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Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2000/ 22 Kislev 5761


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Consumer Reports

You better not cry, you better not pout, the Bush family's comin' to town -- AL GORE is a dishonest, politically corrupt man, and the United States is a better country for his presidential defeat.

That said, unlike many of my more rabid correspondents, I don't begrudge the Vice President his behavior following his well-crafted, if phony, concession on Dec. 13. (Hardball's Chris Matthews, a screwball political chameleon, lost me when he wrote in Monday's Daily News that Gore's was "the greatest American political speech in years.")

Rather than watch George W. Bush's address to the nation, Gore let off steam and immersed himself in a holiday bash. By some accounts, well after midnight Gore was chugging beer while Jon Bon Jovi invited Tipper to play drums with his band in an impromptu jam session. Nothing wrong with that, aside from the Veep's taste in music: after what he'd been through since he was first, and correctly, declared the loser on Election Day, it wouldn't have surprised me if he were guzzling alcoholic beverages from David Boies' jockstrap.

It was Gore's party and I don't blame him for crying if he wanted to.

On the other hand, let's take a peek at the remainder of the week that was.

1. Florida's speaker of the house, Tom Feeney, who was temporarily demonized by the left as a local Tom DeLay Republican blue meanie, apologized for remarks he made after watching Gore's speech. Feeney, a loyal foot soldier, said at a restaurant that Gore's remarks were "evil" and that the Democratic automaton was a "loser." After the Sun-Sentinel reported Feeney's jibes, the Speaker went the extra mile, in my opinion, and issued a statement saying that he should've realized that "even dumb jokes become news." He then did a Pinocchio and called Gore's speech "very conciliatory."

So he's a politician. I'm still waiting for the apologies to be issued from the reporters, feminists and pundits who excoriated Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris for the crime of being a Republican and wearing too much makeup. Gore's despicable spokesman, Chris Lehane, who I hope will never be heard from again, has yet to retract his incendiary description of Harris as a "Soviet commissar." But he's a Democrat, so-just as Jesse Jackson did after he likened Bush to a Nazi-he can get away with remarks made in the heat of a battle. No harm done.

Feeney will soon be forgotten by a Washington media that never wants to set foot in Florida again. He was simply a stand-in for DeLay, the GOP whip who's replaced Newt Gingrich as the personification of America Gone Wicked. Democrats deceive themselves when they proclaim that Bush's Texas colleague will be an impediment to his agenda; in fact, DeLay, despite his brusque demeanor, is a team player. Anybody who cares about the law must recognize his courage in leading the successful effort to impeach Bill Clinton.

In an otherwise warm column about the late Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Mike Barnicle, in Sunday's Daily News, engaged in the type of glib character assassination that's so lazily launched against DeLay. Ignoring that House Democrats such as David Bonior, Peter Deutsch, Maxine Waters and Robert Wexler are every bit as outspoken and, from my perspective, divisive as DeLay, Barnicle lobs a gratuitous barb at the Texan. He writes: "A Republican from Texas, [DeLay] behaves like some political serial killer, ready to oppose anybody on the other side of the aisle simply because they are Democrats."


For good measure, Barnicle also calls Majority Leader Dick Armey a "cement-head" who "pose[s] a larger threat to George W.'s presidency than any opposition could imagine." That's wishful thinking, Mike. In fact, the Republican leadership in Congress will be solidly behind Bush in his immediate plans to cut taxes and reform the country's union-ruined education system.

2. James Warren, the Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, wrote a very dumb column on Dec. 17, imagining the irony of the upcoming inauguration of Bush on Jan. 20. Warren let his fingers wander across the keyboard while he thought of the next bon mot he'd deliver on some talk show, toward trying to prove he's not just a blowhard pundit who's in the racket for the cash.

He writes: "Al Gore stands maybe 20 feet away, glaring at the tall and shuffling black-robed man [William Rehnquist] who helped kill a Florida recount. Then he spies Antonin Scalia (flask of scotch and cigarettes jammed into cashmere coat), Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, all of whom voted with Rehnquist to stop the recount. The fifth vote, Clarence Thomas, is sitting far away, having adhered to his usual practice of not asking any questions, in this case the question being where his seat was. He is thus stuck in the boonies, next to a secretary from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. But Gore sees him."

Warren, a Beltway elitist who presumably is invited to all the A-list DC cocktail parties, seems to be saying that Scalia is an alkie and Thomas just a dumb nigger who can't even find his massa to get instructions. But that's okay: Scalia and Thomas are conservatives, and thus subject to a different standard than their liberal colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court. I can't imagine that Warren, even in his silly ruminations, would characterize Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who's Jewish, as trying to hondle a better position on the podium, maybe by flashing a roll of $100 bills.


3. Daily News columnist Michael Kramer, a retread journalist who's on track to soon reach a senility-level equal to that of The New York Times' Anthony Lewis, sent a warning to Bush this past Sunday. Watch out, Mr. President-Elect, for John McCain might prove to be an even thornier enemy than Sen. Tom Daschle or Dick Gephardt, a pair whose idea of "bipartisanship" means adopting a Democratic agenda. McCain, Kramer says, could tie up the Senate with his signature campaign finance reform issue and Bush had better pay attention. As Kramer writes, "[T]he failure to enact campaign finance reform will mean that Bush's vow to 'restore honor' to our politics will be just another hollow promise." Says who? McCain, still reading his press clippings from last winter, is daft if he believes that Bush will capitulate to his First Amendment-busting legislation.

And I doubt I'm alone in recognizing the irony of the all-but-certain appointment of Terry McAuliffe as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe, King of Soft Money, the Bill Clinton golfing buddy who's unabashed in his enthusiasm for shaking down wealthy contributors, has the support of both Gephardt and Daschle for the post.

President Clinton, in a move that shows Gore who's really still supreme in the Democratic Party, quickly intervened on McAuliffe's behalf-despite McAuliffe's shady reputation-leaving Joe Andrew, the current cochairman, out of the loop. According to the Times' Richard Berke's Dec. 16 article, Andrew was resigned to his fate: "But by the end of the day, Mr. Andrew was on board. 'I certainly am supportive of Terry,' he said. 'I'm going out and getting a really expensive bottle of Champagne to have with my wife.'"

I wonder how Sen. Russ Feingold, McCain's Democratic cohort on the campaign finance bill, will react to McAuliffe's imminent appointment? If he doesn't denounce this outrageously hypocritical sinecure, Feingold deserves to lose his well-earned reputation for integrity.

4. Lawrence Weschler, a New Yorker writer whose work I often admire, wandered far off the reservation of respectability last weekend in contributing a ludicrous-if mercifully brief-attack on Bush to the beleaguered webzine Salon. It couldn't have been the money paid by David Talbot's poisonous Internet vehicle that tempted Weschler to write his remarkably dumb piece; maybe he just wanted to clear his throat in public. (You'd think Weschler might've chosen his venue more wisely; this is the same site where writer Max Renn called Weekly Standard staff writer/CNN personality Tucker Carlson a "young rightist thug."


Even media liberals would dispute this idiotic statement: Carlson, although conservative, is intelligent, popular and very likely to become a major tv commentator in the next five years.) Reasonable people can disagree about the election's results-but Weschler, with his naive comparison of Bush to Dan Quayle, chose to vent his anger in an uninformed manner. He writes on Dec. 16: "Just as this time around, bent on revenge [for Clinton's defeat of President Bush in '92], the Bush clan could have rallied behind the competent son [Jeb] but instead chose to marshal its forces around (behind, in front of, above, beneath) its hapless dauphin."

I'll ignore Weschler's apparent ignorance of politics: Jeb Bush, in office only two years as Florida's governor (he lost in '94 due to a last-minute dirty-tricks campaign by the late Lawton Chiles), wasn't a viable contender. The New Yorker writer and author apparently isn't concerned with the not-so-subtle-or-complicated presidential nominating process.

But in castigating Quayle-who in his short-lived bid for the GOP nomination this year was probably the most articulate candidate on the stump, especially on taxes and foreign affairs-Weschler relies on the shopworn cliches that've forever ruined Quayle's chances for the presidency. (The former Vice President and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown could spend hours commiserating about the media's mindless bias; perhaps they already have.)

I'd bet a box of green tea that Weschler didn't listen to a single speech or tv interview Quayle gave in the past 14 months. Likewise, I doubt the writer, who was probably disengaged from the presidential campaign-I don't recall any articles of his about it-ever gave much thought to George Bush's candidacy, other than what he read in The New York Times. Mangled syntax, deer in the headlights, "the defiantly clueless Alfred E. Newman [sic] gaze," the rumors of drug use a generation ago...

What possibly could've been Weschler's motive? Your guess is as good as mine, but it certainly diminishes his reputation. Like so many other enlightened liberals, Weschler displays a caveman's view of politics: Ugh! Republicans bad. Ugh! Democrats good.

5. This goes back a few weeks, to Nov. 21, but I still can't understand the logic of David Broder's Washington Post column of that day. I've come to respect Broder; unlike most of his colleagues, the veteran reporter/pundit isn't a mere Democratic Party functionary. But he does on occasion indulge in hyperbole.


Writing on the 37th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, Broder brooded that "This is the strangest, saddest Thanksgiving week since 1963... This year it is not a president but the presidency that may have been lost. The spectacle that has been unfolding in Florida may not have the shocking impact of the bulletins from Dealey Plaza and Parkland Memorial Hospital. But the loss is nonetheless palpable."

I think Broder's decision to no longer cover presidential campaigns from precinct to precinct, as he has for decades, is a wise one. Yes, there was confusion during Thanksgiving week; and I was troubled as well that Al Gore and his band of pirates, I mean lawyers, were trying to steal an election. But as the final outcome has proven, the country-if not the media-has beaten back Hurricane Hillary.

If we're talking about sad Thanksgiving weeks, there are many years that topped this past one. Take 1968. The senseless slaughter in Vietnam was at its height; Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been murdered; riots ravaged cities like Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Chicago; young men were forced to go underground or emigrate rather than participate in that war, causing untold anguish in American families; and the distrust between generations that existed then makes any contemporary cultural divide look puny.

And what about 1973? Richard Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre," weeks before Thanksgiving, demonstrated that his presidency was in a shambles. It was unclear at that time-not long after Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign for taking penny-ante bribes, and Nixon famously declared that he himself wasn't a crook-to what lengths the President would go to preserve his power. It was fascinating theater, especially if you despised Nixon, but the possibility of a military coup wasn't that far-fetched.

Almost every Thanksgiving under the stewardship of Jimmy Carter was "strange" and "sad."

Broder usually writes a year-end column thrashing himself for bloopers committed during the previous 12 months. I'll bet his Nov. 22 piece will make that list at the end of 2000.

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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