Jewish World Review April 5, 2004/ 14 Nissan 5764

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Democratic Spirits Are Summoned Is Kerry in Charge?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | There are a multitude of very weird subplots in the 2004 presidential campaign, which isn't really that surprising since the early nomination of John Kerry has given political reporters a lot of free time. Where to start? I'm partial to John Kerry's phony conversion to a NASCAR enthusiast when he'd rather be playing polo with European royalty. The Senator's professed enthusiasm for the popular music that Joe Lieberman would like to see banned from the airwaves is also almost as rich as his wife. Kerry, 60, making the requisite visit to MTV's "Choose or Lose" March 30 forum, told the station's Gideon Yago the following: "I'm fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there's a lot of poetry in it. There's a lot of anger, a lot of social energy it. And I think you better listen to it pretty carefully, 'cause it's important."

Does anyone, especially under the age of 30, believe this crap? Kerry did allow that some rap lyrics, like those that suggest killing cops is cool, might be "over the line," but it wasn't exactly a Sister Souljah moment. You have to think that Kerry, whose raw intelligence — if not common sense — is unquestioned, must have pre-dawn toss & turns in bed wondering whether this kind of blatant pandering is worth it. The New York Times' Adam Nagourney reported on April 4 that Kerry plans to select his running mate in eight weeks. Maybe he'll bypass Bill Richardson and Mark Warner and tap Russell Simmons. Mark Steyn, writing in Chicago's Sun-Times on April 4, said of the candidates MTV adventure: "Anyway, as I said, I wouldn't call Sen. Kerry a liar. But I did get the vague feeling…if it had gone on a minute or two longer, the candidate's nose would have cracked my TV screen, extended across the coffee table and pinned me to the wall."

I wonder if Kerry's next proclamation on pop culture will be to denounce Bob Dylan for appearing in a Victoria's Secret television ad.

George W. Bush, who was never down with the music of his and Kerry's youth, doesn't have to fool around with such malarkey. The day after his opponent praised the "anger" in rap, Bush hosted three dozen baseball Hall of Famers at the White House, an event that he no doubt considers a perk of the job.

Jawboning with the likes of Sandy Koufax, Ralph Kiner, Al Kaline, Bobby Doerr, Stan Musial, Dennis Eckersley, Rod Carew, Paul Molitor and Juan Marichal had to be a lot more fun, and sincere, than Kerry's appeal to youngsters who probably won't even vote.

Meanwhile, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and his superiors (the Clintons) have ballyhooed the arguable notion that the Democratic party hasn't been so "energized" and "united" since the 1960s. At a recent fundraiser even Jimmy Carter — the sour, if not quite evil, scold who lives to promote the virtues of self-righteousness — was included on a stage with Kerry, Clinton, Al Gore, Al Sharpton, John Edwards, Howard Dean and the ghosts of FDR, JFK and Hubert Humphrey. Eugene McCarthy, by far the most fascinating politician of the late-60s, is still regarded as a pariah, even though he's vaguely anti-Bush.

Edwards was rather obnoxious, preening for the cameras while pretending that he's not actively campaigning for Kerry's backseat driver. Why Teddy Kennedy's Massachusetts comrade would want to be within 100 miles of the charlatan Sharpton is a deep mystery, and if Kerry doesn't sedate Dean for the next six months and let him rant about the environment instead of foreign policy that'll be one more indictment of a Yale education.

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Amnesty is back in fashion for the Dems and no one is taking more advantage of this phenomenon than George McGovern, the former South Dakota senator who until recently was considered such a sad-sack loser that he wasn't even given a nod of recognition at party's quadrennial national conventions.

McGovern, now 81, has collected more glowing press clippings in the past six months than in the entire generation since his landslide loss to Richard Nixon in '72. He wrote a rambling article for Playboy last fall, including a nasty word ("bullshit") that would sting the delicate ears of FCC chairman Michael Powell. Demonstrating that he's a windy and not terribly informed spectator, McGovern said of Dean: "I think Governor Dean has come this far in considerable part because his listeners get straight talk from, with no baloney. Dean speaks without a lot of oratorical gyrations, table pounding or yelling." Not long after, he endorsed the wacky Wesley Clark.

McGovern was given space on the Washington Post's Feb. 4 op-ed page, a piece headlined "A Campaign Fiasco That Wasn't," which only proved that the self-delusion common to so many legislators doesn't disappear when these attention-starved men and women retire. McGovern moans that his disastrous presidential run is held up as an example of "what candidates should avoid."

That's an accurate assessment from this corner, and I supported the man as an impressionable 17-year-old. McGovern writes: "Isn't the big lesson of 1972 this: Beware a president whose campaign dishonesty got him expelled from office shortly after his landside win? Is winning an election worth dishonoring the nation? Am I the one who should be ashamed about 1972?"

Of course McGovern shouldn't be ashamed about losing an election, and it's true that he was victimized by a White House that was subsequently revealed to use illegal tactics not only against this particular Democrat but those perceived as "enemies" in general. But that doesn't excuse McGovern's amateurish campaign that was long on enthusiasm but short on coherence. The backlash from the '68 convention's boss-controlled agenda led to an atmosphere where everyone but pros got involved and resulted in McGovern giving his acceptance speech at 2:30 in the morning. And this was in an era when Americans actually watched conventions.

McGovern was running against a relatively popular president, so even a mistake-free general election campaign was an uphill battle. But how could McGovern bounce back from his sloppy handling of picking Thomas Eagleton as vice president? After it was revealed the Missouri senator was once treated for a mental disorder, McGovern insisted that he backed his choice 1000 percent. And then dumped him, which led to an embarrassing search for a replacement where everyone but Sargent Shriver turned him down. That episode wasn't inspiring.

McGovern has an odd propaganda partner in John Dean, who's currently peddling his book Worse than Watergate, a screed that Robert Scheer, the paranoid Los Angeles Times columnist uses as fodder for his own private jihad against Bush. Dean, who did time in the pokey for his role as Nixon's lawyer (a fact Scheer doesn't mention) says, "This administration is truly scary and, given the times we live in, frighteningly dangerous."

But have no fear; the New York Times is trying its best to change the subject of Kerry's strange start to the general election. Last Sunday, Elisabeth Bumiller, a crummy reporter who's been accused by Bruce Springsteen-sycophant Eric Alterman as being in the tank for Bush, produced this remarkable sentence. "It is not a cliché to say that on Thursday [April 8], when Ms. [Condoleezza] Rice publicly testifies to the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, she will have to turn in a show-stopping performance as the woman on whose shoulders the credibility of the Bush administration now rests."

Indeed. Just imagine if Bob Kerrey trips up Rice on a question: It's Kerry in a landslide!

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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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