Jewish World Review December 10, 2002/ 5 Teves 5763


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Traitors | Hard to believe, but the Democratic dominoes keep falling as the party, and its media enablers, remains entrenched in a late-90s time warp. Judging from Al Gore's comments on his never-ending book tour and Paul Krugman's New York Times columns, Sen. Tom Daschle looks perfectly sane in comparison.

Let's start with Krugman, the Princeton professor who moonlights for Howell Raines at the Times. This is not a man to trifle with: no less an authority than Nicholas Confessore, writing in December's Washington Monthly, that bastion of exquisite nonpartisanship, dubs Krugman "the most important political columnist in America." The legions of Thomas Friedman groupies must've gasped upon seeing Confessore-who also writes for the troubled American Prospect-had chosen Krugman as the columnist who "is essential reading for the Age of Bush," but there you have it.

On Nov. 26, Krugman, an economist, raged, raged against the dying of the Democratic stranglehold on American politics. He wrote: "Last week the Bush administration announced new rules that would effectively scrap 'new source review,' a crucial component of our current system of air pollution control. This action, which not incidentally will be worth billions to some major campaign contributors, comes as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to which way the wind is blowing (from west to east, mainly-that is, states that vote Democratic are conveniently downwind).

"But this isn't just a policy change, it's an omen. I hope I'm wrong, but it's likely that last week's announcement marks the beginning of a new era of environmental degradation."

Goodness. I wonder what Krugman will offer next week when he breaks out the tarot cards and divines another apocalyptic decision from the Bush administration. I fear eliminating the double-tax on dividends would result in the discovery of Krugman's body in the bowels of Princeton's Firestone Library.

Three days later, the Times' leading conspiracist joined Gore in his revival of Hillary Clinton's vast right-wing conspiracy.

The former vice president, who voted for the first President Bush's Gulf War but now finds action against Saddam Hussein reckless, gave an interview to The New York Observer in which he said there was a "fifth column" in the media's ranks. I'll get to Gore's wacky analysis-his equivalent of Richard Nixon's '62 press conference after losing California's gubernatorial contest-but first to Krugman.

He wrote, in reaction to the Observer's Josh Benson's career-advancing scoop: "This week Al Gore said the obvious. 'The media is kind of weird these days on politics... and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking [odd words coming from Gore], part and parcel of the Republican Party.'

"The reaction from most journalists in the 'liberal media' was embarrassed silence. I don't quite understand why, but there are some things that you're not supposed to say, precisely because they're so clearly true.

"The political agenda of Fox News, to take the most important example, is hardly obscure. Roger Ailes, the network's chairman, has been advising the Bush administration."

Krugman goes on, and on, with an ominous prediction of how media conglomeration is a threat to democracy, discounting the Internet, bemoaning the declining "influence of print news" [a debatable point] and wailing that now Americans "get [their] news from AOLTimeWarnerGeneralElectricDisneyWestinghouseNewsCorp."

Krugman's paranoia is contradicted, in some measure, by an article in Monday's New York Times. Jim Rutenberg writes: "For decades, public interest advocates have successfully argued for stringent limits on the number of newspapers, radio stations and television outlets that a company can own.

"They have summoned images of Citizen Kane, or worse, Big Brother, warning that without strict regulation a few powerful corporations could take control of political discourse while homogenizing entertainment and defanging news. But the advocates are now facing an issue that is much more complicated because despite consolidation, media choices have expanded exponentially through technology. Now the typical American can watch Britain's BBC News, among others, on television and choose from tens of thousands of news Web sites, from Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, to The Times of India, based in New Delhi. As a result, federal regulators are questioning whether fears of corporate media domination have become obsolete."

But I'll stop here to make an indisputable point: Paul Krugman is a liar. Roger Ailes, whose conservative Fox News hardly carries the combined influence in Washington of CBS, NBC, ABC, the Times and Washington Post, has not "been advising the Bush administration." As was widely reported, in reaction to Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, Ailes wrote a letter to Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. End of story. You can debate whether that was a prudent decision or not, but unless Krugman can provide evidence to the contrary, which he doesn't, Bush doesn't consult Ailes.

Which brings us to Krugman's soul brother Al Gore. I agree with New Hampshire's Sen.-Elect John Sununu that the man of 18 disguises won't run for president in 2004. Speaking on the Nov. 23 broadcast of Capital Gang, Sununu said: "Gore is not going to run for president in 2004, because he'll only have one more chance to run for president, and his choice is going to be to run in 2008. What he's doing is consolidating liberal interest groups, those that have a strong influence in the primary process, reinforcing his credentials. He's against extending the tax cuts, making them permanent. He's trying to oppose the president and his initiatives in Iraq. He's...taking positions for nationalized health care. So he's consolidating that base. He'll make a decision that he's not going to run. But at the same time, in consolidating the base, remain a player in the run-up to 2008, and even remain a player in the selection of the nominee for 2004."

Sununu's analysis makes sense: Gore, with all his bombast, is clearly raising his profile, but his extreme left-wing proposals make a rematch against Bush very difficult. More likely he's gambling that Kerry, Edwards or Lieberman will be a sacrificial lamb in two years, and that the second Bush term will be so conservative that his message will be given more credibility.

Gore's garbled fantasy that a "fifth column" has infiltrated the media in the form of Fox News, The Washington Times and Rush Limbaugh, who supposedly take marching orders from the Republican National Committee, has alienated even some of his most fervent fundraisers and supporters from the 2000 campaign. It's one thing to identify conservative commentators, but quite another to accuse them of treason, espionage and subversive acts against the government, which he presumably knows is the essence of a "fifth column."

The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman, while making no prediction whether Gore will run in 2004, summed up his quandary if he does. He writes: "Watching Al Gore make his re-entry into the public arena after nearly two years out of the public spotlight, I can say with confidence there is a substantial group of people who want him to run for president again in 2004. They're called Republicans.

"Mr. Gore says he hasn't made up his mind whether to try again. But his pronouncements already have the calculated, prefabricated quality that distinguishes campaign rhetoric from normal human speech.

"When he says, 'I think there is virtue in just taking an unvarnished position as to what the best solution may be, and let the chips fall where they may,' he brings to mind Richard Nixon walking on the beach in a suit and wingtips. How long, you have to wonder, did Mr. Gore spend coming up with that formulation? He can no more be unscripted and spontaneous in a political setting than Nixon could walk around in public shirtless and barefoot."

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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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