the self-promoting developer outlined how he could win the presidency. Of course Trump won’t actually run: the prospect is in the Cybill Shepherd realm. But when there’s publicity to be had, Trump’s first in line. I’m told he’s an extremely engaging and generous man in private; why is he such a selfish prick in public life?

Trump wrote, displaying his ignorance of modern politics: “The Republicans are captives of their right wing. The Democrats are captives of their left wing. I don’t hear anyone speaking for the working men and women in the center.” I doubt you’d find an authentic left-winger like Sen. Paul Wellstone calling Al Gore a fellow traveler. Similarly, George W. Bush is hardly a “captive” of the GOP’s right wing. Govs. George Pataki, Christie Whitman and Tom Ridge aren’t in the Jesse Helms school either: Trump simply didn’t think this through. I find his idea of extraditing Fidel Castro interesting, but historically, that hasn’t worked out. Finally, Trump might want to reconsider his hug of Ventura.

He writes: “I highly respect Jesse as the embodiment of the political qualities America needs and voters reward. Given the choice between yet another slate of stale political professionals and Jesse’s common-sense principles and straight talk, it was no contest. He has convinced me that we need this combination in the White House.”

Oy. In addition, a short interview by Howard Fineman in the current Newsweek, inevitably headlined “The Donald: ‘You Just Do It,’” reveals that Trump is an odd duck. Fineman asks him if he’s for cutting taxes and Trump responds, “I’m for major cuts in taxes.” Fineman follows up by saying, “Will you spell them out?” Trump says, “Yes,” and then instead goes on a tangent about Buchanan. No word on taxes. Naturally, the Newsweek reporter doesn’t press him. But what struck me as especially weird is that Trump says he’s never had a drink, cigarette, any kind of drug or even a cup of coffee. That inherent lack of imagination is frightening for a potential presidential candidate, wouldn’t you say?

I imagine Trump’s ideal reincarnation would be the front page of the New York Post in which his then-girlfriend Marla Maples was quoted about the developer: “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had!”

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