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Jewish World Review Dec. 5, 2000/ 9 Kislev 5761


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Consumer Reports

I'm Lookin' Through You:
Forcing Something That's Just Not Right -- THERE'S A donkey-shaped pinata hanging in the library here at home, so I'm gonna take a whack at it and see what tumbles out.

1. Antonin, Clarence & Bill. Anybody here/Seen my old friend Albert/Can you tell me where he's gone?/He fleeced a lot of people/But it seems the evil they just vamoose/I can't tell you where he's gone.

ABC was on in the background when Peter Jennings broke in with a special report Monday morning about the unanimous Supreme Court decision. A clear blow to Al Gore's fading presidential hopes, No-Bias Pierre spent five minutes on the implications the Court's action had for the Democrat, and included some trenchant analysis by that grizzled journalist George Stephanopoulos. Jennings then went to Austin for a 30-second report on George Bush.

As this column went to press, Gomer Pyle (sorry, Judge Sauls-love that guy!) had just rejected Gore's challenge to Florida's certified vote result.

2. What Would Napoleon XIV Say? My friend Ron Rosenbaum is really letting his freak flag fly. Over at the zip code-centric New York Observer, where last week's issue was an admirable porridge of conflicting opinions on the 2000 presidential election, Rosenbaum came off as a Rip Van Winkle who just awoke after a 32-year slumber.

It's Rosenbaum's contention that James Baker is a "pinstriped thug" whose "demagoguery" caused the "mob intimidation" at the Miami-Dade canvassing board, which consequently decided not to proceed with a hand recount of votes. Never mind that it was Al Gore's operatives who pressured the three-person team to recount in the first place.

Rosenbaum, who also blames the preposterous legal circus in Florida for the death of journalist Lars-Erik Nelson, a cheap shot, finds it outrageous that Baker could make the correct claim that the state's liberal Supreme Court overreached its authority by changing the rules after the election had taken place.

Ron's not a fan of George W. Bush. Like many of his colleagues, the "Edgy Enthusiast" columnist buys the theory that Bush has the brains of Gore spokesman Chris Lehane and the moral cowardice of Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Bush, according to Rosenbaum, is a "pinhead," who looks like a "hollow, wooden ventriloquist's dummy," a figurehead more comfortable playing with his dog in Crawford, TX, than following the postelection tsunami of litigation.

Maybe Rosenbaum's been hanging out with colleague Joe Conason for one too many evenings; I'd suggest he return to writing about Bruce Springsteen and Shakespeare, for he's 1000 miles behind in current events.


(By the way, Rupert Murdoch must do something about the second-grade level of his New York Post's editorial page. There's John Podhoretz, who contradicts himself every third column; then Dick Morris, whose resume lends no credibility to his writing; and the editorials themselves, which, while expressing sound conservative opinion, are written in such one-sentence name-calling prose that it's plain embarrassing.

(For example, a Dec. 2 edit about Bill Clinton's absurd comments to a Canadian reporter about the election might've slam-dunked the lame-duck President with a witty riposte. Instead, the piece reads: "All of a sudden Bill Clinton says that he's worried about somebody else embarrassing America? With a straight face? Hoo, ha. What a guy! By golly, we're going to miss him. But not much." Surely the tabloid can afford at least one writer who's completed the eighth grade. Can't Murdoch import one of his Weekly Standard brainiacs to hold a one-week seminar in the Post's newsroom?)

But the thrust of Rosenbaum's piece is what he calls "The Rumor," one that's apparently circulating in the cubicles of newsmagazines and propaganda sheets like The New York Times. The Observer's curmudgeon implies he's too much of a gentleman to come out and say the exact words-that Jeb Bush is sleeping with Katherine Harris-but leaves no doubt that that's what he's referring to. He goes so far as to speculate that Harris is "pulling the Bush brothers' strings."

And there's the obligatory section in which he complains that Republicans who delighted in the endless revelations of Bill Clinton's philandering, including possible rape, are now up in arms about "The Rumor." Baloney. Say it, Ron. Say that Jeb and Katherine are shacked up.

He also makes the claim that Matt Drudge won't post the gossip on his website because it would hurt Bush, a theory so half-baked that it simply proves Rosenbaum doesn't know much about the media pioneer. If he did log on to the Miami-based journalist's website, he'd find that Drudge is an equal-opportunity troublemaker, who in fact was the first to allege that George W. Bush danced naked on top of a bar many years ago. Drudge has good reason to despise Clinton, but a Bush administration is likely to get just as aggravated by his daily reports.

Drudge is looking for Internet hits, not an ambassadorship to Zabar's.

Meanwhile, the New York Post's Richard Johnson, who's in the business of gossip, wrote two days after Rosenbaum's story appeared that no one's coming up with any dirt on Kate and Jeb. The Dec. 1 "Page Six" lead item read, in part: "Reporters at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek and CNN are scrambling frantically to find something-anything-they can use against Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris... An investigative reporter for a news weekly said, 'These rumors, fueled by interested partisans, have been flying for weeks. I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't look into them, but there is nothing there."


In the same issue of the Observer, Philip Weiss attended one of the many postelection protests and concluded that the GOP will come out on top this time, as it didn't in the impeachment battle. He writes about the detached, smug demeanor of the Gore supporters, who aren't as hungry as their Republican counterparts. At a Washington, DC, contretemps a week ago, Weiss asked Bush supporters who the people on the other side of the street were. "The elite," was the answer. "The government class."

Weiss continued: "Good populist answers, and they were right, too. The Gore people had a privileged, sleek air about them. A little too comfortable to be demonstrating on a chilly afternoon. If you walked around among them, you couldn't help looking at their clothes. You said to yourself, 'I want boots like that. Where did that guy get his peacoat? Would I look good in that? That chick has braided her hair beautifully. That black woman has nice wire-rims; where can I get them?' They were all people you might know being upper middle class, winners eight years. They had good hair cuts."

It was a smart article. But no Weiss essay is complete without a gratuitous sexual aside. When speaking with one of the Gore supporters, a pretty woman who just didn't think it was fair that the deer-hunters were harassing Gore, Weiss was smitten. He writes: "I felt so comfortable with her red woolen gloves, the fingertips worn away. She was about love and understanding and comfort, and that night I had an erotic dream about her."

Whatever. At least he wasn't writing about James Baker's "junta," like Rosenbaum did.

3. Fortune Teller. Mickey Kaus might have a squishy loyalty to the loathsome Michael Kinsley and Charlie Peters, but his website,, is one I check at least twice a day. The Mick's a funny guy. For example, one of the headlines in his digest of media stories, "Hit Parade," was "Will Gore Expire Before Salon?" These are ugly times for the buck-a-share Salon's slippery David Talbot. Think he'll get a bridge loan from Larry Flynt or Henry Hyde?


4. Uh, and the Yanks Won the Series. The New York Times, in a Dec. 2 editorial, discloses the stunning news that a recession might be on the horizon. Typically, the Clinton/Gore cheerleaders were sleeping while the world was awake: An economic slowdown, at least in New York City, has been under way for several months. The meltdown of NASDAQ, which hasn't been helped by the selfish crusade of Al Gore and David Boies, cheers the Times scolds, for an emboldened middle class isn't in their patrician interest. "Day traders have been forced to get day jobs," the Times fairly hoots. "Even long-term investors are likely to react to plummeting stock prices. Seeing your 401(k) fund shrink has a way of dampening your appetite for luxury items and lavish gifts."

This bulletin has a twofold message. First, how dare common Americans believe that they could become as rich as the men who run the Times? The nerve of the plebes who could suddenly afford the expensive estate-tax planning that the Sulzberger family has their lawyers attend to!

(Naturally, the Sulzbergers simultaneously preach that the abolition of the death tax is a sop to the "wealthy.") Second, it serves investors-who wanted to buy the "luxury items" taken for granted by Arthur Sulzberger Jr.-right that tech stocks are in freefall. Greed is only good for those who inherit it.

I can't wait for the Times' reaction when President Bush (God willing) crafts a compromise in Congress for recession-busting tax relief, much as JFK did in the early 60s. I know there's bad blood between Bush and Steve Forbes, but the new president would be wise to seek the publishing magnate's economic advice. An abolition (or least severe reduction) of capital gains taxes would be a good start for the incoming administration. The new jobs created by this release of money previously held hostage by the government might possibly create an uptick in Republican voter registration. Why, if an economic debacle is quickly reversed, it might even result in a greater gain for the GOP majority in the House than the upcoming redistricting will.

5. Fire Thomas Oliphant Before You Sin Again. Management at the New York Times Co.'s double-A farm team, The Boston Globe, is going the extra mile in mimicking the cynical and condescending editorial thunderbolts of its superiors in Manhattan. On Dec. 2, the Globe ran a silly edit complaining about the price hike for Red Sox games next season. Many themes were tossed into the rancid brew: the skullduggery of the Sox's owners in announcing the increases over the Thanksgiving weekend; the possibility that less affluent fans will no longer be able to attend games at Fenway; and a plug for the Sox's minor-league teams, where admission is cheap and the "young players all hustle."

My favorite line was the opener: "Boston Red Sox fans are such gluttons for punishment that team owners can count on them to keep coming to Fenway Park next season even after having their wallets lightened with a display of monopoly power that would make Bill Gates green with envy." See, even Globe-hero David Boies, Gates' nemesis, gets a plug!


It was fitting then that, on the very same day, Globe sports columnist Will McDonough completely refuted the editorial, writing that in comparison to the city's other teams-the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins-the average price of a Fenway ticket is by far the lowest. He might have added-but prudently didn't, probably recalling the obscene punishment meted out to conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby last summer-that, without a doubt, any Globe bigwig likely has the run of Fenway, with access to a swank corporate box seat.

More seriously, on Dec. 4 the Globe editorialized in this way: "Black voters, Haitian voters, butterfly-ballot voters headed to the polls but stumbled into snafus and mix-ups. Laws may have been broken. Systems certainly failed." But fear not, the writer enthuses, for the NAACP "is investigating" the alleged injustices. That's just swell. This is the same NAACP that ran pro-Gore advertising blaming George W. Bush for the heinous murder of James Byrd in Texas.

The well-respected journalist Jim Wooten, now writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, broke with the Beltway pundits who uniformly decry the antiquated voting machines in minority-dominated precincts around the country with a superb column last Sunday. Wooten criticizes Gore for playing the race card in his pathetic attempt to overturn Florida's election. Gore, as we know, has joined his friends in the media, and the NAACP, by protesting the voting conditions in certain counties of Florida. (He hasn't shown the same concern for the Brooklyn Dodger-era machines in New York; why bother, since he swamped Bush in this state?) Wooten writes about Gore's tactics: "It's the shopworn old race-baiting routine employed yet again by an increasingly desperate class-warfare politician who uses every subtly divisive phrase he can construct to destroy what he cannot have. He emotes it with a smug cleverness of the schoolboy who rats out his classmates in a way that he's just sure doesn't, literally, make him a tattletale, for he imagines his deviousness much too clever to be detected, or if detected to be ascribed to venality."


6. Calling Kweisi Mfume! At populist Mort Zuckerman's Daily News it's a given that black citizens in Florida were disenfranchised. The problem couldn't possibly be that they weren't coached properly about how to cast a correct ballot, or that they weren't bright enough to. (Millions of other Americans, of all races, voted incorrectly, too.) But while it's forbidden to assume that some Florida voters are less than intelligent, it's acceptable to call U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President Bush, stupid. And that's just about what News retread Michael Kramer did last Saturday. The columnist wrote: "First the good news: the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are nine really smart people. (Or at least eight of them are. Clarence Thomas never opened his mouth during yesterday's oral argument, so the jury's still out on him.)"

Why Kramer just didn't call Thomas a dumb nigger is somewhat surprising. Zuckerman wouldn't care: one, because he probably agrees, and two, because Thomas is a Republican.

9. Put on the Granny Glasses, Comrades. I'd like reliable Gore-toadies like Joe Conason, Eleanor Clift, Todd Gitlin, Anthony Lewis, Bob Herbert and E.J. Dionne to read the following remarks by Pat Caddell and perhaps think for a minute.

On the Nov. 27 Hardball, Caddell said: "I'm a liberal Democrat. I started in Florida politics. I've worked for George McGovern. I've worked for Jimmy Carter. I've worked for Teddy Kennedy, Mario Cuomo. Nobody can question, I think, my credentials and convictions. But I have to tell you, at this point it's hard to believe that my party, the party that I've belonged to since my great-great-grandfather-of my family-has become no longer a party of principles, but has been hijacked by a confederacy of gangsters who need to take power by whatever means and whatever canards they can say."

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