Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2004/ 14 Mar-Cheshvan 5765
Dems Got Them Old Blues: Waiting for 2008
There was immense relief in our household after George W. Bush defeated John Kerry last week my older son was on the fence, probably due to his Jon Stewart tv habit, until he flipped to Bush after the OBL tape surfaced and a raft of small checks in the mail from election bets was satisfying as well. Admittedly, not much could mitigate the importance of the President's reelection, and his aggressive press conference last week, outlining a robust foreign policy/economic/tort reform agenda for a second term promised he won't squander the relatively small window afforded him before the next election cycle begins, but the whining of Bush's detractors was a sorry spectacle.
(Oh, and bring on Clarence Thomas!)
We're dealing with stereotypes and clichés here, so that inevitably points to The New York Times as a starting point. Joseph Berger's Nov. 4 article about the disconsolate New Yorkers he encountered not one Bush supporter was chucked into the story, so I guess this is, at least temporarily, a real war of words typified the desperate condescension mouthed by Democrats. Beverly Camhe, a film producer that Berger spoke to, is a fitting example.
Camhe, the reader learns, "frequents Elaine's restaurant" by night, and "spends many mornings on a bench in Central Park talking politics with homeless people with whom she's become acquainted." Judging by the hundreds of homeless men and women I've encountered in the past 20 years, most would rather receive a buck or cigarette than squander time on their rounds gabbing about the mendacity of Tom DeLay, but let's be generous and not trash noblesse oblige right now. The Times reporter further explains that Camhe "spent part of [Nov. 2] knocking on doors in Pennsylvania to rustle up Kerry votes, then returned to Manhattan to attend an election-night party thrown by Miramax's chairman, Harvey Weinstein, at The Palm."
She also expresses this heretofore never-expressed boast: "You know how I described New York to my European friends? New York is an island off the coast of Europe."
This sort of snotty view is not only an insult to the vast majority of the 56 million citizens who voted for Kerry, most of who don't know Weinstein or frequent Elaine's, but those much-derided "heartland" Americans who pulled the lever for Bush. An unbiased observer who didn't follow the campaign but just read the commentary after the election couldn't be faulted if he believed that every single Bush supporter lived in Nebraska. The arrogance is astonishing.
It reminds me of an interview John Strausbaugh and I conducted with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. several years for New York Press: Kennedy, clearly not familiar with the paper, walked into the office expecting a puffball piece about his environmental work. After 90 minutes of chatter about dynastic politics, his past drug use, clean water and his children, Kennedy left, somewhat befuddled, kind of pi--ed, probably wondering why his handler left him open to inquisitors who weren't mere sycophants.
As it happened, a week later, after the front-page article appeared, Kennedy called and very graciously thanked me for the opportunity, saying he'd received hundred of phone calls and emails from friends and relatives who found the interview flattering. Kennedy, to his credit, then admitted he'd never even seen a copy of New York Press until hours before he met us, and assumed that all 116,000 papers were distributed at an Ave. A massage parlor.
Taking runners-up honors for mind-numbing parochialism in Berger's story was retired psychiatrist Zito Joseph, who said: "None of the people who are likely to be hit by a terrorist attack voted for Bush… I'm saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country the heartland. This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country… New Yorkers are more sophisticated and at a level of consciousness where we realize we have to think of globalization, of one mankind, that what's going to injure masses of people is not good for us."
If Joseph's comments constitute sophistication, then not only are there two Americas, but two dictionaries as well. I wonder if the 63-year-old doctor, after strutting about for his inclusion in the urbane Times, considered that although it's now impossible to poll the political affiliation of those who perished on 9/11 in Manhattan and at the Pentagon, there were a sizable number of Republicans among them. All innocent victims, randomly slaughtered because they were Americans, regardless of whether they voted for Bush or Al Gore in 2000.
The conservative Cybercast News Service reported on Nov. 5 that an overwhelming majority (72 percent) of people participating in a poll conducted by the Democratic Underground website considered Kerry's loss as more "depressing" than 9/11. One respondent, "Big Blue Marble," wrote: "I have lived 61 years, lost my parents and my sister plus many, many pets and this is the darkest day of my life."
And the Bush-bashers think Iowans have corn between their ears?
Deposed Times executive editor Howell Raines, who, since his departure, has vented bitterness in various newspapers and magazines, was in top form on Halloween, writing in Florida's St. Petersburg Times. Raines said, "If George Bush wins the presidential election, Americans can mark it down as a triumph of thug politics. If John Kerry wins, as I believe he will, that conversely will not mean that thug politics will be finished as the dominant style of modern American presidential campaigns." Even some current and ex-Times employees must have guffawed at that burst of brilliance, recalling that Raines, with the meek acquiescence of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., refined the practice of "thug" journalism during his too-long tenure at the Times.
Raines, who either has the memory span of a gnat or is still in denial over his professional demise, then offers thoughts on the communications industry. He says, perhaps with the help of Jayson Blair, "Facts may not be entirely dead as shaping forces in American public life, but the vital signs are not good… The most dangerous trait of the Internet is not merely its speed, but its creation of demand and credulity for unverified information. Perhaps for the first time since the invention of the printing press, a new information technology has become more efficient at spreading disinformation than knowledge."
Now, that's chutzpah. Granted, the Internet and the explosion of blogs is a comparatively new phenomenon and mistakes are made the rush to release fragmented exit polls on Election Day is just one example but it's men like Raines, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, who once had carte blanche in distorting the news in accordance to their political beliefs, that are now the schmucks riding in buggies and firing from muskets.
On the topic of has-beens, what about Tina Brown, a media icon from a long-ago era, who's been reduced to a ratings-deprived cable tv show and charity weekly column in The Washington Post? On Nov. 4, Brown wrote: "In the next four years Democrats will look back on the heady afternoon of Nov. 2, 2004, with the kind of nostalgia they used to reserve for their honeymoon. It was a buoyant, sunny afternoon of the new Kerry administration and it felt as light and airy as it must for the women of Afghanistan when they first throw off their burqas." Never mind that it was Bush who expelled the Taliban from Afghanistan; anyone, even President Gore, could've accomplished that with a West Wing-like four-minute meeting in the situation room. Except that Gore probably would've botched it.
Brown was referring, of course, to the early exit polls showing a Kerry blowout, and noted that actress Sarah Jessica Parker who probably speaks about politics with the homeless in Central Park was stoked! Sitting at Michael's, "the midtown media haunt," where "power girls" were more focused on their "BlackBerrys than their chicken paillard," Parker "was getting minute-by-minute updates from Democratic get-out-the-vote wranglers in Ohio."
The former Vanity Fair editor did make a valid point, one that might be dismissed by Bush partisans who are as contemptuous of wealthy populists as "thugs" like Raines are of Americans who don't believe in abortion. She said, albeit in a most disturbing tone: "It's not so much a culture war as a culture chasm developing between the heartland and the coasts. And yet in this world of all communication all the time, the coasts are not really a place anymore. They are rooms full of mothers and fathers, like the ones looking stunned on Tuesday night, who work in the entertainment and media business but individually voice just as much anxiety for their kids' emotional welfare as the Other America declared it did at the polls."
And Brown's right, who wants to watch Cialis commercials during televised sporting events that warn about possible four-hour erections?
Yet, Brown, like so many of her lunch and dinner and fashion show and book party companions, will not accept that the 59.5 million people who voted for Bush are a disparate group, not the "Other America," that's implied to be one generation past membership in the KKK. How dare these pundits claim moral and intellectual superiority over fellow citizens who don't favor gay marriage, go to church every Sunday, shop at Wal-Mart, believe that tax cuts stimulate the economy, agree with President Bush that Israel has every right to defend herself against terrorists and not play games with a "peace process," think that too many lawyers prey on gullible victims and drive doctors out of business, and realize that the invasion of Iraq was not an "adventure" but a long-term war that one hopes will help stabilize the world.
Hendrik Hertzberg's Nov. 15 "Comment" in The New Yorker wasn't nearly as vituperative and bitter as his ruminations after the 2000 election, writing about the "grief" and "sadness" among Kerry supporters rather than a hijacked election. But he still doesn't get it. For example, Hertzberg says that al Qaeda "see us as the very essence the heart, if you like, of America," meaning those who reside in the coastal cities. But it's not the people of New York and Washington the terrorists are targeting huge malls in the Midwest could yield an immense casualty toll but the institutions of U.S. finance and government that will cause the most catastrophe. If the country's center of commerce were located in Dallas, that city would be the logical choice of attack.
Finally, lamenting that all three branches of government are now, however narrowly, controlled by conservatives, Hertzberg says "The system of checks and balances have broken down." I doubt he'd look back at FDR's long Democratic reign and make the same claim.
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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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© 2002, Russ Smith