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Jewish World Review /Dec. 9, 1998 /20 Kislev, 5759


Mugger It Was Drudge's Year

MATT DRUDGE WAS BURSTING with news this past week.

First, he preempted the annual, if fading, game of guessing who will be Time's "Man of the Year" by announcing on his website that the selection has been narrowed to two choices. One is Alan Greenspan, for propping up the economy when just two months ago the stock market was bobbing up and down faster than a London yo-yo and the specter of a worldwide depression in early '99 wasn't all that far-fetched.

The more popular choice, according to Drudge, is a split cover of Bill and Hillary Clinton because they "triumphed over the impeachment storm and engineered a remarkable comeback in the face of what seemed like mortal blows." Time's managing editor Walter Isaacson has the final word: The magazine's staff is reportedly preparing two different packages.

Okay. While Greenspan is a safe and prudent choice, it doesn't have the oomph that the cover at one time symbolized. As for the Bill and Hillary combo, what a joke! First, Clinton isn't out of the woods as far as impeachment goes; second, what the heck did Hillary do this year except write a saccharine, syndicated column and campaign for Democratic candidates, often using race-baiting tactics? Seems to me the most logical choice, if you use the historical basis for the cover, is a three-way montage: Clinton, Ken Starr and Monica Lewinsky.

Drudge also said that David Brock, the conservative Benedict Arnold who fell under Hillary's black magic a few years back, after being part of the vast right-wing conspiracy at The American Spectator, has a blockbuster article coming out in Esquire that will be his "biggest story since Troopergate." We now know it's a piece about Michael Huffington's homosexuality. Nuts! I was hoping for something juicier: Ken Starr and Michael Isikoff are secret lovers? Linda Tripp was a double agent for the White House, working under James Carville and Sidney Blumenthal? GQ editor Art Cooper has given up turtleneck sweaters forever?

Drudge also had fun poking fun at Dan Rather's Larry King Live interview last Thursday night, in which the daffy anchorman suggested that Hillary Clinton might be the strongest Democratic candidate for president in 2000. Rather also lobbied for Hillary being named Time's Man of the Year, and in a hypothetical Gore administration, becoming the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

If the Clinton/Starr/Lewinsky trio weren't such an obvious choice for Time's cover, I'd argue for Drudge himself for a couple of reasons. One, he's successfully cowed all the Beltway insiders who've ridiculed his reporting; two, he's the most obvious symbol of the next wave of journalism, a one-man shop who's caused newsrooms with hundreds of reporters to pay attention to his postings.

That Flip-Flop Hanks Does

I ALMOST NEVER READ celebrity profiles, but after seeing the headline on last Monday's Post --"H'WOOD HERO DUMPS ON PREZ"-- I hopped over to Mary Parvin's Fourth Estate newsstand and picked up The New Yorker.

Kurt Andersen, who I'll confess is a friend of mine, was the author of the piece on Tom Hanks, and he did a fine job, considering that it was an assignment that I don't think is worthy of his estimable writing talent.

Then again, he did interview Hanks in Venice, so maybe that's the reason he took the job. Several sessions with Tombo, who seems like a pretty upright guy, then off to see the sights in that outstanding outdoor museum.

I watch Hanks' movies, and really liked his That Thing You Do!, although he sort of dismissed it in talking to Andersen, as well as Philadelphia and Sleepless in Seattle. Saving Private Ryan I couldn't stomach, given Steven (can I suck up to Bill Clinton more than David Geffen) Spielberg's involvement, but Hanks himself was terrific, although Ed Burns and Jeremy Davies stole the film.

Anyway, the Post and other newspapers leaped on a very minor part of the piece in which Hanks said that he "regretted" contributing to Clinton's legal defense fund.

It was refreshing to see a crack in the Hollywood-First Liar connection. But then, quick as Tina Brown snaps her fingers to get a lackey to fetch a few canapes and an Evian for lunch, a publicist got to America's good-guy actor and he retracted the statement. The same day The New Yorker was released, Hanks told reporters, "If I was asked to do it again, I would probably give twice as much... You couldn't get a bigger supporter of the president than I am."

Andersen told me on Tuesday: "[Hanks] told me when I interviewed him that he 'still supports the president,' which is not incompatible with regretting the defense fund donation. His take in our conversations seemed properly nuanced and full of grays, as I suggested in the piece.

I suppose the sudden black-and-white tabloid hoopla made him decide that if he's going to be forced now to declare himself on one side or the other of the pro- and anti-Clinton barricades, he's going to be on the pro- side. What choice did he have? He gave the guy a C or a C-, but suddenly everybody said to him on Monday, 'Sorry, only Pass-Fail grades allowed,' so he had to go back and give him a Pass."

Ellis Henican, in a Dec. 2 Newsday column, discussed the brouhaha, unfortunately continuing the self-flagellation that journalists find so satisfying today. He wrote: "Actually, it's kind of hard to blame Tom Hanks for most of this. He's just a likable movie actor. He never claimed to be William F. Buckley, for goodness sake. We're the ones who deserve most of the blame. We're the ones who put him in the paper, as if he had something to say. We're the ones who put him all over TV. And it wasn't like we could blame the tabloid snakes who slither around our feet. Wasn't it the august New Yorker who set this whole thing off?"

Uh, Ellis, isn't Newsday a tabloid? So I guess you're a snake, too, and can feel justified in bellying up to the bar with the likes of Ray Kerrison, Deborah Orin, John Podhoretz and Michael Daly.

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


11/26/98: Starrís 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 Zabarís: 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