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Jewish World Review June 2, 1999/ 18 Sivan 5759


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A McCain For All Seasons

(JWR) ---- (
ARIZONA SEN. JOHN MCCAIN is a loon. That much is known.

The GOP presidential candidate has a bad temper, a checkered personal and business past and last year tried to tax the hell out of Americans with his idiotic tobacco 'reform' bill. (As Boston Herald columnist Don Feder wrote about that grab for ill-gotten wampum, '[McCain's] best known for pushing a mega-tax hike to counter the only addiction the media seem interested in fighting (it being another cudgel with which to bludgeon business) McCain's tobacco bill would have cost taxpayers $50 billion a year and led to the micromanaging of advertising appeals.')

But what on Earth, in the midst of his campaign, possessed the former POW (the only man to serve in Vietnam, it bears repeating, in case Beltway pundits haven't reminded you) to pose with Teddy Kennedy and accept a 'Profile in Courage' award for his thankfully doomed campaign finance efforts last year? The picture of Teddy and McCain, with his cosponsor Russ Feingold off to the side (Teddy's son Patrick, the Democratic marble-mouthed puppet who's recruiting candidates to retake the House, was probably in attendance as well), is as indelible as the image of Richard Nixon shaking hands with Elvis. And when the primary races start in earnest, like next week, you can bet Steve Forbes, a master of dirty attack ads, will have that frame on 30-second spots 15 times a day in New Hampshire and Iowa.

McCain, in accepting the award from Tedosaurus Rex, said, in defense of his ill-conceived bill, 'The people whom I serve believe that the means by which I came to office corrupt me. That shames me. Their contempt is a stain upon my honor, and I cannot live with it.' What hooey. I'd say his friendship and business shenanigans with Charlie Keating is a 'stain upon his honor,' not to mention the manner in which he dumped his first wife, but campaign finance reform? Please. Grow up, Mr. Honor, and go fight the land war in Kosovo.

Mr. Wishy-Washy himself, John Kennedy Jr., writing in the current George, also praised McCain for his failed legislation. In prose that was dumber than usual, Kennedy said: 'So whether you believe that unfettered campaign giving is the bane of American politics or a constitutionally protected exercise of free speech, McCain and Feingold displayed some real-life heroics by refusing to back down on an issue that has hurt them more than it has helped... So this summer, by all means see Star Wars. Enjoy the special effects, the drama of good versus evil. But don't walk out thinking heroes exist only in the movies.'

Meanwhile, in an abrupt switching of gears—proving he can't avoid the limelight—McCain said he'd accept an honor for the ailing President Reagan as the 'conservative of the century,' awarded by The American Conservative Union. The schizophrenic McCain said: 'I am honored and very grateful to have been asked to accept an award for that most eloquent, visionary, and steadfast apostle of freedom, President Reagan, and to have been encouraged by his staunch ally, Lady Margaret Thatcher, in my defense in the Balkans of the ideals they so ably advanced throughout the world.' Well, bravo, Sen. McCain. Just one thing: You wouldn't have ever seen The Great Communicator proposing wimpy campaign finance bills or posing with Teddy Kennedy on such a trivial occasion.

Danny Hellman
Fortunately, because McCain has made hundreds of television appearances on the war in Kosovo—mind you, I applaud the Senator for his leadership in the absence of any from the golf-playing steward of the White House—the Washington-New York dominated media has had its fill of their favorite Republican. Not so for Mike Barnicle, the former Boston Globe plagiarist who now writes once a week for Mort Zuckerman's almost-out-of-business Daily News. On May 16, Barnicle gushed: 'Of course, [McCain] has only an outside shot at the Republican nomination, because his party is controlled by lunatics who focus their attention on fringe issues that cause normal voters to withdraw in fear... In a business where so many politicians have egos the size of Antarctica and feelings to match that continent's climate, John McCain is amazingly normal. He cries, laughs, reads the box scores and can't wait to get up each day, because he has the perspective of someone who once saw his life drifting away to illness and incarceration.'

Yuck. The Globe was lucky to catch Barnicle stealing material; that way they didn't have to fire him for mushy thinking. (Globe editor Matt Storin has no stomach for such dismissals; after all, he still allows Thomas Oliphant and David Nyhan to write their paleoliberal, and usually stupid, opinions several times a week.) Barnicle, his mind clouded by whatever gets him through the night, doesn't understand the GOP mantra of the 2000 campaign: Win Back the White House. The party, in lining up behind Texas Gov. George Bush, is repudiating the 'fringe issues' that have turned off the American electorate in the past two elections.

Meanwhile, upon the release last week of the explosive Cox Report, Gov. Bush finally reacted to a national event without having to be coaxed into it. I think his sudden, and welcome, statement about the Chinese espionage scandal can be attributed to two reasons; first, his cadre of advisers has convinced him that he can't hide behind his legislative session in Texas any longer; second, when the Democrats resorted to their typical bashing of Republican presidents, that pushed Bush's anger button. Take potshots at my old man and you'll answer to me, he seemed to be saying.

In any event, his comments on May 25 were quick and forceful: 'Presented with detailed information about China's espionage, this administration apparently did not take it seriously, did not react properly and it is still trying to minimize the scope and extent of the damage done. It's unfortunate that China has been stealing secrets during Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. But there is only one administration that has been given the news. Only one administration knew—and that's the Clinton administration. The interesting question is, when did they know?'

Robert Reno, the Newsday columnist (and brother of Attorney General Janet Reno), wrote what he must've thought was a howler on May 26. Defending Bill Clinton against Ken Starr's exhaustive and noble investigation, Reno lashes out at all of the President's critics. 'Good heavens,' he writes, 'what if George W. Bush still wets his bed?... Gasp, maybe as an undergraduate Yalie he regularly dipped live cats in hot tar as part of some Animal House fraternity ritual... So if there's irrelevant garbage in his past, what business is it of ours? Still, if journalism has a shred of evenhandedness left, shouldn't Michael Isikoff be out slithering through sewer pipes to dig it up?'

Yes, Mr. Conflict-of-Interest Reno, Bush has admitted to drinking too much in his past and maybe there are pictures that will surface showing him dancing naked on a bar. That doesn't compare with charges of rape, nonstop philandering, habitual lying on matters both trivial and grave, accepting illegal campaign contributions and employing dirty tricksters to harass his opponents. True, Clinton doesn't have the guts to fire columnist Reno's sister—she probably has too much dirt on him—but Bob should get his pointy head examined if he thinks for a moment that Clinton has even one particle of Gov. Bush's character and loyalty.

Instead of concentrating on Bush, maybe Reno could address the well-reported remarks of filmmaker Spike Lee, who said last week that NRA president Charlton Heston should be shot with a '.44 caliber Bulldog' magnum pistol. Naah, Spike's on our side, right Bob, just like Alec Baldwin and all the other wealthy but liberal celebrities who advocate violence against conservatives.

But, as Tony Snow wrote last week in his syndicated column, 'Don't hold your breath for someone to tell Spike to put a sock in it. Among liberal elites these days, Mr. Lee is a man of conscience, and the pope, who believes in the sanctity of all human life, is an ‘extremist.''

Al Hunt On Acid

No MUGGER column would be complete without a stab at Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt, the prince of Beltway social life and scourge (along with Time's Margaret Carlson) of CNN's Capital Gang. In a rhapsodic column on May 27, Hunt—who must have a sinecure at the Journal, as a sop to liberal readers who loathe the paper's superb editorial page—wrote about the recent graduation ceremonies at Colby College in Maine. The featured speaker was former Sen. George Mitchell, a man who both liked raising taxes unnecessarily and taking marching orders from President Clinton. Hunt revels in pointing out that Mitchell was the son of immigrants, whose father was a janitor at Colby decades ago, proving that yes, the American Dream is real. I have no quarrel with that: I applaud immigration and the people from other countries who work their butts off, often at menial positions, to create a better life for their children. It's too bad that Mitchell's parents spawned such an awful U.S. senator, but I'm sure they were proud.

Hunt's mother and father, wherever they may be, must've cringed upon reading their progeny's closing paragraph to his corny column: 'As the heavens overlooking this beautiful 714-acre campus behaved and the rains waited, there was this son of working-class immigrants, challenging an attentive and diverse group of bright kids from all over the country. It said something special about Colby. And more than this country's dazzling wealth or unmatched entrepreneurship and creativity or our awesome military strength, it goes to what makes America the most special place in the world.'

A couple of points: I've been to a few college graduations in my time and I've never seen students 'attentive' upon listening to the commencement speech. At my own, at Johns Hopkins back in the late 70s, I nearly fell asleep when Admiral Hyman Rickover droned on for more than an hour; even worse was the next windbag, a Marxist professor who was so self-righteous that I was mighty glad I'd had the wisdom to pack a couple of tallboys for the ceremony.

Next, I know Kosovo has turned bleeding hearts into hawks, but since when is Hunt, who espouses the virtues of affirmative action, quotas and government interference into the lives of American citizens, such a proponent of entrepreneurs and unmolested capitalism? I'm certain that he had a son or daughter at Colby and so this was an Al Hunt writing under the influence. This Thursday, rest assured, he'll be back to bashing Republicans and those who really do believe in the values he conjured up in Maine.

The Queen's English

I was reading London's May 22 Spectator last Sunday night and came across two items of interest. First, Toby Young sold the magazine his piece about Mick Jagger that appeared first in NYPress, with no credit to 'Top Drawer' or our newspaper. I know that Brits are notorious for double-dipping with their copy (Alex Cockburn's just the most heinous culprit), but I'll expect Taki to make you fly steerage the next time he foots the bill for some silly jaunt of yours.

Of more significance is the fact that London's pundits are such superior writers to their equivalents in Washington. First example: Bruce Anderson, who writes about politics for The Spectator. He's passionately anti-Tony Blair and slags the Prime Minister with cutting flair.

From the May 22 issue: 'Mr. Blair himself uses ‘child of the Sixties' as a pejorative. But the history of his government was written by now forgotten Sixties guru. While the PM was still at prep school, Marshall McLuhan declared that ‘the medium is the message.' At the time, no one was quite clear what this meant. Thanks to Mr. Blair, we now understand. Whether the issue is trivial or tragic, presentation is all. The PM goes to Albania, where he is surrounded by the human wreckage of Nato's policy. For all the benefits his visits will bring to the Kosovars, he might as well have gone with explicit intention of modelling T-shirts.

Yet his ratings have never been higher. Forget the refugees, forget the military and diplomatic impasse, forget Russia, is the government's subliminal message; forget everything that is actually happening, and just look at the pictures. And it works. This is not the sovereign people's finest hour.'

And The Spectator's editor, Frank Johnson, in the same issue: 'At some as yet unforeseeable time in the future, after the liberation, when we have a Tory government again, we Conservatives, who lived through it, will be asked by the young what we did during the occupation. Some of us will truthfully be able to say that we were active throughout in the resistance.

'Admittedly, we might be tempted to embroider things a little. I might claim to have destroyed the occasional bridge or railway line carrying vital supplies of lobby fodder to Brighton for the Labour party conference. In reality, all I did was try to destroy, say, Mr. Robin Cook's reputation—a safer exploit. I suppose I shall also claim that, under torture, I never cracked, when in fact, forced to sit once more through Professor Giddens on globalisation, Sir John Birt on the consequences of the digital age, or Mr. Blair himself on the Third Way Revisited, I told them all they wanted to hear: revealing the names of entire resistance networks, agreeing to print Mr. Chris Smith on the importance of making the arts accessible for our kids—anything.

'But on the whole I like to think that I shall be judged to have had a good resistance record. But what of Mr. Kenneth Clarke, Mr. Michael Heseltine, and now, above all, Mr. Chris Patten?... I shall do my best for Mr. Patten. But his is going to be a difficult case. I might be able to save him from the firing squad, but only at the cost of his having his head shaven. The trouble is that his defence might lack plausibility. He will have to admit that he joined the puppet, pro-single currency Conservative party set up by the Blair regime. It will be shown that, throughout the occupation, this Tory Vichy, or Ustashi, led by him, Mr. Heseltine and Mr. Clarke, terrorised us decent right-wingers with its Europhilia and general moderation. He will hardly be able to deny that.'

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.


05/28/99: Brill's in The Wrong Profession
05/26/99: Gun Control Solves Everything
05/20/99: Gross, Quasi-Gifted and Broke (For Now)
05/19/99: Gore Pushes The Panic Button—Again
05/14/99: Watch Out: There's Someone's Behind You
05/12/99: Memory? What's That You Asked?
05/07/99: There Will Always Be a Washington, DC
05/05/99: Colorado Exploitation: Why Can't CNN Just Go Home?
04/30/99: John John: I'll Moonlight, Too
04/28/99: T.J. Walker's The Man!: A Former Clinton Disciple Repents
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