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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2000/ 9 Adar I, 5760

Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder

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She Flunked! -- IN OUR OLD NEIGHBORHOOD they used to say, "Never hit a man when he's down." This is probably the reason why nobody from our old neighborhood ever amounted to much. But old habits die hard, or at least hardly die, which is why we have refrained from commenting on Hillary Clinton's performance on The Letterman Show until Mr. Letterman was not only out of the woods, but was also out of the hospital. Maybe we would all be better off if before his last show he went into the woods.

She found time to appear on the Letterman show in the time between kissing Suha Arafat on both cheeks for Arafat's charming bit of Middle Eastern folklore about Israelis poisoning Palestinian children, and her appearance with the Rev. Al Sharpton. At that appearance the Jews were accused of forever firing Al Sharpton's colleague, the Rev. Charles Norris. At least on the Letterman show, the liars were not sitting across the stage from her and there was no one to kiss.

Americans generally have had a tortured relationship with TV quiz-shows. In the mid-1950s The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge and Twenty-One were the hottest shows on the tube. The contestants on those shows struggled, grimaced and strained to figure out for themselves the correct answers to difficult questions. No help from the audience was allowed, and in the case of one show, The $64,000 Question, they were actually put in isolation booths so that they could not receive any help from the audience.

The only trouble was, it was all a scam. The contestants were fed the questions beforehand and were coached in the Stanislovsky method of emoting suffering as they, in the face of intense pressure, went though phony mental gymnastics to seemingly conjure up answers from deep within their cranial folds.

It turned out it was all as phony as a hooker's embrace. Congress conducted an investigation, and everyone from President Eisenhower to trolley car conductors expressed their dismay. The contestants lost their jobs and their reputations. They were humiliated, and we all felt a little foolish for having been so obviously duped.But, in the last analysis, the only thing of value that was taken, in the parlance of the law, "by trick, devise or scheme", was the relatively few thousand dollars that the sponsors paid to the contestants who gave answers to questions with which they had been previously supplied.

On The Letterman Show Mrs. Clinton was asked ten questions about New York that even New Yorkers of the non-carpetbag variety could not answer. For the official State bird she correctly said: "Bluebird". We would have said, like any New Yorker who walks around with his eyes open, "Pigeons".
NY's next senator? Oy vey!
Pigeons are all over the State, and if you walk around, you will eventually be blessed by one of their gifts falling from the heavens, unfortunately, often landing on the top of your head.

The official tree of the State? To us, one piece of shrubbery is like another and should have signs on them like streets do if anyone is interested in their names. Mrs. Clinton struggled with the answer, screwing up her face, as if she were contemplating the "vast right-wing conspiracy" arrayed against her, verbally sorting out the different types of maples until she arrived at the correct answer: "Sugar Maple."

The scam would have worked, but as happens in so many criminal and quasi-criminal enterprises, the "perps" didn't make sure beforehand that they all told the same story. Clinton's campaign manager, Wolfson, apparently believing that Letterman's people would reveal the truth -- that she had been supplied the questions in advance -- acknowledged that Mrs. Clinton received a "peek" at them. The Letterman people, however, not knowing what Wolfson would say, made the entirely reasonable assumption that politicians in general, and Mrs. Clinton in particular, would not hesitate to lie.

Nobody ever lost any money underestimating the American public. Immediately after Mrs. Clinton's appearance on the show, the media was unanimous in their approval of her performance and she was even able to inch up a bit in the polls.

The general reaction to the con was, "So what, it's entertainment." Entertainment is Walt Disney or a comedian on Broadway! It should not be a Senate candidate trying to hoodwink the voting public. In the television age, the line between entertainment and news is often blurred. Most people would say The Larry King Show should not be labeled as purely entertainment, but rather as a news interview show whose format of news makers, noteworthy people, an engaging and informed host make it entertainment. What happened here was the opposite. The Letterman Show is simply an entertainment show, and clearly nobody tuned in to watch Hillary Clinton tap dance.

Imagine if George Bush or Rudy Giuliani had done this, or if any other candidate had tried to pull off something of this nature? In the words of Harry Truman when he assumed the Presidency, he would have "...felt as if the sun, the moon, and the stars had fallen on me [him]."

The moral of all of this is, if you cheat a company out of a few thousand dollars you get disgraced, lose your job, and are publicly humiliated. If you defraud 18 million New Yorkers, it's "entertainment."

JWR contributors Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder need no introduction. Comment on this column by clicking here.


© 2000, Jackie Mason & Raul Felder. This article first appeared on The American Spectator web site.