JWR Jeff JacobyBen WattenbergTony Snow
Mona CharenDr. Laura
Linda Chavez

Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellMUGGERWalter Williams
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Click on banner ad to support JWR

Jewish World Review /Jan. 27, 1999 /10 Shevat


Mugger This Is Not America:
Clinton’s Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers

FRIDAY AFTERNOON AT THE OFFICE and the news from Washington was depressing. Outside, on 7th Ave., it was just as gray: drizzly, smoke pouring out of Healthy Choice and a guy grumbling about Rudy Giuliani’s "shop till you drop" gimmick, claiming that the only items for tax-free purchase are pawed-over, outsized pieces of clothing.

Sean Hannity, the meathead conservative talk-show host on WABC who sounds like he’s never read a book, had given up on the impeachment trial after the news bulletin that Sen. Robert Byrd, that cranky "conscience of the Senate," called for an up-or-down vote on continuing the process. I’m in full agreement with Byrd that President Clinton acted shamelessly with his pep rally on the day of his impeachment, but the old buzzard’s canonization is a little hard to stomach.

Later that night, on a cable TV show, Ann Coulter ranted that Byrd’s merely a pork senator who’s had "every building in West Virginia more than two stories tall named after him."

Hannity can get hysterical (although his screaming match with Clinton lackey Alan Dershowitz several weeks ago was pure radio theater) at times, but Friday’s show wasn’t one of them. He took comfort in sports nostalgia: Ah, where are the New York Knickerbockers of my youth, the Walt Fraziers, the Willis Reeds and Dave DeBusscheres. Hannity, about to weep, was in a fetal position, at 4:16 in the afternoon, after months of battling against shills like Sid Blumenthal, "Upchuck" Schumer, Terry Lenzner, James Carville and Hillary Rodham; it’s sad to listen to a grown man melt down on the air. Minutes later, a less downcast Matt Drudge joined Hannity and agreed it’s all over.

Could be they’re right. Alex Cockburn called with a cackle on Thursday, asking if I’d like to boost our wager on whether Clinton will finish his term. "Not this week, Mr. Las Vegas," I said with a sneer in my normally cheery voice. "This is the week for Clinton, with his phony-baloney grab bag of socialist goodies that will never come to pass. But the tide will turn when witnesses are paraded in front of the somnambulant senators." Alex laughed, I told him to go smoke a joint, you smelly hippie, and we chatted amiably about the journalistic atrocities of the week. My bravado is now in question.

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter was in Friday morning for an interview—he’s a remarkably good sport, considering that I’ve called him a scumbag in print; then again, as a member of impeccable standing of the "chattering class," who’s on tv every other night, I suppose he’s inured to the odd sucker punch—and didn’t have a clue about Byrd’s upcoming statement. Who did? In fact, Alter’s in favor of witnesses, and made for an estimable sparring partner. And now that I think of it, he got the best of me in a pointless but amusing prediction we both made about the presidential tickets for 2000. Something stuck in my head from reading the papers that morning and I ventured that Kathleen Kennedy (sorry, forgot the Townsend) would be Al Gore’s veep choice, an impulsive pick considering that despite the magical name it’s not as if Gore will need Democratic Maryland in the general election.
Then again, Alter went with John McCain for the top Republican slot, a candidate I think will be out of the running—if Beltway reporters do their homework, no sure bet—even before the California primary that he’s counting on to catapult him past George W. Bush.

As I said, not the sunniest way to end a week of work.

It even put my ebullient buddy Al From Baltimore in a foul mood. He wrote the following note: "Republican prospects have never seemed as low as they do this week. I say that, fully aware of the roller coaster ride we’ve been on since January of ’98. It’s clear to me today that Republicans really may lose power in 2000. It’s depressing enough that someone like Clinton is going to skate, and will be universally hailed for that sleight of hand; and that honorable men like Ken Starr and Henry Hyde will be vilified for trying to do their duty. Maybe they didn’t do it perfectly, or even well, but they performed diligently and with integrity against the political tide, and now are viewed as creepy. Unbelievable.

"What’s more, a few weeks ago we could take comfort from the notion that, even if Clinton walks, he’d serve out his term as the lamest of lame ducks. It doesn’t look that way today at all.

"What’s truly depressing is that Republicans are spent. They’ve got nothing left; impeachment has used them up. After Clinton is acquitted in the Senate, the Republicans have no standing to challenge Clinton. Borderline Democrats and Republicans will vote with Clinton, not the Republicans, with their eyes firmly fixed on 2000. Republican hopes now rest solely on the emergence of a major financial or military crisis, and who wants to root for that? By the way, if something bad does happen, look for the media to blame the far-right for distracting Clinton.

"In 1994 Republicans supported term-limits to help clear out a lot of the entrenched Democrats. We need it more than ever to clear out people like Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert, who clearly care more about their jobs than the principles and issues for which their party stands. Republican political strategy for the last few months has been this: be likable. Republicans are never going to beat Clinton at this.

"The Republicans are no longer the party of ideas. They used them all up and can’t come up with any new ones. Unless they do, there’s really no point in supporting them other than they’re not Democrats, which is not particularly compelling. I hope Prozac becomes a government entitlement because a lot of us out there are going to need it.

"I say, time to start laying the groundwork for the counterrevolution in ’04 or ’08."

Not to be contrary, but I’d say Al ought to lighten up, have a glass of champagne and read Portrait of the Artist As a Young Dog to his precocious eight-year-old son. And I double that advice to Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, who, according to The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove, seemed downright miserable at the end of last week.

Attending the 26th annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Arlington, Kristol was ornery as he discussed the current political climate. "The Founders were right to have a certain distrust of democracy," Kristol said. "The job for Republicans is to change public opinion, not to bow and scrape to it... The Republican Party is a stupid party. I like liberal Democrats more than I like mushy Republicans."

Get a grip, Bill: I mean, I agree, I’d much rather have a beer with Charlie Rangel or Teddy Kennedy than the weasely Gary Bauer, but if I locked you in a room with Maxine Waters, Barbara Boxer, Robert Torricelli, Henry Waxman, Chuck Schumer and the dim Patrick Kennedy for just 24 hours, I think you’d snap out of it. Not that I think the reelection of GOP national chairman Jim Nicholson is an encouraging omen for Republican prospects in 2000, but this isn’t the time for Kristol, surely the party’s intellectual leader, to take his ball (and influential magazine) and go sulk at home.

Gary Bauer: This shmuck is an irritant. He’s just as sanctimonious as David Bonior, is full of that family values crap, has never been elected to any office and now he’s sounding off about other candidates in an effort to buoy his feeble run for president. He told anyone who’d listen last week, "I think George W. Bush would describe himself as a Bush Republican. I think Elizabeth Dole is in many ways a Dole Republican. If I run, I’ll run as a Reagan Republican." Well, screw you, Gary. Shame on you for denigrating former President Bush, an honorable, loyal man, and trying to pit a son against his father. If Ronald Reagan were in decent health, he’d smash this little bug of a man and tell him to go back to whatever church he uses as a shield for his petty, bigoted views.

And on the subject of spirits, I don’t risk the sin of hyperbole when I say that the oily Pat Robertson must’ve polished off a case of near-beer before issuing his praise of Clinton’s Happy Trails State of the Union speech and suggesting that Republicans close down the impeachment trial and let the felonious President go about his plan of letting the government pick its citizens’ pockets even more egregiously than it already does.

Robertson, who tried to muck up the ’88 GOP primaries, said Wednesday night on his 700 Club show that Clinton "hit a home run" with his speech and "From a public relations standpoint, he’s won. They might as well dismiss the impeachment hearing and get on with something else, because it’s over as far as I’m concerned."

Just a month ago, Robertson, in a Dec. 27 appearance on Meet the Press, seemed made of sterner stuff. He said: "I think we’re going to have a lame-duck president. I don’t believe he’ll have the moral authority that’s necessary to lead and there’ll be suspicion about every single thing he does, whether it’s political gain or himself... There’s deep suspicion about these bombings in Sudan; they seem to have been a mistake. So to put the lives of American servicemen in harm’s way for the possible political gain of a presidency is shocking, and that’s what’s going on... So we’re talking about the future moral status of this nation. It’s a very important thing, and to me, censure is nothing more than a slap on the wrist."

All of a sudden, after Clinton’s P.T. Barnum routine, and the mainstream press hailing Charlie Ruff’s dubious defense of the President, Robertson is ready to pack it all in. Henry Hyde, unfairly maligned by Clinton’s sycophants, didn’t buy in: "We don’t necessarily always agree with everything that Pat Robertson says," he told The New York Times. More interesting, however, was the sentiment expressed to reporter Richard L. Berke by Hazel Staloff of Brooklyn: "If Pat Robertson said, in fact, it’s time for the Republicans to give up—and give in—to Clinton, my membership in the Christian Coalition is over. I don’t think the party can be hurt when it stands for what is right. It can only be hurt when it compromises with evil."

Well put, Hazel, and I hope you, and every other sucker who’s been lured in by the hateful Christian Coalition, give up your membership. That would be a way for the Republicans to regroup, forget about trivial issues like gay rights and abortion and recapture the swing voters that can win the presidency and keep Congress under their control. Stay out of the bedroom, let a woman make her own choice and keep your grubby government hands out of our pockets and businesses: That’s a slogan Republicans can win on.

The Boston Globe’s David Nyhan was as giddy as a teenage girl getting her first kiss after hearing Clinton’s speech, all but claiming that the United States now has just one political party and it starts with a "D." Read the words of the loopy Nyhan, who conveniently ignores every single act of perfidy that Clinton has committed in the past six years, and tell me that Robert Kennedy Jr. shouldn’t be dispatched to New England to check the water supply there.

Nyhan writes: "Hammerin’ Henry Hyde had to be throwing up on his recliner at home. Representative Dick Armey looked as if he’d just scarfed down a platter of bad clams. Rookie Speaker Dennis Hastert didn’t know whether to sit or go blind and ignore the Prez when Clinton surprised him with a let’s-bury-the-hatchet handshake before unloading his boffo speech." Excuse me for a moment of sobriety, but isn’t Nyhan’s cheerleading more appropriate for an afternoon’s delight at Wrigley Field, watching Hillary’s friend-for-hire Sammy Sosa smack a couple of homers over those ivy-covered walls?

I prefer my friend Phyllis Orrick’s analysis of the speech: "I was stupefied and in awe. Every time there was a pause, there’d be a cut to another noble citizen. Where do these people come from? It was like watching a Rosie O’Donnell show or the Academy Awards. Rosa Parks! Clinton is a show biz genius. He was having a ball. I think we should have a pecker-meter installed in every presidential podium. I would bet Clinton’s was bobbing that night. It was like watching a crack addict on a rush."

Last Thursday, an editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal was on fire, brimming with anger at Clinton’s hypocritical, selfish campaign rally aimed at saving his remaining two years in office. The speech, the editorial read, "was not meant so much as serious policy, but as a kind of therapy for the Presidential persona, making him feel good during his 77 minutes before the camera. The speech was intended as a fire bell, calling on every imaginable constituency in the Democratic village to rally toward the burning barn of his presidency.

Appealing to these old-style Democrats whose votes he needs to stay in office, he proposed that the government buy up the stock market (Jesse Jackson’s dream come true), federalizing even more education policy (the NEA’s dream come true), a buck increase for the minimum wage (for John Sweeney), adding prescription drugs to Medicare (an idea too expensive even for LBJ), a redundant lawsuit on tobacco (more billions for the trial lawyers)." And Clinton is the man who said, with a straight face, that the era of big government was over.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, was dead-on in his reaction to Clinton’s performance last Tuesday night: "Every time Clinton gets into hot water, he returns to his liberal roots. It is more than a coincidence. Clinton’s big-spending allies in Congress have been the biggest defenders of his perjury and obstruction of justice. The new tax-and-spend proposals in his State of the Union address are a direct payoff to his spending interest allies so that they won’t be tempted to remove him from office. If Al Capone did this it would be considered bribing the jury."

I’ve heard worse speeches from Clinton—his ’92 acceptance speech at Madison Square Garden comes to mind—but I won’t argue with the opening lines of the Journal’s editorial: "It was the most shameless State of the Union speech any President has ever delivered." Nyhan chortled in his Friday column: "You can always tell how well Clinton is doing by how viperish gets the Journal. Get the ice buckets and hose down the editorial pen, fellas..." One writer at the Journal told me: "Nyhan’s is not a rational argument. I’m ignoring him."

But Nyhan doesn’t stop at the paper he ridicules for "sell[ing] itself as ‘the daily diary of the American dream.’" He moves on to the Times’ William Safire: "Veteran Republican water-carriers like William Safire have been through GOP capsizings before. Brother Safire’s postspeech column retreated to the relative safety of linguistic esoterica. Brother Bill, like any prudent passenger on the runaway GOP train, moves away from the locomotive as it draws near the derailment."

David Nyhan is clearly relishing the current turn of events so lustily that it seems churlish to throw water in his face and tell him to wake up, but is it folly to ask why a grown man could be so supportive of a president who’s been such a destructive chameleon? I assume Nyhan is a Bonior/Gephardt liberal: In that case, why is he stumping for a man who presided over the execution of a retarded black man in 1992 as political cover; who distorted the record of Paul Tsongas, the former senator of Nyhan’s home state; who passed a welfare bill that was anathema to liberals; expressed allegiance to gays in the military, but has done nothing to help them (in fact, more gays were discharged from the military in the last fiscal year than any since 1987); and who schmoozed with GOP fatcats in Texas several years ago, telling them that he, too, wanted to cut taxes?

This speech was meant to shore up Clinton’s liberal base. Is Nyhan stupid enough to believe that the President, until recently an admitted liar, will ever pass any of the legislation he proposed in his Coney Island State of the Union address? Sure, it’s a pleasure to defeat the supposed GOP demons, but to what end? To protect a man who lied to his family, staff and country? I suspect and hope Nyhan will have one whopping hangover in just a few months.

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


01/25/99:Sniffles and High Fever: Kids Say the Darndest Things
01/20/99: Whole Lott(a) Waffling Goin' On
01/14/99: Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office
01/08/99: Drudge Is the Hero
01/06/99 : MUGGER & the Martians
12/30/98 : Last Licks of ’98: Some Heroes, Several Villains & Many Idiots
12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irving’s the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starr’s Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabar’s: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1998, Russ Smith