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Jewish World Review May 6, 1999 /20 Iyar, 5759

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Four Revolting Spectacles

(JWR) ---- (
REVOLTING SPECTACLES are never rare in our nation's capital, and life in the Clinton era has been unusually blessed in this regard. But the past week has seen a really remarkable haul of stomach-turning episodes.

We here at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (East) have been so impressed that we are moved to award a special midyear edition of our annual prize for "the most revolting spectacle in the field of politics and/or governance committed by a single individual or group of individuals acting in concert."

Competition for the Sidney, as the prize is popularly known, is always fierce. As the language of the award states, a winner must exhibit, "in a single episode, venality, vanity, shamelessness, obscenity, dishonesty or cowardice to a degree so far beyond the norm of Washington behavior as to offend the sensibilities of former special White House counsel Lanny Davis or (in the rare event that Mr. Davis is unavailable for comment) gag a goat."

Last week, we saw four revolting spectacles that clearly -- indeed overwhelmingly -- met these lofty standards.

John F. Kennedy Jr., president and editor in chief of George magazine, was nominated for his decision to invite to the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner Mr. Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine.

To fully grasp the enormity of this nominee's revolting spectacle, it must be considered that Mr. Flynt is not only a pornographer but a pornographer of such a nature as to give pornography a bad name. Mr. Flynt's flagship publication, Hustler, is renowned for its vicious racism, its frequent and hate-filled depictions of women subjected to acts of degradation and violence and its reliance on fecal matter as a source for humor.

It must also be considered that Mr. Flynt is himself a man who claims to have had sexual intercourse with, and then strangled, a chicken. And that Mr. Flynt's daughters have accused him of sexually abusing them. And that, during the impeachment of President Clinton, Mr. Flynt engaged in a loathsome campaign of sexual blackmail to terrorize Republican senators and congressmen and to keep them from pursuing their constitutional duty.

But, above all, it must be considered that Mr. Flynt is a man who first rose to national prominence, in 1975, for printing in Hustler nude photographs of none other than . . . the mother of John F. Kennedy Jr. A very impressive nominee.

A second nominee arising from the White House correspondents' dinner was its guest of honor, President Clinton. Mr. Clinton was nominated for jokingly complaining that his disgrace and impeachment over the Lewinsky affair did not make the top 50 in a recently published list of the century's top 100 stories. "I don't mind telling you I made the list . . . ," said Mr. Clinton. "Number 53. Fifty-three? I mean, what does a guy have to do to make the top 50 around here?"

Impressed academy members noted that the president not only made light of the fact that he had wrecked his second term in office, disgraced the presidency, harmed his country, undermined the law, been impeached and been held in contempt of court, exposed himself as an obsessive liar and conscienceless sexual predator -- but that he did this with his wife sitting next to him. Another very, very strong contender.

The third nominee is a group entry, comprising the entire Republican and Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives, for leading (or rather not leading) their members to a 213-213 tie vote on April 28, declining to support their nation in its air war against Serbia.

This historic act of cowardice, fecklessness and partisanship deeply moved even veteran academy members. Particularly noted was "Speaker" J. Dennis Hastert, for voting in support of the measure but then abandoning the floor while Majority Whip Tom DeLay successfully drummed up GOP votes in opposition. Also personally cited was Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, for his stunning inability to come up with the necessary switch of a single vote among 26 Democrats voting against the leader of their nation and party.

But, in the end, all of these deserving nominees were trumped by a man who is no stranger to these awards.

For undermining his nation during a time of war; for giving aid and comfort to the enemy; for grandstanding on a grand and gross scale; for exploiting three U.S. soldiers as pawns in the propaganda efforts of Slobodan Milosevic; for rewarding Milosevic with a public call that the United States cease bombing; for leading the freed soldiers to chant, in a supremely revolting moment, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last" . . . this special Sidney goes to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


©1999, Washington Post Co.