Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2004/28 Tishrei 5765

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Kerry's Got Rhythm After All: He's Been Shoppin' Around


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The highlight of last weekend, other than seeing David Ortiz finish off the Anaheim Angels with a 10th inning homer on Friday night, was a short political discussion with a cabbie who drove the boys and me downtown on Sunday afternoon. A lifelong Democrat, whose radio dial was tuned to NPR, this Baltimorean insisted that for the first time as an adult he wouldn't be voting in a presidential election. Do tell, my blessed neighbor, how did you reach such a decision? The short answer (he went on at length) was "John Kerry's no Catholic, if you ask me. I don't like Bush, but this Kerry is pro-abortion and wants to let two men get married. That's not right."


I didn't burden this fellow with my own views, or the fact that both Al Gore and Bill Clinton, while not Catholics, were pro-choice and certified metrosexuals, and instead just said "Amen," and thought how fascinating this exchange was in light of an Associated Press brief I'd read just an hour earlier. Kerry, told by his advisers that he's so white he couldn't tell the difference between Van Morrison and Al Green, has belatedly courted the votes of black Americans, a Democratic bloc until recently taken for granted. Speaking at a Baptist church in Miami, flanked by temporary allies Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Kerry promised the congregation, "We have an unfinished march in this nation… Never again will a million African Americans be denied the right to exercise their vote in the United States of America."


By Oct. 31, I suspect that number of "disenfranchised" citizens in Florida will swell to five million, with nary a mention of the standard electoral fraud that takes place every year, to the advantage of both parties, in cities like Milwaukee, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Cleveland and Chicago. Kerry also promised that — surprise — his campaign would marshal a coalition of willing lawyers across the country to challenge every single disputed vote. It makes you wonder about the possibility of one or two Supreme Court justices croaking in the period of time that the Democrats drag out the recount in 15 states. Who wins then?


The AP report went on: "Black turnout is key to Kerry's plan for victory in Florida and elsewhere — less than 10 percent of black voters nationally supported George W. Bush in 2000. But Kerry's campaign says there have been efforts to turn religious blacks against him based on his support for abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples. Jackson told worshippers their political concerns are issues that touch their everyday lives [apparently the reverend/marriage counselor/philanderer doesn't include religion], not gay marriage. 'November 2, the power is in your hands, hands that once picked cotton.'"


Who knew that so many Miami residents were 175 years old and former slaves, but then I don't have the pipeline to the Almighty that Jackson apparently enjoys. Sharpton, needing an attention rush even more than Eliot Spitzer, helpfully added, "Everything we have fought for, marched for, gone to jail for — some died for — could be reversed if the wrong people are put on the Supreme Court." Copy that, Al. If Bush is reelected there's simply no doubt that Stonewall Jackson, John Calhoun, Jefferson Davis and Sen. Robert Byrd will be exhumed and placed on the high bench. Wait: instant correction. The former KKK member Byrd is still alive. As Kerry might say on his forays into black neighborhoods, "My bad."


Sharpton, it goes without saying, wasn't alone last week in making incomprehensible statements. Starting with the ridiculous, as mentioned in Rush & Molloy's Daily News gossip column on Oct. 7, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, a dimwit who starred in the silly The Day After Tomorrow, was admirably civic-minded at a recent NYC benefit for the ACLU. "Politics is getting sexier to young people. But voter registration forms need to be places where young people are going to see them."

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Come again? Maybe this year's election is "sexier" for Gyllenhaal, who undoubtedly has the pick of groupies at liberal functions, but for serious young adults who are actually involved in this campaign — on both sides — licking envelopes, cold-calling potential voters and arranging rides for the elderly to the polls on Nov. 2 might be exciting, and career-enhancing, but hardly "sexy." And if politics is so "sexy," you'd think kids over the age of 18 would make the minimal effort to find "registration forms."


On the other hand, while Ralph Nader is undeniably an egomaniac in the same league as Michaels Stipe and Moore, any Bush supporter had to chuckle at his comment last Thursday in Albany that John-John Edwards is a "sniveling coward," because he didn't robustly challenge Dick Cheney about tort reform.


Which reminds me, since we're talking dinosaurs here, no election would be complete without the idiocy of Gloria Steinem. In an open letter to Democrats, Glo and two dozen other feminists, chastised the de-frocked Nader for exercising his constitutional right to run for president. "This election is about ending the reign of George Bush," the missive imaginatively said, "who is intent on dismantling and destroying all that we have worked for years to achieve. In his current candidacy, Nader seems prepared to sacrifice progress on the issues that women care about — privacy [translated, abortion], education, child care, health care, workplace equity and nonviolence at home and abroad." I am Gloria, hear me whisper!



Now, while last Friday's debate didn't produce any memorable gaffes by either candidate — although Kerry muffed the abortion question and Bush neglected to point out that his opponent didn't support Saddam Hussein's expulsion from Kuwait — the Senator landed in some hot water over the weekend after the publication of a Times magazine profile of him by Matt Bai. At one point in the sympathetic piece, Kerry made a foolish statement, which taken out of context — the art of political warfare — is going to bite him in the ass.


On the subject of the war on terror, Kerry said: "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." Giving Kerry the benefit of the doubt, I assume that means that once he becomes president his administration will wipe out Al Qaeda and similar zealots. That'd be an extraordinary feat — especially since terrorism likely will be a constant threat for at least a generation — but using the word "nuisance" is providing the GOP plenty of ammunition. Also, it's not clear what Kerry meant by saying he wants to return "to the place we were." Does that mean the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was so busy hosting Arafat at the White House that he didn't notice the growing threat of Osama bin Laden? Does that mean that the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing were a "nuisance"?


(Sorry, another correction. Kerry also flubbed a question in St. Louis when he promised not to raise taxes for people who make under $200,000. No one really believes that, of course, but you'd think some of his supporters in New York, Boston and Los Angeles, where an income of $200,000 lacks the purchasing power of a similar figure in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland or Michigan, might be (privately) a little cheesed off.)


The New York Times is Kerry's foremost print cheerleader, but let's not forget the Senator's hometown Boston Globe. Surpassing even the Times for biased columnists — which is an almost Herculean task — the Globe gives op-ed space to Dan Payne, a "media consultant" who has worked on Kerry's senate campaigns, but isn't affiliated with his presidential effort. At least officially. Writing on Oct. 9, Payne, under the headline "Bush's incredible shrinking lead," offers the following Terry McAuliffe-sanctioned nugget. "Florida dreaming. Kerry has to overcome Bush brother Jeb, ballot mischief, cheating on overseas military ballots, major GOP absentee voting program, Ayatollah Rove's evangelical jihad, disenfranchisement of African-American voters. Desperate Bushes may steal Florida again. Only this time, results won't be close." At least Payne didn't equate Bush with Hitler or Stalin.



Still, last week's groaner came once again courtesy of the Times, with its "The Town Hall Debate" editorial of Oct. 9. Strikingly partisan and condescending at the same time, one can only wonder what Bill Keller and Gail Collins will order up from its editorial grunts for the upcoming Kerry endorsement.


This excerpt is typical: "Town hall meetings are one vestige of early American democracy that modern presidential candidates know very well. No one who has survived a New Hampshire primary season needs to be told what it's like to answer questions tossed out by a group of average [emphasis mine] citizens. It's the democratic process in its most amiable state: earnest Americans asking serious questions about the issues… [T]he president was utterly incoherent when asked about whom he might name to the Supreme Court in a second term. His comment about how he didn't want to offend any judges… was a joke — but an unfortunate one, given the fact that the president owes his job to a Supreme Court vote."


Got it. The headline for the paper's Kerry pick is "Re-Defeat Bush." Not original, but George Soros will approve.


Finally, I won't be goaded into making a prediction on the Sox-Yanks playoffs. But I'm really sick of reading that in order for Boston to legitimately win the World Series and break the Curse, the team has to beat the Yankees first. Had the Twins prevailed and the Sox went on to roll over them and then the National League representative, the title would still count. Younger Red Sox fans still moan about Aaron Boone's walk-off homer last year, but that was a mere blip compared to the choke of '86. One thing I'm sure of: the playoff MVP will go to either Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon.

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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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