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Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2000/ 5 Mar-Cheshvan 5761


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Consumer Reports

Consider the source -- A FRIEND OF mine called last week, 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."

LAST SUNDAY'S Times carried the paper's official endorsement of Al Gore, a reaffirmation of at least 100 editorials and "news" articles they've run since last fall. It wasn't a pretty read, but I'm used to walking knee-deep in the muck that passes for Times prose. There are numerous highlights in this preposterous editorial-calling Bush a "pliable" man who'd be steamrolled by the GOP Congress is just one laugher-but it's the following passage that deserves special notice:

"Like Senator John McCain, Mr. Gore has been chastened by personal experience with sleazy fund-raising. He has promised to make campaign finance reform his first legislative priority, whereas Mr. Bush is unwilling to endorse the elimination of special-interest money from American politics."

I'll leave aside the absurd notion that "campaign finance reform" is a laudable goal; that the Times won't admit that such legislation increases the media's power is indictment enough of their position. But where in the world did the paper get the daft idea that Gore has been "chastened" by his criminal fundraising activities? This is a corrupt elected official who still won't fess up that the Buddhist Temple cash shakedown was a fundraiser. And if Gore's recent forays to Hollywood and New York, raking in millions from the very same entertainers he promises to police for indecency once in office, is any indication that he's any better than Bill Clinton in that regard, it's lost on me. Finally, since when does a Gore "promise" even approximate the realm of believability? His entire campaign has been based on lies, pandering and scare tactics.


This is the man the United States' alleged "paper of record" recommends as the next president. Arthur Sulzberger, rightfully protected by the First Amendment, can't be jailed for such outright distortion of the truth, but it's beyond me how he can look his children in the eyes each morning.

I refuse to waste much time discussing the Times' Oct. 22 spurious endorsement of Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate. It's ironic that the same newspaper has endorsed the Republican candidate for the same position in New Jersey, calling Bob Franks "a cautiously moderate Republican" who is a "solid lawmaker." The same can be said for Rick Lazio, Clinton's opponent in New York. But Hillary is special, notable for "handshaking her way through town squares and state fairs"; she has acquired "a grasp of local issues."

The paper's approval of Mrs. Clinton includes this gem: "The investigative literature of Whitewater and related scandals is replete with evidence that Mrs. Clinton has a lamentable tendency to treat political opponents as enemies... Her fondness for stonewalling in response to legitimate questions about financial or legislative matters contributed to the bad ethical reputation of the Clinton administration."

That's quite a recommendation. Lazio's campaign has been lackluster, and was slow to point out his opponent's utter lack of scruples, but I believe he'll ultimately prevail. The Long Island Congressman won't be the most aggressive person to represent New York, but at least voters know that he's not using the Senate as an almost immediate means to national power, a possible presidential run and the domestic rebuke of her husband. If Al Gore defeats Bush by less than 12 percentage points in New York, the nation will be rid of both Clintons, and the citizenry will be richer for that outcome.

IT WAS TOUCHING, I'll admit, to read in Chancellor Sulzberger's Oct. 21 Times a folksy editorial about the passing of the "indefatigable" 90-year-old Gus Hall, the leader of America's Communist Party. "His life story," the piece read, "improbably enough, is a genuine American tale... He never wavered from his sclerotic orthodoxy, and never attempted to transform the party of the proletariat into a more trendy leftist alternative. That would have offended his native Midwestern stubbornness."

How lovely. As for Hall's affinity for Josef Stalin, a man every bit as evil as Germany's You-Know-Who, well, that was a long, long time ago, kids. What're several million murders compared to an opportunity to toss a sop to those stubborn Midwesterners who might subscribe to the Times' sclerotic national edition?


How fitting, then, that the Times continues to lead the demagoguery against Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who's had the audacity to mount a presidential campaign because of his belief that the Bill Clinton/Al Gore machine has destroyed the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party. In an Oct. 26 editorial, just three days before the paper endorsed Gore, the word was passed from within the Times' Kremlin that of course voters have a right to cast a "protest" vote for Nader. But it would be wrong.

Why? Read this exercise in democracy: "Back in June, we criticized Ralph Nader's presidential bid as a self-indulgent crusade that could gull some voters into thinking that there were no clear policy choices between Al Gore and George Bush. As the election nears, what once seemed a speculative threat has become a very real danger to the Gore campaign [italics mine], with polls suggesting that Mr. Nader's meager share of the vote could nevertheless make the difference in eight states with 70 electoral votes."

I'm not quite sure why the Times doesn't simply suggest a one-party state, with their candidate installed every four years. That, at least, would be honest.

Once again, the Times gets on its high horse about campaign finance reform, attempting to "gull" its readers into thinking that Gore actually gives a hoot about that sanctimonious, and dangerous, legislation. The editorial concludes: "Yet Mr. Nader acts as if the presidential election would have no impact on the future campaign finance legislation. In so doing he deludes his followers, brightens Mr. Bush's prospects and dims his own legacy as a reformer. He calls his wrecking-ball candidacy a matter of principle, but it looks from here like ego run amok."

And when the Times unveils a holy testament, Upper West Side journalists are sure to follow. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, who spent an entire summer working for Nader, is irked that the former left-wing icon is mucking up Gore's campaign strategy. But more significantly, the correspondent who grew up to share Air Force Two rides with the Veep and actually knows Bill Clinton, like, on a first-name basis, is fearful that Nader is "squandering his most precious asset-his intellectual honesty."

Drop out, Ralph. The guilt of disappointing an affluent Beltway squid is far too much of a burden to bear.

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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© 2000, Russ Smith