Jewish World Review July 2, 2003/ 2 Tamuz 5763

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On a Roll; Loonie Lew


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The liberal media is in a dither over George W. Bush's record-breaking pace of campaign contributions for the 2004 election. It's overkill, they bleat, another sop to the rich who support Bush's essential tax-cut program. And now that DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, the fundraiser who was a virtual member of Bill Clinton's cabinet, is stifled by the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold campaign reform legislation, Democrats — including the numerous presidential contenders — will be further handicapped in attempting to win back the White House and Congress.

Money, of course, can't save a president (or Senate) that's unpopular with the electorate. But obviously — as Clinton demonstrated in '96 by running commercials attacking broke Bob Dole — it helps. Besides, think about this: When the Bush campaign blitzes the airwaves with perhaps $200 million before the general election, it'll be a small boon to the economy, or at least the electronic media's bottom line. I'd say that's real redistribution of wealth. It's not only Rupert Murdoch (the brilliant businessman who is ridiculously portrayed as owning half the country's newspapers and television stations) who will benefit, but all the extra employees hired to help cover the elections.

In a June 22 editorial, the post-Howell Raines New York Times whined about Bush's largesse. The paper said: "In financing a nonexistent primary — just as [the Times-endorsed] President Clinton did in 1996 — Mr. Bush will have corporate executives oversee the raising of super-wad donations of $200,000. If this doesn't imply, if not buy, crass influence, then Mona Lisa was a man."

Syndicated columnist Jules Witcover is so distraught, that in a June 25 Baltimore Sun op-ed he irresponsibly raised the possibility that the Bush campaign will follow the example of Richard Nixon's '72 reelection effort. While he concludes that GOP strategist Karl Rove is too smart to emulate the Nixon dirty-tricks campaign, he's clearly rooting for an excess of Republican hubris.

Witcover writes: "The Democrats can only hope that along with a stagnant economy and continued high unemployment, the arrogance that loose money triggered in Mr. Nixon's sure-thing reelection of 1972 will re-visit another Republican incumbent president."

Which is just another example of why left-wing extremist Eric Alterman's recent book, What Liberal Media? was a complete lie.

LOONIE LEW

On the other hand, Lewis H. Lapham, editor of Harper's, appears to be — judged by his monthly essays — a sour, bitter man devoid of any semblance of character. As I've written previously, Lapham, a devout Bush-basher, is nothing more than Michael Moore with breeding and a circle of friends who make-up Manhattan's elite. If it weren't so obnoxiously hypocritical, Lapham's defense of this country's under-privileged, while he sups at private clubs and consorts with the city's power brokers, would be hilarious.

Unfortunately, though one may be fooled, he doesn't engage in parody; a younger Tom Wolfe could write a short novel about Lapham alone.

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His July "Notebook," a circuitous piece about the draconian non-smoking laws that have gone into effect not just in New York City, but in other parts of the country as well, is smart in many ways. However, Lapham blames the wrong people for this despicable class-based campaign of the (mostly) affluent to make smokers — Lapham's had the habit for 50 years and doesn't apologize for it — social lepers.

The editor's rant is well-placed. He writes about zealots like Michael Bloomberg: "It's no good trying to explain to such people that their exposure to secondhand smoke is likely to do them as much harm as their handling of a lead pencil or their close association with a side order of mashed potatoes... The preferred attitude toward smoking accords with the canon of political correctness that has arisen over the last twenty years in concert with the government's pretensions to imperial grandeur — the news media cleansed of strong language and imperfect hair, the authors of standardized college tests inoculated against the infection of dangerous adjectives and subversive nouns."

These words, isolated from the rest of the essay — and Lapham's previous writings — represent the common sense and defense of the Bill of Rights that's increasingly rare today. However, Lapham forgets that it's his rich, liberal buddies who have initiated this trend. He blames the government, now largely Republican, rather than examining who's responsible for the anti-smoking witch-hunt. Largely, it's people like you, Mr. Lapham.

It was Hillary Clinton who, upon entering the White House in 1993 as First Lady, banned smoking on the premises, a rule that was lifted by President Bush. The escalation of eliminating smoking has originated in "blue" states like California, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. Social conservatives may have crazy ideas about homosexuality, prostitution and gambling, but they're not leading the drive to prohibit smoking even in the outdoors. Lapham rightfully takes Bloomberg to task for his economically idiotic increase on cigarette taxes and elimination of smoke from bars — which hurts small business owners more than those who are "allergic" to even an unlit cigarette or cigar — but fails to note that the businessman was a lifelong Democrat until he decided to run for mayor.

No Lapham snippet of wisdom is complete without a Don't-Forget-Florida jab at Bush. And so he pompously writes: "The question speaks to the positioning of the velvet rope with which American society now divides the kingdoms of the rich from the deserts of the poor. The reconfiguration of the nation's wealth over the last twenty-odd years...has prompted the establishment of a social order not unlike the one known to the early Roman Empire — an oligarchy in place of a republic, an equestrian class that buys its rank at the prices paid for apartments on Fifth Avenue and houses at Pebble Beach, a Senate and Cabinet composed largely of opulent landlords openly contemptuous of their tenants, a president of the United States who received his office as an inheritance."

Lapham may smoke, but I don't think he'd be caught dead eating pasta at an Olive Garden or flagging down the bartender for a martini at, say, downtown's Reade Street Pub. In fact, unlike most Americans, the Harper's editor is one of the privileged few who can get past the "velvet rope" he castigates. And I don't know if Lapham is a baseball fan, but if on occasion he visits Yankee Stadium, it's certain you won't find him in the bleachers or upper deck. More likely, the alleged egalitarian would be square behind home plate, sitting in a corporate box courtesy of one of his dinner-party companions.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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