Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2004 / 5 Adar, 5764
McCain predicts a nasty campaign; the misdirected missive; Janet Jackson, the interview; more
NEW YORK With the vaunted McCain-Feingold campaign finance law enacted two years ago, Sen. John McCain tried his level-best to civilize American politics.
Apparently, the law isn't working.
"It's going to be the nastiest presidential campaign we've ever had," the Arizona Republican told me last weekend during the Writers Guild of America, East awards dinner at the Pierre Hotel, where McCain was honored for his work as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to block the corporate consolidation of broadcast outlets.
Why so nasty?
"Because both sides are playing to their base, and not to the independent voters," he said. "We have to fight that kind of campaigning, but it's going to be difficult."
McCain added that the recent unsubstantiated but widely reported sex rumors surrounding his fellow Vietnam War veteran and Democratic front-runner, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, "make it clear that if you want to get anything into the national media, you can do it by using the Internet. You can put just about anything out there."
At which point Writers Guild member Arlene Hellerman editor of the group's literary mag, On Writing chimed in to gush: "I am just so honored to speak to you. I love so much of what you stand for. If you were a Democrat, you'd be president."
The senator grinned and corrected, "I really doubt that. I'm for NAFTA and I'm pro-life, just to start with."
Looking suddenly very grim, Hellerman gave McCain a stern and lengthy lecture about abortion rights and correct terminology. "I'm pro-life. You're anti-choice!"
Then Hellerman demanded to know how McCain could allow his daughter to make her own decision about whether to obtain an abortion as he said he'd do when he ran for president four years ago and deny that same right to women in general.
McCain seemed a tad uncomfortable with this line of questioning. "Oh here's my daughter right here," he told Hellerman, pointing out 19-year-old Megan McCain standing a few feet away.
Luckily, Megan seemed to be an old hand at tuning out her dad's random conversations and didn't hear the discussion about her hypothetical impending abortion decision.
THE MISDIRECTED MISSIVE
Is imprisoned ImClone founder Sam Waksal whose company's stock price is at the center of the Martha Stewart trial penning letters from behind bars to the woman known as "Generation X's Martha Stewart"?
I certainly wondered Monday after learning about a recent letter from the 56-year-old Waksal from his federal prison in Pennsylvania to a certain "Katie Brown."
Last Friday, a prison-issue envelope from Waksal, who's serving a 7-year sentence on his securities fraud conviction, turned up in the lobby of a classy Park Avenue building, where a doorman gave it mistakenly to one of this column's spies.
"His name and prison number were handwritten at the top, and then underneath that was printed FCI Schuylkill," the spy said. "The letter was handwritten. It was more than one page. It was heavy."
Of course, this column's supporters are law-abiding citizens, so the letter was returned unopened to the doorman who presumably got it to the right Katie Brown.
Was it the same 40-year-old Katie Brown whose weekend show on the A&E Network, "All Year Round with Katie Brown," is touted as a hipper, sassier version of "Martha Stewart Living"?
Apparently not, alas.
"She has never met or communicated with Sam Waksal," a rep for A&E's Brown told us. "She's never lived on Park Avenue. She's fairly amused though."
Waksal is about six months into his jailtime at Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution, a minimum security prison 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Apparently he earns 16 cents an hour at the barracks-like lockup by cutting grass and scrubbing floors.
On Monday, prison officials passed on this column's request to interview Waksal about the misdirected missive, and Waksal politely declined.
Messages left for a Katie Brown on Park Avenue were not returned.
THE BURDENS OF HIGH OFFICE: I hear that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has cancelled plans to attend Sunday's Academy Awards and the Vanity Fair Oscar party at Morton's in Beverly Hills. Turns out that the governator, who was hoping to show up with wife Maria Shriver, is just too darned busy trying to persuade voters to pass Proposition 58 and dig his state out of its financial hole.
JANET JACKSON, THE INTERVIEW: It's been almost a month since the rip seen 'round the world, when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast during the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime show on CBS. Jackson has gone on camera to apologize for the flap for which the Federal Communications Commission is considering fines on CBS but the pop diva has yet to submit to a televised grilling. Now I've heard that Diane Sawyer has beat out the competition, including her ABC News colleague Barbara Walters, for the right to sit down with the pop diva for a "Prime Time" show in mid-March. That is, just in time for the release of Jackson's latest CD. ABC News and Sawyer declined to comment Monday. "She can't talk about an interview that she hasn't done yet," a spokesman told me.
NOT IN MY EXPERIENCE: ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr hosted a blue-chip book party Monday night at Billy's for syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, author of the new collection "Paper Trail: Common Sense in Uncommon Times." During her remarks to the crowd Ruth Westheimer, Nora Ephron, Jerry Della Femina and Federal Judge Kimba Wood, among others Goodman told the crowd: "Writing a column is like being married to a nymphomaniac: Every time you think you're through, you have to start all over again."
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate