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Jewish World Review Nov. 23, 2000/ 25 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

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Good feminists, all


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AND AS IF Katherine Harris hasn't been pummeled enough by unimaginative Beltway journalists, Time's Margaret Carlson, in her Nov. 27 column, writes a greatest-hits of slurs against the embattled woman. She said: "Until the Florida Supreme Court enjoined her from certifying the vote, Harris, often compared to Cruella De Vil, snatching ballots rather than puppies, was briefly the most powerful woman on the planet. She decided to flunk all the essays by county officials explaining their late returns and then announced she would certify the winner last Saturday without all the hand counts. To grasp the enormity of what Harris was up to, imagine James Carville as a political appointee of Governor Roger Clinton's, deciding to shut down a legal recount of an election with a 300-vote margin and award the victory to Roger's brother Bill."

Fine. To grasp the enormity of what smug saps Carlson and her colleagues are, consider that it's Harris' job to certify the election and Florida law stipulates a final recount seven days after the election. Furthermore, it's worth pointing out that Harris, who was cochairman of the Bush campaign in Florida (Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who's received barely a column inch of bad press, performed the same function for Gore), has committed political suicide by her bravery in standing up to the Gore/Daley machine. She once had aspirations to be an ambassador or U.S. senator. Because of this controversy there's no way that George Bush could appoint her to any post in his administration. And as for elected office, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Carol Roberts would skip many an expense-account lunch to make sure she was defeated.

It also makes you wonder why liberal women-some who call themselves "feminists"-aren't outraged by how Harris has been vilified, and all because she wears too much makeup. Disagree with her politics, sure-but you'd think the Gloria Steinems and Barbra Streisands of the world would chastise those who've belittled Harris for the way she dresses. Wasn't that all equality jazz taken care of by the mid-70s? Silly me. When it comes to protecting men like Clinton and Gore, gender doesn't matter: that's why Clarence Thomas was a pig, but Clinton the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy. That's why women like Juanita Broaddrick, Linda Tripp, Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey, tramps all, deserve no sympathy from the Upper West Side feminists. They all violated NOW's theme song: "Don't Mess With Bill."

SHOUTS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS MURMURS
THE NOV. 20 New Yorker included an extraordinarily dishonest hit job on former New York Press columnist John Ellis, George W. Bush's first cousin and a key election analyst for Fox News' election coverage throughout the primary and general campaigns. The short piece was written by Jane Mayer, a longtime Clinton loyalist. Why Ellis even spoke to her, given the woman's partisan background, is known only to him. I chalk it up to fatigue. Mayer writes about Ellis' phone conversations during Election Night with his cousins George and Jeb, and ascribes nefarious intent to his premature projection, early on Nov. 8, of Bush as the winner of the election.

The impression given to New Yorker readers is that Ellis was hired by Fox (he's a consultant, not a full-time employee) for mere access.

Nowhere in Mayer's article is mentioned Ellis' impressive resume-a former Boston Globe columnist, a longtime NBC political producer and researcher, a close association with Fast Company. Instead, she willfully portrays him as a dilettante, just as so many in the media have described his most famous cousin. In fact, Ellis' professionalism is respected within the political community, by people of both parties.

Susan Estrich, campaign manager of Michael Dukakis' campaign against former President Bush-Ellis' uncle-has nothing but admiration for the man, which, to her credit, she's actively voiced since Mayer's slimeball piece was printed. Appearing on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor on Nov. 15, Estrich took issue with a guest she appeared with, Craig Wolff, a professor at Columbia's School of Journalism and a former New York Times reporter.

Estrich

Wolff, whose association with the Times hardly gives him room to decry partisanship, took umbrage at Fox's employment of Ellis, relying on the Mayer story for his information. Estrich, on the other hand, said: "I think John Ellis is a person of great professional integrity and great personal integrity. He worked for NBC in 1988, when his uncle was running for president. I was running the Dukakis campaign. To be perfectly honest, he gave me numbers, too. And I have been very troubled, Bill-and I understand the professor's concerns-but I think John is being unfairly singled out as a scapegoat. His job was to crunch numbers. I had the same numbers all day long that he was giving to George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. I had it on the Democratic side."

Bill O'Reilly, whose popular program is one of Fox's hits-and of course that's one of the reasons for the Ellis controversy, the fact that demon Rupert Murdoch's station is on a ratings tear-put down Ellis, even though he admitted he doesn't even know him. "He should not have been talking to anybody on election night. It tees me off... But the fact that he did it put me in a bad position, because all I have to sell is trust."

Oh, please. I like O'Reilly's show a lot, and agree with much of what he says, but his hat size has grown in proportion to his popularity. Murdoch defended Ellis shortly after Mayer's article (which a lazy mainstream press received as gospel truth) appeared, saying, "Every journalist is desperately trying to get in touch with candidates-that's their job. There's been absolutely no partisanship at Fox."

Slate's Jack Shafer found the dust-up over Ellis laughable. Writing on Nov. 15 he said: "[I]t's somewhat hilarious that the press ethicists are calling for the head of John Ellis... What incentive did he have to project Bush the Florida winner if he knew the numbers wouldn't ultimately support it? It's not like projecting Bush the winner could make it so. If the press ethicists want to banish Ellis from the prognostication bar because he's a partisan Republican or because he's phoning high-level Republicans who are blood relatives for inside dope on Election night, let's apply similar litmus tests to the prognosticators who canoodle with Democrats. As a journalist, Ellis would be derelict not to draw on every scrap of information he could find."

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a well-known and widely respected pundit told me: "Leave it to the elite media to be in the middle of their biggest scandal-a bunch of liberals calling a major race for, oddly enough, the liberal candidate, and finding a Bush supporter to take the fall. The problem wasn't that the media were irresponsible in calling Florida early, with the polls still open. No, the problem was that John Ellis at Fox told Jeb Bush that VNS was showing a reversal, a Bush win.

"Ask Carville and Begala and Daley and Gore and Shrum who gave them info and when. It was their friends at the networks. And it always has been. And it never became a story until a Republican gave some information to a Bush."


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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