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Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2000/ 3 Mar-Cheshvan 5761


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Bush wraps it up; "Tight as a tick" only to the media -- IT'S CONCEIVABLE, if highly unlikely, that Al Gore can still win the presidential election. This would require an extraordinary set of circumstances: with the Deep South (with the exception of Florida) completely lost to George W. Bush, Gore must win Florida (iffy), Pennsylvania (iffy), Michigan (iffy), Illinois (probably), Missouri (dicey) and Wisconsin (iffy). Minnesota, Washington and Oregon are all in the who-knows category.

In addition, he'll have to hold California (likely, but I'm smelling an upset there) and New Jersey (another longshot for Bush, as Bob Franks is poised to shock Democrats by upending Jon Corzine and his $59-million campaign).

It's true that in the final week of a presidential campaign, the electorate often swings back to the incumbent (Gore's role in this contest), but one week away from Election Day, despite the thicket of yoyo polls and cheerleading from the elite media, there's no evidence this swing is taking place. Bush's conservative base is so energized-there's simply no comparison to the wan GOP presidential campaigns of '96 and '92-that if the predicted low turnout on Nov. 7 comes to fruition, it won't be on the Republican side. And while the polls do fluctuate on a daily basis, the majority still show Bush in the lead.

Typically, the Beltway experts are at least 10 days behind the real story. Even though it's quite obvious that Bush is headed to a decisive victory, political hacks and analysts still cling to the daft notion that this election will be the closest in 40 years. That's dishonest reporting and most of the culprits know it. Whether it's out of sheer disbelief that someone who's not as "smart" as they are might beat the favored Gore, or, more charitably, the desire for an exciting plot, the facts no longer point to a rerun of the Kennedy-Nixon match-up. Based on the evidence before me today, Oct. 30, it appears that Bush will win the popular vote by a 6-5 margin. It's increasingly possible that he'll blow Gore away in the Electoral College.


When Gore vaulted in the polls after his successful Democratic Convention, pundits flocked-shades of the St. McCain crusade!-to the "Bush is Toast" bandwagon. Most memorably, New York's Lawrence O'Donnell Jr., writing in his Sept. 18 "National Interest" column, claimed that Bush's mild Labor Day slur against Times reporter Adam Clymer was the death knell of his candidacy. Just like that, in September, Bush became Walter Mondale. The clairvoyant O'Donnell concluded: "The more Bush has to talk about policy, the more incompetent he'll sound. So as the campaign heads into the fall-and passes the point at which no recent front-runner has faced an upset-Bush must choose between talking about honor and sounding irrelevant or talking about policy and sounding incompetent. In other words, it's over."

Not so coincidentally, I think, that was the last time "The National Interest" appeared in New York. A spokeswoman for the magazine last week would neither confirm nor deny that the long-standing column has been discontinued.

Slate's William Saletan, as irritating a journalist polluting the Internet as you'll find (with the obvious exceptions of Eric Alterman, Howard Fineman and Margaret Carlson), also declared, on Sept. 13, that Bush might as well go back to Austin and play computer poker.

Saletan was so moved by the one-month Gore advantage in the polls that he audaciously wrote, "The numbers are moving toward Gore because fundamental dynamics tilt the election in his favor. The only question has been how far those dynamics would carry him. Now that he has passed Bush, the race is over. Yes, in principle, Bush could win. The stock market could crash. Gore could be caught shagging an intern." (I just love it when Michael Kinsley's apprentices ape his British affectations.) "Bush could electrify the country with the greatest performance in the history of presidential debates. But barring such a grossly unlikely event, there is no reason to think Bush will recover... Stick a fork in him. He's done."

Unlike O'Donnell and New York, apparently, Saletan still writes for Slate, most recently a piece on how deceptive the polls are.

ONE OF BUSH'S smartest strategic gambits, against the advice of his Austin braintrust, was to keep his word and not write off California, as his father and Bob Dole did. Bush might well come up short in this essential state for Gore, but in spending time and money there he's accomplished several goals. One, he's fulfilled his promise, an act Gore wouldn't know anything about. Two, even if he loses, his presence is helping endangered Republican congressional candidates. And three, by making a play for California he's put Gore in the awful position of having to compete for those 54 electoral votes he took for granted. Gov. Gray Davis, who's probably planning an exploratory committee for the 2004 election, was so frustrated by the Gore campaign that he appealed directly to Bill Clinton to rally the Democratic base in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Suddenly, Gore has added the state to his dizzying home-stretch itinerary.

Gore's manic schedule last week must've dampened confidence among his supporters. How could it not? He was see-sawing from state to state, ones even Michael Dukakis won in '88, fending off Ralph Nader's increasingly muscular effort, as well as Clinton's headline-grabbing meddling, and looking like a madman as he switched from populist to small-government advocate depending on what city or town he was barnstorming in. At one stop he's a hunter, just smelling that deer for dinner; two hours later and 100 miles down the road, he's linking hands with NARAL and PETA activists. Look into Gore's eyes and you can see the desperation, as if he's thinking: "I had this in the bag. What the f--- (pardon my French, Tipper) went wrong?"


I don't discount a "November surprise." Already, the NAACP has shamed itself by airing an ad that not so subtly blames Bush for the death of James Byrd. This blatant race-baiting, which was successful in the '98 midterm elections when Clinton claimed that voting for Republicans would result in the burning of black churches, is unlikely to be successful this time around. The political landscape is completely transformed from two years ago: bogey-man Newt Gingrich is no longer the symbol of GOP treachery; Bush has wisely aligned himself with the nation's Republican governors rather than the likes of Trent Lott and Tom DeLay; and the looming impeachment battle, which was red-hot two autumns ago, is no longer an issue.

Kweisi Mfume, head of the NAACP, has a lot to answer for. His behavior saddens me: back in Baltimore, when he was a radio host, then city councilman and U.S. representative, I interviewed him often for the weekly I edited and owned, City Paper, and always thought he was a stand-up, trustworthy man. I suppose prolonged exposure to the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, Bill Clinton and Charlie Rangel can corrupt even the strongest of men.

No one would any longer accuse Joe Lieberman of possessing one scintilla of character. Not only did he refuse to back out of his concurrent U.S. Senate race in Connecticut, much to the displeasure of his colleagues (not to mention the disloyalty shown to Gore), but he also won't repudiate that NAACP trash. In fact, on last Sunday's Meet the Press, Lieberman claimed he was unfamiliar with the ad. Sure. When host Tim Russert quoted Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey as saying the spot was "offensive, divisive and counterproductive," Gore's number two said: "It's the first I've seen of it. Was that somebody related to James Byrd?" Incredibly, Lieberman called the "Bush as KKK Wizard" commercial factual-and this is the wimp who intends to clean up the entertainment industry.

Independent groups sympathetic to Bush have also disgraced their candidate with cesspool advertising, most notably the rip-off of Tony Schwartz's famous "daisy girl" spot for LBJ (aired only once in '64), which outrageously implies that Gore's election would lead to nuclear war. The Bush campaign demanded the ad be pulled; Gore's desperate team-the frazzled Mark Fabiani, DNC chairman Joe Andrew, affirmative action-hire Chris Lehane (not black, just dumb) and populist Bob Shrum, who's enriching himself not only with fees from Gore's effort but Jon Corzine's as well-hasn't followed suit with the NAACP. Nor have they disavowed Ed Asner's recorded phone messages to Michigan residents denigrating Bush, or the weepy testimonials from Texas women, also directed to Michigan's voters, that Bush helped kill their husbands with inadequate healthcare in their home state.

And, with Clinton's history, it pays to be paranoid. So it wouldn't surprise me in the least if by week's end Attorney General Janet Reno hands down indictments of people close to George W. Bush. Anyone, in the fourth-dimension world of Reno, Sid Blumenthal, Tad Devine and James Carville, is fair game. Karl Rove, perhaps, or maybe Richard Rainwater, the financier who was integral to Bush's buying the Texas Rangers. And if the polling results are really dismal, the ultimate play might be the arrest of Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida. Far-fetched? No. Nothing can be ruled out when an election's at stake.


Clinton, shunted aside by Gore for most of the campaign, must be a bitter old bubba. (It's incredible how aged the Arkansan looks now; just as Jimmy Carter left office a shadow of his bouncy candidate of '76, it's eerie to compare photos of Clinton from '92 to just last week.) Fine by me-as I've written before, I hope he's eventually chained next to J. Edgar Hoover down in hell-but what is the man thinking right now?

On the one hand, he resents Gore and can't bear the thought that his sidekick-in-name-only, should he be elected, might be judged by historians as a superior president. Then again, Clinton must be fearful of a Bush-appointed attorney general. I doubt that the President's crimes will land him in the clink, but the fines will certainly put a dent in his $100,000 speeches before still-adoring Hollywood audiences.

A FRIEND OF mine called last Friday, concerned that the election was nailed down for Gore. "Say what, Gomer?" I replied, with absolute incredulity, given the continuing surge for Bush across the nation. "Where are you getting your information?" This intelligent fellow, a successful financier in his late 30s who doesn't watch tv, admitted that he's been following the campaign via The New York Times, the business section of The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.

No wonder.

I gave the guy a pass; he's in a different racket from mine, doesn't pore over polling data and local news stories from low-circulation newspapers or watch the cable talk shows. Just as I wouldn't presume to know when to short a dot-com, it follows that he had no idea Bush is going to win Pennsylvania, Ohio and, if the current trend prevails, perhaps New Jersey.

But if you read the Times, another election is taking place. For example, the front page of Sunday's early edition was typical of the desperate newspaper's attempt to prop up Gore's last-ditch candidacy. Front and center was a four-color picture of Hillary Clinton greeting an enthusiastic crowd at Cornell, with the headline "Shaking Hands, and Pointing a Finger at Her Rival." The lead story, "Drive Under Way to Raise Turnout of Black Voters," gives the impression, against all intelligent data, that President Clinton's plan to whip up his fellow black citizens will give an enormous boost to Gore. The story doesn't mention that the Vice President wouldn't be caught dead on the same stage as his boss, so fearful that, aside from minority and celebrity voters (the latter who probably won't even make it to the polls), most of the citizenry has finally had enough of Clinton's assault on truth, morals and character.

The third political story on the Times' front page of Oct. 29 was yet another hit-job by Nicholas D. Kristof, a propagandist who'll no doubt receive a Wall Street-like bonus from publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. at year's end, for his Carville-like attacks on Bush. This week's installment was titled "For Bush, His Toughest Call Was the Choice to Run at All." Kristof waited only until paragraph five to lob a stink bomb at the Texas Governor. He writes: "For a man who had never been particularly driven by ambition, whose overseas experience was pretty much limited to trying to date Chinese women (unsuccessfully) during a visit to Beijing in 1975, it was surreal suddenly to be at the top of the charts."

On Oct. 16, Kristof got to his point even earlier in his story: "Gov. George W. Bush has written that 'by far the most profound' decision he or any governor can make is whether to proceed with an execution. 'I get the facts, weigh them thoughtfully and carefully, and decide,' Mr. Bush wrote in his autobiography. What he did not say is that he normally does this in 15 minutes."

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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