Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review June 19, 2000/16 Sivan, 5760

Suzanne Fields

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
James Glassman
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants -- POLITICIANS HAVE A HARD TIME being spontaneous. Gone are the likes of a brilliant wit like Adlai Stevenson (who couldn't get elected) or even a practiced storyteller with good punch lines like Ronald Reagan (who could). Bill Clinton does OK as a stand-up comedian at the White House correspondents' dinner, but his lines are always written by someone else.

Too soon Pat Moynihan, the smartest man in the Senate, whose historical memory deepens knowledge with a scholar's incisive drollery, will be gone, too.

However you may feel about Al Gore, he's got to be the stiffest and stuffiest politician to read from a TelePrompTer (CQ) in living memory. George W. is more relaxed, but you don't always have the confidence that he's mastered either the medium or the message, however entertaining and persuasive he may be.

"Current Events,'' a play that just opened on Broadway to bad reviews, casts an aspiring politician as the protagonist. The critics say it fails because the author can't rise above his idea that politicians are generally shallow, and shallow isn't dramatic. (Does life imitate art, or what?)

Ben Brantley, the New York Times critic, suggests that the play's problem spills over from real life "because politicians are so widely perceived as existing entirely on the surface, scripted and unsurprising creatures best considered in comic monologues on late-night television.''

Don Imus, the I-Man on MSNBC, has created a kind of raunchy litmus test for any politician who dares to go on his program for an interview. If the politician can engage in give-and-take humor with Imus, the take-no-prisoners interviewer, he gets a seal of authenticity, if not necessarily of approval.

So we have to give Rick Lazio, who is running against Hillary Clinton for the New York Senate seat, a thumbs-up for spontaneity and maybe even authenticity. He went into the I-Man's lion's den last week and won over one of the toughest critics on morning television. In a series of questions (written by Pete Hamill), Imus grilled Lazio with a pop quiz on New York minutiae. Unlike Hillary before she went on David Letterman's show, Lazio didn't get an advance peek at the questions.

Imus asked Lazio if he knew the old blues song that closes out each episode of a popular Manhattan interview show with porn-star guests who appear without their clothes on cable TV in the early AM hours. Lazio, reluctant to repeat the title of the song, obviously knew it and offered a cleaned up paraphrase. (We couldn't tell if he blushed because he wasn't on camera.) The I-Man, who is hard to please, gave him a thumbs-up for being a New Yorker in the real world.


No one suggests that every candidate pass the I-Man test, but Lazio contrasts starkly to Hillary, who has yet to work up the courage to go on the tough Sunday-morning television interview shows. Lazio has, often.

It used to be that anyone who wanted to be elected to office knew he had to go before the public and take all kinds of questions from all kinds of reporters. The test of a campaign is not only what you say, but how you say it and where you say it.

Today presidential campaigns are so media-driven that a spontaneous gaffe (is there any other kind?) travels faster than a speeding bullet and is heard by millions of voters from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, before the commercial break. Caution can enable a candidate to stay out of the line of fire; it also keeps him below the radar. But figuring out what may sound right can sometimes be deadlier dumb than merely stating the facts correctly.

Al Gore, having gone through incarnations of Cardboard Man, Alpha Male, Pit Bull and Man-in-Hiding, seems to have been bitten with his own venom, and can only speak not in mere sentences but in whole paragraphs that obfuscate rather than educate. In answer to a question posed by the editors of the New York Times about whether he used his campaign time as well as his opponent has, he sounded like Chauncey Gardener or Charley Chan, reading from the Farmer's Almanac: "When you plant seeds you don't know what the crop will be like just by the way the planting has occurred.''

Asked whether he would characterize himself as prudent and cautious as an ant, and George W. as wasteful and profligate as a grasshopper, he replied: "I choose not to attach any elegant epithets to my opponent.''

What the vice president needs is a few of those ants in his pants. That would lighten him up in a hurry.


06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate