Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 1999/3 Kislev, 5760
George W. Bush-wacked
In an ideal world, the reporter would have been Jim Gray-ed.
Instead, Andy Hiller, a reporter for WHDH-TV, the NBC station in Boston,
got big headlines. He asked GOP candidate George W. Bush a series of four
questions. Name the heads, asked Hiller, of the following countries: Taiwan,
Pakistan, Chechnya, and India.
George Bush stumbled and fumbled, naming only one in four. When the
reporter asked him if he could name the president of Chechnya, Bush said,
"No, can you?" Big story. Bush, a governor, who, by definition, pays far
less attention to foreign affairs than domestic, found himself on the
defensive. "Not ready for prime time," suggested the headlines. Bush, some
now say, demonstrates a Quayle-like lightweightedness.
A few days later, Democratic candidate Bill Bradley, observing the George
W. Bush fallout, refused to answer a question asking him to name the head of
North Korea. Said Bradley, "I'm not going to get into this. I'm not going to
play this game. I think these are pop questions, and I don't think they
illustrate, really, the qualities that are important to be president."
George Bush's failure to answer the questions landed him heavy ink.
Bradley's refusal? Consigned to the back pages.
Sports journalist Jim Gray, a few weeks ago, received a national spanking
for questioning Pete Rose at a ceremony honoring baseball's "All-Century"
team. "Inappropriate," "Unfair," "Poor timing," screamed the critics at
Gray's impertinence. Yet, many in the media do not question the sense,
relevance, or appropriateness of asking a presidential candidate to name the
heads of states of countries of which the average political science
professor could not name.
The late John F. Kennedy, Jr., flunked the New York Bar twice. Still, media
personalities like Barbara Walters questioned him about his future political
plans, dismissing the relevance of John-John's bar exam difficulties. Which
disqualifies more -- failing to know who runs Chechnya or twice failing the
exam to determine one's competency to practice law?
And, as a senior at Harvard, Edward M. Kennedy hired someone else to take
his exam. The school did not graduate him. Despite this, the University of
Virginia granted him admission, and he finished his law degree there. Did
Kennedy's cheating disqualify him as a senator from Massachusetts and as a
1980 presidential candidate? Guess not.
Vice President Al Gore, still the Democratic front-runner for the year 2000
nomination, once bragged of inventing the Internet. He did not. Gore also
said that he and his wife, Tipper, served as the models for Erich Segal's
book "Love Story." They did not. Do Gore's fabrications disqualify him as a
And, a few years ago, Gore toured Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.
He saw a group of busts, and said, "Who are these people?" The tour guide
said to Gore, "That's George Washington, on the right."
Do we really want to play this game of "So who wants to say something
stupid next?" Question: According to Al Gore, the single greatest threat to
mankind is: (a) nuclear proliferation; (b) global warming; (c)
over-population; or (d) the internal combustion engine. Answer: (d). In his
best-selling book, Earth in the Balance (page 235, copyright 1992), Gore
writes: "We now know that (automobiles) have a cumulative impact on the
global environment (which poses) a mortal threat to the security of every
nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy ... " That's
right. Vice President Gore perceives a lesser threat from North Korea's Kim
Jong-il than from the Ford Explorer.
Do the voters care that Bush flunked his name-the-heads-of-state quiz? In
1986, former member of the Reagan administration, Linda Chavez, ran for U.S.
Senator from Maryland. At a news interview, seventeen candidates were given
a five-question impromptu quiz. Name the prime minister of Israel; give a
definition of Stinger missiles; identify the cause of the U.S. bombing of
Libya; name the leader of the African National Congress; and where does
Maryland rank, as against the other states, in the amount of federal grants
received by the state. Republican Chavez bested her opponents, correctly
answering four of the five questions, missing only the last one. She lost
the race. Does this mean the voters of Maryland instead elected a boob?
Or, should we give voters just a little more credit? Maybe people care
about a candidate's position on tax and spending, the military, trade,
abortion, immigration, and healthcare.
But, hey, one never knows when, in a national security crisis, a president
might just have to appear on "Jeopardy." And, as for Jim Gray, a little
advice. Next time, try asking Pete Rose, "Can you name the foreign minister
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