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Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2001/ 7 Teves, 5761


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Consumer Reports

The media's bitter pill -- WHILE THE UPCOMING Bush/Cheney administration is working toward its future, the elite media refuses to acknowledge that facts is facts. Evan Thomas, Newsweek's managing editor, commented last weekend on WUSA-TV's Inside Washington about the nomination of former Sen. John Ashcroft for attorney general. "Well, you know, attorney general is actually an important job," Thomas helpfully informed his viewers. "Why can't [Bush] buy off the right wing with unimportant jobs? I mean, this is a sop, I assume, to buy off the wing nuts, but it's like giving, I mean, the attorney general counts, it matters."

Conservatives would argue, on the other hand, that Bush's cabinet selections have been extremely moderate, and that the President-Elect owes some allegiance to the Republican base that helped him defeat Gore. In any case, although the Democrats will rant and rave about Ashcroft, slandering him as a bigoted, Bible-thumping shadow of David Duke, it's highly unlikely he won't be confirmed by the Senate. And that's good news. After eight years of the worst attorney general in history, Janet Reno, a woman who thwarted the law at every opportunity, it's high time a person of Ashcroft's humility, leadership and integrity is installed as the nation's chief justice official.

Julian Bond, a respected black leader, unfortunately joined the ranks of demagogues like Mfume when he said of Ashcroft, "Any pretense of unifying the nation has ended with this nomination." But Democrats aren't looking for "unification." Even though Bush has nominated-in addition to Ashcroft-Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Christine Todd Whitman, Al Gonzales, Mel Martinez, Karen Hughes and Don Evans for various posts-probably the most diverse presidential squad in history-that's not good enough.

That's why Bush isn't likely to give an inch, unless it suits his purposes, to manipulative Democrats who are trying to punish him for winning a close election.

The gratuitous anti-Bush slurs appear every day. In New York's Jan. 1 issue, Michael Tomasky, in a teary send-off to the overrated Daniel Patrick Moynihan, concludes his column with a nutty broadside: "But in a time in which even Supreme Court justices have stooped to the most rancidly ideological strong-arm tactics, maybe Washington will miss someone who was rather less predictable. Besides that, [Moynihan] is serious, brilliant, intellectually curious, decent, polite, and civilized. George W. Bush's Washington will surely be short on people like that."

If that means the likes of Alan Dershowitz, Tina Brown, Barbra Streisand, Rosie O'Donnell, Sean Wilentz, Todd Gitlin, Alec Baldwin, Gail Sheehy and Al Gore won't be included in Bush's inner circle, I think the country can live with that.

In a movie review of The Family Man dated Dec. 22, posted on the under-a-buck-a-share Salon website, Andrew O'Hehir reflexively tossed in a dig at Bush. He writes: "'The Family Man' may bear a superficial resemblance to a classic holiday morality tale like 'It's a Wonderful Life,' but that's like saying George W. Bush resembles a real president: Beneath the candy-coated exterior there's a hollow darkness."

And what is that "hollow darkness"? Better ask James Carville, Hendrik Hertzberg, E.J. Dionne, Eric Alterman, Michael Moore, Jonathan Alter, Paul Krugman, David Nyhan, Bill Press or Mary McGrory, for I haven't a clue.

Even the sensible Michael Daly, the Daily News' best columnist, couldn't resist joining the crowd. In his Dec. 27 throwaway piece about the Bushes' vacationing in Florida, Daly writes: "Thanks to a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, George W. won without a full count of the votes cast on Election Day." And so Daly repeats the myth that's become Democratic lore: All the votes weren't counted. In fact, they were. Twice.

I'll conclude with the acidic, and stupid, comments of New Republic owner Martin Peretz, Gore's guru from his Harvard days, who saw his long-dreamed-of "kitchen cabinet" position disappear forever when his pupil was banished from American politics on Dec. 12. Peretz is so distraught at the turn of events that he imagines everyone but himself was against Gore. Preposterously, he accuses reliable Beltway insiders (that is, Democrats) like Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, Tim Russert and Bill Schneider of rooting for a Bush victory. Such self-delusion is remarkable even for the consistently myopic Peretz.

Ignoring the blatant partisanship of the Democratic Florida Supreme Court, Peretz conjures up a conspiracy. Apparently, the whole world-but especially the cabal of James Baker, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris-was dead-set on giving his boy the boo-boo of his life. It's a sad season in the New Republic cocoon.

Peretz writes in the Jan. 1 issue: "In any case, given the magnitude of the theft that has occurred, the whole story will come out, sooner rather than later. This is a grand crime against democracy, and it was committed by a candidate whose overriding campaign claim was that he could be trusted. Once the story of Florida 2000 is known in full, George W. Bush may well wish he had become baseball commissioner rather than president."

Uh, doubtful, Marty. For while you chew your liver like a spluttering drunk at a Dupont Circle after-hours bar, lost in a pink fog of what-might-have-beens, Bush will be running the country, paying little attention to snooty academics like yourself.

Peretz persists: "George W. is our first true dauphin: truly unserious, remarkably undistinguished, designated only because he is the eldest son of the last chief executive to produce a line of hopefuls and because his father's friends paved his path to the White House with campaign finance gold."

Yes, it was a shame that Bush's millions so dwarfed the paltry Nader-like warchest Gore had at his disposal. A shame that the Vice President "distinguished" himself on the campaign hustings by lying about Bill Bradley's record and about his own involvement in the Clinton campaign finance scandals; using fake props like Winifred Skinner to scare elderly voters; and pretending to be a hunter while campaigning in Pennsylvania, but pillorying his opponent for his stand on gun control while accepting cash at no-smoking salons in Los Angeles.

Hard cheese, Marty.

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

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© 2000, Russ Smith