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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 1999/24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

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... Meanwhile, Over
at the Democrats’


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE DEMOCRATIC TOWN HALL MEETING in Hanover on Oct. 27 was far more instructive in its meaning: Gore’s advisers can spin all they want how their candidate is now “connecting” with voters, but it’s just not so.

He’s still tanking. Bradley will lose the general election against Bush, I think, but right now he’s the favorite for the Democratic nomination. There he stood, and sat, rumpled and professorial, speaking what seemed like McGovernite gibberish to me (that Hillaryesque health care system just for starters), but is the mother’s milk to members of his party.

Although I don’t think anyone understood his call for gay rights: “I support gays being able to serve openly in the military. If a gay American can serve openly in the White House, in the Congress...why can’t they serve openly in the U.S. military? It doesn’t make sense.” I happen to agree with the gays-in-the-military part, but I had no idea that a “gay American” has served “openly” in the White House. That Clinton, he’s quite a guy: First Black President, First Hispanic President, First Woman President, First Greaser President, First Chinese President, First Cokehead President and now, I guess, First Gay President.

Meanwhile, Gore embarrassed himself thoroughly, popping up and down like a malfunctioning jack-in-the-box, darting all over the floor, asking personal questions, telling stupid jokes and overall giving the impression of a brownnosing grad student. He can’t pull off Clinton’s I-feel-your-pain shtick and looks stupid trying to; and though he was smartly attired, a new suit can’t erase the picture of a desperate politician who just knows opportunity has passed him by. (Time’s scoop over the weekend that quasi-feminist author Naomi Wolf has been on Gore’s payroll, teaching him how to win the women’s vote and pick out a sexy wardrobe, is just more evidence that this is a campaign in deep, deep trouble.)

If these two really do debate six or seven more times before the Iowa caucuses, I have no idea how many personas Gore will try out, but he’ll probably lose votes each time. Meanwhile, steady Bradley will store up Gore’s attacks in his head and when he’s ready to unload, watch out. He was smart to leave Gore’s baggage—the finance “irregularities” of the ’96 campaign and the Veep’s absurd defense of Clinton on Impeachment Day—alone for the time being. With such potent ammunition, why waste it several months before the first votes are cast?

And Clinton is still sticking needles in the loyal Gore, telling CBS’ Early Show on Monday morning that Bradley is running a “credible” campaign. You’d think he’d keep his trap shut, but no. Clinton: “Bill Bradley is an intelligent, a compelling man with a good life story and a lot of friends built up in professional basketball and 18 years in the Senate and all the other things he’s done. And he’s running a very credible campaign.”

Oh yeah, his buddy Al Gore? Clinton said that if Gore can establish “his own identity” he thinks the Veep will be nominated.

At least Gore has one rabid fan in Washington. Appearing on Crossfire Oct. 27, Dem. Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, one of the President’s noisiest supporters in the impeachment battle, had strong words of praise for Gore. Asked by conservative host Mary Matalin to defend his statement that Gore’s been a leader, Wexler responded: “Led how? He’s a part of an administration that has led us to our greatest economic expansion in American history. Led how? He has reinvented government...” Hmm. I’ve missed that “reinvention.” Is the U.S. a monarchy now? But this is my favorite Wexler moment, and it’s one to savor: “No doubt Bill Bradley is a decent man. He’s an honest man. He was in the Senate for, what, 12, 18 years? What do most people remember him for? His jump shot. And I am a Knick fan.

“But Al Gore has got policy achievement after policy achievement. When you talk about feeling—I had a conversation with Al Gore two weeks ago about prescription drugs, and that man felt the pain that people in Florida are feeling, people all across the country are feeling... Al Gore feels what common people, what working people, are going through.” The New York Times, of course, was delighted by the town meeting, saying in an Oct. 29 editorial that the Democratic Party, by golly, has “fielded two formidable political performers.”

Back at Marty’s Think Tank

I waded through a lot of stupid political articles this week, but for sheer waste of space tops in the field was Dana Milbank’s “Campaign Journal” in the Nov. 15 New Republic, an effort I doubt was influenced by that journal’s recent change of editors: Owner Martin Peretz’s panicky replacement of the steady Charles Lane with an Al Gore puppet, Peter Beinart, couldn’t have driven the Jonathan Alter-in-waiting Milbank deeper into the Veep’s back pocket.

Need a shopworn topic to ruminate on as deadline approaches? Why not campaign finance reform; there certainly hasn’t been much written about that liberal favorite in the past 12 hours. And so Milbank opens his piece in stand-up comic mode: “For Halloween this year, I want to dress up as something really scary. That is why I’ll be going as Senator Mitch McConnell, and my wife will be outfitted as the Kentucky Republican’s omnipresent sidekick, Soft Money. She’ll be in a green foam-rubber ensemble; I’ll wear the usual McConnell accessories—horns, pitchfork, tail, cash-stuffed pockets.”

In reality, Beltway journalists might save some of their “maverick” jive and medals of courage for McConnell instead of John McCain, but that would be asking too much. Then they’d have to admit that the reason most Democrats want campaign finance “reform” is so that the First Amendment can be trampled while unions, reliably in the camp of hacks like Dick Gephardt and David Bonior, can have their way with taxpayers’ money.

Never mind that an increase of the current $1000 donation limit, a generation old, to $5000 to adjust for inflation, and a complete screening of all contributions via the Internet, would be an excellent way to prevent Clinton-like abuses in the future.

Anyway, Milbank used McConnell as a hobgoblin to explain why George W. Bush might’ve screwed himself by raising so much money. (I’m sure all the other GOP presidential candidates are in complete agreement.) You see, just as Gore scared other candidates out of the Democratic race and left just Bill Bradley, the surprise of the season, now Bush has blown away the competition with his fundraising, leaving—surprise!—just McCain as an alternative. It all works out. Try to follow Milbank’s logic: he says that Bush’s record cash-haul has “inadvertently” shrunk the GOP field, “knock[ing] out Dole, Buchanan, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, John Kasich and Bob Smith.” Funny, isn’t that what a presidential contender aspires to, getting rid of the also-rans and becoming the front-runner? Don’t you think John Kasich, not to mention Alexander or Smith, would like to be in Bush’s position today?

Milbank deserves a job at The New York Times. You’ll remember a few months ago when the paper led with a story detailing the Democratic Party’s stated desire to raise $200 million in soft money for the 2000 campaign. Not a negative editorial was to be found in this national organ of campaign finance reform, although people like McConnell are regularly pummeled in its pages. Then, just on Oct. 17, there was a front-page story in the Times about the New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Jon Corzine, written by David Kocieniewski, that was a virtual endorsement of the former Goldman Sachs & Co. chief executive.

The article read: “Money alone does not guarantee political success. And recent political history is full of examples of candidates with more money than sense of how to use it. But Corzine’s journey from political newcomer to a front-runner for the Democratic nomination is a case study in the power of money in politics and how to use it effectively.

“Corzine’s status as a major political donor helped him win the guidance of Orin Kramer, a financier and Democratic fund-raiser, who gave advice about navigating the factions of the state’s Democratic party and exploiting its divisions... Corzine has more than money going for him. With his unassuming demeanor and rags-to-riches history of rising from clerk to chief executive, he has convinced many party officials that he can connect with New Jersey’s middle-class voters.”

I wonder. Do you think it’s likely that a front-page Times story is being prepared about Republican Jersey City Mayor Brent Schundler, giving him advice on how to snare the GOP Senate nomination, despite his lack of fundraising background? Probably not. You’d think, given the Times’ editorial view, that the paper would encourage a bright and successful officeholder like Schundler to make the race, and perhaps bemoan the fact that the current campaign finance system is shutting him out.


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

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