Jewish World Review June 16, 1999/ 2 Tamuz 5759
The Beltway Pundits Pout
Among the political journals, The Weekly Standard will grudgingly approve Bush; The National Review is a Forbes booster; and The New Republic, well, if you don’t know the answer to that, you might as well stop reading right now. Time and Newsweek can be counted upon to push a continuation of the Clinton-Gore administration.
So it wasn’t surprising that in a June 2 editorial The Wall Street Journal called for a series of debates before the primary season begins. It’s their hope that Forbes will outflank Bush, who, heretofore, hasn’t exhibited a sparkling extemporaneous speaking ability. Jonathan Alter, in his June 21 Newsweek column "Between the Lines," spent half his space rehashing the James Hormel appointment as ambassador to Luxembourg and trying to nail down Bush on the issue of homosexuality. The subhed to his piece betrays Newsweek’s bias: "To win, Bush must bend the GOP to his will, not the other way around. We’re waiting."
Guess what? Unless Bush has a nervous breakdown or is eaten by a bear in Iowa during the next eight months, he’ll be the GOP presidential nominee. Despite idiotic comparisons to past front-runners (the Boston Globe’s lazy David Nyhan is a chief offender, continually comparing the Bush campaign to Teddy Kennedy’s tepid challenge to Jimmy Carter in 1980), in truth, Bush’s commanding lead at this point in the campaign is unprecedented in modern American politics.
Alter says that Bush will have to follow Bill Clinton’s example of ’92, when the President attacked Sister Souljah, effectively shutting up Jesse Jackson. There are two differences here: First, Clinton went after the Sister after he had the nomination wrapped up; second, Bush has already corralled every faction of his party. There’s simply no need for him to figuratively deck Bob Barr or Pat Robertson.
Richard Cohen, whacking off in the June 1 Washington Post, surpassed even his standard for knee-jerk Beltway punditry. Making the preposterous claim that Bush hasn’t taken any positions on the issues that will shape the presidential campaign, Cohen writes: “This sign of political-intellectual activity in Austin [Bush’s rapid response to the Cox Report on Chinese espionage] is like getting a radio signal from outer space: Is there intelligent life out there? So far, the signs from Texas have not been encouraging. Where other candidates issue position papers, Bush essentially issues non-position ones... He stands for nothing other than winning—and that, especially in the ideologically fractious primaries, can be a prescription for losing.”
What a load of garbage.
In fact, Bush’s list of beliefs is quite clear: pro-immigration; pro-capital punishment; lower taxes; a strong military, with a foreign policy that has “a touch of iron”; limited government; against hate crime legislation; for morality in the White House; a tough but fair overhaul of education; pro-life, with the realization that that’s not the number-one issue in the country (unlike other past and present GOP candidates); an overhaul of Social Security to include significant privatization; and reaching out to minority voters that his party has traditionally written off as part of the Democratic base.
Unlike Al Gore, Bush speaks fluent Spanish and polls well among Hispanic and black voters; in fact, in current polls—as relatively insignificant as they are at this juncture—Bush is leading Gore in both California and New York. (A recent San Francisco Examiner poll showed a 49-44 percent lead for Bush over Gore.) If that trend holds up, the election’s over, given Bush’s lock on the Sun Belt and, with the likely selection of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as his running mate, he’ll compete successfully in the Rust Belt.
According to the latest Time/CNN poll, Bush holds a 55-42 percent national lead over Gore; for the GOP nomination, he swamps the competition, taking 54 percent to Elizabeth Dole’s 14 percent. In a Boston Herald/WCVB-TV poll of New Hampshire voters, Bush draws 45 percent to 11 percent each for Dole and McCain.
And Bush finally said that he would’ve voted to impeach President Clinton had he been in the Senate this winter, because “The man lied.” It took him long enough: I’m a supporter of Bush, but wasn’t comforted by his avoidance of this crucial issue last year, when he simply said he was “embarrassed by the scandal” and questioned the filthy atmosphere in Washington.
In his first campaign appearance outside Texas, Bush told a wildly enthusiastic crowd in Cedar Rapids, IA: “I do not run polls to tell me what to think. I make decisions based on a conservative philosophy that is ingrained in my heart: Trust local people to make the right decision for schools, cities and counties. Understand that capitalism is the backbone of our free-enterprise system... Understand the importance of family and the need for personal responsibility.”
Taking a shot at bitter rivals like Lamar Alexander, Dan Quayle and Pat Buchanan, Bush defended his oft-mocked slogan of “compassionate conservatism.” He said: “Is compassion beneath us? Is mercy below us? Should our party be led by someone who boasts of a hard heart?” That might sound corny, but after seven years of Clinton, even Mr. Rogers would be a tonic in the White House. Alexander, whose campaign is nearly bust, is Bush’s harshest critic, saying in Des Moines on June 8, “We don’t have any idea if [Bush] is ready to be president. He’s a popular one-term governor and the woods are full of popular one-term governors... Most voters in Iowa couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. His whole objective in this campaign is to make sure the race never gets to the people.”
Poor Lamar. He’s been campaigning for president since 1993 and hasn’t made a bit of headway. It’s no wonder that he’s even resorting to untruths like saying that Bush is a “one-term governor,” when in fact the Texan was overwhelmingly reelected in his state just last fall.
Quayle, mired in single digits in the polls, said, according to the June 9 Des Moines Register, that “I’ll be darned if we’re going to have a nomination that’s inherited. That’s not the way Republicans act. They want somebody to go in there and fight for it.” I take no pleasure in pointing out another Quayle faux pas—the media has unfairly ruined his career by biased reporting—but his statement isn’t true. And it’s often unfortunate, as in ’96, when Bob Dole indeed “inherited” the nomination because it was “his turn,” and subsequently ran the worst presidential campaign in memory, worse even than Michael Dukakis’ of 1988.
Meanwhile, Forbes’ most compelling declaration of the week, as his badly produced Social Security television ads blanketed the country, was to attack the newly designed $20 bill. He told the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce that when he becomes president, “We will have money that looks real again,” not “like Monopoly money.” And Buchanan, whose time as a candidate has come and gone, especially with the departure of his invaluable sister Bay as chief strategist, not to mention the legal troubles of his older brother Hank, is clutching at rhetorical straws.
Also in Iowa last week, he said, “We challenged King George as we called him in ’92 and we think we’re going to go up against the Prince of Wales in 2000, and we think we’ll do just fine.”
He’s wrong about McCain: the Arizona senator, whom I wouldn’t be surprised to see drop out of the race before New Hampshire, is just a whirlwind of contradictory ideas. Give him his due on Kosovo, speaking out forcefully while Clinton was playing golf, but how do you square his conservative credentials with goofy ideas like taking on the tobacco companies and thus effectively raising taxes—a regressive form of taxation at that—and his cosponsorship of campaign finance reform with liberal Sen. Russ Feingold? I have a theory: Because of McCain’s captivity in Vietnam, he has a reckless streak, popping off about anything that’s on his mind, that’s more commonly seen in men and women who are in their 80s and don’t give a hoot whom they piss off. Aside from his vicious joke about Chelsea Clinton last year, McCain, according to Boston Herald columnist Joe Sciacca, was at it again recently in that city: “The nice thing about getting Alzheimer’s is you get to hide your own Easter eggs.”
Nominating McCain would be a nightmare for the GOP: In the middle of a heated televised debate with Al Gore, he’s apt to ask the Vice President to step outside and duke it out. Like a real man.
In recent weeks Bush has hogged the covers of numerous magazines, such as Texas Monthly, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, Time and Newsweek, demonstrating that the media is forced to play by the candidate’s timetable, not the other way around. In a largely favorable Standard piece, headlined “The Anointed One,” Fred Barnes concludes: “[Bush has] all but leapfrogged the primaries and begun the general-election campaign... [strategist Karl, Bush’s James Carville] Rove offers two historic tests for determining who the candidate will be. Both suggest Bush has the nomination in hand. First, the candidate of the Republican establishment—governors, senators, House members, state legislators, party leaders—wins the nomination. And Bush is the establishment candidate. Second, a candidate who consistently leads his GOP rivals by 10 points or more the year before the primaries wins. That again is Bush. So all that’s left for Bush is to fashion a case for compassionate conservatism. It had better be a compelling one.” [italics mine.]
As for Bush’s wild youth, Democrats are clutching at straws. While one journalist with ties to Gore’s dirty tricksters told me that the Democrats will “have a buffet” dissecting the Governor’s alleged misdeeds, that doesn’t square with anything I’ve heard. One person in Austin told me: “Bush was an amateur drinker; I should know, I was a professional.” And in the lengthy June Texas Monthly profile of Bush, his old friend Doug Hannah told reporter Skip Hollandsworth: “He wasn’t that wild. We were such cheapskates back then that if someone’s parents were willing to pay for our liquor, we would go over there, have dinner and drinks, and play Jeopardy until it was time for someone to drive us home.”
Sure, that’s a buddy defending his friend against media dirt-diggers looking for damaging info, but as of yet, I haven’t heard anyone accuse Bush of rape, perjury or marital infidelity.
Stop! In The Name Of Sanity!
The stench from Hillary Clinton’s embryonic New York Senate campaign has permeated every corner of the city, from haute restaurants in the E. 60s to the East Village alleys where slackers and lifer junkies piss out their last hour of beer or cheap wine. I was stuck in traffic for more than an hour last Friday morning taking Junior to camp uptown; writhing with irritation on 6th Ave., I simply assumed that Hillary was clogging the streets with her entourage, perhaps making an appearance on Rosie O’Donnell’s silly television show. It turned out that pop star Ricky Martin was at Rockefeller Center, but that didn’t lighten my mood: We’re in for too much Hillary in the coming months, much of it at taxpayers’ expense, and there’s not a damn thing New Yorkers can do about it.
Anyway, at one point in the third inning, while my son was concentrating on Nomar Garciaparra’s at-bat, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to us. One thing led to another and I asked her about Hillary and whether she’d vote for her. “Are you kidding? What’s she done for people in this state? I’m for Rudy.” She then lowered her voice and continued: “And good riddance to that shit of a husband of hers.” The woman was from Great Neck, an area where Hillary has to poll well to offset Giuliani’s lock on upstate.
When I got home an e-mail awaited from my friend Peggy Noonan, who was out on the road on a Midwest business trip. She was in the environs of Saginaw, MI, and spoke to a bunch of people about politics. “Guess what the fresh-faced farmers’ wives wanted to know about first?” she wrote. “Hillary. A woman from a sugar beet farm said, ‘I got your Wall Street Journal piece on Hill and blast-faxed it to all my friends!’” Noonan, on June 8, wrote the definitive examination of Hillary’s solipsistic motivations.
“Hillary’s generation of liberal political operatives watched, learned and added a variation: They would use words and images not to reveal but to obscure, not to clarify but to confuse. They would mislead their way to power. They felt they were justified: They didn’t think anything Mr. Reagan said was true, and yet the people supported him. Ergo they were manipulated. Ergo we will manipulate too.”
On the same day, in the New York Post, Jack Newfield wrote an entertaining column in which he admitted that, as a columnist, he relished a Rudy-Hillary slugfest. Most reporters aren’t so honest. However, as a New Yorker, he continued, he’d rather see neither of the publicity hounds in the race, preferring a matchup of Rick Lazio or Peter King on the GOP side, pitted against either Andrew Cuomo or Carl McCall. Not in the cards, Jack, and you know it. In the column, he’s an equal-opportunity (to use Upper West Side lingo) basher, reciting Hillary’s long list of unexplained White House and Arkansas legal mysteries, and pillorying Giuliani for his mean spiritedness.
Right on both counts, I’d say, but I don’t understand the following sentence: “Rudy is essentially a one-trick pony. He cut crime and improved the quality of life. He never found a second trick.” Pardon me, Mr. Newfield, but making New York a safer and more hospitable place to live and work is not a small accomplishment; I don’t know that he needs to do much more.
About Hillary, he says she “sounds more like Boss Tweed than Eleanor Roosevelt...a grandiose, overly entitled materialist—almost a yuppie Ma Barker. What a race, Ma Barker vs. Eliot Ness.”
If Newfield weren’t such a committed Democrat, he’d close his column with an endorsement of Giuliani. Despite his abhorrence of GOP right-wingers, the veteran political observer knows that Giuliani is a political moderate, who’s pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and even endorsed Mario Cuomo in ’94. But Newfield’s past won’t allow such heresy. When November of 2000 rolls around, I predict he’ll reluctantly support Hillary, despite all the coherent objections he raised in this excellent column.
Yeah, so what? She’s almost as dishonorable as her husband; I say it’s fair game. Dowd can’t write a column without referring to a Hollywood film—this time Austin Powers—and says that Starr is out “to destroy our puerile but lovable hero, the shagadelic playboy with the pelt on his chest, Bill Clinton. Oh, behave, baby!” Not only is Dowd’s puzzling defense of the Clintons very, very strange, but what exactly is lovable about either Clinton?
Meanwhile, Mr. Hillary was all puffed up with his Kosovo “victory” last week, and was positively delusional in an appearance on Jim Leher’s The News Hour Friday night. As reported by the Times’ Katharine Q. Seelye on Saturday, Clinton reacted to GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel’s statement that he’s lost the American people’s trust by saying that Republicans had spent seven years “attacking me personally because they knew the American people agreed with my ideas and the direction in which I was taking the country, and on one occasion, much to my eternal regret, I gave them a little ammunition.”
Amazing. This man spins himself. Lying to the country for eight months is “a little ammunition” to Clinton; refusing to acknowledge that voters repudiated his first two years in office by choosing a Republican Congress in ’94—and affirmed that control in two subsequent elections—is plain dishonest; and as far as personal attacks, even many diehard Democrats acknowledge that Clinton will be remembered as the most morally corrupt president of this century.
But back to the First Lady: As she’s probably the first to remind the President, it’s her show now. Leave it to someone from Massachusetts, in this case Jack Williams, a tv anchor writing in the June 11 Boston Herald, to completely confuse the nation’s current political mindset. He writes, in cheering Hillary on: “And the Republican Party will help by self-destructing. The GOP is controlled by a small but powerful faction that will force otherwise able candidates to toe the line on gun control and abortion, thus alienating the majority of voters.” Even the Beltway print pundits have admitted that the GOP is desperate for a White House win and is ignoring the “small but powerful faction” that Williams cites. No wonder he’s on local tv.
Beckel: “The only time [Giuliani] ever leaves Queens is when he goes to Albany and asks for money. And guess what money he asks for? Money for New York City that comes out of the hides of upstaters... I know New York well; if there’s one thing upstaters hate worse than carpetbaggers it is New York City politicians.” Beckel knows New York so well that he thinks Gracie Mansion is in Queens; he knows New York so well that he’s under the impression Giuliani spends a lot of time with his rival George Pataki in Albany. And he’s such a savvy New Yorker that he thinks upstaters hate New York City politicians; perhaps Ed Koch or David Dinkins, but not the Republican Giuliani, especially when he’s pitted against Hillary Clinton.
Beckel: “...Rudy Giuliani’s idea of crime is plungers in bathrooms... Rudy Giuliani had the great Giuliani SWAT team; you know, those guys who shot 71 [uh, 41, Mr. New Yorker] times at an unarmed man... Rudy Giuliani cleaned up New York in a very simple way: He either had his police drive them out or shoot them out. You know what he did with the homeless? Do you know where they are? They drive them into Northern Central Park every night, and then during the day, they come back down... No, if you have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Rudy Giuliani, you have a warm feeling in your heart for serial killers. This guy is about as unpleasant a human being as I can imagine. That’s why they love him in the Queens. That’s why they won’t like him in Poughkeepsie.”
I can’t stand Giuliani, I loathe the man, but wouldn’t it be splendid for his campaign if a nitwit like Beckel, who indulges in Al Franken routines, was Harold Ickes’ chief lieutenant for the Hillary campaign? Queens voters will adore Beckel.
It took an anti-New Yorker to put the race in perspective: Writing in the June 6 Baltimore Sun, James Lileks said, “Aside from the nuts, though, millions of liberal New Yorkers are more inclined to vote GOP than before. A conservative is no longer a liberal who’s been mugged; now a conservative is a liberal who hasn’t been mugged in a while, and realizes he has a conservative to thank.”
I get nauseous on the numerous occasions that Mayor Giuliani wears Yankees garb as if he’s a 12-year-old, but Hillary’s appearance at the White House last week with the World Champion Bronx Bombers, in which she kissed George Steinbrenner (“a great friend of the President and me”), a Republican, and donned a Yanks cap, was over the top. (George Will, on last Sunday’s This Week, said Hillary’s sudden Yankees boosterism is “an embroidered lie.”) The most pleasing aspect of this farce was that Al Sharpton was also invited, leading to the question of just how Hillary will finesse the fraudulent preacher when he issues an inevitable endorsement of her candidacy. Will she kiss him too? That’ll go over big in the suburbs and upstate.
Frank Ahrens wrote in The Washington Post about Hillary’s Thursday
appearance on the Today show, in which she played coy with host Katie
Couric about her New York plans. “‘Are you a big Knicks fan?’ Couric
asked. ‘I’m becoming a big Knicks fan,’ the first lady responded,
laughing. ‘More and more every day, huh?’ Couric parried. And then a
sleepy-eyed nation collectively
06/11/99: In the Days Of Gold