Jewish World Review June 23, 1999/ 9 Tamuz 5759
The headline read "Al Gore as the Un-Clinton," and the writer reacted favorably to the Vice President’s tepid candidacy announcement in Carthage, TN, last Wednesday, pronouncing that Gore is "particularly expert on foreign relations and the environment, areas where leading Republican candidate, George W. Bush, is weak."
This, of course, is absurd. Where was Gore —who, according to the Times has been a “key policy player” in Bill Clinton’s administration—when the President was making a hash out of the war in Yugoslavia? Huddling with his wife Tipper, figuring out a way to shed seven years of Clintonian baggage is my bet. Where was Gore when the Chinese were pilfering U.S. military secrets? Helping count the illegal foreign contributions to their ’96 campaign, while munching on Charlie Trie’s eggrolls. As for the environment, it’s true that Gore wrote a book on the subject, but as Mark Hertsgaard points out in a Los Angeles Times essay last Sunday, he’s been silent as Clinton has reneged on one environmental pledge after another, such as increasing the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles.
The Times editorial continues: “From this early vantage point it appears that the main danger in this campaign could be the spectacle of two candidates clinging so firmly to the center, appealing so consistently to the soccer moms and the suburban vote, that their themes become interchangeable in the public mind. If that happens, the election could very likely turn on issues of personality, and it would be unfortunate if the public reacted to its disappointment with Mr. Clinton by deciding this election on the basis of personal charm. The majority of Americans who talk to pollsters may say right now that they prefer Mr. Bush to Mr. Gore, but they are also wise enough to admit by huge margins that they do not know enough about either man.”
This is thinly veiled code that says the Times is scared silly that Bush might actually win the election.
There are several points to make about this ludicrous endorsement.
First, does the paper really believe that Americans don’t “know enough” about Al Gore after he’s been in office for seven years? I think they know he claimed to invent the Internet; said there was “no controlling authority” that prevented him from making campaign solicitations from his office; that on the day Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, Gore, at that infamous White House pep rally, insisted that his boss will be remembered as one of the greatest American presidents; and that despite his current mantra of “family values,” honesty is apparently not one of them. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have railed against the tobacco industry in 1996, exploiting his sister’s death of lung cancer in 1984, when he had bragged in Southern states during the ’88 presidential primaries that he tilled tobacco like any hard-working farmer.
Bush’s well-orchestrated rollout of his campaign, which baffled the mainstream liberal media aching for a fatal gaffe, surprised even conservative and moderate Republicans who were afraid that he’d be as stiff as Gore on the hustings. To the contrary, he shook hands with voters even after the cameras were gone, and used his father as an effective supporting actor in Kennebunkport, where President Bush was humble, admitted past mistakes and said it was his son’s turn now. Family loyalty: That’s a value Americans haven’t seen much of since Clinton took office in 1993. The Bush clan is different: By all accounts, Gov. Bush has been faithful to his wife, reveres his parents and counts on his siblings for support. I don’t care much for the Kennedys, but do admire their fealty to each other. Gore was demonstrably close to his father, and has a loving immediate family, but his tacit acceptance of Clinton’s abhorrent moral behavior is damning. It’s only now that the Veep is “distancing” himself from Clinton.
One more surprise to the Beltway media: They simply don’t know how to cover successful GOP candidates.
Another crucial element to Bush’s early success is, should he win the nomination, he’ll be the youngest GOP presidential candidate since 1960 (and Richard Nixon was born looking like he was 60 years old). He’s photogenic, lively and exuberant; it’s no wonder that he’s defeating the buttoned-up Gore among women voters right now. And Gore has reacted to Bush’s support among minorities, ludicrously speaking in Spanish at his announcement in Tennessee last week.
Even a liberal like the Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page was impressed by Bush’s initial performance. In a June 20 column, he wrote: “I was impressed with how effortlessly the younger Bush appeared to be overcoming his father’s biggest image deficit. The senior Bush suffered in the polls for his failure to convey to voters the sense of caring that seems to come quite naturally to the younger Bush. Dubya’s enthusiasm for winning people’s support has paid off handsomely. His crossover appeal is high with women, blacks, Latinos and others in the Democratic Party’s base, judging by the turnout for his landslide re-election to the governorship last year, and, more recently, by presidential preference polls.”
I don’t entirely agree with the following statement, but I’m sure the Bush camp has taken it to heart: “Mr. Bush is soaring in part because voters know nothing about him, while Mr. Gore is down because most of what they know about him is refracted through Mr. Clinton. If he can emerge as Clinton without the character flaws and with a Vietnam record, the political fundamentals make him the favorite.”
And Bush is likely to be bested by Gore in the presidential debates, just as the Vice President made mincemeat out of Ross Perot and Jack Kemp (although the media expectations for Gore will be so high that if Bush gives just B performances, the debates will be called a draw). Right now, I believe the electoral map favors Bush. Obviously, he’ll win Texas and Florida (where his brother Jeb is governor); with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (a pro-choice Vietnam vet) as his running mate, he’ll make inroads into the Rust Belt. And if Bush takes California, not the longshot you’d think, given the hunger for a change of administrations, the election is over.
The Longest Campaign
The gossip in Washington this past week was that Hillary Clinton might not run for Senate in New York after all. Smells like George Stephanopoulos (via Dick Morris, of all people) spin to me: She totted up discouraging stats that suggest she’ll get creamed by Rudy Giuliani and will instead raise a lot of money and save it for an Illinois race in 2004...or maybe to pay off legal fees. If she had a conscience, which isn’t likely, Hillary would divvy out some of those funds to all the White House aides who are now in debt because of her husband’s consistent lying over the years.
But I’m not convinced: Her campaign manager, the mercurial Harold Ickes, is far too visible these days if the First Lady was going to stay put in the White House. Besides, she’s already told 1000 of her closest associates that she’s “doing this [running for the Senate] for me.” And there was an encouraging poll in the Daily News last Sunday that has her defeating Rudy by eight points. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report says in its June 28 issue that Hillary will move to New York by the fall, whereabouts still unknown.
(Bill Clinton issued a denial of this report, but I don’t think he’s calling the shots in that marriage. He told CNN, “It’s not true that she’s going to move out of the White House... She is not going to stop being First Lady.” Says who, Bill? Also, according to Deborah Orin’s June 21 Post report, Clinton said he’s known “his wife was a closet Yankees fan.”)
An “operative” is quoted by the magazine as saying, “Everyone will understand if she has to go back to Washington for a NATO summit or something like that. But there’s no doubt that she’ll leave the White House early.” Yes, it is important that Hillary is present at NATO meetings; with husband Bill out on the golf course, and Al Gore taking Spanish lessons, someone has to have a cuppa with Tony Blair.
So, the race is on, putting me in the queer position of agreeing with the wealthy populist Michael Moore. We both say: Run, Hillary, run! although for different reasons. I’m counting on her staying in New York, fighting a futile campaign, instead of whipping up women voters for Gore in California, New Jersey and even Massachusetts. With Gore losing to Gov. Bush in preliminary polls (yes, they’re somewhat meaningless, but still a snapshot; he’s behind by double digits in Michigan, which ought to make Tony Coelho dirty his drawers), he’ll need a lot of help.
“I will be doing more than just working for her. I’ll be holding her hand the entire way. Give her a neck rub now and then on the campaign trail... I met her at a White House dinner. I went through the reception line where the Marine announces your name, and then you have five seconds to say hello. There are 300 people behind you. I shake [Bill] Clinton’s hand and he says, ‘I’m such a fan of yours. I love Roger and Me.’ Hillary hears this and says, ‘I’m a bigger fan.’ Then she takes me by the hand and she keeps her hand on mine... My face goes red. I’m having the only physical reaction that the Roman Catholic Church allows me to have... I’m into my second minute with her. The line is being held up. Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin is standing behind me. I tell her she should run for the Senate. She spends another minute talking to me. If she needs any help after she’s out of the White House, I’m there for her 100 percent. Well, 99 percent.”
Funny how Moore is such a fan of the Clintons: Weren’t they the couple who dismantled welfare and moved the Democratic Party to the center? Nothing like a “hot feminist babe” to make a guy throw his politics down the toilet. Go get ’em, Mike; you’ll make all the difference up there in Syracuse and Buffalo with your limo and long-suffering entourage.
On the GOP side, Joe Conason gave Giuliani a black eye in his June 21 New York Observer column. Noting that the Mayor is making “carpetbagger cries” about Clinton—something he claimed he wouldn’t resort to many months ago—Conason quotes from a 1964 college newspaper article that Giuliani wrote about the Robert Kennedy-Kenneth Keating Senate race. The youthful Rudy, a Kennedy supporter, wrote, in a piece called “Ars Politica”: “Let us hope that cosmopolitan New Yorkers can rise above the ridiculous, time-worn provincial attitude that has so disunited our nation.” Then Conason throws a jab at the hypocritical Mayor: “[T]here is something eerily amusing about Mr. Giuliani’s words returning to contradict him now. The next time he puts on his overalls and starts wisecracking about Arkansas, he may just have to explain why political carpetbagging offends him so much more today than it did 35 years ago.”
Unlike Humbert and Haberman, who are more constrained by phony tenets of “objectivity,” particularly in the case of the Timesman, Conason clearly declares his loyalty to the First Lady. In a sidebar to Dan Kennedy’s June 17 Boston Phoenix piece about the upcoming Senate race in New York, Conason again brings up Rudy’s long-ago column, and then enthusiastically endorses Hillary’s candidacy. This is no surprise, of course, since Conason has been one of the Clintons’ most vociferous supporters in the past several scandal-infused years.
In fact, two weeks ago, he was the lone journalist (well, with the dubious exception of Kitty Kelley) who was invited to a White House dinner in honor of Hungarian president Arpad Goncz. According to a June 9 Washington Post article by Roxanne Roberts and Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Conason was among a group of literary figures and celebrities who witnessed the First Lady in “a gauzy, beaded slate-gray gown by Pamela Dennis” while Martha Stewart “opted for pink silk capri pants and a short matching jacket.” Musical entertainment was provided by Judy Collins and the assembled had a meal of “salmon with portobello mushrooms, pecan-crusted lamb and bing cherry strudel.” Conason was joined at the White House by, among others, Tony Curtis, William Styron, Elie Wiesel, William Cohen, Paul Begala, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Richard Lugar, John Podesta, Susan Sontag and David Rieff. Joe, just like the Jeffersons, you’re movin’ on up!
Throw in Dick Gephardt, Bill Bradley, the insufferable Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, Bob Kerrey and, heck, just for grins, Patrick Kennedy, and I’d say there’s a battle for “titular” or “real” head of the Democratic Party.
But wait! Let’s call in the reinforcements. The ever-reliable Lars-Erik Nelson says that Hillary’s a winner in New York because of one man—Ken Starr. Nelson, hurting for material on June 16, writes in the Daily News: “As she runs for the Senate, this dweeby Peeping Tom, who was unable to indict [Hillary Clinton], threatens through his aides to issue a blistering final report on her supposed misconduct. What more could Clinton ask for? She faces a tough race against Mayor Giuliani, but if her luck holds, she can hang Starr around Giuliani’s neck and sink him like a stone.”
Sure, Lars. Starr might be a “dweeb,” but he’s not stupid, and has collected a ream of damaging material against the First Lady: all the familiars that would’ve been forgotten had she not decided to run for Senate. Filegate, Travelgate, missing Rose Law Firm records, etc., all potent evidence that Giuliani, far more tenacious and media-savvy than Starr, can have a field day with.
And Bob Herbert signaled the New York Times view with his June 20 column, writing: “More and more New Yorkers are seeing Rudolph Giuliani for what he really is, a power-hungry, petty and vindictive man whose policies are often fundamentally anti-democratic.” Apparently oblivious that he could be describing the Clintons, Herbert continues: “For years his excesses have been obscured or excused because of the falling crime rates in the city. And that has encouraged greater excesses. The city’s tolerance of those excesses seems to be diminishing. Fair and reasonable people can keep their eyes closed only so long.”
Aside from not mentioning what Giuliani’s “excesses” exactly are, I’d wager that “fair and reasonable people” take a look back at the David Dinkins regime and realize that even though the Mayor may be a skunk, he’s contributed to making New York a safer place to live.
id Shribman, the Boston Globe columnist who also writes about politics for Fortune, despairs for Hillary as well. In the July 5 issue of that magazine, Shribman said: “Why would one of the nation’s most accomplished women want to be a Senator when many of the Senate’s best and brightest [Fortune doesn’t edit for cliches] (Sam Nunn, Warren Rudman, David Boren) have given up in frustration?” I don’t know where this “most accomplished” malarkey comes from—unless you consider being used as a doormat by your husband, failing to convince Americans that a quasi-socialist health-care system made sense or dumping old friends when it’s politically expedient are virtues—but that’s standard Beltway pundit mush for you.
And don’t forget the rap group Screwball: They’re in Hillary’s corner as well, releasing a song called “Who Shot Rudy?” that includes the lyrics, “Nobody cried—it was real, like, some Jews celebrating when the Pharaoh got killed.” The writer of the tune, Kyron Jones, told the Associated Press: “I don’t want anybody to go out and shoot him. I’m just voicing the thoughts of my people.” Uh, okay, Kyron. Get back to me when your IQ rises above 25.
Finally, I’ll be glad when Hillary sets up her exploratory committee in early July so that Creators Syndicate Inc. will be forced to terminate her propaganda-laden column “Talking It Over.” Her June 2 ditty, which is no doubt printed in many smalltown newspapers, was typical, reading, in part: “We can no longer ignore the well-documented connection between violence in the media and children’s behavior. America’s culture of violence is having a profound effect on our children—and we must resolve to do what we can to change it.”
But not before Hillary’s Hollywood buds (and Geraldo) contribute to her
Senate campaign. Until then, vigorous ID checks at multiplexes across
the country will go a long way to solving the
06/18/99: Taki Growls And Prowls