Jewish World Review Oct. 30, 2002/ 24 Mar-Cheshvan 5763


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Consumer Reports

Another Dem in the gutter | Not content with traditional race-baiting, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, South Carolina's Alex Sanders, upped the ante in a debate with GOP challenger Lindsey Graham last week. Sanders, who was lovingly profiled by The New Yorker's Joe Klein earlier this year as a down-home fella, a real card, took issue with Rudy Giuliani's television advertisements endorsing Rep. Graham. According to The State, South Carolina's largest paper (which endorsed the Democrat on Oct. 27), Sanders said: "[Giuliani's] an ultra-liberal. His wife kicked him out and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so."

How charming.

I carry no water for New York's mayor-in-exile. While the 9/11 massacre obviously softened America's most popular Republican, he's genetically an egotistical prick who'll step on innocent people to grab headlines. But that he shared an apartment with two gay men is irrelevant, certainly in South Carolina. Giuliani just doesn't care about a person's sexuality, and that perfectly normal view hardly makes him a bleeding-heart liberal. Sanders, who's trailing in the race (losing by 17 points in a mid-October Mason-Dixon poll, and 12 in an earlier Zogby poll), is probably getting desperate. His antigay slur was probably a none-too-subtle reminder to voters that Graham is a bachelor.

Klein's May 13 profile of Sanders presented a far different candidate, certainly not one who'd resort to Carville smears. He wrote: "Sanders is sixty-three, but his sensibility seems much older-from the time before radio, when people entertained each other by telling yarns... He has a weathered, scratchy voice and a thick, juicy Carolina accent... Sanders's success or failure hardly seems the point-and Graham is almost an afterthought. The real contest here is between an American archetype, the cracker-barrel fabulist, and the consultant-driven sterility of the current political system."

Typically, Klein fell for the accent and "yarns," while stupidly dismissing Graham as a blow-dried live-by-the-polls pol. Never mind that Sanders is such a "cracker-barrel fabulist" that he traveled to Las Vegas for a fundraiser hosted by Tom Daschle. In reality, Graham is one of the few members of Congress who appears to possess a conscience. Not only did he perform a valuable, if futile, service to the country as one of the House managers in Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings, but he also risked his electoral future by endorsing longshot John McCain over George W. Bush in the contentious 2000 South Carolina primary. As Americans understandably mourn the death of Paul Wellstone, it's worth remembering that the late Minnesota Senator, a legitimate maverick, wasn't the only congressman who wasn't enveloped by hypocrisy. Lindsey Graham falls into that rare category, as do Sens. Russell Feingold and Phil Gramm.

My favorite suck-up to Sanders in the Klein profile read: "It is said that some politicians-Al Gore, for example-speak in perfect paragraphs; Alex Sanders seems to speak in novellas. 'Half the stories in my books, I stole from Alex,' the novelist Pat Conroy told me a few days after my plane ride with Sanders... 'You could take that plane ride five more-no, twenty more-times and he wouldn't run out of stories. I keep waiting for it with dread: the night that he just runs out. He hasn't yet. It's like hanging out with Mark Twain.'"

Judging by Sanders' last-minute campaigning, it seems more like "hanging out" with Dr. Laura.

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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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