Bush Confuses The Media
Last Thursday, in an astonishing editorial, The New York Times unofficially endorsed Al Gore over Gov. George W. Bush for president in the 2000 election. The headline read “Al Gore as the Un-Clinton,” and the writer reacted favorably to the Vice President’s tepid candidacy announcement in Carthage, TN, last Wednesday, pronouncing that Gore is “particularly expert on foreign relations and the environment, areas where leading Republican candidate, George W. Bush, is weak.”
This, of course, is absurd. Where was Gore—who, according to the Times has been a “key policy player” in Bill Clinton‘s administration—when the President was making a hash out of the war in Yugoslavia? Huddling with his wife Tipper, figuring out a way to shed seven years of Clintonian baggage is my bet. Where was Gore when the Chinese were pilfering U.S. military secrets? Helping count the illegal foreign contributions to their ’96 campaign, while munching on Charlie Trie‘s eggrolls. As for the environment, it’s true that Gore wrote a book on the subject, but as Mark Hertsgaard points out in a Los Angeles Times essay last Sunday, he’s been silent as Clinton has reneged on one environmental pledge after another, such as increasing the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles.
The Times editorial continues: “From this early vantage point it appears that the main danger in this campaign could be the spectacle of two candidates clinging so firmly to the center, appealing so consistently to the soccer moms and the suburban vote, that their themes become interchangeable in the public mind. If that happens, the election could very likely turn on issues of personality, and it would be unfortunate if the public reacted to its disappointment with Mr. Clinton by deciding this election on the basis of personal charm. The majority of Americans who talk to pollsters may say right now that they prefer Mr. Bush to Mr. Gore, but they are also wise enough to admit by huge margins that they do not know enough about either man.”
This is thinly veiled code that says the Times is scared silly that Bush might actually win the election.
There are several points to make about this ludicrous endorsement. First, does the paper really believe that Americans don’t “know enough” about Al Gore after he’s been in office for seven years? I think they know he claimed to invent the Internet; said there was “no controlling authority” that prevented him from making campaign solicitations from his office; that on the
day Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, Gore, at that infamous White House pep rally, insisted that his boss will be remembered as one of the greatest American presidents; and that despite his current mantra of “family values,” honesty is apparently not one of them. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have railed against the tobacco industry in 1996, exploiting his
sister’s death of lung cancer in 1984, when he had bragged in Southern states during the ’88 presidential primaries that he tilled tobacco like any hard-working farmer.
The notion that Gore and Bush espouse “interchangeable” themes is laughable. Bush is for cutting taxes and less government regulation; Gore is captive of Big Labor; Bush is against frivolous litigation, Gore is beholden to the legal industry; Bush is pro-life, Gore is pro-choice; Bush says that Clinton should’ve been impeached, Gore stood by the President steadfastly, whereas his resignation would’ve demonstrated enormous courage and integrity; Bush favors vouchers for private schools, Gore proposes federal initiatives to reduce class size for public schools; Bush applauded the welfare reform Clinton signed, while Gore has promised to “un-do” it; and Bush is against a raise in the minimum wage, Gore is for one.
Bush’s well-orchestrated rollout of his campaign, which baffled the mainstream liberal media aching for a fatal gaffe, surprised even conservative and moderate Republicans who were afraid that he’d be as stiff as Gore on the hustings. To the contrary, he shook hands with voters even after the cameras were gone, and used his father as an effective supporting actor in Kennebunkport, where President Bush was humble, admitted past mistakes and said it was his son’s turn now.
That’s a value Americans haven’t seen much of since Clinton took office in 1993. The Bush clan is different: By all accounts, Gov. Bush has been faithful to his wife, reveres his parents and counts on his siblings for support. I don’t care much for the Kennedys, but do admire their fealty to each other. Gore was demonstrably close to his father, and has a loving immediate family, but his tacit acceptance of Clinton’s abhorrent moral behavior is damning. It’s only now that the Veep is “distancing” himself from Clinton.
One more surprise to the Beltway media: They simply don’t know how to cover successful GOP candidates.
Another crucial element to Bush’s early success is, should he win the nomination, he’ll be the youngest GOP presidential candidate since 1960 (and Richard Nixon was born looking like he was 60 years old). He’s photogenic, lively and exuberant; it’s no wonder that he’s defeating the buttoned-up Gore among women voters right now. And Gore has reacted to Bush’s support among minorities, ludicrously speaking in Spanish at his announcement in Tennessee last week. Even a liberal like the Chicago Tribune‘s Clarence Page was impressed by Bush’s initial performance. In a June 20 column, he wrote: “I was impressed with how effortlessly the younger Bush appeared to be overcoming his father’s biggest image deficit. The senior Bush suffered in the polls for his failure to convey to voters the sense of caring that seems to come quite naturally to the younger Bush. Dubya’s enthusiasm for winning people’s support has paid off handsomely. His crossover appeal is high with women, blacks, Latinos and others in the Democratic Party’s base, judging by the turnout for his landslide re-election to the governorship last year, and, more recently, by presidential preference polls.”
Yet for all the GOP’s giddiness at Bush’s prospects for retaking the White House, smart strategists within the party know that Gore will be difficult to defeat. He has a robust economy going for him (not that he had much to do with it), has an array of dirty tricksters to sabotage his opponent’s campaign and, foremost, he’s not Bill Clinton. Paul Gigot, in his “Potomac Watch” column in The Wall Street Journal last Friday, made a key point in saying that Bush’s handlers are too “cocky.” I don’t entirely agree with the following statement, but I’m sure the Bush camp has taken it to heart: “Mr. Bush is soaring in part because voters know nothing about him, while Mr. Gore is down because most of what they know about him is refracted through Mr. Clinton. If he can emerge as Clinton without the character flaws and with a Vietnam record, the political fundamentals make him the favorite.”
And Bush is likely to be bested by Gore in the presidential debates, just as the Vice President made mincemeat out of Ross Perot and Jack Kemp (although the media expectations for Gore will be so high that if Bush gives just B performances, the debates will be called a draw).
Right now, I believe the electoral map favors Bush. Obviously, he’ll win Texas and Florida (where his brother Jeb is governor); with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (a pro-choice Vietnam vet) as his running mate, he’ll make inroads into the Rust Belt. And if Bush takes California, not the longshot you’d think, given the hunger for a change of administrations, the election is over.
Still, Bush can’t win on charm, compassionate conservatism and a handsome mug alone. Soon he’ll have to come out with major policy statements, daring ideas that will challenge the electorate, much as Jack Kennedy did in 1960. He has the opportunity to speak about real change in the country—why not be the first Republican to advocate making Cuba part of the United States once Castro falls?—and not just GOP vs. Democrat politics as usual. Just as the communications industry has expanded exponentially since even the ’96 elections, so too can the role of government in this country and the global position of the United States in the 21st century. If Bush can articulate bold challenges, he’ll win easily. Otherwise, it’ll be an election too close to call.
The Longest Campaign
The gossip in Washington this past week was that Hillary Clinton might not run for Senate in New York after all. Smells like George Stephanopoulos (via Dick Morris, of all people) spin to me: She totted up discouraging stats that suggest she’ll get creamed by Rudy Giuliani and will instead raise a lot of money and save it for an Illinois race in 2004…or maybe
to pay off legal fees. If she had a conscience, which isn’t likely, Hillary would divvy out some of those funds to all the White House aides who are now in debt because of her husband’s consistent lying over the years.
But I’m not convinced: Her campaign manager, the mercurial Harold Ickes, is far too visible these days if the First Lady was going to stay put in the White House. Besides, she’s already told 1000 of her closest associates that she’s “doing this [running for the Senate] for me.” And there was an encouraging poll in the Daily News last Sunday that has her defeating Rudy by eight points. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report says in its June 28 issue that Hillary will move to New York by the fall, whereabouts still unknown. (Bill Clinton issued a denial of this report, but I don’t think he’s calling the shots in that marriage. He told CNN, “It’s not true that she’s going to move out of the White House… She is not going to stop being First Lady.” Says who, Bill? Also, according to Deborah Orin‘s June 21 Post report, Clinton said he’s known “his wife was a closet Yankees fan.”) An “operative” is quoted by the magazine as saying, “Everyone will understand if she has to go back to Washington for a NATO summit or something like that. But there’s no doubt that she’ll leave the White House early.” Yes, it is important that Hillary is present at NATO meetings; with husband Bill out on the golf course, and Al Gore taking Spanish lessons, someone has to have a cuppa with Tony Blair.
So, the race is on, putting me in the queer position of agreeing with the wealthy populist Michael Moore. We both say: Run, Hillary, run! although for different reasons. I’m counting on her staying in New York, fighting a futile campaign, instead of whipping up women voters for Gore in California, New Jersey and even Massachusetts. With Gore losing to Gov. Bush in preliminary polls (yes, they’re somewhat meaningless, but still a snapshot; he’s behind by double digits in Michigan, which ought to make Tony Coelho dirty his drawers), he’ll need a lot of help.
Moore, needless to say, is pro-Hillary, mostly because, as he explained in the July issue of Playboy, she’s “one hot, shit-kicking feminist babe.” Yikes. The interviewer asked Moore about Hillary, whether he’d work on her campaign, and he gave an extended answer, most of which, unsurprisingly, was self-aggrandizing.
“I will be doing more than just working for her. I’ll be holding her hand the entire way. Give her a neck rub now and then on the campaign trail… I met her at a White House dinner. I went through the reception line where the Marine announces your name, and then you have five seconds to say hello. There are 300 people behind you. I shake [Bill] Clinton’s hand and he says, ‘I’m such a fan of yours. I love Roger and Me.’ Hillary hears this and says, ‘I’m a bigger fan.’ Then she takes me by the hand and she keeps her hand on mine… My face goes red. I’m having the only physical reaction that the Roman Catholic Church allows me to have… I’m into my second minute with her. The line is being held up. Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin is standing behind me. I tell her she should run for the Senate. She spends another minute talking to me. If she needs any help after she’s out of the White House, I’m there for her 100 percent. Well, 99 percent.”
Funny how Moore is such a fan of the Clintons: Weren’t they the couple who dismantled welfare and moved the Democratic Party to the center? Nothing like a “shit-kicking feminist babe” to make a guy throw his politics down the toilet. Go get ‘em, Mike; you’ll make all the difference up there in Syracuse and Buffalo with your limo and long-suffering entourage.
On the GOP side, Joe Conason gave Giuliani a black eye in his June 21 New York Observer column. Noting that the Mayor is making “carpetbagger cries” about Clinton—something he claimed he wouldn’t resort to many months ago—Conason quotes from a 1964 college newspaper article that Giuliani wrote about the Robert Kennedy-Kenneth Keating Senate race. The youthful Rudy, a Kennedy supporter, wrote, in a piece called “Ars Politica”: “Let us hope that cosmopolitan New Yorkers can rise above the ridiculous, time-worn provincial attitude that has so disunited our nation.” Then Conason throws a jab at the hypocritical Mayor: “[T]here is something eerily amusing about Mr. Giuliani’s words returning to contradict him now. The next time he puts on his overalls and starts wisecracking about Arkansas, he may just have to explain why political carpetbagging offends him so much more today than it did 35 years ago.”
Good point. And the same one that The New York Times‘ Clyde Haberman devoted most of an article to on June 11, although without the overt partisanship that Conason shows to Mrs. Clinton. I e-mailed Conason, curious as to why he didn’t attribute Haberman in his piece; he called back, said he hadn’t seen the piece and, in fact, was relying on an April 5 Associated Press report by Albany reporter Marc Humbert who apparently first dug up the Giuliani archival nugget. So I’d say that both Haberman and Conason are guilty of non-attribution.
Unlike Humbert and Haberman, who are more constrained by phony tenets of “objectivity,” particularly in the case of the Timesman, Conason clearly declares his loyalty to the First Lady. In a sidebar to Dan Kennedy‘s June 17 Boston Phoenix piece about the upcoming Senate race in New York, Conason again brings up Rudy’s long-ago column, and then enthusiastically endorses Hillary’s candidacy. This is no surprise, of course, since Conason has been one of the Clintons’ most vociferous supporters in the past several scandal-infused years.
In fact, two weeks ago, he was the lone journalist (well, with the dubious exception of Kitty Kelley) who was invited to a White House dinner in honor of Hungarian president Arpad Goncz. According to a June 9 Washington Post article by Roxanne Roberts and Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Conason was among a group of literary figures and celebrities who witnessed
the First Lady in “a gauzy, beaded slate-gray gown by Pamela Dennis” while Martha Stewart “opted for pink silk capri pants and a short matching jacket.” Musical entertainment was provided by Judy Collins and the assembled had a meal of “salmon with portobello mushrooms, pecan-crusted lamb and bing cherry strudel.” Conason was joined at the White House by, among others, Tony Curtis, William Styron, Elie Wiesel, William Cohen, Paul Begala, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Richard Lugar, John Podesta, Susan Sontag and David Rieff. Joe, just like the Jeffersons, you’re movin’ on up!
Anyway, in his Phoenix piece (which must have been written several weeks ago, considering his unkind mention of Rep. Nita Lowey: “Until Hillary Clinton makes up her mind, the field is left to a lone, uninspiring suburban congresswoman with a wealthy husband”), Conason compares Hillary to Eleanor Roosevelt—that conceit is getting mighty tired—saying that she’s “preparing to make history” with her Senate run. He writes: “Yet because of her popular persona and her ties to traditional constituencies, she can serve as a unifying force among Democrats. Indeed, she is in certain respects the real, if not the titular, leader of the Democratic Party.” Lord, Joe, easy on the bing cherry strudel! Hillary is the leader of the Democratic Party? Says who, besides you? I’d imagine Al Gore would beg to differ, as would her miserable husband. Throw in Dick Gephardt, Bill Bradley, the insufferable Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, Bob Kerrey and, hell, just for grins, Patrick Kennedy, and I’d say there’s a battle for “titular” or “real” head of the Democratic Party.
But wait! Let’s call in the reinforcements. The ever-reliable Lars-Erik Nelson says that Hillary’s a winner in New York because of one man—Ken Starr. Nelson, hurting for material on June 16, writes in the Daily News: “As she runs for the Senate, this dweeby Peeping Tom, who was unable to indict [Hillary Clinton], threatens through his aides to issue a blistering final report on her supposed misconduct. What more could Clinton ask for? She faces a tough race against Mayor Giuliani, but if her luck holds, she can hang Starr around Giuliani’s neck and sink him like a stone.”
Sure, Lars. Starr might be a “dweeb,” but he’s not stupid, and has collected a ream of damaging material against the First Lady: all the familiars that would’ve been forgotten had she not decided to run for Senate. Filegate, Travelgate, missing Rose Law Firm records, etc., all potent evidence that Giuliani, far more tenacious and media-savvy than Starr, can have a field day with.
And Bob Herbert signaled the New York Times view with his June 20 column, writing: “More and more New Yorkers are seeing Rudolph Giuliani for what he really is, a power-hungry, petty and vindictive man whose policies are often fundamentally anti-democratic.” Apparently oblivious that he could be describing the Clintons, Herbert continues: “For years his excesses have been obscured or excused because of the falling crime rates in the city. And that has encouraged greater excesses. The city’s tolerance of those excesses seems to be diminishing. Fair and reasonable people can keep their eyes closed only so long.”
Aside from not mentioning what Giuliani’s “excesses” exactly are, I’d wager that “fair and reasonable people” take a look back at the David Dinkins regime and realize that even though the Mayor may be a skunk, he’s contributed to making New York a safer place to live.
The Washington Post‘s E.J. Dionne, a typically squishy DC liberal, is furrowing his brow at Hillary’s embrace of New York, writing a column on June 15 that quoted several anonymous Democratic “consultants” who are skeptical about her candidacy. One told Dionne: “Absent her running, the overwhelming priority of the administration would have been electing Al Gore. Now you’ve got a three-ring circus at the White House—Clinton’s working on his legacy, Gore’s running for president, and Mrs. Clinton is running for the Senate. If you think the most important thing Democrats can do is elect Al Gore, this is
a terrible idea.” Another consultant said: “Her defeat will be seen as a defeat for feminism, for liberalism, not just a defeat for her personally… [This] “would be like us beating Jesse Helms.”
David Shribman, the Boston Globe columnist who also writes about politics for Fortune, despairs for Hillary as well. In the July 5 issue of that magazine, Shribman said: “Why would one of the nation’s most accomplished women want to be a Senator when many of the Senate’s best and brightest [Fortune doesn't edit for cliches] (Sam Nunn, Warren Rudman, David Boren) have given up in frustration?” I don’t know where this “most accomplished” malarkey comes from—unless you consider being used as a doormat by your husband, failing to convince Americans that a quasi-socialist health-care system made sense or dumping old friends when it’s politically expedient are virtues—but that’s standard Beltway pundit mush for you.
And don’t forget the rap group Screwball: They’re in Hillary’s corner as well, releasing a song called “Who Shot Rudy?” that includes the lyrics, “Nobody cried—it was real, like, some Jews celebrating when the Pharaoh got killed.” The writer of the tune, Kyron Jones, told the Associated Press: “I don’t want anybody to go out and shoot him. I’m just voicing the thoughts of my people.” Uh, okay, Kyron. Get back to me when your IQ rises above 25.
Even Liz Smith is getting into the act, quoting, in her June 21 syndicated column, Camille Paglia: “Hillary loves eunuch geek men! Oh, my God, look at them all! Sidney Blumenthal, Ira Magaziner, Harold Ickes. They are all these weird Ichabod Crane men, all high-IQ men who have no natural virility… She is the most arrogant, the most moralistic, the most sermonizing and annoying person on Earth—and it (her possible bid for the Senate in New York) is just a joke that the media have allowed to go on as long as it has.”
Finally, I’ll be glad when Hillary sets up her exploratory committee in early July so that Creators Syndicate Inc. will be forced to terminate her propaganda-laden column “Talking It Over.” Her June 2 ditty, which is no doubt printed in many smalltown newspapers, was typical, reading, in part: “We can no longer ignore the well-documented connection between violence in the media and children’s behavior. America’s culture of violence is having a profound effect on our children—and we must resolve to do what we can to change it.”
But not before Hillary’s Hollywood buds (and Geraldo) contribute to her Senate campaign. Until then, vigorous ID checks at multiplexes across the country will go a long way to solving the problem.
When you’re a kid, birthdays are pure magic. Actually, some adults, like NYPress art director Mike Gentile, never get over it: My calendar always has Jan. 20 circled, because that’s when he says the year officially starts. But if you’re born in July or August, like MUGGER III, school-wise, it’s a bad deal: Not only do you miss out on parties with your mates there, but so many people are out of town that private bashes are often sparsely attended. That’s why it was so cool that Joe, MUGGER III’s teacher, on the last day of the semester, set aside time last Monday to celebrate my boy’s birthday two months early.
It was a simple half-hour ceremony that had Mrs. M fighting off the waterworks. She and Junior had purchased and doled out the snacks—gummy bears, Gatorade and Pringles—and then all the kids gathered in a circle while the “birthday boy” wore a crown. My favorite segment of the activity was when MUGGER III walked around a lit candle five times, once for each year, and after each revolution, stopped to hear comments from his parents about what he was like when was one, two, etc. Smart-aleck Junior piped in with, “He cried a lot,” or “He tried to snake my Power Rangers,” while I remembered that as a newborn he didn’t sleep much, and when he was four he told me stories about his imaginary friends who drove all the poisonous blue, yellow and purple ants out of the United States. Mrs. M was a touch more sentimental, saying, “When he was one, MUGGER III was cute as a button, just like now,” and “He had the best appetite of any boy I ever saw.”
Then Joe asked each of his friends what they would buy MUGGER III if they had unlimited cash at their disposal. Thirteen out of 15 pupils chose some kind of Pokemon paraphernalia, speaking in a code that was foreign even to me, and I’m pretty much of an expert on the fad. Once that was completed the kids dug into the gummy bears, I stopped in at Mary‘s Fourth Estate newsstand and then got back to work, to stare down the Deadline Nazis, as some crank out in Seattle I once knew would bleat repeatedly on difficult afternoons.
Lately, my younger son has a new shtick: He asks me to eat his toe, which I do and then pretend to barf. Keeps him rolling with laughter for five minutes. I’ve also been counseling both boys to watch out when they jump from the jungle gym in the park. Why, Dad, they ask me like I’m some kind of sissy. I tell him about the neck injury I incurred when I was 11: My brothers and I played a game of leaping down the dozen steps of stairs in our house, with pillows at the bottom. One day I didn’t make it all the way and pinched a nerve in my neck that haunts me still. One or two muscles are so kinked up that if I read in a funny position, or slouch in a chair the wrong way, I’m punished by two days of solid pain. If I want to carry the boys on my shoulders I know there’s a price to pay and Tylenol doesn’t do a damn bit of good. One time, years ago, the day before Mrs. M and I went to Jamaica for a week, I fucked up my neck and literally couldn’t move it from side to side. My doctor prescribed medication that sort of relieved the pain; once I got on the rum tonics I was in a better state of mind. Mrs. M thought it was a riot back then: A year ago, however, she encountered a similar ailment and finally knew what I was talking about.
On Saturday morning, after arising at 5 with the boys, playing with Pokemon cards and Star Wars action figures and watching Secrets of the Animal Kingdom, the four of us trooped down to the ballfield for the next-to-last Downtown Little League game of the season. The NYPress Giants were playing the Highland Production Bulls—who sported slick fielding—and, although I’m not supposed to say this, pasted their opponents. Scotty Franchi hit a grand slammer, Gabe Wax hit the ball ferociously and Jack Reidy ran all over the field trying to make an unassisted triple play. I think he actually succeeded. During the game, MUGGER III told me he had to piss like a racehorse so we went over to the portable potty by the side of the field. It was pretty raunchy inside, but I told him to hold his nose and ignore the foul conditions. You’re never too young to cope with adversity: After all, 60 NYPress employees are forced to endure the shoddy amenities at 333 every day of the week.
Later in the day, it seemed like the whole team went to the carnival between Reade and Chambers St., organized by King’s Pharmacy. Marc Brandell, King’s chieftain, was a real mensch for throwing the affair for the neighborhood kids: There were several rides—the Berry Go Round the favorite in our family—and a cool guy who spun fresh cotton candy with the finesse of a glassblower. Junior claimed he puked in the Caterpillar ride but I think he was just joshing around. There was a sub-rosa Miss Subway, as in the chain of sandwiches, who showed up, a bit to Marc’s consternation, since this was a noncommercial
shindig, but she was colorful and grabbed a lot of attention, if not business. The most satisfying aspect of the carnival was that it was homemade: Not a traveling sausage vendor in sight, and none of those obnoxious carnies who travel from week to week to the city’s overloaded schedule of prefab festivals. Even though one of the rides had a flat on the Jersey Turnpike early in the day, and the cops were slow to tow a couple of trucks that blocked the street, the Kings carnival was a huge hit, and I’d say that Marc has etched himself as one of the Good Guys—recalling the 60s WMCA DJs—of this tight-knit neighborhood.
I was up before everyone else on Father’s Day and engaged in a lengthy instant e-mail discussion with a fellow from Tennessee. Initially, he was complaining about some technical aspect of our website—which I forwarded to Jeff Koyen—but then we got down to politics. He was in Carthage for Al Gore‘s kickoff speech last week and wasn’t impressed: Said that the Veep was imitating George W. Bush with his Spanish routine and that he definitely won’t vote for any Democrat next year. As for Bush, “It’s a matter of whether I want to pull the lever for someone who’ll win or go with the Libertarian candidate.” He then made the observation that Bill Kristol looks just like Bob Woodward—perhaps, but thank God Kristol doesn’t have that horrendous Midwest accent of the wealthy author who squirrels away his best material for books rather than releasing more frequent front-page reports for The Washington Post—but then I had to give up the iMac so MUGGER III so could turn on his Superman CD-ROM.
When Mrs. M got up it was time for presents and this Dad made out like a prince: seersucker swimming trunks, a summer sweater and snazzy blue and gold cufflinks. I was permitted to watch the Sunday talk shows in relative silence and was lucky enough to see George Will make a fool of Dick Gephardt on This Week. The Minority Leader couldn’t back up a single claim of his about guns sold at flea markets, and when Will pressed on he just claimed he didn’t have the statistics in front of them, but it’s an awful state of affairs and if it weren’t for Tom DeLay…
We then went to a theater in the East Village to see Tarzan, an absolutely delightful movie, despite the Phil Collins soundtrack and Rosie O’Donnell‘s voice for one of the apes. Our favorite part, all four of us, was when young Tarzan jumped in the water from a cliff and then, from under the water, pulled the tail of an elephant, who screamed, “Ow, my butt!” Also, as usual, it was freezing inside. Don’t these chain owners realize that it’s 1999 and people don’t escape to movie theaters anymore to beat the heat? That almost everyone has some form of air conditioning?
Anyway, I’d heard on a talk radio show that Al Sharpton apostles were complaining about Tarzan because it’s set in Africa and therefore makes fun of black people. Here we go again. First of all, I hope that linguists carry the day soon and the silly term African-American is retired. C’mon: My grandparents were born in Dublin but I describe myself as a white person who lives in the United States. That’s accurate. Why the double standard?
Before I took an afternoon nap, I brought the July 5 New Republic to bed and was startled by the most scathing review of Kurt Andersen‘s Turn of the Century I’ve read yet. This was incendiary material; the writer, Lee Siegel, seemed like a hyperactive preacher looking for one last glass of whiskey. I have no idea what his agenda was, or whether Marty Peretz put him up to it—TNR‘s irksome owner is feuding with James Cramer, a friend of Andersen—but once Siegel called TOC‘s author a “sociopath,” I knew it would be hard to get to sleep. Siegel writes: “Perhaps when the century does turn, the anthropologists will be able to examine why a book so empty of wit, imagination, and humanity is being hailed in the universe of newspapers and magazines as a work of wit, imagination and humanity.”
But that’s just a touch of Siegel’s wrath toward the Milosevic of American letters. He traces Andersen’s career, often inaccurately, and dismisses his cofounding of Spy—easily the most influential magazine startup in the past two decades—as the work of a social climber. “[A]t Spy, Andersen knew how to flatter the rich and famous by provoking them, just as a certain kind of undergraduate learns how to flatter his instructors by provoking them. An undergraduate approach to life, presented as sophisticated entertainment, and vouched for by a lavish expense account, appealed to a lot of people in Manhattan in the Reagan years.”
I could go on, but you get the point. Wouldn’t it be splendid if this remarkably nasty essay about Kurt Andersen was entirely honest, and unadulterated by past snubs, either social or professional, or a command from his editor for a hit job? I doubt it, but Lee, here’s a deal: If this review wasn’t about settling a score, give me a call. NYPress is always on the lookout for writers who can conjure up such pure invective. And at this paper, unlike TNR, you’ll have real editors and factcheckers working on your pieces, so that the mistakes that any journalist makes will be caught, and won’t wind up marring your printed material.
Siegel’s review didn’t induce drowsiness, so I turned to Dana Milbank‘s “White House Watch” and that did the trick. As I’ve written previously, Milbank, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is Peretz’s pet lapdog for the current Gore campaign. I can just see Dana in a pen, hypnotized by Professor Marty—when he isn’t distracted by calls from the Vice President or Israel—and told exactly how to spread the gospel of Señor Gore’s destiny. In his current dispatch, Milbank obediently yips and yaps at George W. Bush, complaining about the press accommodations in his campaign and making a joke about the Governor’s “blue” blood, as if Gore were an immigrant who climbed to this level in politics by dint of his hard work and charisma.
Milbank wasn’t present for the Iowa swing of Bush’s whirlwind trip last week, but he had a “good excuse”: “I was picked off by Al Gore, who held a series of meetings with journalists yesterday at his residence. It was an obvious ploy to reduce Bush’s press contingent, and I fell for it. Given the choice of Bush’s plane with 105 reporters or Gore’s dining room with three others, I opted to watch Bush’s Iowa jaunt on TV.”
But our unbiased reporter caught up with Bush’s “Great Expectations” tour in New Hampshire, where he grew tired of the candidate’s “pleasant platitudes,” as opposed to Gore’s “mind-numbing array of proposals.” Yet, just paragraphs later, Milbank does a 180 and says, “Bush had been making some troubling nods to the right on this tour.” It seems that Milbank is disturbed by Bush’s “conservative boilerplate” of cutting taxes, an increased military budget and partially privatizing Social Security. Maybe it’s just me, and a majority of the country, but those are the kind of issues that will send Marty Peretz’s protege into a frustrating, if lucrative, retirement.
Al From Baltimore Reports
June 16: First, I laughed out loud reading that hilarious e-mail you sent me. Is there another business in America with interoffice correspondence like “I’m not going to be a Nazi, but I’m not going to suck his cock, either”?
Excellent MUGGER this week, number one or two, post-impeachment. Where’s Irving? Taki was good again, and of course I enjoyed Jim Holt. Jon Ames had a great idea, but went on a little too long—the story wasn’t as funny as the premise. The rest looks great and I’ll get to it later. The air of resignation in Peggy Noonan‘s WSJ Hillary piece brought me down. I think you’ve nailed Hillary on the same themes more concisely and more effectively, with verve. I think you should do an op-ed piece for the Journal expanding on the theme you developed with Jack Newfield—these people would be supporting Giuliani (and giving Hillary a Bronx cheer) if they stopped to think for one minute. Haddassah has thrown their support behind Hillary! Can you believe it?
Remind me to tell you about Annie and her yearbook. Had Annie’s middle school graduation last week along with Lucy‘s HS graduation. They were both radiating happiness, Dina and I were both a bit melancholy. Lucy’s graduation was a stereotypical prep school graduation. Go out there, be whatever you want to be, women can do anything they want, blah, blah, blah. Still, it was our daughter’s stereotypical graduation, so it was beautiful. Lucy’s working at her first two real jobs. She’s a camp counselor and also working in a sandwich shop. Her first day in the sandwich shop she had to mop and sweep the floor for two hours. She hated it; I loved it, because I was thinking “character-builder.” I told her it’s good to do shitty work like that for a piece of your life, so you can appreciate the people who have to do it all the time and so you can appreciate what you have. We’ll see. Later.
June 18: As for the rest of the issue, it was a good one. The best all-around “Top Drawer” I can remember. Taki’s wasn’t quite as good as the last two. But I loved Toby Young. Because John‘s lead item was about psychiatry, I read it and it was very interesting. The second media item was even better. I loved “rots of ruck.” I haven’t heard that for about 20 years. I like the illo of Sig and Jesus duking it out, but I think his columns need more to help draw you in, like the reviews in the Tab do.
Actually, I’ve read everything in the front section except Knipfel and Monahan‘s piece. What was up with Caldwell‘s column? Is he becoming the anti-MUGGER? I liked Corn on Bradley (surprise). And even though I never read the “Art” column by the guy with three names, I always enjoy the art that accompanies it.
Fortunately, I don’t think I’m going to have to see Tarzan. I saw Austin Powers two nights ago, and it was alternately funny and gross. Sam and Ann loved it. Pokemon card-collecting has hit my house hard. The only thing Sam wants to do is go out and buy more.
June 21: Far from being an irrelevancy, which he seems to be on the surface, Bill Clinton continues to turn the country upside down. Just as Monicagate turned Republicans into the biggest defenders of sexual harassment law, Clinton continues to transform conservatives into latter-day 60s radicals. Post-Kosovo, many conservatives, some of whom write for you, now see the U.S. as the evil empire, killing people all over the world for the benefit of its political and business elite.
As George Will pointed out yesterday on tv with Tom DeLay, Republicans are now preaching that we live in a “sick culture” in need of major overturn or repair. Republicans are now crying about the overemphasis on materialism in our culture. Republicans now talk about (metaphorically) “blowing up our schools.” And Ruby Ridge and Waco have become the Kent State for conservatives in the 90s. How did we get here?
The problem, I think, is that Republicans haven’t yet understood that their big ideas have prevailed, and still act like the outsider party.
Have they won over the media/Beltway elite? No. They’re still hated, and this does make it harder for them to win national elections. But a large majority of this country accepts law and order, capitalism, strict limits on welfare and a robust national defense as the natural order of things in this country. This wasn’t so 25 years ago.
Republicans need to realize, the gloom and doom guys don’t win the elections in the USA. Reagan transformed the Republican Party, as well as the country, through his sunny optimism. George W. Bush realizes this. Hating Clinton, as most red-blooded Republicans still do, will not get Bush elected. Hating our country won’t either.
But Where Was Josef?
Who did at least 30 people ask me to point out at NYPress‘ Summer Guide party at the Puck Bldg. last Friday night? If you guessed our advertising director Jim Katocin, or new publisher Michael O’Hara, you’re out of luck and owe me 20 clams. Why, the correct answer is of course Amy Sohn. Not that she doesn’t love the attention, especially with her new book Run Catch Kiss out in bookstores, a long feature story in the Post last week and tv appearances too numerous to list. Hey, that’s part of my job: Give the guests what they want, power to the people and all that jazz. And so I did my best to locate Amy and then jaunt off to another part of the room and press some more flesh.
But speaking of old hippie days, it did strike me as ironic that it was Clayton Patterson, a lord of the Lower East Side, who asked my permission to tell the DJ to turn the music down a decibel or two. It was loud, ear-bleed loud—although the tunes were custom-made for a mixture of invitees who ranged in age from 15 to 80—and even some of the musicians and rock critics were getting hoarse from talking over a Latin beat. It was terrific to see Mike Doughty back in fighting shape, even as he’s pushing 30. It reminded me of a night back in December of ’92, pre-Soul Coughing days, when Doughty, aside from writing brilliant music criticism for NYPress, was taking tickets and picking up used condoms at the Knitting Factory. Mrs. M and I were there having a few drinks with John Strausbaugh and I made a joke about Doughty calling his guitar an “ax.” He got a little pissed and replied, “Hey, just because my dick still gets hard you don’t have to make fun of me.” Strausbaugh pointed to Junior in Mrs. M’s arms and just said that he didn’t think MUGGER had any trouble in that department. Doughty grunted and went back to work.
George Tabb was all over the room showing off his NYPress Pussy name tag, attorney Andy Krentz in tow, and traded barbs with fellow music critics Adam Heimlich and Joe Harrington (down from Boston). Godfrey Cheshire (who looked like a camel of a different color with his contact lenses), Jonathan Kalb, Armond White and Matt Zoller Seitz hung out, while New York Hangover staffer Bob Falk smoked unfiltered Chesterfields and complained that he couldn’t find any bourbon. Holding court at one end of the room was editor John Strausbaugh, wearing a butt-ugly tie straight out of John Waters‘ Pecker: John explained it to Norah Vincent: “So, I’m in a junk store in Baltimore and I see this tie on the floor that was kinda cool. I told the guy, ‘I’ll give you a nickel for it.’ He got me up to a quarter and now it’s in my fancy collection, hon.”
Matt Drudge slipped into the Puck Ballroom, escorted by the fabulous Lucianne Goldberg (whose charming husband Sidney, unfortunately, was a no-show, on business in Zurich), and they quickly got together with pinko radio host Lynn Samuels, a real dear whose column was killed by the Long Island Voice. She said her editor, who doesn’t watch cable, claimed his readers weren’t interested in politics. Lynn will be happier than MUGGER at the reports we’ve heard from two printers that the Voice offshoot might be closing soon. Matt apologized for his attire—he was wearing shorts, arriving straight from the airport from his Y2K bunker in Key Largo—but as usual at a NYPress party there was no need for that. He was buzzing about this and that scoop, but naturally wouldn’t budge an inch on the details, just promising that they’d be juicy.
We were all disappointed that two invitees, Hillary Clinton and Mayor Giuliani, decided to make other plans, but there were more than enough notables to make an evening of it. Like George Szamuely, whose front-page piece this week on the Second Cold War is bound to cause more “Mail” controversy than anything he’s written for NYPress yet, and that’s saying something. His “Top Drawer” mate Toby Young was chatting away, telling me he’s coming up with a Talk story for a Brit publication that’ll make my blurb from last week look like a Rolling Stone Michael Douglas puff piece. (By the way, an impeccable source told me that Talk‘s Hillary cover has been scrapped: The cognoscenti at the monthly decided the First Lady just isn’t photogenic enough for their debut issue. The June 28 New York says that Tina Brown was rejected by both Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio; if it’s not Liz Taylor, there’s always Anne Roiphe.) Toby brought along his friend Tom Donatelli, a terrific fellow he met at Oxford, now with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, although he shares a passion for politics and journalism. We had a ball discussing some the mainstream press’ more loathsome creatures, who needn’t be named at this point.
My friend Michael Formica and his companion Bob Hiemstra made a lengthy appearance, and I complimented him on the interior design masterpiece he created over a six-month period in our new Tribeca loft. Michael’s such a familiar figure at the homestead that he’s well acquainted with our boys, and is tickled that Junior is off his James Bond kick. That makes three of us, including Mrs. M, who did the heavy lifting with Michael on making our home a cozy nest. All I did was sign checks and insist on a huge tv so that I could watch Hardball and laugh at Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman or Time‘s Karen Tumulty stating the obvious, such as, “Well, Chris, the polls don’t mean much at this point, and after all, a month in politics is a lifetime.” Thanks for the trenchant observations, guys.
Barry Murphy, who also worked on the apartment, and was accompanied by Jeanine Flaherty, and I had a long chat; it turns out he’s from Long Island as well (Central Islip), and remembers it as a key farming part of the state, where you could dig up mussels and clams by the bushel and there wasn’t the congestion that clogs up Suffolk County today. Barry’s a Vietnam vet, and wrote the following in a ’75 op-ed piece in The New York Times: “There was fear and exhaustion, and, on the perimeter defense, for those peering into the swaying elephant grass every shadow was a sniper—terror. In dark rain, two infantry companies on our flanks were confused by incoming sniper fire, and they fought each other throughout the night; in turn we fired on our own flanks. The initiation was over.”
It was a pleasure to introduce Boy Genius Mike Wartella to two of Manhattan’s comic legends: Kaz and Ben Katchor, the latter of whom debuted his famous “Julius Knipl” in NYPress back in our first issue in 1988. Ben, who was effusive as he gets, simply told me, “Well, you’re over the hump. Everybody I talk to reads and loves NYPress. It wasn’t like that even three years ago.” I speculated that it was the Voice going free that vaulted this paper to the forefront—that and our switch to the broadsheet/tab format—but he gave his patented shrug, and said simply, “Who knows how these things happen? You’ve got people here who were 12 years old when the paper first hit the streets.”
As usual, there wasn’t enough voice power to spend a lot of time talking with everyone I wanted to. Still, it was grand to see National Review‘s Jay Nordlinger and his wife Pia, who works at the Post, as well as her colleague Keith Kelly; Marita and Michael Altman; Sam Schulman; Edie Winograde; Andrey Slivka and his brother Nik, who look like twins, although separated by four Mad Ukrainian years (it was a little unsettling to see Miss Sohn nibbling on Andrey’s ear, but she did have
an image to live up to); managing editor Hillary Kearns and Don MacLeod; Jeff and Amy Koyen; Giselle De Vera and Julie
Griner; Chris DiFrancesco and Ellen Rand; the Ruxton Group‘s Susan Belair and Selene Rodriguez; gallery owner Jon Schorr, who’s off on a roots-finding trip to Berlin, Austria and Russia; Suzanne McChesney, Dan Geraci, Libra Tomei and Leah Tramante from Harvest Communications; Danny Hellman, who snuck a caricature of himself into a terrific Wall Street Journal illustration last week; Mark Poutenis, who drew that wicked caricature of Hillary Clinton and George Steinbrenner for MUGGER last week; Pam Richardson from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge; Zoe Smith and Andy Jaye; the irrepressible Alan Cabal; research editor Beth Broome with Mauricio Salazar; circulation manager John Baxter, who just completed the difficult task of placing our 300 new street dispensers throughout Manhattan; The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto; Forbes‘ Tim Ferguson, who happened to be visiting from his Los Angeles post; David Braff from Union Square Wines and Spirits and our ace researcher Tanya Richardson.
My particular thanks go to NYPress office manager Tara Morris, who performed a magnificent job in organizing the entire shindig—with lots of help from Melissa Mandell and Alex Schweitzer—coordinating with restaurants like Rice, Indiana Market and Catering, Emerald Planet, Monk, Bagatelle, Bar on A, Onieal’s Grand Street, Johnny Fox’s, Tibet on Houston, Nathan Hale’s, Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Ferrara and Tonic, procuring the bartenders, balloons and booze and still looking as radiant as ever.