Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2002/ 3 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

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Consumer Reports

Clinton's still coasting


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Last week, Clinton traveled to Blackpool, England, to attend Tony Blair's annual Labor Party conference. While extolling his host, he bashed Bush, polished his resume, expressed faith in the United Nations and, as every UK daily reported, wowed the audience.

An Oct. 3 London Times editorial said: "America once had founding fathers. It now has shameless sons. In a spellbinding performance of extraordinary audacity, Bill Clinton did not so much rewrite history as transport it to a parallel universe. A serial philanderer, unprincipled operator and habitual rogue managed to repackage himself as a cross between an Old Testament prophet, college professor and international statesman. A period in office that owed more to the Dukes of Hazzard than West Wing was presented as if it were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

And while I'm at it, isn't it strange that elite media pundits never referred to Clinton as a "chickenhawk" when he ordered military action in Kosovo? Now, with a Republican in the White House, a day doesn't pass when any number of conservatives are tagged with that label-and don't tell me it has nothing to do with the pedophile scandals in the Catholic Church-because they didn't serve in Vietnam.

Anyway, at the Stadium, Junior was wearing his Bosox hat and Nomar Garciaparra t-shirt, much to the consternation of our neighbors, creating a situation that got all the more dicey when we openly rooted for the Angels. Nevertheless, at one point in the game when the Yanks were leading-and this was the one contest they won-Jason Giambi made the final putout of the inning and on his return to the dugout flipped the ball to a guy in front of us.

What a surprise-especially since we'd been sparring since the first inning-when the fellow turned around and gave the ball to Junior. My son's smile was stuck on his face for hours; lucky for him that we left in the seventh inning and he was fast asleep when Bernie Williams got the one significant hit for the Yanks in the Series.

(Junior's love for baseball notwithstanding, his pick-up of that scuffed ball was a close second to his meeting Neil Swaab, creator of "Mr. Wiggles," at New York Press' annual Best of Manhattan party on Sept. 27. Confronted with Neil, my boy was speechless at first, as if he were face-to-face with the lead singer of the Vines or Hives.)

A buddy of mine, and fellow Red Sox diehard, suggested a month or so ago that we'd all be better off shedding our intense hatred of the Yankees. Sorry, Chris, no can do. Seeing the Yanks humiliated by the Angels was baseball majesty of the first order, even though we all know that Steinbrenner will shake up his roster for 2003 and his team will relearn how to field, strike out less often and steal more bases.

I'll buy the suggestion that the Angels were hungrier than the World Series ring-studded Yanks, but the shock registered by Bomber fans and the local media was thrilling. I love that the team is stuck with contracts for the underachieving Rondell White and Raul Mondesi, and that the braintrust is already considering if Roger Clemens, Ramiro Mendoza, El Duque and even Andy Pettitte will be with the team next spring.

Here's someone else who will undoubtedly keep Steinbrenner up at night: Tino Martinez. How painful will it be for him to watch the unceremoniously dropped Martinez playing in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals (assuming, as I do, that they represent the National League). I do think that Jason Giambi was the American League's MVP (along with Barry Zito for the Cy Young award), since he changed the complexion of the team's offense, with about the best strike-zone eye in baseball, and always seemed to be on base. However, his fielding is sub-par, despite the official statistics. How many errors were charged to Yank infielders because Giambi couldn't rescue a rushed throw? How many times (a couple in the playoffs) did Giambi miss shots down the first-base line that went into right for doubles that would have been outs in Martinez's mitt? I wouldn't be surprised if George dictated that Giambi take on the DH role next season. Of course, I also think Bernie Williams with his weak arm and often-lackadaisical attitude should be relegated to that spot as well.

MIXED BLESSINGS

Despite the frightening spectacle of a full moon in New York City every single night, I've learned an important lesson from a most unlikely source. When the going gets tough, follow the advice of Bill Clinton: compartmentalize. So, a few days ago when I was getting out of the shower, I heard in the distance a reporter on CBS' Sunday Morning asking a diplomat, senator or professor-a Mideast "expert" apparently-a softball question. Just how difficult, the lady wondered, would it be for the United States if we "had to go it alone" in a war against Iraq?

My immediate instinct was to swear to no one in particular, "You idiot, is Tony Blair just an imaginary friend of President Bush? Has the acquiescence of Congress, not to mention France, China and Russia, escaped you?" But then I thought about the Anaheim Angels' Troy Percival retiring the overrated Nick Johnson on Saturday afternoon to end the latest New York Yankees dynasty and gratefully returned to a temporary cocoon.

I'll get to the wipeout of the Yanks shortly-like the unadulterated joy of seeing Bernie Williams dogging it on a blooper by Darin Erstad in the fifth inning of the deciding playoff game, causing David Wells' meltdown-but first a few other anecdotes that've helped me blot out the news of the day. After all, when you've got Mayor Mike frittering away his time mouthing off about noise pollution in the city, trouble's on its way, and sometimes it's better to turn off the spigot of disgust.

Who needs a bleeding ulcer when the fireworks outside aren't a planned event? As a former Boy Scout, I vow to Be Prepared. Naturally, the Times agrees with Bloomberg's silly edict, editorializing on Oct. 5: "Now, as part of Operation Silent Night, police officers, some carrying noise meters, will give tickets, tow cars and make arrests." I wonder which lucky cop will give a ticket to the lunatic who blows up Rockefeller Center.

The Mayor has also scheduled tax increases for next year, which will hasten the flight of companies to other states, creating a loss of jobs and income in the city. Out in California last week, a scummy trial lawyer bamboozled a jury into awarding a lifetime smoker, now 64, $28 billion in damages allegedly inflicted by Philip Morris, Inc. That verdict won't stand, but it's business as usual: people aren't forced to smoke, and if they do, a large measure of personal responsibility is in order.

I need to take a deep breath.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith