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Jewish World Review April 19, 2000/ 14 Nissan, 5760


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Consumer Reports



Kick the Democratic Donkey When He's Down -- LAST WEEK, I argued against George W. Bush sticking his beak into the Clinton administration's persecution of Bill Gates and Microsoft. Most conservative commentators thought it was an ideal opportunity for Bush to get ahead of an issue, instead of either reacting to a goofball accusation by Al Gore or keeping to his low-key tour of the industrial heartland, introducing his ideas on education, health care and tax cuts.

His reticence to speak out on Gates has paid off: if he'd been quick to react, the media would've unfairly tarred him with a the-rich-help-the-rich label. Bush's stance against excessive litigation is well-known, and it's likely, should he win in November, the Microsoft matter will be dropped or settled in short order.

But now is the time for Bush to go on the offensive and use his bully pulpit as the Republican Party's leader. The drop in the Dow and NASDAQ last week can be attributed in part to the penurious Microsoft decision. Entrepreneurs can justifiably ask, If it happened to Gates, who's next with a Reno-led Justice (sic) Dept.?

Bush can point all of this out to voters-half of whom, no doubt, own some sort of stock-and repeat, repeat, repeat his insistence on tort reform. No one likes lawyers (except Democratic candidates), especially those who make millions of dollars on frivolous and exaggerated lawsuits. Now's the perfect time for Bush to lash out against the Clinton administration's coziness with $500/hour lawyers and antipathy to tax cuts. After all, there's a strong case to be made that part of the market's decline was due to investors trying to become liquid so they could meet their April 15 taxes-with the insane levy on capital gains only the most penurious and damaging to the economy.

At the same time, Bush can level an assault on the character of Bill Clinton, a safe tactic given his standing in the most recent Gallup Poll that showed him substantially leading Gore on the question of leadership and personality. The Texas Governor can crack a Reagan-like joke that last week, while protesters were fouling Washington, Clinton was at the Sequoia National Forest in California-safe from the demonstrations-issuing the following statement about the standoff over Elian Gonzalez in Miami. Clinton said: "When this thing finally plays out, in the end, the law has to be obeyed... I just told [Attorney General Janet Reno] that I strongly supported her efforts and that we clearly had to uphold the rule of law."

Bush can praise Clinton's knowledge of the law and then segue into what Robert Ray, Kenneth Starr's successor as independent counsel, said last week. In maintaining that it's a possibility that Clinton will be indicted upon vacating the presidency, Ray was defiant: "It is an open investigation. There is a principle to be vindicated, and that principle is that no person is above the law, even the president of the United States." Unlike most of the country, even Republicans, I believe that Clinton should be prosecuted, just as Richard Nixon deserved to be after Watergate. Had it not been for Gerald Ford's politically disastrous pardon, Nixon would've done time, a fair outcome considering that so many of his staff members spent months or years at Allenwood or similar white-collar detention centers.

That Woman
Clinton, in yet another example of trying, at least subconsciously, to damage Al Gore's chances of getting elected, told a stunned audience at the American Society of Newspaper Editors last week that he has little remorse about being impeached by the House of Representatives. In what will go down as the most famous statement of his checkered career-aside from, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky"-Clinton said: "But on the impeachment, let me tell you, I am proud of what we did there, because I think we saved the Constitution of the United States."

Everyone knows that Clinton has enormous chutzpah, but this outburst was clearly delusional, something that Bush can harp on. How did Clinton save the Constitution? By lying under oath, lying to his staff and lying to the country? By invoking every stall tactic he could muster-executive privilege, etc.-to subvert justice? By using his power as president to alter the news cycle, such as by bombing Iraq on the eve of his impeachment, or leveling a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan just after he confessed to the American public his involvement with Monica Lewinsky?

Clinton is a sick man if he believes he "saved" the Constitution. Bush has plenty of ammunition in his quest to oust the scandal-ridden Clinton-Gore team from the Oval Office-the '96 illegal campaign contributions being just one topic of conversation-but now the President has handed him another made-for-tv moment perfect for 30-second advertisements in the fall.

Dumb and Very Dumb
The new editor of George, Frank Lalli, reputedly a smart hire, certainly embarrasses himself on the subject of negative campaigning in his April issue. He writes, under the headline of "Fight Against Dirty Campaigns": "Send anyone you might support-including candidates for local office-a letter, fax, or e-mail saying that they will lose your vote if they go negative. Then ask friends and neighbors to do the same. Politicians pay far closer attention to such messages from what they call 'real people' than you might imagine. You and your fellow readers of George have enormous clout. Use it against candidates who have no respect for the truth."

Somehow, I don't think Lalli meant that the empowered George readers should use their clout against Al Gore, a candidate who clearly has "no respect for the truth." Do you?

The New York Times continues to double as Hillary Clinton's campaign manager. In a front-page editorial last Sunday, Clifford J. Levy combined the paper's bias with bad creative writing.

His lead: "They may never have set foot in New York, have little use for big-city notions and harbor only a vague idea of which vowel goes where in the last name of the Republican who wants to be the state's next United States senator.

"But for many of the people who have been showering Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's campaign with donations from far-flung ZIP codes, just one fact matters: His opponent is Hillary Rodham Clinton. And she must-must!-be stopped."

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