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Jewish World Review August 3, 2000/ 2 Menachem-Av, 5760


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One cheer for New York -- WHEN NEW YORK'S he-said/he-said between Ed Koch and Al D'Amato debuted several months ago, I thought it was a lame one-page filler for the city magazine that hasn't had an original cover feature in years. (In the Aug. 7 edition, New York tells readers "What It Really Costs to Live in New York." Can another story about the angst of competing for a suitable private school be far off?)

Still, deputy editor Maer Roshan has moderated the weekly dialogue between these two fatheads with remarkable skill and humor. Roshan's no student of politics-he writes, erroneously: "When you look at the electoral map, Bush and Gore are running about even," a falsity that even Tipper would currently dispute-but he generally puts on a good show.

For example, he asks Koch, "Given Cheney's controversial record, why do you think Bush chose him?" Koch, a reluctant Gore supporter, shoots back: "Because he doesn't give a [darn]. Bush is getting arrogant now. He believes he has this election locked up. The fact is, he doesn't."

Koch is completely wrong: The Bush team is running, despite the current favorable polls, as if their candidate is the underdog. Forget the nonsense about Gore's debating skills-given his high level of expectation, that'll probably end in a wash-with the economy humming and Clinton's store of September, October and November surprises, not to mention Sidney Blumenthal's dirty tricks operation, this election is far from decided.

Still, Koch's candor is a welcome tonic in a magazine that reminds any astute reader of the film Groundhog Day.

Less amusing are Michael Tomasky's biweekly reports on the Hillary Clinton campaign. Granted, Tomasky is a liberal, but he's in the tank for the First Lady so deeply you'd think he was auditioning for Joe Conason's column slot at Salon. In his latest take on the U.S. Senate race, Tomasky writes: "Yet apparently more central to the Jewish vote than any of the above [Rick Lazio's sleazy cozying up to the city's Jews] is an incredible charge against Hillary Clinton made by three hustlers that dates back 26 years, which no one gave any play to until a former National Enquirer reporter peddled the story to Rupert Murdoch's publishing house. Makes you proud to live in America's intellectual capital."


C'mon, Mike, has the likely prospect of Hillary's defeat turned your mind to mush? As any fair-minded media observer will admit, National Enquirer reporters are subjected to more legal vetting than their colleagues at the allegedly prestigious daily newspapers. In addition, many of the Enquirer's stories wind up, without attribution of course, in the mainstream press months after they're originally printed. And to invoke Rupert Murdoch as journalism's equivalent of Bill Clinton is just lazy thinking. Is New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. any less blatantly ideological than Murdoch?

On the subject of Al Gore's Newsletter of Record, the Times' presidential coverage is getting very ugly and very fast. Since the paper's proclamation on July 24 that the election is extremely close, a notion quickly dashed by a spate of polls just days later that showed Bush with a double-digit lead, the muskets have been loaded and prepared to shoot. Among Arthur Sulzberger's minions who hand out puke-packets of propaganda from their white stretch limos on the Upper West Side, surely "star" reporter Richard Berke is the Times' leading court jester.

On July 21, Berke, writing with Adam Clymer, concedes, "At a first glance of the electoral map, opinion polls show Mr. Bush is leading in enough states to assure him an electoral college victory." Still, he assures nervous Times readers that the matchup stands "as a very competitive contest." I believe the race will tighten considerably, but today's snapshot is nothing like Berke would have you believe. In fact, Bush is creaming Gore in the Electoral College, as any state-by-state analysis will prove.

Moreover, Berke and Clymer write, citing Harvard Prof. Thomas Patterson: "Yet experts say today's electoral snapshot should hardly be considered definitive, since the public really is not paying much attention to the campaign in midsummer."

Yet, just four days later, this time with Janet Elder as his accomplice in deceit, Berke completely contradicts the previous article. The pair, relying on the Democratic-skewed Times/CBS poll, writes: "As Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush prepare to frame their messages at the national conventions, most Americans say they already perceive pronounced differences on how they would handle health care, taxes, the environment and the selection of Supreme Court justices..."

But Berke isn't content to let his idiotic reporting stop there. In a piece last Sunday, he wrote: "If the Republicans seem timid about bashing President Clinton this year, it's only fitting. That's because they've stolen his political game plan. In fact the Grand Old Party is attempting to refashion itself entirely, clearly using Mr. Clinton as its model."


Last Saturday, in Owensboro, KY, Bush told a rally of 1800 people, "If you want somebody to unite this nation...if you want something better coming out of Washington, DC, there's a home for you in this campaign. And if you want a president who wants to lift the spirit of this country, give me a chance to be your president."

The "timid" Dick Cheney was more direct on Sunday's Fox News: "I am generally one of those people who thinks Bill Clinton has been an enormous embarrassment to the country. He is a tragic figure, in a way... I watched Ronald Reagan for eight years and Jimmy Carter before that and George Bush. And there was a standard there...that frankly hasn't been met by this administration."

GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, one of the House managers for Clinton's impeachment-and regardless of Bush's desire for a happy-shiny-people convention, those brave men deserve at least a salute from the delegates-was even more direct at a Blue Ash, OH, pit stop by the candidate. He said: "We want prosperity without perjury. Who would have thought that you'd see Microsoft split up and the Clintons still together? People are so tired of the disgrace that this administration has brought on the White House, they want to clean house. And George W. Bush is the person to do it."

No segment of the Times' makeup is immune to its dangerous infatuation with Al Gore. On July 25, the headline of Bush's pick of Cheney read: "Looking for Just the Right Fit, Bush Finds It in Dad's Cabinet." Damned old Dad, GWB must be saying, making me pick one of his retreads.

Likewise, on July 29, after a proposed makeover of the presidential primary system was killed by the Republican platform committee, the Times' page-one headline was: "A G.O.P. Overhaul of Primary Season Is Killed by Bush." Not to be a conspiracist, but notice the last three words, Killed by Bush. Think the Times will run even more stories about the rate of executions in Texas? Think they'll mention Bill Clinton's '92 notch on his belt, Ricky Ray Rector? The same day, in The Washington Post, no friend of the Texas Governor, a similar story was headlined "GOP Scraps Plan to Alter Primary Schedule."

The Times and the Post, both of which will endorse Gore in late October, also differed in their July 26 editorials about Cheney's selection as Bush's runningmate. The Times concludes: "In the days ahead, Mr. Cheney will be marketed as someone who brings sound judgment and safe hands to the executive branch. That is a reasonable depiction.

By virtue of experience and temperament, he does represent a responsible choice. But the voters will also be asked to factor ideology into their selection this fall. And Mr. Gore, waving a long list of House votes, will not allow Mr. Bush's picture of Dick Cheney to go unchallenged."

The Post: "Mr. Bush has managed his campaign well, and his vice presidential pick reflects that competence. No senior figure in the campaign has quit or been forced to go; the headquarters has not moved; it leaks rather little. Whether this makes up for the candidate's shortcomings of experience and policy outlook is a question for the campaign season. But Mr. Cheney provides the ticket with heft."


Op-ed columnist Frank Rich, apparently not prepared to put up his dukes, is distressed; he's given up on Gore, blaming the country for its complacency. Writing last Saturday, Rich hopes that Bush will emulate Thomas Dewey in 1948 and just coast along until November. In fact, that's what much of the naive media sees as happening, given their portrayal of Bush as a candidate who makes few appearances and prefers jogging to pressing the flesh. But getting back to '48, Rich writes: "But Mr. Gore is no Harry Truman. Plain speaking is not, shall we say, his forte, and attack rhetoric merely plays into the Republicans' hands by paradoxically making him, not Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney, seem more like a slashing politician of the despised Gingrich era in Washington."

As Bill Clinton might say, I honor Mr. Rich's early and wise surrender. But surely he's confused on one point: while Newt Gingrich was not shy about his beliefs, it's the Democratic Party that's monopolized the demagoguery and art of "the politics of personal destruction" these past eight years. Not convinced? Ask Maryland's '98 GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey, victim of a race-baiting campaign so blatant that even Democrat Kurt Schmoke, Baltimore's first elected black mayor, condemned it. Ask Kathleen Willey, Charles LaBella, Juanita Broaddrick or Linda Tripp.

Finally, there's the lazy and schizo Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd. Poor Hollywood gal just doesn't know what to think. On July 9, in a biting column about how Gore seems intent on blowing an election that, given the country's peace and prosperity, he should win, she writes: "Mr. Gore's biggest problem is that people don't like to like him, even when they like him. He comes across as a man who calculates every gesture." She concludes: "The clenched vice president should heed the classy ex-president: Americans enjoy change from time to time. Not moment to moment."

Yet 21 days later, President Bush's "classy" demeanor has turned sour, and who knows why. Maybe the polls, maybe a late-night call from Mr. Sulzberger. In any case, Dowd's latest opinion is this: "The two George Bushes are engaging and unpretentious. But deep down in their genes is that elitist sense that the important decisions should be made by those who are bred to make them."

I could go on...maybe about how Al Gore's "elitist sense" compels him to speak to mere mortals such as you or me (but not the Times editorial board) as if we were mentally challenged grade-schoolers.

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