Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2002/ 22 Kislev 5763


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Consumer Reports

Tom Daschle contracts Dowd-dementia | The Democratic Party's meltdown is a rubbernecker's dream. It's likely to become even more entertaining before a shred of equilibrium returns next year, perhaps caused by a misstep by President Bush, an ill-advised rush of hubris from the GOP-controlled Congress or, more likely, the mainstream media's desire to move on to a story other than donkey doldrums.

Bush is on a roll currently, after his successful NATO summit last week. His determination to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein-despite the daily thumb-sucking by pundits debating whether he's siding with Rumsfeld or Powell-was clear in his Bucharest speech on Nov. 23, rallying an approximated 220,000 Romanians by invoking their deposed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

He said: "You value freedom, because you have lived without it. You know the difference between good and evil, because you have seen evil's face... [An] aggressive dictator now rules in Iraq. By his search for terrible weapons, by his ties to terrorist groups, by his development of prohibited ballistic missiles, the dictator of Iraq threatens the security of every free nation, including the free nations of Europe."

It defies reason, and history, that lead Iraq inspector Hans Blix has the fortitude, or inclination, to play hardball with Saddam. I suspect that after a short period of placating "allies," Bush will say enough is enough, and announce it's time for the United States to eliminate the lunatic.

Louisiana's first-term Sen. Mary Landrieu will probably be defeated on Dec. 7, giving Republicans 52 Senate seats and inoculating them from the New Republic wet dream of a double defection by Sens. Lincoln Chafee and John McCain. That catfight is becoming nastier by the hour: as New Orleans' Times-Picayune (a classic name for a newspaper) reported, after a terse Nov. 23 debate, Landrieu told challenger Suzanne Terrell, "This is your last campaign."

We'll see. While Terrell has the benefit of Bush, Dick Cheney and any number of GOP draws stumping for her, Landrieu's been largely abandoned by her party, save Jesse Jackson, the purported reverend. Calling Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore!

Republican luck continued last week in a burst of news, all of which made the "loyal opposition" look like the whining losers they are. Sen. Tom Daschle probably scotched whatever longshot hopes he had for a presidential run with his temper tantrum aimed at radio host Rush Limbaugh-recalling Bill Clinton's similar rant after the Oklahoma City massacre in '95-and will return to the Senate a much-diminished political figure. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, hardly a right-winger, was typical in his analysis of Daschle's meltdown. On Nov. 21, he wrote: "Has Tom Daschle lost a couple of screws?

"Did the normally mild-mannered senator accuse Rush Limbaugh of inciting violence?

"He came pretty darn close. There were cameras there. You can watch the replay.

"We can understand Daschle is down, just having lost his majority leader's job and absorbed plenty of blame for this month's Democratic debacle.

"What we can't understand is how the South Dakotan can suggest that a mainstream conservative with a huge radio following is somehow whipping up wackos to threaten Daschle and his family.

"Has the senator listened to Rush lately? Sure, he aggressively pokes fun at Democrats and lionizes Republicans, but mainly about policy. He's so mainstream that those right-wingers Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert had him on their Election Night coverage."


By the way, Daschle's office wasn't the sole recipient last year of anthrax-laced letters; Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw got them as well, in addition to the New York Post. I haven't heard anyone from those organizations pinning Limbaugh-inspired "wackos" for their misfortune.

Salon's Joe Conason was sympathetic to Daschle, but added a few worry lines to his face by concluding that the hysterical Senator, in his fury, has elevated Limbaugh's status. He writes: "Tom Daschle deserves sympathy if his family is being threatened by talk radio listeners-or by anyone else... The gentle, decent Air Force veteran's frustration must be considerable, particularly in the face of frequent attacks on his patriotism by a chicken-hawk like Rush Limbaugh (who infamously beat the Vietnam draft due to a boil on his butt, or his family's political influence, possibly both)."

Here we go with the "chicken-hawk" routine again. Did Conason call Clinton a "chicken-hawk" when he ordered military intervention in Somalia (oops!) or Kosovo, or for his intermittent bombing in Iraq? Does he consider Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who didn't serve in the military, but is now a leading proponent of knocking off Saddam, a "chicken-hawk"? What about Sen. John Edwards, another presidential contender with no military record, who voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq? And is Sen. John Breaux also a "chicken-hawk"? I don't have Conason's compilation of published columns at my fingertips, but I suspect he didn't rip into actor Alec Baldwin when he suggested Rep. Henry Hyde be stoned to death for his role in Clinton's impeachment.


There was the delusional indignation over Bob Woodward's revelation that Fox News president Roger Ailes, not long after Sept 11, 2001, wrote a letter to President Bush, expressing the kind of outrage that millions of Americans agreed with.

Let's put the Ailes letter in perspective. Does it compare to former CNN president Rick Kaplan's sleepovers at Bill Clinton's White House? Kaplan denies giving Clinton "advice," but does anyone really believe that the two simply played cards and chatted about football and women? Woodward's former Washington Post boss, the late Katharine Graham, regularly socialized with presidents and senators, of both parties. Ben Bradlee, of course, maintained a friendship with JFK while he was president. And The New York Times has a long history of cooperating with Democratic presidents, dating back to FDR's administration.

In 1961, for example, according to John F. Stacks' new biography of Times legend James Reston, the columnist interviewed President Kennedy in Hyannis Port about the Berlin crisis. Stacks writes: "Both Kennedy and Reston appreciated the need to put the message absolutely correctly. To ensure that, Reston submitted the column, or at least the critical warning paragraphs, to the White House for approval. He told his editors in New York that he was doing so, and they agreed. As far as can be determined, this was the only time Reston ever did such a thing. Normally, submitting a written piece for approval by sources is among the most forbidden of all journalistic practices... In this case Reston and the Times understood the incredible sensitivity of what they were about to publish. It is hard to argue with what he did, given what was at stake."

Given the gravity of last year's terrorist massacre on American soil, one could say the same about Ailes' letter to Bush. But the Times, in a Nov. 21 editorial, thundered: "Mr. Ailes, a former Republican strategist who helped the president's father win the White House in 1988, has argued that his missive contained not political counseling but personal advice about presidential policies. The difference hardly matters in the world of journalism.

"Any other network news executive might have trouble keeping his job after a similar misstep. Mr. Ailes will undoubtedly hold onto his post, given Fox's success challenging CNN and MSNBC in the ratings."

One wonders how the Times editors would react if another newspaper questioned its celebrated foreign correspondent Thomas Friedman, after the columnist played an active role earlier this year in promoting a Mideast peace plan engineered by Saudi Arabia.


Even more outrageous than this sanctimonious editorial was Times reporter Alessandra Stanley's take on the exaggerated controversy. Perhaps now that pundit Maureen Dowd was sent to Riyadh-the journalistic equivalent of spending a month in rehab for substance abuse-Stanley feels it necessary to pick up the slack. She writes on Nov. 19: "The revelation that Roger Ailes...secretly gave advice to the White House after the Sept. 11 attacks was less shocking than it was liberating-a little like the moment in 1985 when an ailing Rock Hudson finally explained he had AIDS." Sure. Just as it would be "liberating" if Times executive editor Howell Raines would "finally explain" that his front page is entirely subjective, just part of his anti-Republican tapestry.


Stanley continues: "[Fox's] coverage is aggressive, its commentary vivid, and on an average day, a Fox News broadcast is like a hyperbolic big city tabloid-always loud, sometimes amusing and sometimes amusingly shameless-a video version of The New York Post, its sibling in the conservative media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch."

Although I wish Fox News would jettison its silly "We report. You decide," and "fair and balanced" slogans-Fox is a conservative organ and ought to acknowledge that, just as The Wall Street Journal's editorial page does-its anchor Brit Hume is by far the best in the electronic media. In fact, Fox News is not "balanced," and so what? Liberal elites have ramped up their rhetoric, claiming that conservatives now dominate the media, a desperate notion that can be dispelled in about 15 seconds. Here's the scorecard: While conservatives dominate talk radio-Democratic hosts such as Mario Cuomo just can't attract ratings-and Fox is creaming its left-of-center cable competitors CNN and the pitiful MSNBC, that's the extent of conservative hegemony.

All three network tv stations (which reach far more viewers than Fox does), while claiming objectivity, are hostile to the Republican administration. Aside from the Journal, the country's leading daily newspapers-in circulation and influence-are unabashedly liberal, with the most egregious offender being the Times. Add to that list The Washington Post (although its op-ed pages do feature a number of conservative pundits), the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. Both major newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek, are unapologetic shills for the Democratic Party. In addition, The New Yorker hasn't published a sympathetic word about President Bush since he took office.

I can't resist passing along this nugget from Katha Pollitt's Dec. 9 Nation column. Pollitt, in despair over the elections and lack of "progressive" turnout, has a dandy idea. She writes: "So which is it: People don't vote because there's no one to vote for (except when there is)? People don't vote because it's too much trouble (except when it isn't)? Let's find out. Let's move Martin Luther King Day to the first Tuesday in November, so that Election Day is a paid national holiday and King's memory is honored with something more real than uplifting bromides. Or maybe, it will turn out, not more real."

Jeez, Pollitt doesn't go far enough. Why not move Election Day to the birthday of an American patriot like Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky or Alger Hiss?

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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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