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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 1999/10 Kislev, 5760


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Hillary Withdraws By New Year’s Day? -- NOW LET’S DIVE into the phantom Senate race in New York between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. As I’ve written many times in the past, I don’t believe Clinton will actually run: she’s behind in the polls; she was an inexplicable no-show at the World Series; the home she bought in Westchester is apparently built for one, since her husband will no doubt be chasing all the 23-year-old tail he can get once out of office; and she’s in dire straits with conservative Jews over her mind-boggling silence last week as Yasir Arafat’s wife claimed Israel was using poison gas against Palestinian women and children. Clinton claimed the translation was faulty as she sat on the dais and so didn’t fully comprehend the anti-Semitic remarks that Suha Arafat, whom she had hugged prior to the address, was making.

(The New York Post had a dilly of a headline on Monday about the Mideast flap: “Muzzle Tov! Angry Ehud Rips Yasser Over Yakker.”)

Giuliani, a political and social jaguar under much less serious circumstances, wasted no time in condemning the First Lady’s behavior. Last Friday, the Mayor said, “I certainly wouldn’t have embraced the person who said it, hugged them and kissed them. I wouldn’t embrace a person who said that afterward, because I would understand that by embracing someone, you approve.”

Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s press secretary for her still-undeclared campaign—and who should receive double-time pay for all he has to endure—countered, “Hillary Clinton isn’t going to put New York Senate politics in front of the Middle East peace process. We will leave that to the Mayor.” Nice try, Howard, but what in the world was Clinton doing in the Mideast but trying to curry favor with a segment of New York voters? She blew it; you have to clean up the mess.

But Hillary’s cordial meeting with Suha Arafat—during a trip she shouldn’t have made—actually pales in this country against a far more serious breach of ethics: her political ads now running upstate, paid for with “soft money,” the bugaboo that Democrats (except Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt) rail against each and every day. As does honorary Democrat John McCain, presumably when he’s not flying in a corporate jet. Even The New York Times editorialized against the series of soft money ads that the “exploratory” Clinton campaign is airing; an especially brazen act since she hasn’t even announced her candidacy. The Times said on Nov. 11: “The ads recall one of the worst fund-raising abuses practiced by President Clinton in his own 1996 re-election campaign. Mrs. Clinton should withdraw them or pay for them entirely with money raised under the federal election law ceilings, as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has done with his first run of ads.”

The Times must be in a quandary. It’s a given that they’ll endorse Clinton for Senate over Giuliani—should the match-up actually occur—but how the paper will justify her questionable behavior is a mystery to me, especially if the Mayor doesn’t avail himself of “soft” money. There has been a lot about the Times in the news recently, mostly because of the clumsy firing of their former executive editor Abe Rosenthal, and Alex Jones’ and Susan Tifft’s excellent book The Trust, but I don’t know how they’ll justify their hypocritical editorial policies.

Bill Clinton has been the most corrupt president since Richard Nixon, yet the paper never called for his resignation, instead trying to barter a censure in its pages. And now, his wife is engaging in the same tactics that its editorial board supposedly abhors: as usual, there’s one set of standards for Democrats and another for Republicans.

Everyone in political circles, if not the country, knows that the Clintons are frauds. On last Thursday’s Hardball, Chris Matthews, a onetime aide to Tip O’Neill who nonetheless slammed the President during the Lewinsky scandal, was aghast at these ads. He said: “You know, if that isn’t a campaign ad, I’m Mother Goose. That is a campaign ad aimed at helping Hillary Clinton get elected in New York state. And Janet Reno, if she ever watches a program like this, ought to pay attention to that ad.”

Former Clinton flunky, and Talk contributing writer, George Stephanopoulos raised doubts about the First Lady’s campaign on Sunday’s This Week, claiming that some New York Democrats want her to give it up. He said: “They see that she’s five points behind in the race and they know, you know, it’s become a joyless campaign. There’s not a lot of momentum and energy. I think all of the people around her say there’s no way she’s going to get out. But there’s a lot more people in the Democratic Party now who wish she would.”

Meanwhile, Al Sharpton wants Hillary to give an audience to him and his “people.” Last Wednesday, Sharpton said on Hardball that he’s upset Clinton hasn’t kissed his ring yet. “I’ve not endorsed her yet,” he insisted, “I’ve said that Hillary Clinton, like any other candidate, should come before the community, answer questions, and based on that, we would make our support. Just because we’re anti-Giuliani...does not mean that we have forfeited our right to question and hold accountable his opponent.”

Danny Hellman
As for Giuliani, his latest predicament came courtesy of the actor Danny Glover, who loudly, and justifiably, protested the discrimination he faced when trying to hail a taxi two weeks ago. Because Glover’s a celebrity the newspapers played up his complaint and so the Mayor quickly reacted with a sting operation to discipline cabbies who don’t pick up every passenger they see on the street, or who refuse to take people to destinations like Harlem.

It’s a tough call. On the one hand, it’s obvious that anyone hailing a cab should be granted a ride, regardless of the color of their skin. But playing devil’s advocate, if you were a cabby, trolling the streets at midnight, would you pull over for a black, or white, teenager who was sloppily dressed and, frankly, scared you? I wouldn’t. There have been enough murders and robberies of cabbies and livery drivers to make people think twice. Let’s be honest, readers, especially those on the Upper West Side: If you were a taxi driver, what would you do?

The Times, in a Nov. 12 editorial, gave the Mayor a half-thumbs-up for his action, but lectured it just wasn’t good enough. The writer said: “Beefing up the ‘refusal squad’ is a good thing to do. But the Taxi and Limousine Commission also needs to scrutinize its driver training program and its disciplinary system for opportunities to better educate drivers, many of whom are new to America, about the damaging and mistaken stereotypes under which some of them operate.”

Can you say “Ivory Tower”? You know those annoying seat-buckle messages that sound off when you enter a cab? They suck. Who wants to hear Rod Gilbert, Jackie Mason or Joe Torre blather about taxi protocol when you’re on the way to work? But the most annoying current commercial is from Al Franken, who says he hasn’t been in a cab for 12 years because Hollywood provides him limos. That’s what this Times edit reminds me of. When was the last time Artie Sulzberger actually entered a cab? And as far as “educating” the drivers, I’ll tell you what happens: a new guy, from whatever country, shows up at the mess hall and a compatriot shows him the ropes, probably saying don’t pick up questionable fares if you want to stay alive.

I’m not saying this is a tolerable situation. But, as Beltway pundits are fond of saying this year, quoting JFK, “Life is unfair.”

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