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Jewish World Review / Oct. 16, 1998 /26 Tishrei, 5759


Mugger Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

BY LAST WEEKEND I'd had enough spinning to last the entire holiday season. There was James Carville on Larry King Live Wednesday night blaming Newt Gingrich for Bill Clinton's crimes and the entire impeachment inquiry. The rhetoric was as ancient as a rerun of Hee-Haw.

"The whole thing's been orchestrated by Gingrich since day one. He's been in charge of it. I mean, he's got the whole Republican caucus in his hip pocket... I'm going to talk about how Newt Gingrich has railroaded this whole thing-didn't even give the President a chance to respond-how they made his grand jury testimony. I mean, I'm going to be very aggressive out there... Like I say I am 'Corporal Cue Ball' Carville. I am going to be out on the front line fighting for my friends in Congress too."

Carville insists that Gingrich and the other GOP blue meanies are trying to force a government shutdown, but as Robert Novak reported on Sunday, Clinton hasn't even spoken to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott since Aug. 20; likewise, he hasn't negotiated with Gingrich at all over HMOs, Social Security reform or education. And, as GOP National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson has charted, during this year Clinton has 56 days at fund-raising events, 45 days abroad, 32 days on vacation and 22 days at photo-ops. It's not like he's been busy working on a domestic agenda.

Rudy's run is ridiculous; even Pecker
people cry out for Bush
But now that the election is three weeks away, the White House is spoiling for a fight with the "do-nothing" Republican Congress. And the GOP, which got burned by a similar gambit in '95, is wary of letting Clinton get the upper hand. For example, the President vetoed a farm bill last week, claiming there wasn't enough money for emergency aid. As The Wall Street Journal editorialized on Monday, the extra money for farmers wasn't even the administration's idea; it was a sop to Democratic senators Clinton needs for impeachment protection.

The Journal, which has chastised the Republican leadership for its spinelessness, makes this suggestion: "Republicans would serve both themselves and the country better if they boosted the emergency farm aid by, say $10, and sent it back to Mr. Clinton.

If the President were to veto it again, he, and not the Republican Congress, would be responsible for depriving farmers of aid... On its merits alone the farm bill is bad business, but what makes this especially rotten fruit is that it has nothing to do with saving farmers and everything to do with saving Bill Clinton."

Carville's through; aside from his admittedly brilliant strategy in the '92 campaign, he's now on the way to the scrap heap of political cutups who'll wind up as two paragraphs in a remaindered book about the Clinton presidency several years from now.

Meanwhile, while the President said his fate was in God's hands, the White House all week purposely projected an abnormally high number of Democrats who would defect to the Republicans' version of the impeachment proposal; Clinton himself (and Hillary) was busy calling House members to sway their vote while telling the public that he wanted the elected officials to "vote their conscience."

The New York Times, which has been vigilant in tracking the lunacies of our felonious chief executive, ran a banner headline on Friday that read "House, in a Partisan 258-176 Vote, Approves a Broad, Open-Ended Impeachment Inquiry," playing right into Sidney Blumenthal's hands. And then, on Sunday, a Times headline was the non-committal "Angry Voters Aren't Sure Where to Place the Blame." I do, but while I'll acknowledge that the slim number of Americans who'll actually vote in November are bound to be angry, a swift turnaround from just three months ago, I'm not sure that my friend Larkin is wrong when he says that the Democrats are going to benefit from all this mayhem after all. Not likely, but this election, considering that an economic crash could be an October surprise, is more volatile than even that of '94.

Gerry Ford had to stick his beak into the fray. Ford, who for some reason has achieved a role as a revered elder statesman (even Chris Matthews is buffaloed by the 85-year-old, who had a very undistinguished term as president in the mid-70s), wrote an article for the Times two Sundays ago in which he suggested a stern censure was the proper punishment for the disabled president. And people talk about Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's! Doesn't Ford, and the Times editorial board, realize that such a measure, in which Clinton would be required to stand in Congress and receive tongue-lashings would have zero effect on this incredibly dishonest man? Clinton would take his licking, just as he did as a boy in Arkansas, and then would go back to 1600 Pennsylvania, order a couple of Big Macs and celebrate, with Hillary, Carville, Harry Thomason and whoever's left from his skeletal staff, the fact that he got away with it again.

Thomas Friedman wrote a very persuasive column in last Saturday's Times, arguing that the distraction of the impeachment hearings only causes lawmakers and the country at large to ignore the enormous global economic crisis that is not only looming, but taking place right now. He wrote: "We are not just heading for lower growth, and possibly a recession. We are seeing at minimum a slowdown and at a maximum a breakdown in the whole progression toward free-market capitalism... [I]t has changed into a global crisis that requires enormous political leadership in general and U.S. leadership in particular."

Friedman then, desperately, I think, urges that Congress reconsider Ford's censure option so that Clinton can concentrate on the fractured economy. While the columnist is on the mark, crisis-wise, he's wrong to cave in to Ford's half-baked scheme. First of all, as Charles Krauthammer points out in this week's Weekly Standard, this censure quick-fix is most likely unconstitutional. More importantly, why entrust our economy to a man who's shown no agility whatsoever in the past year to foresee the obvious collapse of the Asian economy and utter breakdown of Russia. Again, a one-day rebuke of Clinton will only serve as a spanking for the disgraced president and then it will be business as usual. And that means bad business. It's imperative that Democrats and Republicans alike realize the country's facing not only a recession, but possibly a depression. Instead of a censure, Democratic party leaders, say Thomas Daschle and Dick Gephardt, should make the walk to the Oval Office and demand Clinton's resignation. They might be accompanied by Bill Bradley, Sam Nunn, Robert Byrd, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Lee Hamilton, Jimmy Carter, Joseph Lieberman, David Bonior, Charles Rangel, Dianne Feinstein, James Moran, and what the heck, even Teddy, Joe and Patrick Kennedy, just for a symbolic effect. They should insist that Clinton step down and allow Al Gore to take over.

For the Democrats this will have enormous immediate political benefits: it will minimize the party's losses on Election Day and make the impeachment process moot. I say this not because I'm in favor of a reinvigorated Democratic party, but because the prospect of a disabled president who has no ability to lead, with legal distractions and little moral standing among foreign leaders, is not acceptable. Gore, before he got infected by Clinton hypocrisy-his exploitation of his sister's death and son's accident, not to mention the '96 campaign violations, were inexcusable-is at least a decent man who I think can be counted upon to act upon the nation's grave economic predicament.

Yes, I'd like to see Clinton roast and squirm some more, because he deserves it, but it's too dangerous to keep him in office. Clinton should immediately be forgotten; let him go to Hollywood, work on his rehabilitation campaign, fetch drinks for David Geffen and Leo DiCaprio, whatever. The country needs a statesman with gravitas and Clinton is not up to it. If this scenario damages the GOP's political calculus, so be it.

However, that's not likely. One thing you can say for pundit Joe Klein is that he's consistent. Seven years ago, in New York, he was among the first to anoint Bill Clinton as the Democratic front-runner. His early Clinton-sycophancy and subsequent disillusionment eventually earned him millions for the book and movie Primary Colors, as he bounced to Newsweek and then The New Yorker. And in this week's issue of The New Yorker, there's Klein shilling for Bush brothers George and Jeb, who are cruising to victory in their gubernatorial contests in Texas and Florida. He practically cedes the GOP's presidential nomination to George W. Bush. Not that I'm complaining.

Listen to Joe's glistening prose: "[T]here is a freshness to both Bush campaigns. The brothers seem to have stumbled across an electoral formula and a new political vocabulary-independent of each other, they insist-that may constitute the most creative and humane Republican response to Clinton's successful effort to recast the Democrats as the party of the middle class: they are reaching out, with some success, to the poor, especially to Hispanics and to African-Americans... They remain conservatives, they insist; they also promise low taxes and limited government. Still, there is none of the harsh moralism and country-club exclusivity that have marked Sun Belt Republicanism in the past, and there is a determined emphasis on solving the social problems that Republicans often ignore."

In addition, Robert Novak seems to have gotten over his allergy to the Bush family. Writing in his syndicated column on Monday, Novak disputed the idea that George W. Bush is wary of making a presidential bid because of the ugly atmosphere in Washington. He spent the weekend with Bush in Austin and reports that the Governor is concerned about the effect a campaign might have on his twin daughters, but as for himself, "I'm being scrutinized right now... And what people are finding is that I'm a dedicated father, a loyal husband and someone who has brought honor to the office I hold." Novak writes: "To broaden the Republican base nationally, he told me, 'it's going to require somebody to carry a message that's not going to alienate anybody.' He is clearly talking about himself, and that doesn't sound like somebody afraid of scrutiny."

Meanwhile, the Rudy Giuliani-for-national-office boomlet was in full swing, with two articles in The New York Observer wondering which New York Republican would be a better presidential or vice-presidential candidate in two years: Rudy or Gov. George Pataki. The notion of Giuliani being tapped by Gov. Bush is not out of the question: in a parallel world. It's my bet that the superficial advantages of the Mayor-a northeast moderate Republican who'd help carry New York; a crime-fighter and tax-cutter; a Catholic; would be outweighed by a mean streak that's larger than Clinton's libido, a fascist's demeanor on anything that gets his goat, and that embarrassing habit of dressing in drag. Not to mention, while Ralph Reed will concede that the GOP needs to expand its tent and not preclude a pro-choice veep, someone as vocal as Giuliani on that issue just won't do.

George Will, who's been known to lose his mind in the past, devoted two successive columns to New York's frightening mayor, absurdly comparing him to Margaret Thatcher, and calling him "America's most successful conservative currently in office." He ended his Oct. 4 piece on a particularly flowery note, after describing the sprucing up of Bryant Park (now used by "nonfelons"), by saying that the coming outdoor movie at the park would be Breakfast at Tiffany's, "that romantic hymn to New York life in the 1950s, the decade that is, in a sense, Giuliani's destination."

I've lost my take-out dinner, what about you?

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


©1998, Russ Smith