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Jewish World Review Sept.15, 2000/ 14 Elul, 5760

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Consumer Reports

Vacation in Lovely Syria -- The "Sophisticated Traveler" supplement to the New York Times magazine this week carried an article suggesting Syria as a vacation destination. "It occurred to me that during the whole of our tour I had not met a Syrian I disliked. It was certain I would return," the article says.

Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that Syria is a dictatorship that is on the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. Nowhere is it mentioned that, according to the U.S. State Department, "Entry to Syria is not granted to persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps, or to persons born in the Gaza region or of Gazan descent. . . . American citizens are cautioned that the Syrian government rigidly enforces restrictions on prior travel to Israel. Travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports, Jordanian entry cachets or cachets from other countries which suggest prior travel to Israel, or the absence of any entry stamps from a country adjacent to Israel which the traveler has just visited, will cause Syrian immigration authorities to refuse the traveler admission to Syria. In one case in 1998, a group of American citizen travelers suspected of traveling to Israel were detained overnight for questioning." Of course, this is unlikely to be an issue for the "Sophisticated Traveler" the editors of the Times have in mind. After all, why would they have ever visited Israel when such alluring destinations as Syria beckon?

In Syria, the article reports in all apparent seriousness, you can visit a "relaxing environment" such as Hama. The Times article describes the town as "graceful," "peaceful," "prosperous" and "overwhelmingly friendly," brushing lightly over the fact that tens of thousands of civilians were brutally massacred there in 1982 by Hafez al-Assad's regime. These kinds of peaceful relaxing environments, we'd be better off without.

Naturally, the map that accompanies the Syria travel article apparently portrays the Golan Heights as part of Syria, when in fact the heights are now under Israeli control.

Hillary Clinton made the following accusation against Rep. Rick Lazio this week in their debate, according to an excerpt in the Times: "He voted to cut $270 billion from Medicare."

This is just totally misleading, and the New York Times lets Mrs. Clinton get away with it entirely unchallenged. When President Clinton and the congressional Democrats tried to pull this stunt back in 1995, the Washington Post wrote an editorial stating that the Democrats "have shamelessly used the issue, demagogued on it."

A news story in the New York Times about the issue on September 27, 1996, reported that "Democrats would reduce growth by $124 billion over seven years by cutting reimbursements to doctors and hospitals and using managed care programs; Republicans would scale back by $158 billion and increase premiums and co-payments." If Mrs. Clinton really thinks a reduction in growth is a "cut," even when it means that spending is increasing in absolute terms, she should be attacking her husband for proposing to "cut" $124 billion from Medicare.

Medicare spending skyrocketed to $177 billion in 1996 from $53 billion in 1983, according to a 1996 article in Reason magazine. The Republican proposed "cuts" actually were a 40% increase over current levels of Medicare spending. The Democratic willingness to attack the Republicans for "cuts," when what the Republicans wanted to do was take Medicare spending from $4,800 per recipient in 1995 to $6,700 per recipient in 2002, was so breathtaking that CNN's Wolf Blitzer even asked President Clinton about it at a 1996 press conference: "Mr. President, your most recent Clinton-Gore campaign commercials still speak about Republican cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. Speaker Gingrich points out repeatedly that these aren't 'cuts' in Medicare and Medicaid; they are simply cuts in the projected growth of Medicare and Medicaid, which you in your own seven-year balanced budget proposal similarly propose. Are you prepared to stop calling the Republican savings in Medicare and Medicaid 'cuts'?"

The answer, apparently, was that not only was Mr. Clinton unwilling to stop the Mediscare demagoguery, but that Mrs. Clinton would eventually stoop to the tactic herself in an effort to get elected to the Senate from New York.

An article in the New York Times magazine this week reports that "In the last year or so a very different Hillary has come into focus. . . instead of those dowdy Easter Sunday pastels, she favors a much more slimming palette of browns and blacks."

The facts don't seem to bear this out.

On May 16, when Mrs. Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination in the Senate race at the state Democratic convention in Albany, she was wearing a "yellow pantsuit," according to the New York Daily News.

On June 17, when she visited the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park, she wore a "pale peach pantsuit," according to Newsday. On July 4, when Mrs. Clinton reviewed the tall ships in New York Harbor, she wore a "peach pantsuit," according to the Daily News. And the New York Times itself reported last week that when Mrs. Clinton marched through Crown Heights on September 4 in the West Indian parade, she was wearing a "lemon yellow pantsuit." is going to be casting its vote in November based on policy differences between the candidates, not fashion choices. But if the Times is going to make a big deal about what powerful women are wearing, it at least ought to get the facts straight. -- "Smarter than the Times, and almost as arrogant, but with only a tiny fraction of the circulation" -- is a daily report edited by Ira Stoll at Brooklyn, N.Y. Comment by clicking here.

08/18/00: 'Little Abuse'
08/11/00: Jew Lieberman


© 2000, Ira Stoll