Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 1999/24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
... Meanwhile, Over
at the Democrats’
THE DEMOCRATIC TOWN HALL MEETING in Hanover on Oct. 27 was far more
instructive in its meaning: Gore’s advisers can spin all they want how
their candidate is now “connecting” with voters, but it’s just not so.
He’s still tanking. Bradley will lose the general election against Bush,
I think, but right now he’s the favorite for the Democratic nomination.
There he stood, and sat, rumpled and professorial, speaking what seemed
like McGovernite gibberish to me (that Hillaryesque health care system
just for starters), but is the mother’s milk to members of his party.
Although I don’t think anyone understood his call for gay rights: “I
support gays being able to serve openly in the military. If a gay
American can serve openly in the White House, in the Congress...why
can’t they serve openly in the U.S. military? It doesn’t make sense.” I
happen to agree with the gays-in-the-military part, but I had no idea
that a “gay American” has served “openly” in the White House. That
Clinton, he’s quite a guy: First Black President, First Hispanic
President, First Woman President, First Greaser President, First Chinese
President, First Cokehead President and now, I guess, First Gay
Meanwhile, Gore embarrassed himself thoroughly, popping up and down like
a malfunctioning jack-in-the-box, darting all over the floor, asking
personal questions, telling stupid jokes and overall giving the
impression of a brownnosing grad student. He can’t pull off Clinton’s
I-feel-your-pain shtick and looks stupid trying to; and though he was
smartly attired, a new suit can’t erase the picture of a desperate
politician who just knows opportunity has passed him by. (Time’s scoop
over the weekend that quasi-feminist author Naomi Wolf has been on
Gore’s payroll, teaching him how to win the women’s vote and pick out a
sexy wardrobe, is just more evidence that this is a campaign in deep,
If these two really do debate six or seven more times before the Iowa
caucuses, I have no idea how many personas Gore will try out, but he’ll
probably lose votes each time. Meanwhile, steady Bradley will store up
Gore’s attacks in his head and when he’s ready to unload, watch out. He
was smart to leave Gore’s baggage—the finance “irregularities” of the
’96 campaign and the Veep’s absurd defense of Clinton on Impeachment
Day—alone for the time being. With such potent ammunition, why waste it
several months before the first votes are cast?
And Clinton is still sticking needles in the loyal Gore, telling CBS’
Early Show on Monday morning that Bradley is running a “credible”
campaign. You’d think he’d keep his trap shut, but no. Clinton: “Bill
Bradley is an intelligent, a compelling man with a good life story and a
lot of friends built up in professional basketball and 18 years in the
Senate and all the other things he’s done. And he’s running a very
Oh yeah, his buddy Al Gore? Clinton said that if Gore can establish “his
own identity” he thinks the Veep will be nominated.
At least Gore has one rabid fan in Washington. Appearing on Crossfire
Oct. 27, Dem. Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, one of the President’s
noisiest supporters in the impeachment battle, had strong words of
praise for Gore. Asked by conservative host Mary Matalin to defend his
statement that Gore’s been a leader, Wexler responded: “Led how? He’s a
part of an administration that has led us to our greatest economic
expansion in American history. Led how? He has reinvented government...”
Hmm. I’ve missed that “reinvention.” Is the U.S. a monarchy now?
But this is my favorite Wexler moment, and it’s one to savor: “No doubt
Bill Bradley is a decent man. He’s an honest man. He was in the Senate
for, what, 12, 18 years? What do most people remember him for? His jump
shot. And I am a Knick fan.
“But Al Gore has got policy achievement after policy achievement. When
you talk about feeling—I had a conversation with Al Gore two weeks ago
about prescription drugs, and that man felt the pain that people in
Florida are feeling, people all across the country are feeling... Al
Gore feels what common people, what working people, are going through.”
The New York Times, of course, was delighted by the town meeting, saying
in an Oct. 29 editorial that the Democratic Party, by golly, has
“fielded two formidable political performers.”
Back at Marty’s Think Tank
I waded through a lot of stupid political articles this week, but for
sheer waste of space tops in the field was Dana Milbank’s “Campaign
Journal” in the Nov. 15 New Republic, an effort I doubt was influenced
by that journal’s recent change of editors: Owner Martin Peretz’s
panicky replacement of the steady Charles Lane with an Al Gore puppet,
Peter Beinart, couldn’t have driven the Jonathan Alter-in-waiting
Milbank deeper into the Veep’s back pocket.
Need a shopworn topic to ruminate on as deadline approaches? Why not
campaign finance reform; there certainly hasn’t been much written about
that liberal favorite in the past 12 hours. And so Milbank opens his
piece in stand-up comic mode: “For Halloween this year, I want to dress
up as something really scary. That is why I’ll be going as Senator Mitch
McConnell, and my wife will be outfitted as the Kentucky Republican’s
omnipresent sidekick, Soft Money. She’ll be in a green foam-rubber
ensemble; I’ll wear the usual McConnell accessories—horns, pitchfork,
tail, cash-stuffed pockets.”
In reality, Beltway journalists might save some of their “maverick” jive
and medals of courage for McConnell instead of John McCain, but that
would be asking too much. Then they’d have to admit that the reason most
Democrats want campaign finance “reform” is so that the First Amendment
can be trampled while unions, reliably in the camp of hacks like Dick
Gephardt and David Bonior, can have their way with taxpayers’ money.
Never mind that an increase of the current $1000 donation limit, a
generation old, to $5000 to adjust for inflation, and a complete
screening of all contributions via the Internet, would be an excellent
way to prevent Clinton-like abuses in the future.
Anyway, Milbank used McConnell as a hobgoblin to explain why George W.
Bush might’ve screwed himself by raising so much money. (I’m sure all
the other GOP presidential candidates are in complete agreement.) You
see, just as Gore scared other candidates out of the Democratic race and
left just Bill Bradley, the surprise of the season, now Bush has blown
away the competition with his fundraising, leaving—surprise!—just McCain
as an alternative. It all works out. Try to follow Milbank’s logic: he
says that Bush’s record cash-haul has “inadvertently” shrunk the GOP
field, “knock[ing] out Dole, Buchanan, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, John
Kasich and Bob Smith.” Funny, isn’t that what a presidential contender
aspires to, getting rid of the also-rans and becoming the front-runner?
Don’t you think John Kasich, not to mention Alexander or Smith, would
like to be in Bush’s position today?
Milbank deserves a job at The New York Times. You’ll remember a few
months ago when the paper led with a story detailing the Democratic
Party’s stated desire to raise $200 million in soft money for the 2000
campaign. Not a negative editorial was to be found in this national
organ of campaign finance reform, although people like McConnell are
regularly pummeled in its pages. Then, just on Oct. 17, there was a
front-page story in the Times about the New Jersey Democratic Senate
candidate Jon Corzine, written by David Kocieniewski, that was a virtual
endorsement of the former Goldman Sachs & Co. chief executive.
The article read: “Money alone does not guarantee political success. And
recent political history is full of examples of candidates with more
money than sense of how to use it. But Corzine’s journey from political
newcomer to a front-runner for the Democratic nomination is a case study
in the power of money in politics and how to use it effectively.
“Corzine’s status as a major political donor helped him win the guidance
of Orin Kramer, a financier and Democratic fund-raiser, who gave advice
about navigating the factions of the state’s Democratic party and
exploiting its divisions... Corzine has more than money going for him.
With his unassuming demeanor and rags-to-riches history of rising from
clerk to chief executive, he has convinced many party officials that he
can connect with New Jersey’s middle-class voters.”
I wonder. Do you think it’s likely that a front-page Times story is
being prepared about Republican Jersey City Mayor Brent Schundler,
giving him advice on how to snare the GOP Senate nomination, despite his
lack of fundraising background? Probably not. You’d think, given the
Times’ editorial view, that the paper would encourage a bright and
successful officeholder like Schundler to make the race, and perhaps
bemoan the fact that the current campaign finance system is shutting him
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©1999, Russ Smith