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Jewish World Review / Nov. 11, 1998 /22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5759


Mugger Send Dowd Down to the Minors

NOT THAT ANYONE AT THE SCHIZOPHRENIC NEW YORK TIMES WILL PAY ATTENTION, but judging by her output in the past two months, it’d be an excellent idea if columnist Maureen Dowd would recuse herself from presidential politics for the next two years.

I’m not ordinarily a gossip, but it hasn’t escaped the notice of sharp-eyed readers that Dowd, once a fierce critic of Bill Clinton, has gone soft on the President and turned her witty wrath on independent counsel Ken Starr. Just last Sunday she wrote that "Ken Starr’s feet [are] sticking out from under the house like the Wicked Witch of the East after the tornado."

This started sometime in September; the official explanation, I suppose, would be that it coincided with the release of Clinton’s four-hour videotape testimony, where he wasn’t the monster that White House spinners claimed he’d be. Others who know about such things, however, claim that it was during that period that Dowd hooked up with an actor, a Clinton pal, who portrayed a character similar to the First Liar in a recent movie.

Is Starr really out of control?
On Sept. 9 she wrote: "It is very sad and very strange to watch Mr. Clinton give speeches. His words twang with unintended ironies and double-entendres. You wonder how he can get through a day without shattering from the pressure of watching his Presidency melt. No one, except the hard-core Clinton foes, is getting any pleasure out of seeing a President who started with so many dreams live through so much censure."

Oct. 7: "We couldn’t trouble ourselves with the silly impeachment hearings. All that fake solemnity and pretense of open-mindedness. Here is Congress, which has boasted more concupiscent hypocrites pouncing on more nubile office girls than any institution in history except maybe Mitsubishi, and they’re ready to string up Bill Clinton over sex?"

Oct. 14: "This great capital, once a place of gravity, has been reduced to a keyhole. The Starr prosecutors spill all the mud into the street, and then flatter themselves that they are discreet just because they black out a few lines here and there... By releasing his secret grand jury testimony, Newt & Co. have already enjoyed the sadistic pleasure of seeing Mr. Clinton squirm about sex and cigars on TV for four hours. They should not also have the sadistic pleasure of holding hearings on TV for the rest of his tenure. You can’t punish someone twice. This is still America. I think."

Punish someone twice? Clinton hasn’t been punished yet! Dowd, who earlier in the year was lumped together as an Irish-Catholic moralist disgusted by Clinton’s behavior -- along with Chris Matthews, Michael Kelly and Cokie Roberts -- in a National Journal article by Bill Powers, now feels sorry for Clinton and is toeing the White House line, if not with the weasel-like rabidity of Sid Blumenthal, at least in the same league as Lanny Davis.

Already, in a column last Wednesday, Dowd was trashing the Bush Brothers, trying, in vain, to link them with all of their father’s much-lampooned tics: clipped diction, speedboats, pork rinds, "the vision thing" and horseshoe pits. Poor Maureen, new convert to the Democratic Party, says, "For Mr. Gore, the best thing might have been a huge Republican victory last night. Then he could have run for President on the persuasive platform of Don’t-let-the lunatics-take-over-every-wing-of-the-asylum."

George W.
It’s clear that Dowd didn’t pay much attention to the gubernatorial campaigns of George W. and Jeb Bush. In Texas, where George Bush captured 49 percent of the Hispanic vote, mainly due to his attention to education and health issues as well as cutting taxes, not many people think he’s a "lunatic." In fact, a liberal newspaperman I know in Texas told me: "Bush is the best, most effective governor since I’ve lived here. He’s been a notably bipartisan leader."

And in Florida, Jeb Bush successfully courted black Democrats and smashed his opponent Buddy MacKay. In fact, Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough, a ’94 GOP rebel, said of the state’s new governor: "In ’98 he sounded like very few Republicans I have ever heard. I heard him talk to Hispanics and African-Americans, and he was on fire. He came across better with those groups than middle-class whites."

But Dowd is lazy and reverts to her recollection of the brothers’ father’s campaign: "I have the dread feeling that I have already covered George W.’s race, even though it hasn’t started. The saga of a Yalie who became a ‘self-made’ man, a Midland oilman, a bidnessman, a family man with a short attention span... I feel as if I’ve already lived through the overstuffed Bush Rolodex and all those fund-raising receptions thrown by hostesses named Muffie and Buffie where the only hors d’oeuvres are a slim wedge of brie and a wilted clump of grapes."

So while her competitors in the media are contemplating George W.’s run, and actually traveling to Texas to gauge his probable candidacy, Dowd falls back on cliches like “Muffie” and “Buffie” that disappeared about the last time someone in America thought that her new hero Bill Clinton was an honest and loyal man.

This column is a disgusting 800 words of manure that should’ve been rejected by her editor, Frank Rich, rest easy, you’ve got new company in your filthy corner of hypocrisy and inanity.

Rich himself, last Saturday, continued his war against the nation’s pundits, claiming, "In this election, the American people once again thumbed their noses at the talking heads who have pontificated incorrectly all year about the ‘the American people.’" Uh, Frank, aren’t you one of those condescending pundits yourself? Besides, the press wasn’t on the ballot on Election Day: Rich is simply using his latest hobbyhorse to explain why Democrats performed far better than expected last Tuesday. In fact, it was really a status-quo election, with almost 99 percent of House incumbents reelected and only a few senators defeated. When the economy ticks along, voters aren’t too angry about anything. As The Nation editorialized this week, "One exit poll result was intriguing. Voters who said their financial situation had improved voted Democratic by a 57-42 margin. Those who believed they have slipped favored Republicans 58-32."

I’ll bet that if the election were held a month ago, when the stock market was on a roller coaster, the results would’ve been different.

Why, he even upbraids David Broder—and mind you, I carry no water for the "dean" of American columnists for incorrectly predicting that D’Amato would defeat Schumer. So what? Pundits are wrong in almost every election: Rich’s own paper ran a poll predicting that Bob Dole would lose to Clinton by 16 points in the ’96 election; the actual number was eight. And, I wonder, how many journalists, Rich included, were accurate with their speculation about the ’94 election? Not many.

Dowd did no better last Sunday. In a column that was laced with overt or implied references to films --The Wizard of Oz, Terms of Endearment, Pleasantville, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World -- she raced through the obligatory obit of Newt Gingrich and her take on the new mood in Washington. "Hey, baby, we’re talking about love power," she writes.

"The voters have chosen the lovers over the haters. The meanies with the jangly names—Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Lauch Faircloth, Fob James, ‘B-1’ Bob Dornan—are toast. So are the guys like Al D’Amato, who sneered and jeered and used ethnic and anatomical epithets. So are the Christian zealots. And obsessive special prosecutors. The Democratic lover boys, like Bill Clinton, and the Republican preachers of compassion, like the Bush boys, are being embraced."

She continues with this stupid paragraph: "The moral of the Gingrich fall is this: When politicians behave like wrestlers, caricature villains who are only out to destroy their opponents, then the voters might as well get the real thing. Even If Governor Ventura makes a mess in Minnesota, he can’t possibly rival the mess the G.O.P. House leadership has made in Washington."

As I wrote above, the Republican-led Congress has nothing to crow about in its last session, but they’ve hardly made a "mess" of things. Anti-tobacco legislation was scuttled, campaign finance reform died, welfare reform was passed (even if Clinton took credit for it) and an impeachment inquiry was correctly initiated. Remember, although this Congress failed in its promise to lower taxes, and did capitulate to a compromised Clinton far too often, it basically clung to the notion that less federal government is better for the nation. That’s why the Republican governors fared so well in last Tuesday’s elections.

Ventura on election night
By the way, with all the fascination with Jesse Ventura’s win in Minnesota, few picked up on an Associated Press report about his first pick for running mate: former Minnesota Twins star Kent Hrbek. The ballplayer declined Ventura’s offer because it would have interfered with his fishing, hunting and bowling.

"I’d have missed my hunting trip this weekend if I would have ran with him," Hrbek told the A.P. "Or, I would have gone anyway, and I would have gotten off on the wrong foot on that job. I’m happy the way it turned out. I thought it was great. But I’m not a politician. Then again, neither is Jesse."

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


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