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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2001/ 10 Shevat, 5761

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Feeling sorry for McCain


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- I'M STARTING to feel a bit sorry for Sen. John McCain. Despite the media's continued adoration, the shameless attention-hog has clearly been rolled by the Bush administration over his campaign finance reform bill. Deservedly so. Still, the Senator doesn't appear to be in the best of health, and hasn't the stamina to put up the fight he promised just last month. His bill, McCain thundered, would be the first legislation put before the new Congress, so help him God! Never mind that most Americans don't really care about how elections are financed-as long as they don't have to foot the tab-and that even those who are inclined to support McCain's efforts are now more concerned with electoral reform.

Typically, a Jan. 27 New York Times editorial proved McCain's enduring allure among journalists. (Once again, it's in the Times' interest for a First-Amendment-busting bill to pass, since it'll give the media even more clout than it already has.) The edit read: "Senator John McCain's hard-line insistence on an early debate and vote for campaign finance reform paid off yesterday when Trent Lott agreed to a quick timetable for consideration of the McCain-Feingold bill. A surprise accord between Mr. McCain and Mr. Lott, the majority leader, calls for the legislation to be considered in late March."

How naive. McCain has backed down from his threat to disrupt Bush's first weeks in office; wasn't given the one-on-one audience with the President he'd requested; and has Trent Lott giving a nebulous okay for consideration of the bill in March.

Guess what? A lot will happen between now and then, and suddenly the McCain-Feingold bill will be either put on the back burner or given a quick face-saving thumbs-up. There's no way Bush is going to sign McCain's current bill, watered-down as it is, and I'm sure the Arizona senator knows that.

This feel-good harmony that Lott's trotting out to a myopic media is a bunch of baloney. He's simply placating McCain and getting him off the front pages. Smart move. Is it possible that Lott is finally, after a disastrous run as Majority Leader, starting to stiffen up and act like a true conservative?

SO FAR
HEY! The first week of GWB's administration was a lot of fun. I'm certain there will be plenty to whack the Texan on in the coming months-already, his chumminess with Teddy Kennedy, while politically expedient, is hard to digest-but I've got no complaints so far. What's most satisfying, however, is the angst of the affluent (and white) populist pundits who still can't believe that Bush is president.

Let's keep it short and just go to the most hilarious column I've read so far this year. Eric Alterman, a hypocrite beyond redemption, was quite distraught in his Nation contribution of Feb. 12. A mere sliver here, but it's a whopper: "As the proverbial curtain rises on the Bush era in national politics, it's hard to know just how pessimistic progressives should be about the new President's aims and intentions. On a rhetorical level, we were greeted with an inaugural address that with a few minor adjustments could have been given by an incoming president of the NAACP. Look at the substance, however, and we find nominees at the Justice and Interior Departments who could have been vetted by the John Birch Society, if not the Army of the Confederacy." Alterman's slander is hardly jarring, but does require a brief rejoinder. The NAACP, in its current incarnation, ought to be disbanded and reassembled as an organization that is truly dedicated to helping black people instead of lashing them with the whip of demagoguery. When Kweisi Mfume sanctioned the James Byrd advertisement last fall, which effectively accused Bush of murder, he should've been sacked. And when Jesse Jackson, who I assume still maintains ties with the NAACP, endorsed champion fundraiser Terry McAuliffe over Maynard Jackson for Democratic National Committee chairman, you know something's not kosher in a group that proposes to "advance colored people."

As for the constant dwelling on the Confederacy-and Alterman's hardly alone in this-have you ever, I mean ever, witnessed such last-ditch rhetorical foaming in a political debate? John Ashcroft gave a rather innocuous interview to Southern Partisan magazine, and suddenly he's Johnny Reb. It wasn't long ago, as I recall, that Robert E. Lee was considered an American hero, despite fighting for the South. In addition, until last February, when a then-Southern Partisan editor named Richard Quinn surfaced as an adviser and contributor to John McCain, I'd wager that less than two percent of Congress and the media had even heard of the publication.

Later in the column, Alterman described a recent Republican roundtable in New York, featuring The Weekly Standard's David Brooks (of Bobo fame, a catch-phrase he's flogging as ardently as Gail Sheehy did her Passages a generation ago) and Dinesh D'Souza of the American Enterprise Institute. He throws in a wholly gratuitous dig at the "nicely Republican red-meat repast," as if all "progressives" were vegetarians. Alterman saves most of his invective for Reagan-biographer D'Souza, calling Brooks a "liberal Republican" who doesn't belong in a political party that includes-two guesses-Tom DeLay and Dick Armey.

Actually, that's a dumb call, for as obnoxious as I find Brooks' writing, he was an enthusiastic supporter of McCain, who could hardly be classified as a "liberal Republican."

But still, Alterman chastises Brooks for his book Bobos in Paradise. He writes: "There are no poor people in the Bobo world [sort of like at The Nation]-even illegal Guatemalan nannies are treated as if they are taking care of your children and cleaning your bathroom as a lifestyle choice rather than out of economic necessity."

This is absurd. As Alterman ought to know, members of the first wave of immigrants coming, by their own choice, to the United States don't immediately land positions as, say, pundits for MSNBC or The Nation. Throughout the country's history, immigrants have worked tirelessly in hopes of a better life for their children; it's called the American Dream. Jews, Irish, Poles, Asians, Pakistanis, etc.-all these groups have assimilated, or are in the process of assimilating, themselves into the country's infrastructure. If Alterman gets dewy-eyed seeing a Guatemalan earn real money (sans taxes) either taking care of children or cleaning a house, that's his problem.

Now, if only Jesse Jackson, Kweisi Mfume, Maxine Waters and their ilk would let a new generation of black leaders-men and women who know that Selma was more than a generation ago-take control, the United States would benefit enormously.


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

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