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Jewish World Review April 28, 1999/ 12 Iyar 5759


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T.J. Walker’s The Man!:
A Former Clinton Disciple Repents

(JWR) ---- (
I SPENT A PLEASANT HOUR LAST THURSDAY AFTERNOON as a guest on Jay Diamond’s WEVD talk radio show. It was convenient —the station is right across the hall from our offices, so close that producer Scott Pellegrino marched in at 4 p.m. to drag me by my ear over to the mic. Diamond's substitute was T.J. Walker. T.J., president of Progressive America, a pinko think tank, certainly has his quirks: He spent the first five minutes telling the audience how much he admires Bill Clinton, and what a terrific president the sociopath’s been.

In an era where parents are allowed to spawn the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Jesse Helms, Walker said, the country was darn lucky to have a man of the First Rapist’s character in the White House. (He also told listeners how much he hated my column, but that he read it every week. That’s the idea, guys.) But then Walker became serious: Clinton lost him with his reaction to the tragedy in Littleton, when his immediate response was that prayer was the best remedy for preventing similar incidents in the future.

Hogwash, T.J. intoned, why didn’t Clinton use his bully pulpit to propose the elimination of all guns in the United States? After all, that’s the case in New Zealand, and that country had but two murders last year. The standard rant against the NRA followed, how it’s such a powerful lobby in Washington that Republicans and Democrats alike quake like schoolgirls when gun control is mentioned. My point that the corrupt labor movement is just as influential in elections was lost on T.J., so he went on to make fun of Dan Quayle. Cheap shot, I told him, considering the inventor of the Internet is his former hero’s sidekick. We then discussed media coverage of the Littleton killings.

New York’s junior senator, Chuck Schumer, made the stupidest statement after the killing: “It takes away our innocence.” With the tragedies that occur in the world, and the United States, every day, Schumer must have a full-time job losing his precious innocence. What an idiot. Al Gore wasn’t much more original, telling an audience at Ellis Island, “There’s a war here at home.” What war is that, Mr. Green Jeans? Last time I looked, NATO wasn’t dropping bombs on John Kasich’s home in Ohio.

Not to be cynical, but Gore’s precipitous drop in the polls had to be on his mind as he delivered remarks at a eulogy for the slain in Littleton on Sunday. “Why bad things happen to good people, I do not understand. I go on my knees and ask, ‘Why, oh Lord, why?’ The heart of America aches with yours... All of us must change our lives to honor these children.” You tell me, Mr. Vice President, how you’ll change your life, and maybe other citizens will follow suit.

And then the Lip-Biter. As John J. Miller reported on The National Review’s website, Clinton told a high school audience in Alexandria, VA: “It’s amazing how much energy is lost and how many things are not done for America because people in Washington, D.C., at the highest levels of power and influence get hurt by what other people say about them—mean, bad things other people say about them.”

Miller then goes for the jugular, writing: “It doesn’t take a village to realize Clinton is trying to silence his critics by smothering them with a black trenchcoat—or at least suggest Ken Starr’s behavior can lead to violence. Clinton ought to know: He ordered missile attacks last August on Afghanistan and Sudan shortly after Starr’s investigation forced him to admit on national television that he had lied repeatedly in the wake of the Lewinsky revelations.”

One caller to WEVD made the very germane point that CNN was grossly excessive in sending 70 reporters to Colorado, with the main networks also dispatching 50 apiece. Typical laziness: a tragedy occurs and whammo, a tv station has its coverage set for at least three days. It’s just another example of the mainstream media employing too many people; while a legitimate story, you’d think that a crew of eight reporters and photographers could handle the situation in a satisfactory way.

ABC News had the incredible bad taste to brag about its increased viewership after the killings. Dahlia Roemer, of ABC News Media Relations, in a press release obtained by Matt Drudge, said: “Last night, 20/20 WEDNESDAY featured a full hour of reporting on the tragic aftermath of the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. With the exception of the Monica Lewinsky interview, the broadcast delivered its highest ratings since premiering on September 16, 1998, easily outrating both Wednesday newsmagazines on other networks.”

I don’t often agree with The Wall Street Journal’s preoccupation with how the 60s counterculture is responsible for so many social ills today—what’s worse, the editorials are often written by men and women under 30!—but their April 22 edit on media overexposure was right on target. “But there comes a point nowadays when one begins to sense that something rather close to the brutal event’s glorification is occurring.

The TV coverage—interviewing the umpteenth eyewitness, plumbing the thoughts of an ambulance driver or the local trauma surgeon—eventually begins to look as if it is in fact reveling amid the anguish and empathy. Princess Di’s death became a similar media revel, and TV’s eagerness to drive these recurrent tragedies toward an oddly numbing mindlessness is disturbing. Past some point, it’s no longer watching television; it’s voyeurism.”

Are you listening, Geraldo?

Rosie O’Donnell, perhaps even a more annoying moron than Geraldo, said on her talk show last week: “I honestly think—and I am not an expert on the amendments—I think the only people in this nation who should be allowed to own guns are police officers. I don’t care if you want to hunt. I don’t care if you think it’s your right. I say, ‘Sorry.’ It is 1999. We have had enough as a nation. You are not allowed to own a gun, and if you do own a gun I think you should go to prison.”

I don’t think automatic weapons should be for sale, but that wouldn’t have prevented these killings. Sawed-off shotguns are illegal, and the assailants had a couple of those. These kinds of tragedies are the price we pay for a very open, anything-goes culture. We can take away guns, but are we going to take away the propane, the pipes, the fertilizer—anything that can be made into a bomb? And if all guns are outlawed, what about the black market?

I also thought the New York Post was completely irresponsible in its coverage of the Trenchcoat Mafia. On Wednesday, the screaming headline on its front page read “MASSACRE” with the subhed: “Giggling teens kill dozens in high school rampage.” Dozens? As it turned out eventually, 15 people were killed, including the assailants, an horrific toll to be sure, but what headline writer was responsible for that blatant sensationalism? And it’s not as if the Post can claim that no one knew exactly how many people were killed, since in the inside news story reporters wrote that 25 people were feared dead. The next day, the Post also described one of the killers, Eric Harris, as a “military brat,” an unkind slur on all the sane children of men and women in the armed forces. Unlike the news organizations I describe above, the Post is certainly not overstaffed: Unfortunately some of their drones just aren’t all that bright, accurate or responsible.

Last Sunday, April 25, the Post ran an absurd editorial, titled “In Praise of Uniformity,” that made me bolt for another cup of coffee. The writer sniffs: “Corporal punishment survives in only a handful of private and parochial schools.” Yeah, what’s the point? That students should be rapped on the knuckles with rulers, or worse, when they act up? I’ve heard enough stories about corporal punishment, a 19th-century abomination, from my mother and uncles that I’d never endorse its reinstatement.

The editorialist continues: “Maybe the lesson of the Trench Coat Mafia is this: Either give kids uniforms, or they’ll make their own. A uniform policy, which exists to make clothing unimportant to impressionable young minds, or at least a standard dress code, deserves wider debate in the United States.” No it doesn’t. A dress code is just another form of government as a busybody: Mass killings in schools receive an inordinate amount of media attention because they’re easy stories to cover, but they’re relatively rare. There are so many far more serious problems in this country that worrying about what students wear to school is caving in to President Clinton’s feel-good administration. Impose a dress code in most schools and you’ll have bigger difficulties to encounter.

Also, there’s a lot of malarkey being spouted about banning this video or that, censoring movies and tv and dressing down Hollywood executives for the material they release. I don’t care for much of it either, but we can’t trample on the First Amendment. When I was a kid, I played with soldiers in my home, simulated war battles with my friends in the woods, throwing water balloons and dirt bombs, and most of us turned out fine. Editorial writers and pundits can claim that we live in a different age, and that’s true, but dress codes and censorship is not the solution.

What about banning all sports from public schools so that the cliques that alienate misfits like the Littleton killers won’t form? Why not eliminate the prom and other social events that separate the desirables from the “weirdos”? I don’t actually endorse these proposals, but they’re no more ridiculous than mandatory dress codes.

Still Rock ’n’ Roll To Maureen

Now that the dust has settled on Maureen Dowd’s Pulitzer, and media critics have had their say, let’s examine her bogus trophy a bit more closely. I wrote two weeks ago that it was nonsensical that Dowd’s slight commentary about Monica Lewinsky copped the award, especially when the Village Voice/Washington Post columnist Nat Hentoff was her competitor. Most awards, whether in journalism or entertainment, are fraudulent: They’re handed out by a committee of people who have conflicts of interest up to their eyeballs.

For example, it’s no accident that the same group of newspapers—with the usual ringer of a small paper to make the system look legit—wins the lion’s share of Pulitzer glory each year, when you consider that employees of those same papers are on the panel of judges. That’s why Dowd’s victory for Monica musings, while preferable to hacks like Thomas Oliphant and Richard Cohen, is so suspect. There was no weight behind her commentary, just la-di-da whimsy, lots of sex jokes and easy sarcastic remarks about both Bill Clinton and Ken Starr. In fact, Dowd changed her mind so often about who the heroes and villains were in the saga, that that should’ve nixed her right away.

Not that Dowd didn’t cow naive writers like A.O. Scott, who wrote the following in Slate on April 17: “Dowd is the only writer on her paper’s op-ed page fully in tune with the political and cultural moment... Safire’s a Nixon man to the end, and Frank Rich recalls the glorious presidency of Eugene McCarthy. But Dowd is, mutatis mutandis, the H.L. Mencken of the Clinton era—the president’s symbiotic scourge. He may have the numbers of a lot of women, but Dowd alone has his.” I preferred Richard Turner’s take in the April 26 Newsweek: “Instead, [Dowd is] the dinner-party columnist, a must-read obsession for a generation of left-liberal boomers who haven’t felt inspired by anything besides their mutual funds since some long-ago Cuomo speech. No race. No environment. No foreign policy. No abortion. Her compass is whatever offends her sensibility.”

The blatant log-rolling doesn’t stop with journalism, of course. Dowd’s soulmate this year has to be Billy Joel, the self-conscious Long Island tough guy who was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, despite a body of work that can only be described as dreadful. That he’s buddies with Hall of Fame godfather Jann Wenner, and has been present at almost all past inductee ceremonies, paved his way this year, his first of eligibility.

That his inclusion cheapens the Hall’s supposed exclusivity is lost on the dolts who decide such matters: At least in baseball’s Cooperstown, you won’t find Wally Bunker’s plaque next to Ted Williams’.

Serene Dominic, a past NYPress contributor, wrote in the April 8 Phoenix New Times on the subject: “Once you accept the basic tenets of this uneasy institution, that rock ’n’ roll has (yikes!) standards, you’ll find serious lapses of judgment everywhere you look. The Lovin’ Spoonful, who wrote ‘Do You Believe in Magic,’ arguably the anthem that best defines rock’s abstruse mysteries, are continually overlooked... The Mamas and Papas are in, and they never rocked harder than ‘Summer in the City.’ But then again, John Sebastian never choked on a ham sandwich.”

Dominic continues on about past mistakes Wenner and his friends have made, and then homes in on Joel: “The Piano Man started his career as a bad Harry Chapin with a tip jar, with staunch stick-to-itiveness, he steadily amassed a string of 33 Top 40 hits over 25 years. Yet for all that, Joel hasn’t been responsible for one discernible musical innovation or trend, unless you count tearing up your bad reviews onstage for cheap applause.”

The comparison to the odious Joel is slightly exaggerated, for I do believe that Dowd is a skilled writer. Still. When informed of her award, she told The Washington Post: “As Monica says, it’s like, way cool. I’m just so grateful to President Clinton that he never spoke the words, ‘Young lady, pull down that jacket and get back to the typing pool.’”

Dowd’s inconsistency on Clinton’s scandal-plagued ’98 should’ve disqualified her immediately from winning the Pulitzer. Following are samples of her writing.

Jan. 25, ’98: “Also, why did Vernon Jordan become a patron to a lowly Pentagon assistant if she was nothing special to the President? The reality that looms before the American people is not the impeachment of this President. It is the annulment of this President. He has finally determined his own place in history. He will be remembered as the priapic President. The Oval Office appears to be the bachelor pad of a married man who is the Commander in Chief. Like all addicts, this one is surrounded by enablers.”

Feb. 1, ’98: “So far, the Clintonites have been successful in persuading the public that a 21-year-old intern was able to overpower the will of the most powerful man on earth and vamp her way past Secret Service agents to force him to do her vixen bidding. A Fox TV News poll that asked if Ms. Lewinsky is ‘a young tramp looking for thrills’ found a majority of Americans nodding.”

Sept. 13, ’98: “The President must not lose his job. Not over this. Certainly, Bill Clinton should be deeply ashamed of himself. He has given a bad name to adultery and lying. He has made wickedness seem pathetic, and that’s truly a sin. Kenneth Starr, all these years and all these millions later, has not delivered impeachable offenses. He has delivered a 445-page Harold Robbins novel. If we are going to dump our President, it should be for something big and bold and black and original. Not for the most tired story ever told.”

Dowd is clearly a charter member of the “It’s just sex” school regarding Clinton’s skein of crimes during his administration.

Nat Hentoff, never recognized by the Pulitzer poohbahs, felt otherwise. In the following excerpts from The Washington Post, he wrote: Feb. 28, ’98: “The current aggressively defensive mode at the White House is, therefore, familiar—coverups, enemies lists, claims of executive privilege, the use of private eyes who may have seen ‘The Maltese Falcon’ too often... [T]here is no question that the new war room at the White House is succeeding brilliantly in changing the focus of Kenneth Starr’s investigation. He is now the focus. Starr, of course, is right—the goal of the war room is to discredit, impede and ultimately destroy that investigation so that the Comeback Kid can breathe freely once more.”

Oct. 10, ’98: “The leader of the free world also lied to his Cabinet and to his faithful retainers in the White House, thereby deliberately sending them forth to lie publicly to the rest of us. But all of Clinton’s desperate tricking of his beloved American public was due—according to the illuminati—to the ‘inquisitional harassment by a fanatical prosecutor’ who has modeled himself after Inspector Javert.

Apparently Kenneth Starr forced the president to go against his better nature.

The Dersh
“It is remarkable how many diversely accomplished public figures have allowed themselves to be duped by this flimflam man. There is Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, for example, who sometimes shows exemplary courage in his choice of clients in appellate cases. But now—defending the president in the carnival booths of cable television—Dershowitz keeps braying ‘Sex lies! Sex lies! It’s all about sex lies!’

“...Another herd of independent literary minds has rallied behind Clinton in the Oct. 5 New Yorker—among them Toni Morrison and Janet Malcolm. Morrison charges that ‘the president is being stolen from us.’ The ‘bootstraps of the Independent Counsel,’ she elegantly adds, have tramped on his privacy. Does she mean jackboots?

“This is the president who tried so hard to get Congress to give the FBI the power to use ‘roving wire taps’ without the bother of getting a warrant. Also in the New Yorker, Jane Smiley instructs us that whatever happened in the Oval Office was ‘at the very least’ the president’s desire to make a connection with another person... This desire to connect is something I trust.’

“She means this penetrating insight to be taken seriously, for these are serious times.”

The Pulitzer Prize is supposed to be a serious award. Apparently, in choosing Dowd’s whimsy over Hentoff’s incisive commentary, the judges opted for the Rosie O’Donnell and A.O. Scott school of journalism. What’s more, the finest writer about Clinton’s myriad scandals, Michael Kelly, editor of National Journal and a columnist for The Washington Post, wasn’t even nominated.

Here’s what Kelly wrote about the President on September 16, ’98, two paragraphs that encapsulate the scandal far more succinctly than Dowd’s entire body of work.

“That Clinton, through his mouthpieces, continues to lie proves, finally, that he must be impeached. He must be impeached not merely because he is a pig and a cad and a selfish brute. He must be impeached not merely because he sexually exploited and then discarded an employee under his supervision, nor because he used government resources and personnel to facilitate and cover up his sorry little affair. He must be impeached not merely because he abused the office entrusted to him by the people.

“He must be impeached because he shows an utter and absolute contempt for the truth and for the law he has twice sworn to uphold. He must be impeached because, in a judicial proceeding, he knowingly lied under oath with intent to deceive, because he was given a chance to correct that lie in a second judicial proceeding and he lied again, because he persists in lying even still. He must be impeached because, in his pathology, he does great and heartless violence to other people and to the nation, and because he has made it clear that he is perfectly prepared to do more violence. He must be impeached because to not impeach him is to declare that this is what we accept in a president. He must be impeached because we are a nation of laws, not liars.”

MUGGER To Caldwell: 100 Beans Says Hillary Won’t Run

Hillary Clinton owned New York last week, teasing the media and fervent supporters about a possible run for Senate by making appearances all over the city, but my bet is still that she won’t run. After all she’s been through with her husband—for a generation!—who can blame her for basking in the mindless adulation that’s heaped upon her when she speaks about helping children all over the world, even while she’s readying to hawk a book about being a proper hostess in the White House? That book, An Invitation to the White House, put Maureen Dowd into a tizzy (you get the impression that happens about five times a day), as she wrote in her April 18 Times column that unless the book was a publicity ploy cooked up by Harold Ickes to crank up a Senate race, it was absolutely disgraceful behavior by the woman who wanted to realign the American economy with her health care plan back in ’93.

Dowd writes: “This First Lady is not chic, like Jackie Kennedy. She is not anti-chic, like Barbara Bush. She just doesn’t live in that universe. She lives in a bleaker universe without wallpaper, or table placement, where she is, as her staffers say, a warrior.”

Our beloved First Lady
My friend Chris Caldwell is convinced that Hillary will take on Rudy Giuliani in 2000; I doubt it. For all the false starts to her mythical campaign, all she accomplished, from my point of view, with her round of rallies last week, was clogging up traffic, just like her husband does when he comes to stay at the Waldorf. The Times’ Adam Nagourney last Sunday spent many column inches ruminating on whether the fact that Hillary’s a carpetbagger will become a major issue in a possible race. Not likely: It’s not as if New Yorkers—those who actually know who their senators are—really care about the roots of their elected representatives. Bobby Kennedy Jr., Mr. New York Environmentalist, favors a Hillary run, even though the scorned First Lady probably doesn’t know Douglaston from Troy. After all, both Jim Buckley and Kennedy’s father waged successful elections after hastily arranging residence.

(The nonsense about Hillary being turned away from co-op buildings isn’t a factor. Of course a co-op wouldn’t accept her: Who’d want all the commotion? But she could easily buy a one-bedroom condo.)

And Hillary, should she win, wouldn’t be concerned with New York anyway; she’d merely use the office to speak out on issues of concern to her and use it as a presidential stepping stone. That’s a horrific thought, but it’s the guts of her fantasy.

Joel Siegel, writing in the Daily News last Friday, took her speech before a teachers convention as a sign that she’ll run. Baloney. It was just another opportunity for Hillary to mouth off in public, with a largely adoring New York media jotting down every word. She spoke about Littleton: “You can’t any longer argue...that the continued exposure to violence on TV, in the movies, in the video games, in the music does not have an effect.” Siegel adds: “She also called for increased spending on counseling, tighter gun controls, stricter scrutiny of material on the Internet and legislative steps like an extended medical and family-leave law.”

Oh great, the same old tune: more regulations, more Big Government. And all the blather about controlling the media and Internet simply proves that she has no respect for the First Amendment.

I got a kick out of Michael Grunwald’s April 20 dispatch in The Washington Post, a throwaway piece about the “tough” New York media and how candidate Clinton would fare with those Front Page reporters. Easy: The Times will endorse her, the Post won’t and Mort Zuckerman’s Daily News nod will depend on how many recent invitations its cocktail-party owner has received from the White House. Grunwald then indulges in a lazy reporter’s cliche about the city’s newspapers, writing: “But local newspaper coverage has always set the agenda here, and now the dignified Times, the scrappy Daily News and the guilty-pleasure Post are the only major papers left.” What garbage. The Times is not “dignified” by any stretch of the imagination; any daily that employs Frank Rich has sacrificed its dignity long ago.

The Daily News is not “scrappy,” but rather a disorganized tabloid without much substance that Zuckerman will probably close down within a year, unless he can convince the Post’s Rupert Murdoch to take it over and merge it with his own paper. And enough of calling the Post a “guilty pleasure”! Maybe it is to Beltway snoots like Grunwald, but the vast majority of its readership takes the paper seriously and doesn’t just scan “Page Six” for their boldfaced names.

An April 16 article by Joan Walsh and Anthony York in the White House-friendly Salon was positively exuberant about the possibility of a Clinton-Giuliani faceoff, ludicrously claiming that such a contest “could rival the presidential campaign in excitement, and in campaign spending as well.” Well, we know that most political writers are on the take with dear old Hill, but while this race would be watched across the nation, its spending will be minuscule compared to the Gore-Bush election, as everyone knows.

The article also exaggerates the electoral pull of Rick Lazio, the Long Island Republican who will probably challenge the Mayor in the Republican primary. Who’s ever heard of Lazio? Giuliani, for better or worse, is a household name across the state, and will cream a mere congressman who’ll have difficulty raising his profile, and cash, for such an effort. Another laughable assertion by the Salon duo, quoting an unnamed “source,” is that Clinton “knows more about upstate than Giuliani.” Sure.

In any case, when Hillary tires of the crowds and praise among her liberal base in New York City, and considers the bruising campaign that Giuliani will wage against her—never has a candidate had more ammunition in his arsenal—she’ll come back to Earth and let Nita Lowey represent the Democrats. Never mind that she’s already sabotaged Lowey’s campaign by her self-indulgent flirting with New Yorkers; that’s just the Clinton style.

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.


04/23/99: Baseball and Politics
04/21/99: Sharpton’s Nostalgia Trip Is a Bust: The Backlash Is Immediate
04/16/99: Notes From A Baltimore Hick: Pressing My Nose Against the Window
04/14/99: The Bush JugGoreNaut Continues; Send Sharpton to A Rwanda Fat Farm
04/09/99: John McCain’s Moment
04/07/99:The Media Flips: It’s No Longer "Just About Sex"
04/05/99: The Gore Republic Gets Dressed Up. So What?
03/29/99:Louder Than Bombs: Jetlag and English Manners
03/26/99: Hollywood’s Horror Show
03/24/99: Black Ops Mark Vietnam War, Class War & the POW/MIA Issue
03/19/99: The Wealthy Survivor
03/17/99: Clinton’s a Broken Man: The GOP’s Huge Opportunity
03/12/99: Like Father, Like Son: New Hampshire in Another Era
03/11/99: Who is Dorothy Rabinowitz?
03/10/99: It’s George W.’s to Lose
02/26/99: Springsteen Ain’t No Chopped Liver; Vanity Press Musings
03/05/99: This Must Be the New World: The Mainstream Is Left Behind
02/26/99: Hillary, Juanita & Rudy Kazootie; First Baker, then Rich and Soon Lewis
02/24/99: The New Yorker Takes the Local: Mister Hertzberg Strikes Out; A Search for the Clemens Upside
02/19/99: The Howell Raines Conspiracy
02/17/99: History Lessons: An Immigrant’s Advice
02/12/99:The Man Who Owns the World
02/10/99:The Impeachment Trial Splatters: Lindsey Graham Emerges a Hero
02/05/99: A Slight Stumble for Bush
01/29/99: Rich Is Back in the Tank
01/29/99: Not So Fast, Mr. & Mrs. Pundit
01/27/99:This Is Not America: Clinton’s Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers
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

©1999, Russ Smith