Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 1999/22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
AS TRANSPARENT EXCUSES go, at least Gov. George Bush had a pretty decent
one for skipping the “debate” in New Hampshire last week. Insisting he
wanted to be by his wife Laura’s side as she received an honor from
Southern Methodist University was a lot better than the “other
commitments” dodge he pulled a few weeks ago. It was, as they say in the
90s, a family values conflict, and can’t hurt with women voters, but
probably a mistake.
As is often the case with pundits explaining their fixation with this hypocrite, Alter insists on telling his readers just how he got to know the Great McCain. It was just after he traveled to Vietnam in ’95, he writes, and he was simply struck with the Senator’s ability to joke about his captivity. That McCain might be putting on a show for Washington reporters Alter doesn’t consider. Many cynics, myself included, have ascribed the baby boomer gush-fest over McCain to James Fallows-like guilt over their lack of wartime experience, but Alter says in reality “it’s more like awe over his lack of bitterness.”
Alter indicts, inadvertently, fellow journalists in their schoolgirl crushes on McCain. His quote from veteran tv correspondent Bruce Morton, now of CNN, is a beaut: “What we all like about McCain is that he might actually govern on principle, and what a strange sight that would be.” This is truly sickening stuff. Alter continues: “Even if he loses, McCain could have an important impact on the Republicans. It’s been 75 years since the GOP boasted any major figure who described himself as a reformer.” Some would argue that Barry Goldwater, just a generation ago, was a real reformer, not a fake like McCain, but I don’t suppose the ’64 version of Goldwater is on Alter’s radar screen.
McCain’s Mercurial Mettle
I just love it that the theme this year in presidential politics is
campaign finance reform. Where were all these good-government
journalists when Jerry Brown was sleeping on couches and raising money
with an 800-number in ’92 while telling the truth about Bill Clinton’s
corrupt regime in Arkansas? Sucking up to Clinton, that’s where. The
truth is: The American public, as a whole, doesn’t care about money in
His most recent blowup was after The New York Times reported that the state’s GOP governor, Jane Hull, endorsed Bush over McCain; the Senator immediately accused the Texan’s campaign of dirty tricks, releasing a statement that said: “Apparently the memo has gone out from the Bush campaign to start attacking John McCain—something that I’d hoped wouldn’t happen.”
Fund concludes: “[A] president can’t rule by heroic example alone; he must build and lead a team. In light of Mr. McCain’s record and reputation in Arizona, one must ask how effective a Lone Ranger like him would be in the White House. After all, as powerful a bully pulpit as a president commands, he also has to be able to win the support of Congress.”
But the Journal piece was nothing compared to an editorial on Oct. 31 in the Arizona Republic. Called “Does McCain have presidential mettle?,” the statement was an astonishing indictment of a home-state elected official, one the newspaper has endorsed every time he’s run for Senate. Writing about McCain’s hissy fit over Hull, the Republic said: “Even more disturbing was McCain’s reaction to Hull’s simple expression of truth. He noted his propensity for passion but insisted that he doesn’t ‘insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that.’”
“This is, quite simply, hogwash. “McCain often insults people and flies off the handle. This newspaper has chronicled just some of these unfortunate exhibitions. There was the time McCain blew up publicly at a Jewish man at the Camelback Inn who objected to McCain’s reference to ‘Christian’ compassion for the homeless. There have been the many times McCain has called reporters ‘liars’ and ‘idiots’ when they have had the audacity to ask him unpleasant, but pertinent, questions.”
I guess Beltway reporters like the Times’ Henneberger, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (possibly the journalist the farthest up McCain’s ass), Thomas Oliphant, Charles Lane, Lars-Erik Nelson, Albert Hunt, Margaret Carlson, Howard Fineman, Eleanor Clift, to name just the obvious, haven’t had the same experience as Arizona’s journalists.
McCain is running dangerously close to sanctimony in his bid for the presidency, depicting himself as the last honorable politician in America…
“If McCain is truly a serious contender for the presidency, it is time the rest of nation learned about the John McCain we know in Arizona. There is much there to admire. After all, we have supported McCain in his past runs for Senate.
“But the presidency is different. There is also reason to seriously question whether McCain has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States.” I’d imagine George W. Bush has won the Republic’s endorsement in the Arizona primary.
But that doesn’t mean squat to the Times. It’s obvious that the Gore broadsheet will attempt to sabotage Bush’s campaign just as it did his father’s in ’88 and ’92: on the same day as Henneberger’s valentine to McCain there was a front-page story about Bush’s ties to financier Richard Rainwater. Barry Meier writes: “A review of Bush’s relationship with Rainwater did not produce evidence that Bush, as Governor, has sought to aid the businessman, though there would be more potential for conflict if he became President.” I’m sure the Times already has an investigative team at the ready should Bush become president, but isn’t it a bit premature to announce it before any primary votes have been cast?
And on Nov. 1, there was yet another front-pager on Bush, this time written by Frank Bruni about the Governor’s stump speech, that rarely varies. Noting that Al Gore has changed his standard speech “in midstream” and that Pat Buchanan is liable to say anything at anytime, Bruni says about Bush: “But the ink on Mr. Bush’s oratorical calling card has almost dried, and it spells out, as well as any other aspect of his campaign, the personality he wants to project, the place on the political spectrum he wants to inhabit and the priorities he wants to set.”
Bush’s lack of oratorical skill is front-page news? I think that deficiency has been amply, and correctly, discussed in the past year. Yet the Arizona Republic’s denunciation of John McCain is relegated to page A-15, a small Associated Press dispatch.
On Nov. 1, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, in analyzing the Dartmouth meeting, spelled out McCain’s problem as the political calendar advances: “Planned or not, he sounded markedly liberal for a self-described ‘proud conservative.’ His closing statement could have been drafted for President Clinton: ‘There are great causes in the world, where there are hungry children, where there’s seniors without shelter, and where people are killing each other because of ethnic and tribal hatreds.”
As the expected Republican nominee Bush needs to get his face bloodied—granted, he’s already been scrutinized by reporters more thoroughly than any other candidate, especially McCain—on the way to Philadelphia. And the mainstream media’s bias toward the hypocritical Arizonan— sheez, he even admits that he’s part of the campaign finance problem that he barks about—is just part of it.