Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2005/ 29 Mar-Cheshvan 5766

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Katrina's Pocketbook Politics: She's a Capitalist, She Don't Look Back


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Don't believe everything you read in The Nation.

While that might appear to be an obvious statement, I'm not referring to the weekly's typical quasi-Socialist assortment of articles and opinions authored by men (and some women) who are closer in age to Pete Seeger than party-gal Chelsea Clinton. While the magazine, issue after issue, without a glimmer of humor, pounds Republicans in general and George Bush in particular, does anyone believe that its owners really want a "progressive" Democrat to win the White House three years from now?

It certainly won't be good for business. A November 7 New York Times article by Katharine Seelye celebrated the passing of the publisher's "torch" from the wealthy Wobblie Victor Navasky to 46-year-old Katrina vanden Heuvel, who started as an intern at the magazine in 1980. Surely there was an Upper West Side party for academics, intellectuals, experts, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and "thinkers" to commemorate the occasion, and I doubt the proles mixing cocktails employed the "cheap stuff."

It's no secret that The Nation has prospered since the election of Bush in 2000-or "selection," as the weekly's pundits would say-as the magazine's circulation has doubled to 187,000 (Seelye's figures) and turned a profit in 2003. I doubt the offensive classified ads suggesting that readers include The Nation in their estate planning will disappear, or the fundraising letters guilt-tripping subscribers who are mostly far less affluent than vanden Heuvel or part-owner Paul Newman will stop clogging mailboxes. That doesn't really bother me, since I believe in capitalism, but it sure doesn't square with The Nation's Robin Hood philosophy.

A strident editorial in its November 28 edition is all the evidence you need to nail down the weekly's motives. Titled "Democrats and the War," the writer trashes Hillary Clinton, right now the most likely 2008 presidential candidate (unless outgoing Virginia governor Mark Warner catches a media wave) for "continu[ing] to huddle for cover in 'the center'" over the Iraq War debate. Clinton, in The Nation's view, is an unacceptable alternative to Bush or the eventual GOP nominee.

So this proclamation: "The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation. There is no other way to save America's security and honor. And to those Democratic 'leaders' who continue to insist the safer, more electable course is to remain openly or silently complicit in the war, we say, paraphrasing the moral philosopher Hillel: If not now, when? If not you, who?"

Paraphrasing Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street, "Greed is good for The Nation."

It's possible that vanden Heuvel, like similarly insulated compatriots at The New York Times, actually believes the eat-the-rich rhetoric printed in her magazine. When you live in an opulent Morningside Heights residence, as Katrina does-even though she insisted she dwelled in Harlem during an appearance on Chris Matthews' cable show in 2002-it's not difficult to preach that the country is being destroyed by Republicans who believe in torture, corporations and screwing unions. As Michael Tremoglie quipped in a June 3, 2002, Front Page Magazine article, "Probably the only Harlem residents Katrina associates with are those who bring her champagne at elegant restaurants."

Granted, even though The Nation has benefited financially during the Bush years, and its editors and writers are staples of the cable talk shows, it's unlikely that many Democrats will take the magazine's threat very seriously. Because it's hollow. In Pennsylvania next year, Robert Casey Jr. will face off against Senator Rick Santorum, the kind of cultural conservative who figures prominently in "progressive" mailers. Will The Nation, considering Casey's anti-abortion views, sit this election out? And in 2008, if the presidential race is between Clinton and John McCain, will the magazine opt for a Nader-like alternative? Charles Rangel could be persuaded, I'm sure.

Could be, since the election of McCain will likely mean that the GOP will retain both houses of Congress, and that will increase The Nation's circulation even further. There will be lip service for the candidacy of Wisconsin's Russell Feingold, maybe even the charlatan John Edwards, but neither of those men will be nominated by a party that presumably wants a chance at recovering the White House.

The magazine's December 12 cover is a scream. The headline reads "The Real McCain," accompanied by a nasty illustration of the "maverick" Arizonan. Inside, Ari Berman's warning to Nation readers about the "transformation" of McCain is written, as they say, more in sadness than anger. Not coincidentally, it comes at a time when many Republicans, save irrelevant relics like embarrassing duo of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, are reconciling themselves to McCain as the GOP's best hope of winning in 2008, despite his grandstanding and past transgressions on campaign-finance "reform" and ambivalence to tax cuts

Despite McCain's permanent campaign to schmooze the left-leaning media with supposedly "straight talk" and ribald quotes, it's absurd to think that a publication like The Nation could ever endorse him for president. He may talk about global warming and co-sponsor bills with Teddy Kennedy, but McCain's a fiscal conservative and, most important to Nation sheep, is pro-life. Still, Berman despairs that-surprise!-McCain is more conservative than Newsweek or Time lets on, showing his ambition by endorsing a ban on gay marriage in Arizona and suggesting that "intelligent design" be taught in schools along with Darwinism.

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

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© 2005, Russ Smith