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Jewish World Review May 17, 2000/ 12 Iyar, 5760


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Out of their heads -- A FEW political notes.

1. If further evidence is needed that The New York Observer is desperately in need of an editor, look at Tish Durkin's front-page story in the May 15 edition of the feeble weekly. Durkin, whose intelligence I measure as somewhere between Rep. Patrick Kennedy's and Amy Sohn's -- skewing closer to the former -- wrote what has to be the stupidest lead sentence of the year. Durkin: "Assuming that he is still following New York politics, Cardinal John O'Connor must be having a field day recapping his funeral." Don't think so, Tish: the recently departed holy man was probably playing poker with Dick Young, Babe Ruth, Roy Cohn and Ezra Pound, having the time of his afterlife.

2. But don't count out The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye, a reporter who, the canny Mickey Kaus claims, is anti-Al Gore, although given her place of employment that's somewhat hard to fathom. Last Sunday, in a throwaway article headlined "Bush Versus Gore Means an All-Baby-Boom Race," Seelye began: "After decades of caricature as the most self-indulgent and permissive generation in American history, baby boomers-including Al Gore and George W. Bush-are realizing it's time to get with the program."

Huh? Get with what program, Kit? Granted, Seelye's newspaper is littered with condescending slackers who feel a sense of entitlement because of their affluence and moral superiority, but writing off an entire generation as "self-indulgent" is, well, self-indulgent. Can I tick off just 10 boomers who got with the program long before Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. turned the Times into a blatant organ of the Democratic Party? Let's try: Bill Gates, Celia Farber, Dave Kansas, Richard Parsons, Peggy Noonan, Johnny Marr, John Judis, Fred Seibert, Cynthia Crossen and Susan Orlean.

3. Now that Gore's polling numbers are in the tank, showing the candidate trailing in almost every demographic against Bush, the Times has apparently decided to co-opt ethically challenged Tony Coelho's top spot in the Veep's campaign. For example, in an above-the-fold front-page story last Sunday, the Times purposely misleads its readers. The article, by Sara Rimer and Raymond Bonner, is headlined "Bush Candidacy Puts Focus on Executions," and it can be read two ways: one, that Democrats are examining the death penalty in Texas; or that Bush's entire candidacy is about executions. Guess which impression the editors intended to convey?

"Ma" Richards
It's true that under Bush's gubernatorial tenure, more Americans have been executed in Texas (52) than any other state in the same period of time. However, while almost the entire piece is dedicated to Bush's unbending stance on capital punishment, there's just the briefest mention of a fact that fairly negates the reporters' argument. Bush's predecessor, the liberal Democrat Ann Richards,

"presided over the executions of a then-record 50 death row inmates." And since she was mercifully a one-term governor, defeated by Bush in '94, Richards actually let the state snuff more prisoners in a shorter period of time than her successor.

It was a quiet Mother's Day at the Smith loft-the boys and I were delighted that Mrs. M didn't traipse down to DC for the Democratic rally disguised as the Million Mom March-and that's just the way my wife likes it.

(Frankly, fewer kids would get killed or maimed by guns if the media, in a craven grab for ratings, wouldn't give so much attention to stories like the Columbine tragedy, the enormity of the coverage of which gave impressionable and troubled teens copycat ideas.)

Mrs. M was scheduled to sleep in as long as she liked, but by 6:30 Junior and MUGGER III were too excited to let that plan work out. Who could blame them? Our younger boy gave his mother a beautiful bookmark with a dried flower inside that he'd made at school: perfect, he said, since Mrs. M is never without a book. She's definitely the fastest reader I know, whether it's a James Brady novel, the latest from Jim Knipfel, a brushup on Greek mythology or a collection of essays about physics.

Junior's present was a little more complicated. He'd created a jewelry box out of popsicle sticks in his first-grade class, colored it orange, and asked if I'd take him to Tiffany's so he could put something inside it. We went there on Friday afternoon and he immediately picked out a diamond and ruby necklace-with a price tag of $65,000. "Uh, son, let's move on to another area." Couldn't blame him for the thought, but he was satisfied to buy a pouch of Tiffany coins that Mrs. M can redeem at some time in the future.

I don't want to carp on the Million Mom March-it's actually an idealistic notion that was polluted by politicians-but reading Hillary Clinton's message delivered outside the White House during a "warm-up" rally really made my blood boil. The Senate candidate said: "We don't want flowers or jewelry. We don't want a nice card or a fancy meal as much as we want our Congress to do the right thing to protect our children." Coming from an apolitical mother those words might've had some meaning, but anything that Hillary says is poll-tested and phony.

The fact that the march was organized by Donna Dees-Thomases, sister-in-law of Susan Thomases, the First Lady's close friend and political adviser, made it all the more suspect. Anyway, aside from gun control there are plenty of things that Congress can do to help the country's children, most of which Democrats like the Clintons and Al Gore oppose.

School vouchers, for one, so that parents can have the choice to yank their offspring from schools with union-protected teachers, who are often woefully ill-equipped to instruct students of any age. A bill in support of massive tax cuts is a constructive one that Congress could pass: I'm sure the single mothers and low-income wage-earners would rather have some extra dollars in their pockets rather than the government's.

When I was a kid, Mother's Day was a big deal at our Huntington household as well. Like most women with children, the admittedly Hallmark-holiday was my mom's favorite day of the year. My brothers and I would clip daffodils and a few tulips from the weedy garden in the front yard, put them together in a bouquet, and she'd always act surprised. We'd also chip in money to buy a gift or two: one constant was a box of butter crunch candy; others that I remember included a set of yellow dishes that she used for clam dip; a porcelain dove (in the Vietnam years); as well as poems and stories that we did as school projects. My dad would go into work late on those Sundays, so that our mother could have all her boys together. Corny, but true: back in the days when Leave It To Beaver and My Three Sons were classic sitcoms and not derided as conservative propaganda by the likes of bitter old bastards like the Times' Frank Rich.

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