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Jewish World Review July 9, 1999/ 5 Tamuz 5759


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Hillary & Sharpton: So Happy Together --
THE HILLARY CLINTON/RUDY GIULIANI slugfest continues, as it will for months to come, but I got too lost in national politics to concentrate on the preliminary squabbles. The week started off with Jeffrey Toobin suggesting in The New Yorker that President Clinton might run for Senate in Arkansas in three years, a for-now far-fetched story that the White House lingered in responding to, presumably to keep Al Gore out of the news cycle. Then Hillary’s house-hunting: Frankly, I don’t care where she ends up (as long as it’s not in Tribeca); it’s simply not an important issue. Ditto for all her taxpayer-funded trips to New York.

You just can’t compete with the White House spin on that one, and ultimately, one more example of the Clintons on the take won’t make a difference in the Senate race. At this point, who has the energy to point fingers at those two? Far more significant was Ken Starr letting felon and presidential scapegoat Webb Hubbell off the hook, cutting a deal, thus avoiding a trial and gobs of Hillary sympathy from the likes of The New York Times.

My friend Peggy Noonan is worried that Hillary might actually win; I still can’t see it. Even traditional Democrats are recoiling at her hubris. James Brady, writing in Crain’s New York Business on June 28, was downright mean in describing the First Lady, and he’s not known making people mad. A lifetime of schmoozing does that to a writer. Anyway, he gripes: “Hillary, angry, cynical, ambitious, clever and conniving, a Lucrezia Borgia in pantsuits, hasn’t even gotten to town yet and already she’s got people at each other’s throats. The latest—Tina Brown, John Kennedy and the mayor... Maybe the Senate race is her only option in getting out of a dysfunctional marriage and creating a new life for herself. I can’t believe that’s what senate seats are for, but still...when I hear ‘Hillary,’ I think of Lillian Hellman, a bitter, vengeful woman defined not so much by her ideas as by her resentments.”

The Post’s Jack Newfield, no Giuliani fan, wrote a dumb column on July 1, one of those imaginary bits where “A mole at the White House faxed us...” but it still shows where he stands. Newfield’s not a born humorist, but he tries: “Spielberg told me to put on paper three true reasons why I want to be a senator. So here goes: 1. I am entitled to this as a reward for all the humiliations I endured because of Bill. 2. Rudy is part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. 3. I want to be president while Bill is a junior senator from Arkansas.” I doubt that either Brady or Newfield would actually vote for Giuliani, but it is an indication that Hillary’s supposed electoral base isn’t as solid as her adviser Harold Ickes thinks. This might be the first time in his life that Newfield sits out an election.

Before he was felled by a heart attack late last week, Ed Koch joined fellow former mayors David Dinkins and Abe Beame at City Hall to denounce Giuliani’s silly scheme to revise the City Charter so that the obnoxious Mark Green can’t replace him once he—I hope—defeats Clinton for the Senate. When will Rudy get it through his meanspirited noggin that this is an issue that won’t gain him a single vote? So what if Green takes over as mayor for the short spell until the 2001 election? Giuliani would be better served by plotting in secret to make sure there’s a credible Republican challenger who will carry on his regime despite the short interruption.

But I did get a kick out of Dan Barry’s June 29 column in the Times describing the unlikely triumvirate of Democratic pols uniting against Giuliani. Barry describes Beame’s appearance: “Abe Beame is 93, slight and on the short side of five feet—so fragile in appearance that Mr. Green made a move to help him. But Mr. Beame quickly demonstrated that he needed no assistance, striding up the steps as though it were 1975 again.”

Just what the doctor ordered: a reminder of Beame’s calamitous tenure as mayor, when the city almost went broke and even Jerry Ford made fun of New York. One can only hope that Beame campaigns as vigorously as possible for his fellow hack Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Which brings us, no surprise, to Mr. P.T. Sharpton. He’s made it clear that HRC will have to kiss his ring if she wants the support of him and his “people,” and simply being invited to the White House to watch her don a Yankees cap isn’t enough. In a fine July 19 New Republic piece by Michelle Cottle, she quotes political scientist Fred Siegel, in an amusing cough of hyperbole: “[Sharpton] is the single most powerful Democrat in terms of being a kingmaker.” My goodness, what in the world does that say about the state of Democratic politics in New York City? Shiver me timbers!

But more ludicrous, and perhaps frightening, are the Rev’s own words: “There is no question that the majority of people in the African American and Latino community, many of whom support me, would support a Hillary Clinton. The question is: Can she turn them out?... [This] is the reason Hillary Clinton at some point is gonna have to deal with people like me. If she only goes with the traditional club and union kind of campaign—that’s what we had in ’93 when Dave Dinkins lost.” Could be, Al. Trouble is, Hillary’s is a statewide election. I hope she’s foolish enough to bring Sharpton along on a leash as a mascot, but I suspect that Ickes knows that won’t play too well upstate or in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Back to Hillary’s major booster: The New York Times. In a front-page story on July 4 about the upcoming Senate race, fully 80 percent of the article by Adam Nagourney was devoted to Clinton, even though the headline read “In New York Race For Senate, Pacing Takes Prominence.” Why the piece merited front-page status is beyond me. After all, Nagourney’s third paragraph reads: “But there is a growing perception among New York’s political leaders that the 16-month campaign for Senate that effectively begins with Mrs. Clinton’s appearance in Pindars Corners will pose an extraordinary challenge for the Democratic First Lady and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican New York City Mayor who is also likely to run for the seat.”

Well, that was illuminating. If you’re a tourist visiting the city from Little Rock.

On the op-ed page, Gail Collins voiced what Hillary must be thinking, writing about her meeting with Sen. Moynihan in Oneonta this week. “If establishing an exploratory committee, renting office space and hiring staff are not enough proof that Mrs. Clinton is a serious candidate, this trip ought to do it. Nobody travels to Oneonta without a really, really good reason.”

And in the July 12 Newsweek package on the New York Senate contest, readers are treated to a poorly written, let’s-state-the-obvious primer from George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton flack who threatens to provide media analysis as long as one or the other of the First Couple remains in the public spotlight. George’s advice to his former boss? Raise a lot of money. Lose the Secret Service bubble that separates you from real New Yorkers. Be friendly to the media. Watch out for Giuliani’s attacks. I don’t know how much Newsweek is paying Stephanopoulos for this grad student thumb-sucking, but if it’s more than a penny a word, the magazine is getting ripped off.

The lead story about Clinton, written by Jonathan Alter and Debra Rosenberg, has more substance than Stephanopoulos’, but not much that’s new. The two reporters rehash the Giuliani/ George Pataki feud, and state with near certainty that the Mayor will face a primary challenge from Rep. Rick Lazio and possibly Rep. Peter King. An unnamed national “Republican insider” is quoted as saying: “[Giuliani] will drive the largest turnout of minorities in the history of New York. This would hurt George W.’s ability to carry this state. Here’s a presidential candidate trying to reach out to women and Hispanics. Rudy takes all those pluses away from you.”

This doesn’t smell right to me. After all, as Fred Barnes said on The Beltway Boys last Saturday night, the media is treating Hillary Clinton like the second coming of Joan of Arc. I suspect that Alter and Rosenberg’s source is in the Lazio or King camp: His or her analysis doesn’t square with Bush’s desire to prevent a bloody primary fight. He wants Giuliani on the ticket, unbruised, to showcase the Mayor’s remarkable achievements in New York City. Giuliani’s gutter-mouth will be hard to zip, but if he wants a future in national politics, if may be the first time in his life he takes marching orders with a smile.

Finally, a few words from NYPress correspondent Bill Monahan, who’s pondering whether it’s worth the effort to write about the campaign. Monahan: “What’s frightening about Hillary is what’s frightening about Bill Gates. They know they have a crap product; they don’t care. That may be an angle. Hillary has no talent, no brains, she’s sort of this virus-like thing, that should, maximum, have been a low-rent personnel officer, but escaped from the petri dish and hit the road, wearing that sick smile, altitude-sick, totally out of her depth, but on the march.

She’s gotta know she’s gravely unsuitable and actively bad for people, who deserve better. She doesn’t care. She wants what she wants. That’s what creates the late-century nausea.

“There’s also a tragic component in a literary sense: She’s making a huge, overreaching mistake, and the only thing she’s gonna accomplish is making Giuliani look like a combination of Thomas Jefferson and the Christian savior. I saw her on tv talking to the U.S. citizens as if they were illiterates to whom she had brought religious tracts and wagons of food paid for out of her own personal First Lady Treasury and almost lost my lunch.

“So it’s insane. I could do it. I wouldn’t like it. But I could get something out of it if the nausea is just gotten over with, which is the thing I was missing.”

Hotter Than a Matchhead

It was a slow week in the city for the MUGGER family, and it was only the central air conditioning in the loft that left Mrs. M feeling human. We’re opposites in that regard: Years of living in Baltimore, where soupy summers are the norm, and traveling to Bangkok many times, erased my Northeastern dislike of extreme heat. I think New York’s climate sucks. I’d far prefer it to be like Houston or Miami, where the humidity is so intense that people are lulled into a fever-like calm, a wash of well-being settles in that stimulates imagination and Big Thoughts. But I suppose that’s a minority view.

Last Wednesday, Mrs. M, Mike Gentile and I traveled to East Soho—what the Times belatedly calls NoLita—to a gallery on Mott St. to view a painting of John Waters by our old friend Susan Lowe. The small space was too crowded to spend more than a few minutes there, and Mrs. M was put off by the “cologne” that many young women wafted—she likened it to vaginal discharge—but amid the poachers drinking Budweiser tallboys, pretending to look at the jammed walls of art, we did manage to spend a few minutes with Sue and Dennis Dermody.

I hadn’t seen Sue in a coon’s age: Back in Baltimore, in the late 70s and 80s she was a regular on my social circuit, and we often shared bottles of wine at croquet tournaments in Hampstead or the splendid garden parties of Vince Peranio and Delores Deluxe down in Fells Point. One night that I barely remember, Sue, Gentile, Waters and I, after the Club Charles had closed, wandered to Pat Moran’s apartment for an after-hours nightcap, and I was horrified to find that the only booze in the house was vodka. I have a huge problem with that popular potable: It dates back to college when my roommate Mark and I polished off a half gallon of Smirnoff’s with our friends Jenny and Paula while playing poker. Never did regain a taste for the stuff. However, I threw caution to the wind for the 99th time that particular year, and the five of us yakked until the sun rose.

After the gallery opening, Mrs. M, Mike and I walked on Houston St. to Boca Chica, at 1st and 1st, and it was simply remarkable how that stretch of concrete has been transformed in just the past couple of years. It’s one thing to notice all the chic shops that have opened east of the Puck Bldg.—Blue Bag, Terra Plana, Wang, Zero, Hedra Prue, Janet Russo, Jamin Puech, to name just a few—but Houston had always been a dicey stroll. Instead of bums sprawled on the sidewalks, smashed glass in the gutters, we found a stream of well-dressed passersby, not one collegiate panhandler and even the caged-in park by the restaurant, once the repository for crackies and other undesirables, was on this night, at least, populated by at least a dozen upright citizens, three with cell phones, four waiting on line at an ice cream stand. My feelings about Rudy Giuliani are well-known, but this wasn’t David Dinkins’ New York.

Our boys have just about exhausted their mania for Pokemon—I can only hope those darn trading cards are worth something in about 15 years—and have dived into all the Star Wars paraphernalia. Junior’s seen the film three times, and on Saturday engaged in a conversation about it with a guy behind the prepared-foods counter at Dean & DeLuca. I have no patience for movies of that ilk—I missed the first installment and never caught up—but the kids are gung ho and so that’s meant trips to Forbidden Planet, King’s Pharmacy and Toys R Us for all the action figures.

On Sunday, Junior found a “rarity” at Forbidden Planet, Mace Windu, and it made his day. He and MUGGER III have a Star Wars lineup in their room, including the likes of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Padme Naberrie, and a dozen more that I don’t have the patience to list here. After that excursion, we patronized the Virgin store at Union Square, where MUGGER III was jubilant at finding a Freddi the Fish CD-ROM and I was just as happy picking up the I Love Lucy European series videos. My six-year-old tried to sneak a South Park tape into our basket, but that was quickly met with a parental “N,” as in no, Seńor Junior.

Later that 4th of July, we hosted a small gathering of friends on our rooftop and besides all the complaints about the heat, the one common thread of conversation was about the lack of fireworks exploding nonstop. Time was, not so long ago, that Chinatown was a war zone for a solid week in and around the holiday, with shady youths selling explosives and tossing cherry bombs willy-nilly into the crowded streets. That’s a no-no in Rudy’s New York and I don’t miss it a bit: The first year I lived in Manhattan it was kind of cool, the continual, deafening noise on the Fourth, but enough is enough.

It was too hot for a proper barbecue, so Mrs. M laid out a spread of Smithfield ham, guacamole, jerk chicken salad, olives and cheese—downstairs in the kitchen—and a dozen or so of us drank beer, Evian and Cokes on the roof, looking across the river to Hoboken and noticing that no one else was on their Tribeca terraces. At one point, MUGGER III took a spill on some steps, adding a nasty bruise to his little body, but an ice pack and some children’s Tylenol fixed him up quick. Mrs. M and I were proud of Junior: Not only did he alert us to his brother’s mishap, but after the incident he stayed in bed right next to the little nipper, watching a video with him. The two of them are less than two years apart in age and despite the frequent skirmishes they taunt us with, they become closer each day.

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.


07/07/99: Al Gore’s Mondale Impersonation; Bush Conquers California
07/02/99:Make Room for MUGGER
06/30/99:It’s Not Too Early: Gore Needs to Raise the Bar
06/25/99: Summertime Cruise
06/23/99: The Times Unofficially Endorses Gore: Bush Confuses The Media
06/18/99: Taki Growls And Prowls
06/16/99: Bush Begins His March: The Beltway Pundits Pout
06/11/99: In the Days Of Gold
06/09/99: Pollution Alert: Hillary Clinton Loves New York
06/03/99: Life in the Danny Thomas Suite
06/02/99: A McCain For All Seasons
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