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Jewish World Review /Feb. 19, 1999 /3 Adar 5759


Mugger The Howell Raines Conspiracy

THE NEW YORK TIMES devoted half its editorial page on Saturday to a windy essay, larded with phony baloney like this lead sentence: "In a season of frailty, the Constitution has prevailed once again. It remains the great anchor rock of the Republic, enduring through partisan storms in the Congress, immune in the end to even so large and unpredicted a betrayal as a President’s dereliction of duty."

I remember in my youth that the Times was said to be written so that anyone with a sixth-grade reading ability would be able to understand it. I’m 43 now, and I have no idea what Howell Raines & Co. are talking about. After the rot about the "great anchor rock of the Republic," deeper into the editorial, we get to the heart of the paper’s mission: a full-blown assault on the Republicans they hope to defeat in 2000.

Berating Congress once again for not imposing a censure on the criminal President, the Times castigated the GOP for its handling of both the impeachment itself and the trial. "Their mistakes could be laid to bad judgment, but our vote goes for cowardice. [Henry Hyde and Robert Livingston] were both intimidated by the majority whip, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, into supporting impeachment. If the House managers want to blame someone for their defeat, they could do worse than Mr. DeLay. More than any other person, he created the atmosphere that sent them across the Capitol to argue a case that was not strong enough to meet the constitutional standard for removing a President."

DeLay may have his faults, but he emerged as a hero in the yearlong scandal. Had it not been for his persistence in guiding a Republican Party that was shell-shocked by its defeats in the November elections, it’s likely that Clinton would not have been impeached at all. That would’ve been a grave injustice; never has a president in this century eluded punishment for real crimes as adeptly as Clinton. The real story of his administration will dribble out in the next 20 years, but thankfully DeLay was able to marshal the GOP majority in the House to do the right thing and vote for an impeachment that at least kept Clinton nervous for a few months.

Reading excerpts of all the blather from senators after the trial’s conclusion—Teddy Kennedy piously praising the Constitution, for example—it was refreshing to see what Robert H. Bork, the man whose Supreme Court nomination Kennedy successfully blocked in ’87 by disseminating evil, and false, rhetoric, had to say. (Kennedy took the Senate floor back then to
claim that "Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions"; also, "blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution" and so on.) "Justice was not done," Bork’s statement about the impeachment read. "And the impeachment clause is very dead, at least when a popular president is involved. There will be no psychological impact on the President, except anger on his part, because the man has no shame, thinks that opposition is never legitimate... The Presidency has been cheapened. The Congress is now more polarized than ever, the Democratic Party further to the left... [The American public is] apathetic, a lot of them nonjudgmental. When immoral behavior takes place—and I’m not talking sex; I’m talking about obstruction of justice, witness tampering, perjuries—they should be judgmental. Not a hopeful sign."

Now that Frank Rich has mercifully left the Times’ op-ed page at least until June to write a book about growing up in the 50s—considering his bitterness about the nuclear family, that ought to be a cheery tome—there’s no better time than the present for Maureen Dowd to follow suit. Yes, a two-year sabbatical, preferably overseas, where Maureen could hone her Young Adult fantasy book-writing, is the order of the day. After all, her Feb. 10 column was more than ample evidence that Dowd’s mind has turned to mush. In yet another attack on Ken Starr—talk about flogging a bleeding horse—Dowd has suggestions for Janet Reno, the attorney general who acts like she’s been drugged by the Clinton White House. Dowd begins: "You go, girlfriend. Don’t get bogged down in your usual dilly-dallying, shilly-shallying thing. Dump the guy, Janet. He’s a loser. Worse, he’s a stalker. Maybe he didn’t do rope lines, but Kenneth Starr is more creepily obsessed with tracking and trapping than Monica ever was."

The conclusion to Dowd’s Sunday column was just plain stupid: "We should be happy the President is plotting revenge. At least revenge is an agenda. And an agenda is what Bill Clinton desperately lacks. If there’s one thing we now know about this inhabitant of the Oval Office, it’s that he must at all costs be kept busy." Funny, Mo. While it’s not likely that Sidney Blumenthal can be counted on to direct a new dirty-tricks offensive—if there’s any justice, he’ll be tied up in court and then sent to the slammer—I have no doubt Clinton and Carville can hire some other plumber to accomplish the grand assignment of cleansing the President’s filthy legacy.

And while we’re at it, the New York Post ought to call a moratorium on Monica fat jokes and let her get rich without their silly potshots. A caption for a photo of her in Sunday’s paper read:

"Not-so-primped-but-perennially-portly pepperpot Monica Lewinsky is caught headed for a cab on 59th Street yesterday." I’ve written cutlines and headlines in my day, and they can be a bitch, but my advice to Rupert and his son Lachlan is to make sure the Coke machine at the office is stocked with soda, and not Budweiser.

Thomas DeFrank, the Daily News’ Washington bureau chief, had a different take the day after Clinton’s acquittal. In a Feb. 13 story headlined "Hil Fuming at GOP—& Bill, Too," DeFrank cites "sources" close to the First Lady who suggest the President has spent many a night on the couch in the couple’s White House living quarters. According to a "friend" of Hillary, "She is really furious that his stupid, negligent, outrageous behavior gave the right-wing conspiracy a leg up on them... She has made her views about that known to him." DeFrank adds, "This may explain the fact that while her husband privately preaches the politics of reconciliation, the First Lady is dusting off her war bonnet." I don’t believe for a second that Clinton has reconciliation on his mind, but it will be entertaining to see Hillary join James Carville in conjuring up more half-baked theories like the "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Not to mention what a dilly that 2000 Senate campaign will be in New York if Hillary takes on Rudy Giuliani. The early money is on Miss Rodham, but Giuliani’s a rabbit puncher and he’ll have a truckload of White House and Arkansas dirty laundry to exploit. Far be it from me to disagree with Time’s august Jay Carney, the blowdried regular on Hardball, but I suspect Hillary will enter the race. Just think: The New York Observer’s Anne Roiphe, just out from the loony bin, along with Michael Moore and Charlie Rangel—all in the First Lady’s corner.

They’ll cross fire with Rick Brookhiser, Newsday’s Bill Reel, Pat Buchanan and reinforcements from The Wall Street Journal. Almost better than Shrub vs. Gore.

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/17/99: History Lessons: An Immigrant’s Advice
02/12/99:The Man Who Owns the World
02/10/99:The Impeachment Trial Splatters: Lindsey Graham Emerges a Hero
02/05/99: A Slight Stumble for Bush
01/29/99: Rich Is Back in the Tank
01/29/99: Not So Fast, Mr. & Mrs. Pundit
01/27/99:This Is Not America: Clinton’s Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers
01/25/99:Sniffles and High Fever: Kids Say the Darndest Things
01/20/99: Whole Lott(a) Waffling Goin' On
01/14/99: Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office
01/08/99: Drudge Is the Hero
01/06/99 : MUGGER & the Martians
12/30/98 : Last Licks of ’98: Some Heroes, Several Villains & Many Idiots
12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irving’s the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starr’s Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabar’s: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1998, Russ Smith