Jewish World Review March 13, 2002/ 29 Adar 5762


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Consumer Reports

No traction for Dems | The past fortnight was tough sledding for George W. Bush, at least on the domestic front, but the Democratic Party is so splintered the President's several bad decisions were barely noticed, at least by voters.

Unlike the National Review's editors, I'm not a conservative purist, opting for 80 percent of the pie rather than all of it. So the likelihood of Bush signing the legislative farce known as the McCain-Feingold "campaign finance reform"-if indeed it doesn't get bollixed up in the Senate by courageous GOP senators Mitch McConnell and Phil Gramm-doesn't keep me awake at night. Of course I'd like Bush to veto CFR, if only to raise the blood pressure of the elite media-the only people who even care about this sterling example of congressional sanctimony-but in the face of world chaos, it's fairly insignificant.

In a March 11 editorial, NR declared that Bush's acquiescence would constitute a "betrayal," because of the bill's blatant assault on the Constitution. I agree that it's a stinker, more a monument to McCain so he can retire with an achievement weightier than his bamboozling three-fourths of the DC press corps, but it's bound to be torn apart by the courts, and the loopholes will be energetically exploited by both parties.

Rich Lowry, the articulate NR editor and refreshing talk show pundit (especially when paired with anti-American journalists like The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel or the Times' Paul Krugman), was particularly affronted by Bush's cave-in to the would-be reformers, but he nonetheless pointed out a fitting example of McCain's utter hypocrisy. The Arizona Senator's zeal to dismantle the First Amendment-except in the case of media companies, which are deemed more worthy to express opinions than NOW or the NRA-supposedly dates back to his involvement in the 1980s Keating Five scandal. McCain says, repeatedly, that that mistake "tainted" him. However, not enough that he refused $30,000 in contributions from Enron's twin Global Crossing.


In Sunday's Washington Post, George Will was even more precise in detailing McCain's charade. He wrote: "Many reformers' ostensible concern about the appearance of corruption is just for appearances. The politicians' real concern is to silence their critics. Recently John McCain gave the game away.

"He was discussing the bill's provision that puts severe-for many groups, insuperable-impediments on any group wanting to run a broadcast ad that so much as refers to a candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. He said: 'What we're trying to do is stop'-note that word-'organizations like the so-called Club for Growth that came into Arizona in a primary, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads. We had no idea who they were, where their money came from.'

"McCain's attack was recklessly untruthful. He knows perfectly well what the club is-a mostly Republican group formed to support fiscal conservatives. The only ad the club ran-a radio ad-contained not a word of attack: It was an entirely positive endorsement of a candidate's views, and it did not mention or even refer to anyone else. All contributions to the club over $200 are disclosed.

"But on one matter McCain, who wishes he could criminalize negative ads, was candid. He-like the Times and [Washington] Post-is trying to stop others from enjoying rights they now enjoy."


Still, if Bush's anticipated capitulation isn't quite catastrophic-it will appease the grudge-happy McCain, and, in the short term at least, benefit the GOP, which is far more adept at collecting "hard" money-his unconscionable decision to impose tariffs to prop up the country's dying steel industry is truly an abomination. Sure, he made a pledge in the 2000 campaign to assist those union workers in pivotal "swing states," but this assault on free trade contradicts Bush's core economic philosophy. Trade representative Bob Zoellick and Commerce Secretary Don Evans can rationalize and spin the protectionist measure from now until 2004, but it won't erase the fact that their boss has thrown integrity out the window, all for union votes in Rust Belt states two years from now. Votes that he probably won't even receive.

Again, Will was entirely correct in his scathing assessment of this lose-lose policy in a March 7 Washington Post column. He wrote: "Proving himself less principled than Bill Clinton regarding the free-trade principles that are indispensable to world prosperity and comity, President Bush has done what Clinton refused to do. In the name of providing 'breathing space' for the U.S. steel industry, which has been on the respirator of protection for decades, Bush has cooked up an unpalatable confection of tariffs and import quotas that mock his free-trade rhetoric... Bush's steel policy is what results when intelligent people take up intellectual slumming-abandoning of proven free-trade principles-for the pleasures of political opportunism."

Also disturbing was Bush's last-minute entry into the debate over Judge Charles Pickering, a conservative who still received a recommendation from the ABA-the Democrats' usual arbiter of acceptability-but whose nomination for a federal appellate court post won't be voted out of the Patrick Leahy-controlled Judiciary Committee this Thursday, even though the entire Senate would likely confirm him. It may be that the choice of Mississippi's Pickering was a sop to Trent Lott and Bush had no strong feelings about the man, but his defeat will set a dangerous precedent for future nominees, allowing Ralph Neas' People for the American Way, the NAACP and feminist groups (for whom abortion is the only issue) to hijack a branch of the government.

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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