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Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2000/ 3 Adar I, 5760

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Climb aboard the Double-Talk Express!


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IF MCCAIN is the GOP nominee, I will support him, since he'd be a better president than Gore the Liar-Hearted or the laconic tax & spend liberal Bill Bradley. But he'll be defeated. And that's why I've supported Bush for more than 18 months: because he can win.

Indeed, his message has been misconstrued and sometimes muddled, but that can be corrected. He has appeared at times nonchalant and disengaged, fulfilling the worry of some that he was taking the nomination for granted. Yet Bush's campaign operation is far more suited to withstand the dirty attacks of Gore's inevitable dishonest and deceitful (and probably, when the going gets rough, illegal) campaign.

But let's face facts. When McCain says that Bush isn't ready for "prime time," the same can doubly be ascribed to him. The Texas Governor has been scrutinized by every major newspaper in the country since last summer, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The Times, of course, was looking for any scandal or financial impropriety that would knock him out of contention. What did these thousands upon thousands of words reveal? That Bush was a hellraiser in college (like McCain), didn't make the dean's list (like McCain) and was later the recipient of financial advice because of his last name. Nepotism: a word that the First Family of Liberalism, the Kennedys, knows so well. (Hello, Patrick Kennedy!) Nothing illegal was revealed in these exhaustive reports, and so his candidacy flourished into the fall.

Many journalists have snickered at Bush's embrace of Christianity, which, given the anti-Christian bias in the media, is not surprising. Some have said that he did "nothing" until he was 40. Nothing, I suppose, except work in the oil business, learn about success and failure, and be involved in his father's political career. Others have even ridiculed his decision to stop drinking.

The Daily News, in a Feb. 6 editorial, said: "Gov. George W. Bush once said he could not remember any particular book he read as a child. He ought to go back and read the story of Humpty Dumpty. Today, all the king's horses and all the king's men are trying to put the Bush presidential candidacy together again after his disaster in New Hampshire." Reacting to Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating's advice to Bush that he get tougher on the stump and prove his "character and integrity," the News had this rejoinder: "To do that, Bush would have to go back and relive his entire life." I had no idea that The New York Times' Frank Rich was moonlighting for the New York tabloid that may soon go out of business.

The Washington Post's Mary McGrory, who in her dotage is desperate for a return to Camelot, even if fronted by a Republican, disgraced herself with this remark about Bush: "The last week of the campaign, George W. had been sending out distress signals comparable to a boy's letter from camp-'the water is very cold and nobody here likes me'-His loving parents responded, but New Hampshire voters did not. 'Looked like Parents' Day at Groton,' sniffed one Yankee." McGrory failed to add that that "Yankee" was flinty, earnest and took the state's primary with the utmost of seriousness, like all New Englanders do.

The plagiarist Mike Barnicle wrote in last Sunday's Daily News, after zinging Hillary Clinton for "want[ing] a Senate seat as a reward for enduring a disturbing marriage," that New York Gov. George Pataki "wasted months trying to steal an election for a prep-school pal."

Barnicle
When McCain is roughed up by the media (at least by those reporters who aren't angling to work for him in Washington) it'll be devastating.

Already, the Senator has tamped down his former centerpiece of campaign finance reform. It's hard to be an advocate of that populist message when, one, polls have shown that Americans list it as a very minor concern, and, two, current articles show that you're in the pocket of DC lobbyists more than any other candidate. In fact, The Wall Street Journal's Phil Kuntz reported last Friday that McCain has received 10.3 percent of his contributions from the DC area and political action committees. Second was Al Gore, with 9.8 percent and third was Bush, who'd amassed 6.7 percent of his war chest from those sources.

Kuntz wrote: "Declaring victory in New Hampshire Tuesday night, John McCain recited his oft-stated vow to 'break the Washington iron triangle of big money, lobbyists and legislation.' The next morning, the Arizona senator was on the telephone with a cadre of lobbyists and other fund-raisers, exhorting them to capitalize on his big win by helping his campaign raise big money."

Among the contributors to McCain's populist, I'm-Not-An-Insider campaign are: Viacom, Inc.; US West Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; BellSouth Corp.; Microsoft Corp.; CSX Corp.; Citigroup Inc.; Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co.; AT&T; and Charles Schwab & Co. Not too shabby for a fellow who wants to play the Jimmy Stewart character, Jefferson Smith, in a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

On Feb. 6, conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote: "While attacking corporate lobbyists on the campaign stump, Sen. John McCain is using them in a fund-raiser next Thursday at Washington's Willard Hotel.

Big-time Washington lobbyists Ken Duberstein (former White House chief-of-staff) and Vin Weber (former congressman) are listed on McCain's national campaign steering committee. Included on his 'victory committee' are well-known corporate lobbyists Robbie Aiken, Patrick O'Donnell and Ken Cole. The Willard event starts with a 'private' reception costing $1,000 for each person or each political action committee, followed by a $500-dollar-a-ticket reception. All these contributors will then hear a speech by McCain, sent by satellite to other donors in San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Boston, Columbia, S.C. and Lansing, Mich."

The following day, Novak reported that McCain is playing fast and loose with primary spending rules, not to mention the use of corporate jets. That's not uncommon, as Al Gore and Bill Bradley might admit (Bush has refused matching funds, so he's free to spend whatever he wants).
Novak
Novak wrote: "But more than any other serious aspirant for the presidency that I have seen over more than 40 years, McCain's campaign is detached from issues and relies on his role as a reformer. In that context, just how pure he really is becomes a valid question."

McCain's idea of campaign finance "reform" is a Democratic windfall. Not only would it violate the First Amendment, but it would allow also unions and the powerful legal lobby to continue plying the Democrats with contributions. It would give even more influence to the liberal-biased mainstream media. This is a conservative? As for his antitobacco initiative, had it passed (and cynics, including myself, believe that McCain knew it wouldn't and just used the issue to grandstand), a huge tax increase would've been foisted on Americans who smoke. As any study will show, smokers tend to be the less-affluent in our society; thus, the tax would be regressive. Gov. Bush's tax plan, while too timid from my point of view, is a balm to members of every income level.

Then there's McCain's obsession of using the surplus to reduce the national debt. I don't think my eyes deceive me when I see a once-stalwart conservative turning into a Gore Democrat overnight. (No wonder so many reporters are enthralled; they believe, like a modern-day Robert F. Kennedy, that McCain's politics are "evolving.") Jack Kemp, who was a listless runningmate for the hapless Bob Dole in '96, yet is still an ardent Reagan supply-sider, told The Washington Times' Donald Lambro recently about McCain's loosely formed tax plans: "This takes the Reagan agenda and turns it upside down. It points the party toward Herbert Hoover (who proposed fighting the depression by reducing the deficit) rather than Ronald Reagan. John McCain's obsession with debt makes him a danger to the economy. This poses a real threat to the Republican Party."

Also, I wonder why McCain hasn't zeroed in on the liquor industry. Alcohol is certainly as dangerous as, if not more so than, tobacco. It might have something to do with his father-in-law's huge Budweiser distributorship in Arizona, the profits of which helped start McCain's career in Congress. And like Al Gore, who won't sleep at night until every last tobacco plant has been killed, why hasn't McCain called for an outright prohibition on cigarettes?

McCain's sanctimony on the tobacco issue is troubling, especially given his silence on other huge corporations that manufacture potentially life-threatening products. When The National Smokers Alliance began running ads in South Carolina criticizing McCain's claim as a tax-cutter, the Senator lashed out in typical form. He said at a press conference in Seabrook, SC, "I'm honored by the attacks by the people who addicted our children and lied to Congress. I hope they will spend more money because that authenticates this crusade of ours to get the influence of special interests out of politics."

Bush, playing to the voters of this conservative state, said about McCain's Clinton-like tax plan: "It's bad enough when Democrats make these arguments against meaningful tax cuts. It's worse when Republicans, like my chief rival in this state, use them. It's worse because our party ought not be reflecting these arguments; it ought to be rejecting them."

McCain flip-flops on issues on a daily basis, yet reporters give him a free ride. Had Gov. Bush spoken about "gaydar," it would've been a weeklong story; with McCain, it was more plain speakin' from the Straight Talk Express.
Jacoby
The Senator has been all over the map on abortion, saying he's for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, but not in the "short term." As JWR columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote on Jan. 27: "I don't think this is hypocrisy; I think it is ideological incoherence. For all his fine attributes, McCain seems to lack any philosophical core. When he talks about honor and duty, he is unerring; when he talks about issues, he is all over the place... The senator makes a fine role model. I'm not sure he would make a fine president."

With no malice intended, I think McCain has exploited his horrendous experience in Vietnam once too often. (It was no coincidence that his bestselling memoir, Faith of My Fathers, was released for his campaign.) Remember, he was from a proud military family; there was no doubt he'd follow his grandfather and father into the Navy. He was shot down in the war and suffered unimaginable torture. Yet, I have far more respect for Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who also fought valiantly in Vietnam, yet came home to organize fellow veterans against a war he believed was unjust. That took a lot more guts, in my opinion, than McCain's blind allegiance to the military and the Democratic presidents who escalated an immoral war.

For a change from the DC media elite, who have delighted in McCain's one-liners, accessibility and supposedly evolving political views, read the following excerpt from an Arizona Republic writer's Feb. 3 column. E.J. Montini, who's considered "an annoying pipsqueak" by the Senator, sarcastically writes that he hopes "[V]oters in the other 49 states will fall for the same baloney and McCain will become president."

Montini: "Thankfully, McCain was able to articulate for the voters of one quirky and obstinate state why a politician from an equally quirky and obstinate state is just quirky and obstinate enough to lead the Free World. McCain pointed to his lengthy service in the U.S. Senate (as well as his lengthy confinement as prisoner of war in Vietnam).

"He articulated his unyielding commitment to campaign finance reform (a stubbornness forged during his POW days).

"He reinforced his determination to rebuild America's military strength (which he should know about because he happens to have been a POW), and laid out his plans to lower taxes (for everyone, including former POWs), to rescue Social Security and Medicare (now that our veterans, including one-time POWs, are getting older), and to pay down the national debt (while reminding us of the debt of gratitude we owe people, including former POWs).

"Finally, McCain said he hopes to restore our faith in the presidency, which he believes the American people could best accomplish by electing a man who has served his country honorably in the past.

"Like, for instance, a one-time prisoner of war.

"Whoever that may be."

McCain stuns the nation

When the punch-drunk burst of John McCain euphoria wears off, the Arizona Senator will be forced to answer a slew of embarrassing questions from a number of reporters and columnists who've had their fill of the "maverick outsider" who's received a higher percentage of campaign contributions from Washington, DC, than any other candidate.

It's true that some press sycophants will continue their adolescent infatuation with McCain-either out of boomer Vietnam guilt or plain stupidity-but serious journalists, who know they'll be supporting Al Gore anyway, will eagerly dig into the maze of hypocrisy and contradictions that has defined the former POW's lengthy career in Congress.

But for the moment, no one can deny it was a glorious week for McCain. His landslide victory in New Hampshire that no one (certainly not this writer), including the Senator's staff, predicted, paved the way for the near-total erosion of Gov. George W. Bush's prohibitive lead in the Feb. 19 South Carolina primary. It also resulted in New York's GOP establishment suddenly backtracking and allowing McCain on the ballot for our state's March 7 primary.

It appears that The New York Times' relentless editorial campaign to secure McCain a place on the ballot has succeeded; that the paper's cynical sermonizing is part of an agenda to secure Gore's election in November is an atrocity that not many either understand or want to admit. But as I wrote last week, if the Times is so concerned about the GOP's admittedly unfair and Byzantine primary procedures, why didn't they wage this battle last summer? Because McCain, who was an extreme longshot at the time, didn't have the money to devote to a primary as late as March. He thought he'd be in Gary Bauer-land by then.
Bauer
It was a spectacular showing by McCain, as have been the massive crowds he's attracted at every appearance he's made since Feb. 1. I've written about politics since 1976, when, as a college newspaper editor, I was present for Jerry Brown's upset primary win in Maryland over Jimmy Carter, an event that was so exciting, given Brown's age and visionary platform, that I almost believed in the political process. I didn't even care that Brown's victory was orchestrated by the corrupt Maryland machine (Gov. Marvin Mandel and his financial cohort Irv Kovens) that wanted to send Carter the equivalent of a dead horse's head. Twenty-four years ago, Maryland was still considered a Southern state.

The charisma of Brown was jaw-dropping; at every appearance in that brief race, whether it was at Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College or the primary night celebrations at the Sheraton Hotel in dilapidated downtown Baltimore, he had the rock-star appeal that Carter and certainly Jerry Ford couldn't even comprehend. The shortsighted, sheep-like mainstream press would soon turn on Brown, and thus ruin the career of the most promising politician of my generation.

So I can understand the exultation legitimate McCain supporters feel now. It's a heady time, but it'll be brief. Already McCain is going overboard with his Rocky routine and extemporaneous attacks on Bush. It'll play for a short period, but once he's exposed as the consummate insider who's hoodwinked an atrociously gullible media, a lot of voters will be disillusioned.

Lest this column be written off as sour grapes, let me state once again that I carry no particular water for Bush. I don't know him; I haven't donated money to his campaign (Tina Brown's $1000 contribution to Hillary Clinton speaks to her journalistic integrity); and I have no fealty to his family. Indeed, I was as disgusted as other conservatives when President Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge in 1990. That mistake, in conjunction with Ross Perot's showboat routine, helped the untested, unprincipled shyster from Arkansas to occupy and foul the Oval Office.


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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