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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2000 / 20 Elul, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Flapping furiously -- ONE THING nobody--with the possible exceptions of the candidates and the voters--can complain about in this election season is the quantity and quality of the flaps. Flaps are what happens when candidates do things (or do not do things, or say things, or do not say things) that may be construed on the front page and in the pained pronouncements of Dan and Peter and Tom and Ted as scandalous. Of course, flaps are not scandals. They are nonscandals that we dress up in garter belts and Wonderbras so that we may, in the role of what Tom Wolfe called The Last Victorian Gentleman, be delightfully shocked.

We have been blessed, or rather we have blessed ourselves, with some lovely flaps this year. For a while, the Gore campaign was one long flap--Farmer "Love Story" Al, Father of the Internet, dishing up the goods week after week. Nor should we forget George W. Bush's endless contributions to the long-running flap over the quality, such as it is, of his mind. A man who is capable of uttering the words "federal-federal cuff link" deserves the eternal thanks of a grateful press corps.

But this late season has been notable for the really classic quality of its flaps. Five stand out:

* Clymer Makes the Majors. When Bush, spotting New York Times reporter Adam Clymer at a speech, and forgetting that he was standing in front of an open mike, privately observed to Dick Cheney that Clymer was a "major-league casserole" (note: not actual vulgarism), a magnificent flap was born. With 435 Nexis hits to date, the Clymer flap has featured many priceless moments, culminating in Clymer's Week in Review rumination on being "attacked," in which he compared Bush's accidental insult (an attack is purposeful) to being beat up by thugs in Moscow, expelled by the Soviet Union and slugged by a Jim Crow-era sheriff's deputy; and in which he expressed, after some 1,200 words, his wish to be allowed to "get back to covering the campaign instead of being part of it."

* Rats to You. A fine flap, generating 584 Nexis hits to date, courtesy of the New York Times, which reported in its most-serious, front-page voice on Sept. 12 that the Bush campaign had aired a commercial that flashed on the screen the word "rats," possibly with subliminal intent. Ad producer Alex Castellanos, who says that "rats" was the unintentional result of an editing technique that used flashes of word fragments to visually punch up the ad, points out that the spot also flashed the fragment "wit" on the screen, and that a subsequent spot in the same series flashed the fragment "ral," neither of which would seem to have much nefarious effect. No matter: At the request of two Democratic senators, the Federal Trade Commission is now investigating.

* Cheney's Toilets. Bush running mate Dick Cheney was once chairman of the Halliburton Co., an international energy-services and construction firm. Halliburton operates separate bathrooms for American and foreign employees in its overseas facilities, out of deference, the firm says, to cultural differences. Halliburton maintains that the separate toilets policy was not the sort of thing that would have come to chairman Cheney's attention, which does seem a reasonable claim. Still, probing journalists demand: What did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it?

* Take Gore's Mother-in-law, Please. Al Gore, the Boston Globe reported Monday, claimed in a speech decrying prescription drug costs that his mother-in-law "pays nearly three times as much for the same arthritis medicine used by his ailing dog, Shiloh." But, the expose reveals, "late last week his aides could not say with certainty that Shiloh or Margaret Ann Aitcheson actually takes the brand-name drug, Lodine, that Gore says they do." By Tuesday the Bush campaign had produced an 11-paragraph statement declaring that "it's appearing increasingly likely that the vice president fabricated information about his mother-in-law and dog to score political points." I suppose the mother-in-law part is not so bad, but a man who would lie about his dog is not to be trusted with the highest office in the land.

* Hillary's Sellout. This also just in, the New York Observer reports in a lead article that Hillary Rodham Clinton has accepted a $500 campaign contribution from Clovis Maksoud, former Arab League representative to the United Nations. "Very troubling," dutifully declares Rick Lazio spokesman Bryan Flood, and he demands the immediate return of the filthy lucre from this no-friend-of-Israel. Down in the story it is noted that Maksoud also gave $500 to George W. Bush last year. $500 here, $500 there; it all adds up, you know. To $1,000.

Yes, everywhere you look, trouble in River City. And no doubt more to come.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


09/14/00: Down AlGore's Memory Hole
08/24/00: AlGore's Flex-O-Joe
08/17/00: The Joyful Clinton Nation
08/09/00: A Calculated Risk
08/03/00: New Hope for Nice Guys
07/27/00: But What About Dad?
07/20/00: U.S. Handiwork In Sierra Leone
07/13/00: President With a Porpoise
07/06/00: The Importance of Being Earnest
06/29/00: A Press Obsession With the Death Penalty
06/21/00: Gore and the Goodies
06/15/00: Network Snooze
06/01/00: Sunshine on My Shoulders
05/24/00: Last Chance for a Hardened Prevaricator
05/17/00: Cuomo's Thought Police
05/10/00: Hammering DeLay
05/04/00: Some Closing Thoughts
04/28/00: Endangering Elian
04/19/00: Imitation Activism
04/12/00: Why they hate Bubba
04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

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