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Jewish World Review April 21, 1999/ 5 Iyar 5759


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Sharpton’s Nostalgia Trip Is a Bust: The Backlash Is Immediate

(JWR) ---- (
P.T. SHARPTON’S RALLY LAST THURSDAY, ostensibly to protest the killing of Amadou Diallo by four inexperienced cops, clogged traffic; fell embarrassingly short of his prediction of 25,000 marchers, despite a $300,000 advertising campaign;POed Rudy Giuliani (not such an achievement, considering a hangnail sends him into conniptions); evoked nostalgia for civil rights demonstrations of the 60s; and drew surprisingly sympathetic coverage in the city’s dailies.

I thought the saddest moment of the pre-fab event, aside from David Dinkins’ self-pitying justification of his lackadaisical tenure as mayor, was the statement from Diallo’s father: “We thank almighty Allah that chose Amadou Diallo. We thank almighty Allah for the sacrifices that bring multicolor and religion together for peace and solidarity.”

When Sharpton the Charlatan has exploited Amadou’s death for all it’s worth and has moved on to a new crusade, Mr. Diallo and his wife, pawns of the “reverend,” who have understandably tried to numb their personal tragedy, will still be without their son. A year from now Sharpton won’t even remember the name Diallo.

Mark Poutenis
Jodi Wilgoren’s article in The New York Times on Friday was typical of a buffaloed media corps in this city. Her lede read: “A multiracial throng of thousands marched in memory of Amadou Diallo yesterday, shutting down half the Brooklyn Bridge and several streets in downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan during the afternoon rush as they chanted about justice and peace.” Perhaps Wilgoren had to file her story in a hurry—completely possible—or maybe she’s just dim: this rally wasn’t about the “memory” of Diallo as much as an opportunity to give the finger to the Mayor by a group of citizens who don’t like Giuliani for any number of reasons. It was a plausible reason to take off from work on a seasonable spring day, and a chance for kids who “weren’t there” in the 60s to participate in a “real” civil rights rally, as well as a nostalgic trip to the past for people like Harry Belafonte and Ossie Davis.

Giuliani, who’d have been smart to say as little as possible about Sharpton’s sham, couldn’t contain himself, minimizing the turnout as much as organizers exaggerated it, and was quoted in the Times as saying, “Maybe the rhetoric had gotten to such a vicious and hateful level that people just don’t want to associate with that.” I don’t blame Giuliani for his anger at being compared to Hitler and Milosevic, but he’s playing into the hands of detractors by ranting and raving, just as he hurt himself by not reacting to the Feb. 4 shooting with more diplomacy.

Despite all this unrest, Giuliani’s poll numbers for a possible Senate race against Hillary Clinton—who’s increasingly unlikely to run—haven’t been damaged at all. In fact, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, he’s actually gained ground on Clinton in the last month, trailing by just five points. It’s possible that all this commotion in the city, which is overwrought considering that crime has decreased dramatically on Giuliani’s watch, has energized upstate and suburban voters to support the Mayor. And if Rep. Nita Lowey is the eventual Democratic Senate nominee, Giuliani will win by at least five points.

Dinkins, in an astonishing statement, considering his five daily showers and all that tennis during his four years in office, told the crowd at Federal Plaza: “We have worked too hard too long, moving from the back of the bus, to now put our children in the back of an ambulance.” Huh? What about Crown Heights, Mr. Dinkins? What about the far higher number of murders under your regime?

Dinkins also told the New York Post: “Most police officers are good working people who put their lives on the line for us. But there are those who are cruel, and that’s why we’re here.” That’s a reasonable sentiment. But it’s also true that while most New Yorkers are “good working people” there are thugs who prey on citizens, and when a “person of color” kills either a cop or resident in cold blood, P.T. Sharpton isn’t there to organize a rally to further his own twisted political goals.

Last Saturday, in Wilgoren’s “News Analysis” piece in the Times, she wrote about Giuliani using his Friday forum on WABC to blast the protesters for comparing the cops to the KKK and himself to Hitler, while exulting in the lower-than-expected turnout for the march. Again, Giuliani was stupid to go on the attack; that only inflames his enemies. Wilgoren quoted political consultant Norman Adler, who made the apt point of wondering what the next step for the “movement” was now that the march had gotten the city’s attention. “If I were they,” he said, “I would be spending my time figuring out how to go to step two, and that is how to create an organization committed to the 10-point goals and organization with a staff, and a board, and with a budget, and with some strategies for achieving your goals.”

But that’s too logical. Most of the people who participated in the march are now going about their normal routines, and Sharpton doesn’t have the patience to follow Adler’s advice. That would keep him out of the media spotlight for too long. Instead, he was on his way to Riverside, CA, Friday night to “protest a police shooting” there, and is making plans for the Diallo Parents Tour Part II.

Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in Sunday’s Washington Post that Sharpton’s inflammatory showboating has already disrupted the city in a negative way, adding “[A]s the Rev. Sharpton has proved often enough, it is easy to abuse [Martin Luther] King’s great and glorious legacy.”

She continued: “The first cost is already obvious: The police are holding back. Pilloried by the demonstrators as racists and criticized across the city by whites as well as blacks, police officers are telling reporters that they can see the mistrust in people’s eyes as they ride around town or walk the streets in uniform. In the toughest neighborhoods, they are openly taunted by defiant youths, and in response, some are less willing to risk their lives in doing their job.” But Sharpton will now be a demonstration frontman for hire. The local police in Des Moines took too long to rescue a cat from a tree on Maple La.? Call P.T. Sharpton to stir up the local folks for such an unconscionable breach of professional responsibility.

The Beltway Media Back Bradley
(For Now)

BACK TO THE SUBJECT of presidential politics—I’m confident there’s enough Kosovo coverage in this week’s paper without MUGGER’s pro-ground forces sentiments—it was another terrific week for George W. Bush, despite getting roughed up by the Times’ William Safire on foreign policy. (Safire has never been kind to the Bush family; in fact, against his better judgment, he even voted for Bill Clinton in ’92. My suspicion is that right now he’d pull the lever for John McCain, despite the Arizona senator’s absurd stance on campaign finance reform.) Bush collected more political endorsements, in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as that of Virginia’s Gov. James Gilmore, and has amassed over $7 million without holding one official fundraising event.

Sunday’s New York Post reported that Bush would defeat Al Gore by a 54-41 margin: even more significant than that figure, however, the Pew Research Center found that Bush holds a 10-point advantage over the veep among women, the core of Bill Clinton’s support in his two under-50-percent victories. (A CNN-USA Today poll had Bush ahead of Gore 59-38.) Also, 74 percent of Pew’s respondents said they were “tired of all the problems associated with the Clinton administration.”

John Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post on April 14, claims Gore has only a tenuous grip on the nomination: “The prudent and careful Bradley may not be the most exciting guy in the world, but he’s a more serious and—let’s face it—less weird guy than Al Gore.” This is somewhat significant in that Podhoretz, like most Republicans, hopes that Gore does win the Democratic nod, figuring he’d be an easier opponent than Bill Bradley.

Finally, Gore’s unfavorable rating is 43 percent, which scares Democrats silly, so much so that the front-runner’s sole challenger, Bradley, is the topic of much heated discussion in Washington. On Sunday’s This Week, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said that a high-ranking Democratic official says Bradley now has a shot at the nomination. A quickie poll on Friday’s Daily News website had Bradley favored over Gore by a 67-32 margin.

Gore is flailing about so willy-nilly these days—after all, he’s said that Clinton will be remembered as one of the country’s greatest presidents—that according to this week’s Newsweek, he’s actually considering tapping an hispanic as his runningmate. The list includes Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, California’s Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. This is a sign of panic: if Gore can’t win an overwhelming majority of hispanics—despite Bush’s successful overtures to the growing minority—he may as well drop out now. A far better choice would be Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: obviously, Gore will win the overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland, but if he’s set on a woman, Townsend would make sense, if only for the Kennedy name.

Still, I think Gore will prevail, assuming the Kosovo war doesn’t spill into the primary season. The Democratic establishment, which is firmly behind the Vice President, has too much to lose if he doesn’t win the nomination: for example, if it’s Bradley vs. Bush in the general election, it’s far less likely that Dick Gephardt can win back the House of Representatives for his party, because it’ll throw its machine into chaos. I expect so much money and time will be spent to derail Bradley—as well as dirty tricks—despite his glowing press notices, that the former New Jersey senator will come up short. Scores of columns have been written in the last month suggesting that Bradley might stage an upset, but none of the authors can explain exactly why. It’s not as if Gore and Bradley differ much on the issues, and despite all the hype about the value of the latter’s “life experience,” he’s still dull and isn’t likely to energize voters.

David Shribman’s April 13 piece in The Boston Globe was typical of current Beltway punditry: his recites Bradley’s background of growing up in Missouri, his NBA stardom and three terms in the Senate, as if that makes him a radical alternative to Gore, who admittedly was raised as a patrician, even though he now pretends to be a farmer. Shribman quotes Bradley: “‘I am trying to explore the ‘feeling side.’ I could not have done that 10 years ago. I’ve lived life long enough to have perspective. I can share my feelings now, without self-consciousness.’” Well, that’s just dandy, another chief executive who can feel the country’s pain. Wayne Woodlief, in an April 8 Boston Herald column, was even more besotted by Bradley. He writes: “Yet Bradley is now a solid contender. And it isn’t simply because of Gore’s ragged start. Bradley’s low-key blend of literate, deep thinker, graceful former athlete and careful listener is catching on.” With whom, Woodlief doesn’t let his readers know. He then gives Bradley’s explanation of why he didn’t run in ’92: the Jersey senator hadn’t traveled enough, he said, hadn’t stitched together a campaign apparatus that “could help him not just win, but govern.”

And here’s where I groan: “And he hadn’t examined himself enough.” What, is this a race for Berkeley’s sheriff?

It’s Bradley’s tremendous good luck that no other Democrat had the guts to challenge Gore: in a two-way race, he’ll be the recipient of votes from party members who don’t like Gore or his association with Clinton; if it was a scattered field, like in past primary races, the results would be splintered, with Gore most likely receiving the most votes.

Still, a year from now, when the nominations of both parties are decided, I think it’ll be Andrew Ferguson’s prescient essay in the March 8 Weekly Standard, pre-Kosovo, by the way, that’ll be seen as the last word on Bradley. He likened Bradley to Adlai Stevenson and Gene McCarthy as a man whose appeal to “journalists is less a matter of his moderately liberal ideology than it is of his persona: a man of ideas whose intelligence, learning, and sense of irony place him off to one side of the grubby world of politics—the anti-political politician.” Ferguson, one of the wittiest writers in Washington, even includes the ’68 Bobby Kennedy in this category, although he qualifies this by saying: “I mean the later, Aeschylus-quoting Bobby, not the 1950s right-winger who asked Joe McCarthy to be the godfather of his first child.”

In the end, Ferguson doesn’t believe Bradley has the stamina, or the nastiness to indulge in negative advertising, to be successful, writing: “For such a man, losing can be a kind of vindication... For the moment, at least, he is content to be this decade’s heir to the tradition of Adlai and Gene—men of conviction and principle (we were told) who looked to create a new kind of politics, who embraced big ideas they could never quite express, who ran for president, and who lost.”

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/16/99: Notes From A Baltimore Hick: Pressing My Nose Against the Window
04/14/99: The Bush JugGoreNaut Continues; Send Sharpton to A Rwanda Fat Farm
04/09/99: John McCain’s Moment
04/07/99:The Media Flips: It’s No Longer "Just About Sex"
04/05/99: The Gore Republic Gets Dressed Up. So What?
03/29/99:Louder Than Bombs: Jetlag and English Manners
03/26/99: Hollywood’s Horror Show
03/24/99: Black Ops Mark Vietnam War, Class War & the POW/MIA Issue
03/19/99: The Wealthy Survivor
03/17/99: Clinton’s a Broken Man: The GOP’s Huge Opportunity
03/12/99: Like Father, Like Son: New Hampshire in Another Era
03/11/99: Who is Dorothy Rabinowitz?
03/10/99: It’s George W.’s to Lose
02/26/99: Springsteen Ain’t No Chopped Liver; Vanity Press Musings
03/05/99: This Must Be the New World: The Mainstream Is Left Behind
02/26/99: Hillary, Juanita & Rudy Kazootie; First Baker, then Rich and Soon Lewis
02/24/99: The New Yorker Takes the Local: Mister Hertzberg Strikes Out; A Search for the Clemens Upside
02/19/99: The Howell Raines Conspiracy
02/17/99: History Lessons: An Immigrant’s Advice
02/12/99:The Man Who Owns the World
02/10/99:The Impeachment Trial Splatters: Lindsey Graham Emerges a Hero
02/05/99: A Slight Stumble for Bush
01/29/99: Rich Is Back in the Tank
01/29/99: Not So Fast, Mr. & Mrs. Pundit
01/27/99:This Is Not America: Clinton’s Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers
01/25/99:Sniffles and High Fever: Kids Say the Darndest Things
01/20/99: Whole Lott(a) Waffling Goin' On
01/14/99: Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office
01/08/99: Drudge Is the Hero
01/06/99 : MUGGER & the Martians
12/30/98 : Last Licks of ’98: Some Heroes, Several Villains & Many Idiots
12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irving’s the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starr’s Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabar’s: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1999, Russ Smith