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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 1999/8 Kislev, 5760


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A Country Mourns;
Don Trump's Three-Month Run -- There was a lot of movement in the legitimate 2000 presidential campaign last week, but let's pause to consider the Outer Limits Candidates, the fringe men and women who provide an hilarious respite from the front-runners and their stalkers.

While Bill Bradley and Al Gore spar about who will make America healthier, reporters ridicule George W. Bush's reading skills and Sen. John McCain relishes the gorgeous hagiography written on his behalf by Carl Bernstein in the Dec. Vanity Fair, a carnival of freaks is making loud noises on the sidelines.

Hands down, Don Trump wins the Wacko Blue Ribbon of the week for his "I-thought-about-it-in-the-shower" economic blueprint that would impose a one-time 14.25 percent tax on citizens who've accumulated $10 million or more in assets.

Trump, who's fast becoming the Abe Hirschfeld of national politics, and is given to bragging about his sex life on Howard Stern's radio show, is now, I believe, apt to be on the scene for at least three more months. At first, the hopeful speculation was that his insane trial balloon for the Reform Party presidential nomination was simply a ploy to sell more copies of his upcoming book. But on reflection, as Trump gives interviews to friendly inquisitors like Larry King and Geraldo, why would he endure constant ridicule and humiliating poll ratings just to unload a few more hardbacks? There's something else at work: his ego, of course, but probably a mental meltdown as well.

Trump's economic centerpiece is so quarter-baked it doesn't deserve much comment, but let me offer a few snippets of reality to the great unwashed who, upon seeing the Daily News headline "Trump's Way-Out Plan to End Nat'l Debt… Soak the Rich!" exclaimed, "Right on, dude, you the man!" First, such legislation would never pass Congress, unless the House and Senate are overrun with David Bonior and Dick Gephardt clones a year from now.

(The Kennedy family, it goes without saying, will keep their own counsel, oratorical sops to the lower classes notwithstanding.)

Next: If such a draconian measure actually passed, dollars would sprout wings, jetting in a blizzard to offshore havens. Then the stock market would go woozy because all the paper million- and billionaires who aren't liquid would have to sell off assets to pay the government. That, in turn, would screw up the portfolios of the upper middle class, which would then cause massive layoffs at both small and large companies. What about the farmer whose business is valued at, say $20 million? He'd have to sell, just as the person who owns a chain of newspapers worth $100 million; one or two publications would be unloaded to meet tax obligations, which would lead to more unemployment.

In a Nov. 10 New York Times article Adam Nagourney reports Trump saying, "The phones are going off the hook," in reaction to his plan. "I've never seen anything like this. Do you make Page 1 with this one?" The same day, the New York Post reported the flip side of the Trump persona, his alleged prowess with the gals. The article said, "Trump...told shock jock Howard Stern in a sex-drenched phone interview that gorgeous Melania Knauss could become Wife No. 3—'a potential first lady,' he said—and that he often 'mentally' feels her up in public." The Post's Andrea Peyser, the paper's third-largest embarrassment, behind John Podhoretz and Steve Dunleavy, wrote in her column the same day, quoting Trump: "Marriage is a great institution. Some of us just haven't gotten it right. The guilt lasts for about four or five minutes, and then you get over it."

Peyser gets around to Trump's tax plan and throws in her opinion about the "Rolls-Royce set": "Just try to pry money out of their tight, greedy fists."

Speaking for the rational, The National Review's Kate O'Beirne, appearing on CNN's Inside Politics just hours after Trump's—in Al Gore lingo—"risky tax scheme" was announced, said: "Presto, why didn't we think of that, Bernie [Shaw]? Maybe because it's utterly loony and it won't work. What he wants to do is impose a one-time 14 percent tax on people with assets over $10 million. Now, if the top one percent in income have only one percent of the nation's intelligence he might get away with this, but these people couldn't move money out of the United States fast enough. He would have to endorse Pat Buchanan's wall around America to keep rich people sitting still for this third-world dictator kind of confiscation of their assets."

And, in another corner is Robert Kuttner, an op-ed columnist for The Boston Globe and coeditor of The American Prospect, a liberal biweekly. While dismissing Trump's arithmetic on the proposal, and employing a cliche—"Even a stopped clock is right twice a day"—to make sure readers don't storm his home and drag him off to an asylum, Kuttner, last Sunday, praised the spirit of the plan.

I call the following remarks socialism, the kind of sophomoric cant that went out of style right around the time that John "Power to the People" Lennon was baking bread in the Dakota. How about you? Kuttner: "[T]he billionaire developer has shed useful light on an important public issue. Wealth in America is concentrated as never before while social needs go begging. America can be divided into people who need to ask what things cost and people who don't. In large cities we see a new class of the very, very rich who have entire retinues of servants, as in the gilded age.

"They are whisked through the streets in sleek limousines; their kids are taken from elite private school to private music and language lessons by nannies; they have personal trainers and personal shoppers and no worries about balancing household budgets. Given the litany of national needs going unattended—everything from health security to decent public schools—why not tax large concentrations of wealth?"

I wonder if Kuttner's ultimate bosses at the Globe—the management of The New York Times—feel that way? Think Arthur Sulzberger Jr. would like to unload some family stock and ditch that "sleek limousine" to fulfill Donald Trump's weird fantasy? Over to you, Artie: e-mail me by clicking on the spot in my "bio."

Sulzberger Jr.
A perpetual candidate for delusional figure of the week, Bill Clinton, ran a strong second to Trump, giving an interview to ABC—the newsworthy parts of which weren't aired, the chickens—in which he officially began the revisionist take on his legacy. This has to be a first. After all, poor Harry Truman was limited to one bourbon with branch water by the time historians figured out he wasn't a two-bit machine hack; and Dwight D. Eisenhower died before he was embraced by knowledgeable academics.

(By the way, this reminds me once again, Mr. Douglas Brinkley, that you're a professorial fraud on two counts: one, the shameless parade of interviews you gave after John Kennedy Jr.'s death; two, the mind-numbing brown-nosing you administered to Al Gore in Talk a month or so back. And, to digress further, wasn't it disgraceful how the New York Post sullied the memories of Kennedy and his wife last Sunday with a scurrilous story about their alleged broken marriage? Even if the wild charges were true, the couple is dead.)

Clinton, always starved for attention—must've been the child abuse that voters never heard about till last summer—told ABC correspondent Carole Simpson: "[Historians] will say I made a bad personal mistake, I paid a serious price for it, but that I was right to stand and fight for my country and my Constitution and its principles, and that the American people were very good to stand with me... I made a personal mistake, and they spent $50 million trying to ferret it out and root it out, because they had nothing else to do, because all the other charges were totally false—bogus, made up, and people were persecuted because they wouldn't commit perjury against me. People were indicted because they wouldn't."

This isn't new territory, but since Clinton raised it so boldly let's remember a few facts.

1. Ken Starr didn't spend $50 million on Clinton's "personal mistake"—which has a name, Monica Lewinsky—but rather on an entire web of deceit, dirty tricks and White House obstruction of justice. If Clinton hadn't been so shrewd, and Starr so inept at public relations, a different outcome might've occurred. Appearing on Fox News Sunday on Nov. 14, Starr said: "With all respect to him, I think he's just failed to come to grips with the findings, not of an independent counsel, not the views of a member of Congress, but the chief judge of his home district in Arkansas."

2. Clinton was the first elected president to be impeached; prior to that action by the House, more than 120 daily newspapers called for his resignation. Let alone Starr and the Republican-controlled House, Judge Susan Webber Wright, hardly a partisan, said Clinton's testimony under oath was "false, misleading and evasive answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process."

3. Webb Hubbell, the Clintons' old buddy from the Rose Law Firm, was convicted of fraud, did time and said on tape recordings from prison, referring to Clinton, "I need to roll over one more time."

4. Three days after Clinton's Aug. 17, '98 Monica speech, which was strident and combative, rather than apologetic, the United States bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan for no other purpose but to change the news cycle.

5. On the eve of the impeachment vote in Congress, Clinton waged war against Iraq, a blatant Wag the Dog tactic, and then denied it had anything to do with politics.

Even The Washington Post, a liberal newspaper that stood with Clinton, ran an editorial on Nov. 11 that read, in part: "Historians will have to cope with the troubling question of whether an effort to corrupt evidence of an affair in a civil lawsuit warrants impeachment. But the White House's effort to protect Mr. Clinton will surely not be remembered for any nobility or higher purpose. The president dragged the country through months of trauma to fight allegations that were, at least in the main, true. His operatives smeared political and legal opponents. To this day, he has never acknowledged the harm he did. As to his behavior, there was nothing 'right' about it."

Clinton doesn't give a damn about the Constitution or the United States of America. He's the ultimate me-me-me miscreant, the kind of person graffiti artists have in mind when they scrawl "Die Yuppie Scum" on city walls, bridges and telephone booths.

Pat Buchanan, the former GOP stalwart who's attempting to win the Reform Party presidential nomination, didn't touch Trump or Clinton last week for aberrant behavior, but the chardonnay populist did his best. In accepting an endorsement from Lenora Fulani, the former New Alliance Party member and associate of Louis Farrakhan, Buchanan said at a Nov. 11 Washington press conference: "Your pitchfork has been assigned."

Pat and Fulani
The Water Rat also agreed to meet with Al Sharpton, the New York City huckster whose sheer tenacity has led the media to take him seriously against all better instincts. Speaking about that odd coffee klatch, Buchanan said: "In diplomacy, you have to do some things that are very unpleasant to get along. I will be happy to talk to Mr. Sharpton and…say what I believe and hear what he believes, because I'm confident in my views. As Lenora has said, if we're going to build a coalition in this country, we've got to talk to those we profoundly disagree with." Who said the sky wasn't falling?

Fulani, who promised to bring Buchanan to Sylvia's for lunch in Harlem, said, "We're going to integrate that peasant army of his. We're going to bring black folks and Latino folks and gay folks and liberal folks into that army." As for Jews, the impression left was they need not apply for membership in the Buchanan/Fulani/Sharpton Brigades.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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©1999, Russ Smith