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Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2000/ 24 Mar-Cheshvan 5761


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Consumer Reports

You can't always get
what you want -- AL GORE has promised so much "priority" legislation once he becomes president that it'll make FDR's legendary first 100 days seem like he was playing hearts most of the time during the spring of 1933.

If I had to bet, Gore's first act will be as audacious as his broad-daylight theft of the presidency: changing the country's name to The United States of Litigation. And who is Gore's chief lawyer? Why, David Boies, a key player in the shameful prosecution of Microsoft. In the Nov. 27 issue of Time, Cathy Booth Thomas lovingly described the Democrats' Best Friend: "This is the guy who embarrassed Bill Gates on the stand. The guy who wrestled $1.17 billion from drug companies for fixing vitamin prices, who defeated the nation's biggest auction houses and now represents everyone from Calvin Klein to Napster."

Just for good measure, Thomas concludes her mash note to Boies (and, by association, all the trial lawyers who comprise an invaluable part of the Democratic machine) with a comment from his wife. "Seeing him in the courtroom, she says, is like seeing 'Baryshnikov at the ballet.'"

Campaign finance reform, often cited in Gore's fall stump speeches as his paramount concern, probably will be put on the back burner. In the postelection campaign he's collected-at the direction of his K St. cronies-several million dollars to help pay for the hundreds of lawyers now in Florida. Unlike George W. Bush, who's also trolled for money, the specifics of Gore's funds aren't accessible to the public. Bush has also imposed a $5000 limit on contributions.

Not all of Gore's patrons are eager to shell out more cash. In Monday's Los Angeles Times, Peter Buttenwieser, who gave $1.3 million to the Democratic cause for the 2000 election, was critical of Gore's campaign. He said, in complaining that his advice went unheeded by the Gore team: "[Y]ou have to give people a compelling, passionate reason to vote for you as well as knocking down the other guy... The campaign was really quite rejecting and disdainful."

And while the farce continues in Florida, Democratic legislators are starting to get restless about a potential Gore presidency. No wonder. Bush's consigliere in this mess, James Baker, was ridiculed more than a week ago for making the obvious point that ballot machines are impartial and can't put a subjective spin on a voter's "intent." Now that the recount tallies for Gore haven't yet eliminated Bush's slim lead, there's havoc in the canvassing rooms, with GOP accusations of Democrats eating chads, ballots stuck together with tape and disputes over what rules to follow.

You can hardly blame the volunteers and hourly workers for getting testy: they're under the glare of the media, pressured by Democrat partisans to achieve the "correct" results, and are unsure of when this unruly process is going to end.

According to Monday's Washington Post, one of Gore's allies is distressed about a possible Gore presidency. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said: "I think Gore has handled [the election recount] as well as he could, but it's a very delicate situation. If he ends up the president, he will feverishly reach out to members to try to build bridges. But he will be carrying some Clinton-Gore baggage that's going to keep some Republicans from wanting to work with him."

Considering that those dispirited remarks were on the record, you can just imagine what's being bandied about behind closed doors, especially after a couple of cocktails. In fact, in the same Post article, a "Senate Democratic leader" agreed with Durbin that Gore could be in for trouble. "The depth of resentment and the extraordinary hostility the Republicans already have demonstrated towards the vice president is far greater than the somewhat mild opposition that Democrats have expressed about Bush."

Another sign that Gore's pals are nervous is the widespread refrain that by this point the presidency isn't worth having. Albert Hunt, writing in last Thursday's Wall Street Journal, voiced a sentiment common in Washington's pundit/pol clique. "Whichever way this ends up," Hunt says, "a big bloc of the electorate won't accept it. So it wasn't surprising the other day when two of the country's smartest politicians-one a Bush-backing Republican, the other a Gore-supporting Democrat-anonymously gave the same reply when asked which man's shoes they'd rather be in: the one who loses." Right, Al. He was probably gabbing with Bill Bradley and John McCain.

AT THIS POINT, three days before Thanksgiving, I've learned to forsake predictions, and won't even hazard a guess as to whether Gore or Bush will win the White House, or when the results will finally be announced. Even after Florida's Supreme Court shocked the Bush and Gore camps on Friday afternoon-overruling Democratic Judge Terry Lewis' affirmation of Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris' right to certify a victor in the state on Saturday-suggesting the weekend would be relatively quiet, the rollercoaster continued.

The liberal court, comprised of seven men and women appointed by Democratic governors (Republican Jeb Bush was co-appointee of one justice), was obviously buying time for the Veep, in hopes that the helter-skelter, change-the-rules-as-we-go-along hand-counts in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties would jack up the vote total for Gore. But the Democrats surrendered invaluable public relations points when 1527 of the overseas absentee ballots, many of them from the military, were arbitrarily disqualified by an overzealous battalion of vote-counters. When it was revealed that Mark Herron, a Tallahassee lawyer, had sent a five-page letter to Gore lawyers instructing them how to impede the overseas vote, especially the military vote, GOP leaders cried foul.

Herron was hired by the Democratic National Committee on Election Night.

And so what was meant to be a slow-news weekend for the Gore campaign, as they prepared briefs for Monday's court hearing, turned into a media nightmare. As Gore's thug-in-chief Bill Daley found out, it's not wise to mess with the military. Almost immediately, Gulf War hero Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, a Bush supporter, said: "It is a very sad day in our country when the men and women of the armed forces who are serving abroad and facing danger on a daily basis...because of some technicality out of their control...are denied the right to vote for the president of the United States, who will be their commander-in-chief."

Cohen and Mad Maddy

And Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the lone Republican in Bill Clinton's cabinet, spoke from Saudi Arabia on Sunday: "The last thing we want to do is make it harder for those wearing our uniform and serving overseas to be able to cast a ballot."

Incredibly, Gore, who's ridden the steed of sanctimony for the past week about making sure every vote counted, didn't even try to stanch the bad publicity by making a statement in support of the country's men and women in the armed forces.

Instead, when complaints were first lodged about the curiously high percentage of absentee ballots deemed unsatisfactory (some 40 percent), Gore's spokesman Chris Lehane said: "[The Gore campaign] was saddened and disappointed by the fact that the Bush camp has suddenly decided to inject raw, crass, partisan politics into a situation that ought to be guided by the laws of our land."

I'd have to check this out, but I believe in eye-for-an-eye countries like Iraq or Iran, such outbursts of propaganda would cost Lehane his tongue.

THE DAILY NEWS, owned by Clinton's friend Mort Zuckerman, ran an editorial on Nov. 19 that read like it was dictated by Mark Fabiani. Headlined "Give Demo-cracy Time to Count," the Gore advertisement screeched: "[T]he counting of ballots went on-by humans, not machines-ensuring that each person's vote will be tallied in accordance with the law. And in accordance with a sacred mandate... Now, America must wait for the complete tally of the manually counted ballots. This knuckle-biter is democracy at work. And the nation, indeed the world, has been getting a great civics lesson these past 12 days. And the lesson is this: The American political system is surviving and working, and this will only strengthen it."

The daft notion, not confined to the Daily News, that the country is "getting a great civics lesson" is a dangerous lie that only serves to mask the indisputable fact that Al Gore is attempting to steal an election. In contrast, Watergate was a valuable two-year drama because it had a beginning, middle and end. The steady diet of blockbuster revelations about Richard Nixon's paranoid White House, as well as the dramatic congressional hearings, vindicated a generation's suspicions that the president was a crook and proved that he wasn't above the law. Unfortunately, today's youth weren't as fortunate in Clinton's impeachment. If justice had been served, and the U.S. Senate had more men and women of honor in it, he'd have been tossed straight back to Arkansas.

The Simpsons

My eight-year-old son is at an age where he's curious about current events, especially those that are discussed at the dinner table, on the soccer field and after The Simpsons, when he often watches Hardball with me. Like any politically innocent child, he parrots his parents' views and is rooting for Bush to win the presidency. Every day he asks impatiently, "Is it over yet? Who won?" I've spared him the complex details of this sordid farce-it's an election he'll study in high school-but there's no way to spin the reality that these past two weeks have sullied the concept of American democracy.

How do you explain to a second-grader the ugly chain of events that have taken place since Election Day?

He simply doesn't understand yet that the elite ruling class of this country will do or say anything to catapult their chosen candidate into office.

Consider the following sampling of anti-Republican rhetoric in just the past week:

The Boston Globe's David Nyhan, Nov. 17: "Many of us are put off by Texas justice and Texas ways. We do not like the way Texas treats its citizens and its environment. I look at Bush Sr. [sic] and I see Willie Horton. I look at Bush Jr. [sic] and I see 145 hooded, manacled prisoners wheeled into death chambers, the latest of them another retarded man, as the metronome Texas guillotine drops again." By contrast, I look at the state of Massachusetts and see the Kennedy clan protected from criminal prosecution for felonies that would put less well-connected citizens behind bars. I look at Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the son of Chappaquidick Teddy, and see a slow-witted man who's willingly been used as a puppet by Dick Gephardt to trade on his name and raise millions of the same "soft money" that Democrats are supposedly opposed to.

Slate's David Plotz, ridiculing former Secretary of State James Baker, Nov. 17: "Despite Baker's statesman persona, he will probably be remembered for being what he hates: a handler. He had a few modest achievements at State and Treasury [the U.S. victory in the Gulf War is now considered "modest"] but never had any vision for the jobs beyond his next tactical move. He lost his only run for office-Texas attorney general in 1978-and abandoned the idea of running for president in 1996 before the campaign started... But schlepping to Florida to clean up another Bush mess surely makes [Baker] seethe. He wanted to be one of the powers that be. Instead he's America's most famous janitor."

So if Baker is a "janitor," what honorific would Plotz, a Gore supporter, confer upon Daley and Christopher? Statesmen?


Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe, Nov. 17: "Now that Bush wants a 15-minute election, it is much more sinister. The speed with which Bush wants to end the Florida presidential recount is the sign that the party animal is now a political gangster. He has gone from Eddie Haskell to Al Capone. Voters are waiting in Florida for someone to count their votes. Bush has decided to silence them with the Gatling gun of raw power... All that remains is for Bush to dump the bodies without being caught for ditching democracy."

By contrast, Daily News columnist Mike Barnicle told Hardball host Chris Matthews on Nov. 13 that the Republicans can't match the likes of Daley when it comes to a street fight. "Watching them," he said, "is like watching people going to a gunfight wearing mittens."

To which Matthews replied, "Why are they so aristocratic? Is that just their nature?"

Strange, I didn't think America's aristocracy was so much to be found in the Deep South or the Plains states that Bush won so handily. Matthews is a longtime student of politics, and worked for Jimmy Carter and Tip O'Neill, so it's surprising he still thinks the "Rockefeller Republicans" control the party.

On the other hand, Clinton/Gore lackey Paul Begala, an awful writer who now works for MSNBC, completely contradicted the views of Barnicle and Matthews with a hateful commentary on Nov. 13. Begala, a native Texan, doesn't believe Republicans are one bit aristocratic. In fact, they're the scourge of the nation.

He writes: "Yes, Barnicle is right when he notes that tens of millions of good people in Middle America voted Republican. But if you look closely at that see the state where James Byrd was lynch-dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart... You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay... You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees."

So, according to Begala, the evil that exists in America is found strictly in the states that voted for Bush. I believe that any citizen of New York City, Republican or Democrat, would dispute that theory. And what about California, the land of O.J. Simpson and the Mendendez brothers? Last time I checked, homicide, gang violence, rape and drug addiction were still plaguing the cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston, all located in states that voted for Gore.

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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© 2000, Russ Smith