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Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 1999/ 20 Kislev, 5760


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Let Jesse Join Pat & Lenora -- NOW THAT Pat Buchanan has bolted the GOP, with conservative leaders like Bill Kristol and Bill Bennett wishing him godspeed, isn’t it time for Jesse Jackson to stop humiliating the Democratic Party? Isn’t it time for race-baiting liberals such as Teddy Kennedy, Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt to say enough is enough, we don’t need this showboat trivializing our causes any longer? Obviously, Al Gore and Bill Bradley can’t lead the charge: they’re too dependent on the black vote in the coming primaries; but surely the party’s brain trust knows that Jackson’s latest stunt in Decatur was a parody of the civil rights movement, a sad example of a washed-up huckster who refuses to recognize his own irrelevancy.

When Jackson was arrested on Nov. 16 for protesting the expulsion of six students who were involved in a Sept. 17 brawl at a high school football game, the rhetoric that came gushing from his mouth like especially foul diarrhea might as well have served as his last statement as a respected politician. For when Jackson compares the punishment of these thugs to the gallant struggles of his supposed mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King (let’s remember that it was Jackson, not a key member of King’s entourage, who showed up on television the day after King’s assassination, his shirt still bloody), he minimizes King’s movement and all the people who died in those meaningful protests and marches.

Jackson had the gall to tell reporters on Sept. 16: “We pray for G-d to see us through. It worked for us in Montgomery. It worked in Selma. It worked in South Africa. It will work in Decatur.”

The fight in Decatur wasn’t at all similar to redneck cops hosing down blacks in Southern states 37 years ago; it wasn’t an issue of students being refused service at the local luncheonette or forced to shower in different stalls from their white peers. Jackson doesn’t have much going in this Al Sharpton-like crusade, as The Washington Post reported on Nov. 21: “Opinion surveys also reflect a sharp drop in public support of the six expelled Decatur students after a brief home video of the Sept. 17 fight in the football stadium’s bleachers was broadcast nationally on network and cable television. The video shows the youths storming through one end of the bleachers and beating other students as men, women and children flee in clearly visible fear.”

This is the kind of behavior that Jackson is reduced to defending. Further proof he’s a raging hypocrite: When other black, and white, leaders lambasted Bill Clinton for his dismantling of welfare, Jackson’s criticism was obviously mere lip-service, for not long after he was “counseling” Clinton about his affair with a young intern. Anything for the spotlight. As Jeff Jacoby recalls in his Nov. 18 Boston Globe column, Jackson said in ’93: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery—then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

In the Nov. 15 Chicago Tribune columnist John McCarron, while blasting Jesse Helms for his 16th-century view of life (why he hasn’t joined Buchanan is one of the minor mysteries of the presidential campaign), also put Jackson’s laughingstock status into perspective. He wrote: “Rev. Jesse Jackson (a one-time Democratic presidential candidate and civil rights leader from South Carolina, Chicago and the world) is the best thing the Republicans have going.

Every time Jackson jumps into a racial or diplomatic trouble spot, as he did last week in Decatur, and reduces a complex situation into one of his catchy, made-for-TV rhymes, he forces the Great Middle to confront the sad state of the Democratic Party and its ever-so-correct politics of victimization. Jesse Jackson creates Republicans.”

Jackson’s latest escapade—one that will erode whatever credibility he has left, and that isn’t much—even put Crossfire’s ultraliberal Bill Press in a dither. After interviewing Jackson on Nov. 17 and being pelted with double-talk, Press concluded: “Mary [Matalin, his cohost], you know, I have three words to say—come home, Jesse. I mean, seriously, I love this guy. I have marched with him in South Central L.A. I’ve marched with him with the farm workers. I’ve marched with him with the machinists. This is not worth his time and attention. These are six kids, troublemakers, who got in trouble again, got caught, and they got expelled, rightfully so.”

Never mind all this “Come home, Jesse” garbage: throw this opportunist to the dogs, marginalize him like Pat Buchanan. When will influential Democrats realize that this carny is an albatross who’s doing their party great harm? No skin off my nose—I’d like to see Jackson campaign extensively, district to district, in the 2000 elections—but you’d think that some left-winger would have the brains to shut him up.

Hillary R. Clinton, Will You Please Go Now!

HANDS DOWN, the most exciting bit of information in last Sunday’s New York Post was that P.T. Sharpton is contemplating running for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s New York Senate seat. Giving Hillary Clinton a deadline of January, Sharpton told channel 4: “If you’re too scared and too intimidated and too much of a lackey to challenge Giuliani, then step out of my way and let me take him on... My patience is running thin.” If Clinton does run, which is still unlikely, Sharpton says he’d run for mayor; but he’d prefer going to Washington because in the Senate he’d be “dealing with national foreign policy.” What a thought.

And, it appears we have another cliche for Election 2000: “the whispering campaign.” According to Time’s Eric Pooley, writing in the Nov. 29 issue, “For months, the idea that Clinton would drop out had been the subject of a Republican whispering campaign spread by miscellaneous kibitzers and Giuliani operatives.” Pooley’s all over the state in his essay: on the one hand, he quotes a Clinton aide who said, “If people think a few bad days are going to make her pout and go home, they don’t know who they’re dealing with.” On the other, the Time reporter repeats many of the First Lady’s miscues: the Yankees hat, the use of soft money ads, that charming Suha Arafat kiss and hug, the FALN clemency and her newfound Jewish roots.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of people who aren’t “whispering” about the desirability of a Clinton run: Democratic City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge said last week she’s “the weakest candidate”; the New York state Democratic chairwoman, Judith Hope, had encouraged the First Lady to give up “her day job”; even Congressman Charlie Rangel, who first urged her to run, is wondering why she hasn’t yet announced. Because she can’t win.

Meanwhile, according to syndicated columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover last week, “...Democrats are talking among themselves about who might serve as a replacement candidate, with speculation centering on Robert Kennedy, Jr., Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.”

National Review’s Kate O’Beirne wrote on the biweekly’s Web edition last Sunday: “When she pulls out of the race next year, expect her to explain that she tried to juggle her responsibilities, but found she couldn’t without sacrificing her White House duties. Therefore, she is sacrificing own political ambitions in New York to fulfill her responsibilities to the country. No one will believe her, but since when has that stopped a Clinton from insulting our intelligence?”

In fact, in a decidedly downbeat week for Hillary, I heard of only one person who enthusiastically insisted the campaign was on, and full tilt! Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the ultraliberal from Maryland—and as representative of the East Baltimorean that you could find, with a wonderful accent—was bubbly about Hillary on last Saturday’s Capital Gang. She said: “I think Hillary wants to be a senator. I think she’s going to be a fantastic senator. Look, they bought a home in New York... Second, she has been raising her money. Third, she’s putting together a team and we know, one of the things I liked about Hillary is that she is duty-driven. She has her duties as the First Lady. She’s getting to wrap those up and stick primarily to ceremonials and I think after the first of the year you’re going to see her really go like a rocket.” Straight back to Chicago, I’d say. say.

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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©1999, Russ Smith