Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2002/ 15 Kislev 5763


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The Bush plan | The clearest analysis of George W. Bush's midterm election victory is a Nov. 25 editorial by The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes. Although the scope of the GOP's gains two weeks ago can't be denied-regaining control of the Senate has profound implications; to a lesser degree, denying Democrats a majority of statehouses was surprising as well-Barnes argues that giddy Republicans ought to sober up.

The President has two enormous tasks: aggressively prosecuting the war on terrorism and restoring the economy. If he's successful on those fronts, not even the combined reincarnation of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston Churchill would stand a chance of defeating the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004. Barnes writes: "Simplicity is a virtue in White House (and congressional) agenda-setting. An uncomplicated program is easy to manage, easy to promote, and easy for the public to understand. We know this from the successful presidency of Ronald Reagan and the failures of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Jimmy Carter. Reagan stressed two goals similar to Bush's. One was to defeat communism and win the Cold War, the other to revive a stagnant economy. For Reagan, the rest of the agenda, while not unimportant, was details, to be left for senior administration officials and congressional leaders to work out."

Which means that Bush must take action on Iraq-and ignore what you read in the newspapers; this war is imminent, no later than January-and lay down the law to Congress on revamping the tax code. Although capital gains reductions might have to wait, the next phase of his 2001 tax legislation must be pushed up to 2003, as opposed to a year later; in addition, the tax cuts have to be made permanent. And the double-taxing of dividends has to be repealed. If Bush can realize progress on the economy by next year's third quarter, he'll have the clout to deflect Democratic opposition to the partial privatization of Social Security, an issue that didn't hurt North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham in their winning Senate races. And the vital school voucher program can be revisited.

It'll be up to Karl Rove and other Bush administration officials to squash divisive legislation that socially conservative Republicans are itching to propose early next year. Any protracted battles over the environment, say, or abortion, will only serve the Democrats' and media's purposes by obscuring the President's chief concerns. Obviously, now that Sen. Patrick Leahy's wearing a dunce cap in a dusty corner, Bush's judicial nominees (and probable Supreme Court choices) will be given a fair up-or-down vote in the Senate instead of being bottled up in the Judiciary Committee.

As it is, the Democrats are still stuck in a pre-9/11 mindset. They convey no recognition of the country being under attack by Islamic fascists and that the only way to combat that threat is to kill every last Al Qaeda member and recruit. Sen. Tom Daschle, still whining about the election results, typifies his party's myopia. Last week he said: "We haven't found bin Laden, we haven't made real progress in finding key elements of al Qaeda. They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?"

Why Daschle and his colleagues don't understand that this war will continue for the next decade is beyond me; it's not a predictable, on-our-schedule conflict. In addition, there has been progress: Al Qaeda's Afghan nest has been blown up, scattering combatants across the globe; thousands of fanatics are in custody; and to date there hasn't been another massacre in the United States or Great Britain.

Should the "new" Al Gore make a similar claim in the coming months-same goes for John Edwards, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and (one can only hope) Al Sharpton-Democratic fundraisers will be searching for an alternative by next summer.


Unlike Garrison Keillor, the repulsive Midwesterner who augments his considerable income by drawing a paycheck from the national embarrassment known as public radio, I'm inclined to give The Washington Post's Mary McGrory, who's not quite as senile as Sen. Robert Byrd, some slack. The op-ed columnist isn't in the same league as peer Helen Thomas, the witchy Hearst correspondent who's inexplicably still accorded "first question privileges" at presidential press conferences; poor Mary just doesn't understand why American politics can't forever remain in the time warp known as Camelot.


Since the midterm elections McGrory's been among the last of elite pundits to accept the verdict of the nation's voters. It befuddles her why Walter Mondale lost his belated Senate bid to a more energetic and idea-fueled Norm Coleman. After all, as she wrote on Nov. 7, on their election-eve debate-in which poor Fritz looked and sounded older than his 74 years-the former vice president was "spirited" and represented "a voice desperately needed in the councils of Washington." She oozed about his "gravitas" and wondered why "the pride of Minnesota" lost to Coleman. Maybe it didn't occur to McGrory that Mondale's a dinosaur who lost 49 states in his disastrous presidential run against Ronald Reagan in 1984-carrying his own state by only a small margin-and was a reminder to that state's voters that he was chosen, in old-fashioned backroom politics, to replace the late Paul Wellstone just hours after the Senator was killed in a plane crash.

A week later, McGrory exulted in the elevation of Nancy Pelosi to House Minority Leader, an election that Republicans ought to zip their lips on instead of issuing slaphappy huzzahs about the "San Francisco Democrat" taking over for the washed-up Dick Gephardt. I still believe that Rep. Harold Ford Jr. was a far better choice, but Pelosi, who was reared in Baltimore, the daughter of the popular machine-pol Tommy D'Alesandro, won't necessarily turn out to be a soulmate of Baghdad Jim McDermott.

The GOP and the media make too much of Pelosi's adopted city. And her fellow San Franciscans are far too defensive, as evidenced by the Chronicle's Marc Sandalow's Nov. 13 article in that woeful newspaper. He wrote, presumably not under the influence: "For San Franciscans accustomed to ridicule for their embrace of such 'radical' notions as grape boycotts, domestic partnerships and smoking bans, Pelosi hardly registers as being on the liberal fringe. She routinely wins elections with 80 percent of the vote, or more, and is condemned by papers like the Bay Guardian [an awful "alternative" weekly that promotes a "progressive" agenda while ignoring its own history of busting its employee union] for being too much a part of the mainstream.

"'San Francisco voted for Al Gore-who won the election...voted twice for Gray Davis, voted twice for Bill Clinton. Dianne Feinstein is from San Francisco. Leo McCarthy is from San Francisco. Who are we out of touch with, Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay?' said state Sen. John Burton."

Quite an endorsement: voting twice for Bill Clinton and Gray Davis. And let's not forget the city's well-dressed and crooked mayor, Willie Brown. Pelosi's smarter than that: although she could use a speech coach for tv interviews, the attractive grandmother isn't going to blow her leadership by mimicking the claptrap of the moronic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Still, Pelosi's elevation certainly isn't a sign that Democrats possess a strong bench. McGrory writes: "[Pelosi] sets out with a united caucus [says who?]. She bound the members to her by her crisp organizational skills and her hospitality. Right and left mingled happily with guards and secretaries at her buffet suppers in the whip suite on nights of late debates, partaking of Mexican soul food, or Italian dishes. It helped them to realize that having as your leader a bright woman who understands the importance of eating well isn't the worst thing that could happen to a wounded party."

So Pelosi is the human equivalent of "comfort food." Esquire's sure to follow with a feature story that cribs from that daft idea.

Poor Aunt Mary is so desperately clinging to memories of the 40-year-old Kennedy administration that she finds hope in Boston's selection as the site for the 2004 Democratic Convention. She defends her hometown as a bastion of progressive thought, conveniently omitting Boston's reputation as one of the most racist northern cities.

On Nov. 17, she writes: "Boston is right for the Dems. At a time when they have lost sight of what it's all about, they will benefit from being where it all began. They do not have a candidate, it is true, or a philosophy. They are outgunned and outfunded. But so were the colonists who started the Revolution with their fiery speeches in Faneuil Hall, which is not too far from the Convention Hall. The Old North Church, in all its spare splendor, still stands, the pewter candelabra made by Paul Revere still shedding light. Just next door, you can buy cannolis in Boston's Little Italy."

I don't particularly care where the donkeys hold their 2004 proceedings, although for commercial reasons Manhattan would suit me better. But Boston's a mistake. Aside from the not inconsiderable delight in having Teddy Kennedy trump the Clintons for party bragging rights, what advantage does the city hold? Nostalgia, perhaps, but that's not a hopeful sign for the party. The most audacious choice for a convention-leaving aside Florida, for practical political reasons-would've been Washington, DC. Having the four-day media story and rounds of parties in the President's backyard, with the none-too-subtle subtext of "We're taking back this city!" would do more to energize the party than a trip to the JFK Library, Fenway Park and Mike Dukakis' home.

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

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© 2002, Russ Smith