I'd never considered this turn of events but it makes a lot of sense: Giuliani doesn't want to be one of 100 bodies rattling around the old cloakroom in the Capitol, slapping each other on the back and going for cocktails after their abbreviated day of work is done. No, he'd rather be his own man, free to prosecute the hell out of political enemies and maybe take a whack at the First Amendment too. That's scary.
If Lederman's correct, it leads to an equally horrific possibility: Sen. Hillary Rodham (D-NY). Without Giuliani in the way?who'd probably defeat the First Lady, given his popularity in the city and upstate?who's going to knock her down? The supposedly conservative Congressman Pete King, who's been co-opted by Bill Clinton because of the President's successful intervention into the British-Irish "Troubles"? Not likely. George Pataki, dreaming of a veep slot with a GOP nominee, won't run, and after that, New York is bereft of influential Republicans who could smash a cash- and endorsement-rich Hillary.
It's a distressing but completely possible scenario, given Hillary's inexplicable popularity in the state. (As a journalist friend of mine says, "I think Hillary is just as demented as Bill, which is why she might run.") But it's just her first step, I think. With her husband's presidency destined to be recorded by historians (even the most liberal ones) as one that ranks just above Warren G. Harding's, Hillary is hell-bent on making sure she doesn't share the same fate. So, with a successful run in New York, aided by Chuck Schumer (who owes her for his defeat of Al D'Amato last fall) and New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli, the man who's been floating?with her nod of approval, undoubtedly?a possible candidacy, Hillary returns to DC as her own woman. On Jan. 5, The New York Times gave its tacit approval to a Hillary run in an editorial: "[W]e are strongly on the side of large fields, intense competition and the general theory of the more the merrier, including those who move to New York to find work."
Then?and yes, it gets much worse?she plots to take back the White House in 2008. It's possible she'll stick with Bill: In that case, President Rodham would have two missions: rehabilitate his image while foisting her own agenda on the country. Or, if she dumps the lug, which any sane woman would, she'll make a go of it on her own, unencumbered by the baggage of a discredited president. Women and Michael Moore (an honorary woman) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan will rejoice.
There, I feel better, just having deposited my lunch of broccoli and noodles in the john and watching the "Tommy Troubles" episode of Rugrats with my wife and two boys.
The first step in Hillary's Senate campaign is probably already under way: It's unusual for a magazine to order a second printing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the February issue of Vanity Fair has another million copies on the loading dock right now, ready to be delivered to the White House. Gail Sheehy, who writes a fawning profile of the First Lady called "The Clintons: Why Hillary Won't Dump Bill," has never been more smarmy in her prose. As an old pro in the business told me Sunday, Sheehy is Sidney Blumenthal. Without the facelift. But why get catty? Anyway, the entire piece is littered with nauseating paeans to Hillary, but the following is surely a classic:
After describing the Clintons' stormy summer, including when Hillary allegedly discovered the truth about Monica Lewinsky shortly before her husband's Aug. 17 non-apology to the nation, and her subsequent cold-shoulder treatment of him, even when Clinton invited "more black brothers than ever" to a White House prayer breakfast, Sheehy exults in the First Lady's stump performance in the '98 elections. She writes: "The Clinton who found redemption in the fall of '98 was not Bill, who continued to infuriate Republicans with his unrepentant answers to questions sent to him by the Judiciary Committee. It was Hillary, who erased the memory of the '94 Democratic congressional defeat by emerging as the biggest draw of the fall '98 elections." (Interestingly, Sheehy reveals that Alan Dershowitz, the obnoxious lawyer who defends Clinton at every opportunity on cable talk shows, was a guest last summer at a Martha's Vineyard dinner at financier Steven Rattner's home. Dershowitz and Clinton, the latter shunned by most guests, "discussed the Bible.")
Sheehy's not quite accurate, as the Republicans held control of both the House and Senate, but who am I to interrupt the all-knowing hagiographer? "She was a woman whose public world was now an oyster full of pearls. Hillary's valiant year may turn out to be comparable to Jacqueline Kennedy's example of dignified grief after the assassination of her husband."
Second place? Here's my nomination: "She is also a protector. Her life strategy, decided long ago, was to take the raw material of a brilliant, emotionally battered child with a good heart and a desperate ambition and shape him into a political star to which she could hitch her wagon full dreams for changing the world. It took a Hillary to raise a president."
Finally, the Jesse Jackson factor. How Jackson, who's self-righteous about racial inequality to the point of threatening a primary challenge to Al Gore next year, got mixed up with the Clintons is anybody's guess. Just another attention whore. But there he was at the White House, the night before Clinton's grand jury testimony, "ministering" to a "distraught" Chelsea. Jackson told her stories from the Bible, likened her father to King David of Israel, "a talented musician, just as Bill is. And yet he became weak when he saw Bathsheba." Jackson added, for good measure, "What's different here is that Ken Starr is able to play God with government funding."
You get the gist. It's said in the gossip columns that Sheehy and Carl Bernstein are competing for whose bio of Hillary comes out first. My money's on Sheehy, since Bernstein's seemed to have writer's block since the wild 80s, but I can only hope her tome will be remaindered as fast as Dan Quayle gets in and out of the GOP presidential race. Then again, as a Red Sox fan, I don't hold out for miracles, especially when an author so well-connected in the publishing racket is involved.
Put the Lid on Dole: Both of Them Leave it to Bob Dole to muck up presidential politics. Again. It was bad enough that he ran the most lackluster campaign in memory three years ago, but now his wife, Elizabeth Dole, no doubt at his Viagra-charged urging, is contemplating a run at the GOP nomination in 2000. I don't have any ax to grind with the woman the pundits love to call Liddy, and she gave a swell performance at the '96 convention, but she'd be a lousy candidate for several reasons: One, the party needs a leader from a younger generation; at 62, Dole isn't ready for the glue farm, but she doesn't portray the youthful image that Clinton so artfully exploited in '92. Second, she's never run for any elective office, is wound very tight, so who knows how she'd perform in debates or on the campaign hustings? Finally, if it's the veep slot she's really after, that just doesn't make sense for George W. Bush, the probable nominee. (Bush, by the way, who says he won't announce his plans until this spring, has been making surreptitious visits to Iowa, away from the media's glare, according to a source of mine there.) Dole's from North Carolina, a state that Bush will win handily; he'd be better off with a Northeastern or rust belt pick, say Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania (a Vietnam vet) or Michigan's Gov. John Engler. In a perfect world, I'd like to see Alan Keyes as Bush's running mate, but he's too radical for a national candidacy.
It's said that Sen. John Ashcroft's departure from the field is a plus for Steve Forbes, who's been assiduously, and shamelessly, courting the religious right the last two years. I don't buy it. Forgive my repetition, for while Forbes is excellent on economic issues, and seems sound on defense, he's just too damn dorky to get elected. Dan Quayle, the annoying Gary Bauer and Sen. Bob Smith are all nonstarters.
Sen. John McCain will receive early support from a fawning media, but his temper and a scandal-tainted past will leave him as a poor antidote to Bill Clinton. An example of his boosters in the press include Jonathan Alter, who wrote in the Jan. 11 Newsweek: "Most important, to make a race of it with Bush, he'll need to exploit his status as a war hero to expand 'character' beyond the narrow confines of social and sexual sins. If he accomplishes that, he'll help American politics even if he loses." Thank you, Father Alter. I prefer the Jan. 6 comments of George Will in The Washington Post: "Arizona Sen. John McCain had a splendid 1998, as such things are reckoned in Washington. That is, he pleased Washington, and the New York Times. His task in 1999 is to recuperate from that." However, seeing McCain speak in Phoenix two weeks ago just pointed out that he's the Republican Bill Bradley, and even those years in a cage won't overcome a dull message and messenger.
As entertaining as he is, I hope Pat Buchanan can keep his ego in check and not run for a third time in a row; his weird strain of populism, anti-immigration and foreign policy views that border on the anti-Semitic aren't needed in the GOP skirmish.
Which leaves the determined Lamar Alexander. He's got the right conservative credentials, but like Forbes doesn't have a whit of charisma. Granted, pitted against Al Gore that quality might not matter as much, but the GOP will need every advantage it can muster. Already Alexander is attacking Bush, ridiculing the latter's slogan "compassionate conservatism" and claiming that Bush is leading in the polls just because of his last name.
Last Thursday he told Chris Matthews on Hardball: "I don't like those words. I think those are weasel words. I think they mean nothing. They're just like Al Gore's words, 'practical idealism.' What they've done, both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, is they put a couple of words together and?and they mean exactly nothing. And they confuse the voters. And if we're going to bring out the best in the country, what we've got to do is restore some respect for the presidency. [Clinton's] presidency has just destroyed the language: 'Is' doesn't mean 'is'; 'sexual relations' doesn't mean 'sexual relations.' And now we have two leading people on both sides, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush, using weasel words to build their whole political identity."
Waiting for Dignity to Fall My friend Al From Baltimore called Friday afternoon in a despondent mood: "The GOP got rolled by the Gramm-Kennedy compromise," he said. "Once again, Trent Lott is acting like a Democrat. This means no witnesses; no Blumenthal, no Lenzner, no Palladino, no Lindsey, no Jordan." I told him to hold off on judgment; if The New York Times endorsed the plan he might be right. And sure as Bill Clinton is the most corrupt president in a generation, the Times thundered on Saturday, under the headline "At Long Last, Leadership": "Every now and then sanity breaks out, even in Congress."
The paper was even more magisterial on Sunday, editorializing: "Friday's accord on the rules for the impeachment trial of President Clinton did offer a stirring picture of divergent ideologies blending together for the greater good... 'Today we have acted in the very best tradition of the Senate,' said Mr. Lott, the majority leader, in announcing a plan to finesse the witness issue, which will move the Senate toward its proper goal of censuring Mr. Clinton for lying under oath." Never mind that the 100 senators/jurors are supposed to hear evidence and then make a decision, the Times is certain that their misguided goal, censure?a wrist-slap?has been achieved.
Time's Nancy Gibbs lampooned the pomposity of the senators after their deal had been struck. In this week's issue she writes: "And yet to watch these men and women stream out of the Senate chamber and into their press conferences and live-satellite feeds, praising themselves as though they just passed the Marshall Plan, was to realize how hard this was to do, and how far they still have to go."
But I'm not so sure this grand decision is a defeat for the men and women who desire a proper punishment for Clinton, i.e., tossing his sorry butt out of the White House. It's true that the hurdle to bring forth witnesses is now more difficult; on the other hand, the Senate is such a deliberative body (some might say lazy) that it will be at least six weeks before this trial is over, possibly longer. In Clinton-time, when a fresh scandal, bimbo eruptions, new indictments or an unsanctioned war can surface at any time, that's an eternity. As David Gergen, a former Clinton aide, said on Nightline last Wednesday, "There are a lot of folks in this town who are still trolling through the sewage. And who knows what they would come up with over next eight, or 10 or 12 weeks? That's a danger that is ever-present for the White House."
It's possible, if not likely, that in two months, 67 brave senators will be so disgusted by Clinton and his criminal administration that they'll vote to convict, even if the President's poll ratings are still higher than the Pope's. I put the odds of his removal at about 40 percent.
As I've written before, every day that impeachment remains unresolved, the worse it is for the White House. And the Senate, which is fond of eight-hour days, isn't about to finish this off in two weeks, which was the Clinton team's original hope. As a bonus, the Gramm-Kennedy measure, passed by a unanimous vote, highlights the illusory notion of bipartisanship, so Democrats can't complain. In fact, considering what Chicken Little Lott was proposing just a week ago, this is probably the best Republicans could hope for.
Al e-mailed me Saturday morning, after I explained my position, and was more upbeat, although with several caveats. He wrote: "I knew I could count on you for the upside to the Gramm-Kennedy deal. You make a good point: if the Republicans can operate under the bipartisan umbrella, that could be the start of turning it around. The other good thing is that while there's no Tom DeLay in the Senate to lead the charge, there's also no Newt or Bob Barr to vilify, either.
"But remember, the risk underlying all of this is that bipartisanship, in recent history, has always meant that the Democrats get what they want. Big successes, like welfare reform, were never termed bipartisan; it was a Republican idea that Democrats were forced to go along with, and Clinton got the credit for it. Bipartisan is essentially a media term that invariably favors Democrats.
"I think you ought to address why so many people are impressed with Henry Hyde. It's simple: it's clear to almost everyone that he's operating with very little political calculation and with absolutely zero self-interest. He's trying to do the right thing, which presents such a stark contrast to the man people now call William Jefferson Clinton."
Maybe now there'll be a cessation of all this ridiculous talk of the nation's "paralysis" because of a Senate trial. It's a fraudulent argument calculating liberals like Dick Gephardt and David Bonior have been spoon-feeding the media for weeks, but it's plain wrong. First, "paralysis" in government is good: The less Congress interferes with the lives of American citizens the better off the country is. Again, for slow learners: Cut taxes, defend the nation against rogue dictators, keep crime low and stop trying to regulate business. End of story.
Besides, as Jack Germond and Jules Witcover wrote in the Baltimore Sun last Thursday, Clinton continues to stage photo ops, whether it's minuscule handouts to urban areas, serving turkey in a soup kitchen or entertaining a head of state from a country no one's ever heard of. They write: "Mr. Clinton has already emphatically demonstrated his ability to pursue his presidential agenda, either as a smoke screen to fog the impeachment unpleasantness or in a genuine effort to deal with the nation's pressing business... Meanwhile, history has shown that the country is not so fragile that it can't endure 'long national nightmares' caused by reckless personal behavior of errant political leaders." I think the Baltimore duo is generous in giving Clinton the benefit of the doubt that he might actually have an agenda, but they're from the old school.
Hardball's Chris Matthews, whose anger at the felonious President and his toadying team of advisers grows more palpable daily, had a spectacular spat with former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman last Thursday night. Holtzman, who once enjoyed a reputation, was reduced to agreeing with Matthews' first guest, the cartoon figure James Carville, insisting the case against Clinton is about "sex, sex and nothing but sex, and an effort to conceal a consensual sexual relationship." Like other Democratic lemmings she said there would be "a terrible price to pay" for Republicans in the 2000 election.
I would not like to be running for office in the year 2000, explaining why we didn't get Social Security reformed or why we didn't deal with some economic crisis or why we don't have a patients' bill of rights, but instead we spend days and months on this issue.
There's only one problem with that Liz, and you know as well as I do, Congress isn't especially productive in January and February. Not a whole lot of bills come out of either house in those months. It's a time for getting your act together, getting your committees organized, maybe taking a couple trips. It's not the time to pass legislation. So tell me a bill that was ever passed in January or February.
But his is?but if they start with...
Just name one. Just one. Name one bill ever passed in January or February in the United States Congress.
...witnesses?in the first year or second?you're probably right, I'm not disagreeing with you.
I'm not probably right, I'm damn right.
Looking at a crestfallen Liz on the screen, I doubt if she'll ever appear on Hardball again.
Besides, what is more important to the country right now than determining if Bill Clinton should remain in office? Whether the leader of the free world has committed crimes that make him unworthy of his post and is someone who can be depended on in a real economic or defense crisis? When he lied for months about an affair with an intern?an intern, for God's sake?why should we believe he won't lie about matters of far more gravity? It's not as if there isn't a history here: like how he swapped missile technology to the Chinese for some fast campaign cash in the '96 campaign; the airstrikes against Sudan for political cover; the bombs blasted in Baghdad on the eve of his impeachment.
Don't get me wrong: I'd like this chapter in Clinton's sorry presidency to be resolved sooner rather than later. It would give the GOP congress a chance to pass significant conservative legislation?and without Newt Gingrich as a lightning rod, presidential vetoes are less likely?and set the stage for a Republican return to the White House. I just can't stand Clinton's hypocrisy of calling for the end of the "politics of personal destruction" while sending goons like Carville and Larry Flynt to do his dirty work. I'm sick of his constant smirks, epitomized by the pep rally he held at the White House just hours after he was impeached. As Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd said, that spectacle was "an egregious display of shameless arrogance," giving a hint of how he'll vote after a six- or seven-week trial. It's the Democrats, typified by Robert Wexler and John Conyers, who are defaming the Constitution, despite what the mainstream media says, not the noble Republican House members who voted for impeachment. Once the Clinton question is decided, whether it's conviction or acquittal, Congress can truly, as editorialists have said too often, "move on."
The story of Clinton's love child by an underage black prostitute in Arkansas has now been dismissed, since DNA tests didn't match. Matt Drudge, who stirred up the rumor a week ago, after chasing leaks from The Star's Richard Gooding, has lost this round. Drudge told The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, who rubs his hands with glee when media "scum" are upended, that he pursued the story "because the DNA chase was happening. The woman was out there making these fantastic claims... The president said he never met her. I reported it all."
Joe Conason, who I assume is drawing three salaries?from The New York Observer, Salon and the White House?used his Jan. 11 Observer column to once again smear Tom DeLay and other Republicans for perceived offenses against his hero. He dismissed the possible love child bombshell as pure folly, an ancient story that has no validity, even as he admits that Joe Klein used it as a subplot in his novel Primary Colors. Where do you think Klein got that nugget, Joe? Judging by his political commentary, Klein's imagination isn't quite so prodigious. Maybe Danny Williams isn't Clinton's child, but would it surprise anybody if it's learned that Chelsea has a brother or sister somewhere out in the world?
Conason practically admits that Flynt is in league with Blumenthal, Hillary, Carville and Clinton himself. His upcoming one-shot issue will be released exposing more Republicans' sexual misadventures. It's been leaked that DeLay, Bob Barr and GOP chairman Jim Nicholson will all see their names in the magazine that should net Flynt a couple of million bucks. I wouldn't be surprised to see John Kasich and Bill Paxon in there too.
Conason, a gopher to the end, had the gall to write: "Meanwhile, powered by tabloid money and partisan animus, the politics of personal destruction proceeds unabated. Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, is excoriated daily for encouraging its harmful effects on our political culture. And no doubt his forthcoming account of Republican peccadilloes will provide still another occasion for breast-beating and soul-searching. But the pundits and politicians who find Mr. Flynt's behavior so deplorable have no problem controlling their outrage whenever the President is in the bull's-eye."
Meanwhile, Terry Golway, whose Observer column runs next to Conason's, made a necessary point about one of the myths of the entire impeachment proceedings. He writes: "The impeachment of Bill Clinton is noting less than an attempted coup. As they say in those car-rental commercials, not exactly. If Bill Clinton were driven out of office and replaced by the repellent Tom DeLay, yes, that would be a coup. But if Bill Clinton were to give way to Al Gore, and Al Gore then chose a fellow Democrat for his Vice President, Democrats still would control the White House." Well, blow me down. Why haven't any other pundits and slimy Democrats come to this simple conclusion? Over to Maxine Waters, you wicked witch of the West.
It was refreshing last week to see a Hollywood actor express his disgust with Clinton. James Woods, joining The Wall Street Journal's editorial page in labeling Clinton a "sociopath," told CBS' This Morning that as a Democrat he can't understand why members of his party excuse Clinton's behavior as consensual sex, "as if it were a couple of teenagers on a summer vacation." He continued: "It's consensual sex between the President of the United States while he humiliates his wife and his child in front of the entire world... I think that impacts on all of us."
Time is not on Clinton's side. While he still has sycophants in the press, a number of columnists have flipped in the past week, coming to the conclusion that the country would be better off if Al Gore sits in the Oval Office. Walter Shapiro, a Boomer who's about Clinton's age and has always been sympathetic to him, was unusually harsh in his Jan. 8 USA Today column: "The problem with Clinton the Policymaker is just the opposite of Clinton the Impeachment Defendant. When it comes to governing, the president has been risk-averse, always bending his vision to fit polls and congressional vote counts. But in his private conduct and his legal gambits, Clinton has been a high-stakes gambler willing to risk his presidency on a single roll of the dice. That is the enduring tragedy of the man now before 100 sworn and silent Senate jurors."
Robert Kuttner, who was rhapsodic after discussing fiscal policy with President-Elect Clinton in '92, now believes the man should be removed from office?and not for sex. Writing last Friday in The Washington Post he belittled Clinton's latest mini-measure for the American people: the long-term care initiative. Kuttner said the program, which would offer a maximum of $1000 to people in need, "bore all the marks of Clinton's signature?the cynicism, the tokenism, the cheap symbolic politics... If he needs a job when he leaves office, the man should consider taking up three-card monte." Mind you, I almost never agree with Kuttner, who was in favor of Hillary Clinton's economy-breaking health care reform bill, but it's gratifying to see a former acolyte realize what a lying bastard the President is. Kuttner concludes: "Let me be clear. I think Clinton's impeachment was a travesty. I think it would be absurd to remove him for lying about sex. No, I wish Clinton a swift departure on far more consequential grounds. If he is in fact drummed out of office, I suspect few tears will be shed in any quarter."
Kuttner might have a chat with Thomas Oliphant, a Globe pundit who'll be by Clinton's side till the last innocent person is smeared. Oliphant, a decent if misguided man, toes the President's line on every initiative, even his cynical bombing of Iraq, which he called a "demonstration of Clinton's incumbency that was so obvious and powerful." Oliphant maintains that while the right-wingers are plotting against Clinton, the President has more important matters on his mind. "His in-box is stuffed with important material that the last, more Republican Congress couldn't handle: HMO abuses, school-construction financing, campaign finance reform, long-term restructuring for Social Security and Medicare. And yesterday, the country got a better look at the president's proposal to use targeted tax credits to help 2 million families cope with the nightmare of long-term care of seriously ill relatives." Kuttner must've retched when he read the words of his naive colleague.
Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, a political centrist who probably voted for Clinton, is now taking betting action on Clinton's removal. He wrote last Friday about his conversation with Mac Mathias, a former moderate Republican senator from Maryland. Mathias, who goes back to the days of "civility" in Washington that Wall Street Journal in-house liberal Al Hunt longs for, can't figure out why Clinton was so dishonest with the House Judiciary Committee, let alone the nation, why he gave the House the finger with his dissembling answers to those 81 questions put to him. The former senator told Rodricks: "Perjury before a grand jury is an attack on our judicial system. This is the man sworn to uphold the judicial branch... Each day could bring some burning question that demands attention. If something turns up, if they start lifting the rocks and looking under them, who knows where it will go? It's highly dangerous to Clinton."
Bill Reel, a Newsday columnist who's never liked Clinton, was appalled that the President, according to a Gallup poll, is more admired than the Pope. Referring to the respondents, he wrote: "Why? Are they partial to con men? Do they appreciate being lied to? How could they look up to a cheater and liar like Clinton? How could they put him above the Pope?... Anybody who admires Bill Clinton is morally retarded."
And Newsday's Jimmy Breslin, hardly in the tank with Republicans, is disgusted with Clinton not for the Monica angle but because he's a liar. He didn't outright call for his resignation but it's there between the lines: "[T]he real case against Bill Clinton is gone and almost forgotten. He made lousy a nation that grew, prospered and inspired the world with its reliance on one great national standing: To Assist? Clinton first came to us with Roosevelt on his lips and George Wallace hidden in his guts. He pretended to be a Democrat who felt the life and hope and brilliance and anguish of New York and turned out to be a southern president." I don't quite follow Breslin's logic; after all, everybody knew in '92 that Clinton wasn't the real liberal Breslin describes above, but the columnist's anger is indicative of the turn against Clinton. People from both sides, liberal and conservative, are ready for Al Gore to take over and rid the White House of a narcissistic scoundrel.
Breslin's Newsday colleague Marie Cocco, an absolute moron, will need more time to arrive at Breslin's conclusion. Taking the Gallup poll seriously, believing that people really do admire Clinton, Cocco turns her wrath on?who else??the GOP. "They do not seek victory. It is still impossible for any self-respecting vote-counter to imagine there are 67 votes to remove Clinton from office. They just want to drag the bloody body around the ring."
Tribeca's Not-So-Secret Rosemarie's I haven't fully recovered from a stomach virus?haven't been this gastro-challenged in 20 years?but last Wednesday night I was so sick of saltines, chicken broth and gallons of water that I set out for a real meal. John Strausbaugh and his wife Diane joined Mrs. M and me at Rosemarie's, one of our favorite restaurants in Tribeca. It's not "hot," never was really, but has prospered for over 10 years by serving outstanding Northern Italian food. The proprietress keeps a beady eye on the small dining room, rarely cracking a smile, but making sure no customer leaves dissatisfied. None of us did that evening: Diane and I started with endive salads, studded with generous chunks of Gorgonzola, walnuts and croutons, while Mrs. M and John opted for Rosemarie's signature fried calamari with lemon-anchovy mayo.
Not yet ready for a veal chop or huge slab of fish, for an entree I ordered a delicious bowl of rigatoni with lamb Bolognese that sure beat crackers for my aching stomach. Mrs. M was equally pleased with her gnocchi with spicy sausage and borlotti beans, while John had the he-man's meal of osso buco, about the size of C.J. Sullivan's fist, complemented by vegetable risotto. The last entree, Diane's arctic char with truffle mashed potatoes and chive sauce, completed an eight-for-eight score on the grub. With several glasses of wine and a bottle of mineral water, the tab came to about $140, not bad for such a fine meal and convivial atmosphere.
The one tic in Rosemarie's service is that every time you make a trip to the john, or go outside for a smoke, a dutiful waiter folds up your napkin into a little tent for a welcome back to the table. What if, John wondered?and since he's a confirmed handkerchief fellow, the question made sense?you'd just soiled the linen with tomato sauce or, worse yet, a big honk of the nose? Wouldn't that turn off the waiter? Whatever: Rosemarie's will never attract a cattle call from worshipers of tourist guides, but the restaurant is always packed, a testament to its consistent quality and decorous service.
Before heading down to Rosemarie's we met Kurt Andersen at the Triple Crown, right across from 333. Kurt looked a little ragged that night, with several days' growth of beard, but for good reason: He's near completion of the final draft of his sprawling novel?600 pages?Turn of the Century, which Random House will publish in late May. It's my guess that the book, which has an initial print run of 100,000, an astounding number for a first-time novelist, will be the hit of the season, and will leave Andersen with the moniker of the turn of the century's Tom Wolfe.
It makes sense: As the blurb from the Random House catalog says, the book is "A big, fresh, energetic, hyperrealistic, up-to-the-second comedy of manners and insider's social satire set in Manhattan in the year 2000, containing both a paranoid sexual thriller and a farcical billion-dollar heist. It has a happy ending."
Yes, I'm biased in predicting Andersen's success, but years before I even met the man I praised him in print as Manhattan's most gifted writer. At The New Yorker now, writing "The Culture Industry" column, after a stormy tenure as New York's editor, where he was jettisoned by dilettante owners, he still sets the standard for quality journalism in a city that's so poisoned by mediocre, overpaid glossy magazine writers. (Speaking of which, I'm told Michael Caruso will receive his well-earned walking papers from Details any day now.) Still several years away from 50, Andersen has a future in which, as the 80s song went, he'll have to wear shades.
Two weeks ago, in praising NYPress writers with books either on the shelves or forthcoming, I was shamefully absent-minded in neglecting David Lindsay's The Patent Files, which will be released by The Lyons Press in February. A collection of his "Patent Files" columns that ran in NYPress from '93-'98, this book might not reach the mainstream, but it should: Lindsay writes with rare intelligence on the most arcane of subjects, and was always an asset to these pages.
Now, as Spy magazine used to chide in the late 80s, pushing subscriptions, I ask this question of The New York Observer's editors: "Joining Us Late?" In an editorial last week, almost as jarring as its call for Bill Clinton's ouster a few weeks ago, was a screed against three of Manhattan's most repellent figures in journalism: Mort Zuckerman, Steve Brill and Ed Kosner. This is turf that's been well-covered in NYPress, for years, if only because it's so obvious. I'm glad for the company.
(By the way, the Observer, and editor Peter Kaplan, made Newsweek's Jan. 18 list of "20 Stars of the New News." Funny that a newsweekly published in Manhattan could botch a short item so badly. "Boasting an old media format and a decidedly new media attitude, Kaplan's pale pink newspaper is regularly seen folded under the arms of the self-styled New York elite. Both a high-class gossip rag and a home for sharp voices on the left [Joe Conason and Philip Weiss] and the right [Hilton Kramer, Michael Thomas]." Guys, the paper is pale orange, or peach, if you want to get fancy. Second, Phil Weiss has written some of the most damaging anti-Clinton pieces in the country this year and is hardly a "voice of the left." In addition, Michael Thomas, who voted for Clinton in '92, is all over the map, and can't be considered part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.)
The Observer on Zuckerman: "Hats off to Mr. Zuckerman, who has managed the seemingly impossible: He has made a tabloid unreadable. With even politics now part of the tabloid news cycle, the Daily News?which exemplified American tabloid journalism for decades?should be in its glory. Instead, it induces in readers a permanent state of narcolepsy. Why? It certainly doesn't help that Mr. Zuckerman has never met a tabloid reader, wouldn't know where to find one and wouldn't understand his or her concerns. Imagine Mr. Zuckerman stumbling across a Daily News subscriber. What would he say?" Probably something like, "Fuck off, itinerant, can't you see you're touching my coat!?"
On Kosner: "Mr. Kosner is fresh from ruining Esquire, turning an eminent literary showcase into a men's consumer pamphlet about the six best mustards in town and premature baldness. No doubt Mr. Kosner is going to bring that same inane sensibility to the Daily News, which will further dilute the newspaper of the New York worker into a dispensable curiosity, a pale simulacrum of its former self." A little condescending, I'd say, with the invocation of the "New York worker," and I'm quite sure editors at the Observer didn't read the News before it became a carbon copy of a daily in the hinterlands. And the shot at Esquire isn't quite right: The monthly with a fancy pedigree has been a shell for years, far before Kosner's short and forgettable tenure there. Still, the Observer's spirit is on the money.
And Brill: "Now, if the puffed-up Mr. Brill reads his own publication, we feel sorry for him. Only someone as profoundly solipsistic as Mr. Brill could have invented Brill's Content, which sounds like a hair cream, and should be." Okay, the joke's not too funny, but the Observer is spot-on once more: Brill's Content is a self-righteous snore that will disappear once the first snowflake of a recession falls.
I took part of the afternoon off last Thursday to get some rest and subjected myself both to the February issue of Brill's Content and the latest Rolling Stone. You thought deposed editor Michael Kramer, a schmoozing journalistic retread, was bad? Wait till you see the work of I'm-on-happy-pills! replacement Eric Effron, who could double for the Voice's nouveau riche Rob Brezsny. (On second thought, don't: That's why you're reading this column.)
Brill wrote the lead story, a snoozer called "Why CBS News and CNN Should Merge," that was dense beyond belief even by the founder's standards. There's nothing else in the issue that couldn't be found in other publications, one of Content's main problems: As a mainstream magazine, it has no reason to exist. On page 26, Brill takes a whack at Rupert Murdoch and his New York Post for reporting about Chelsea Clinton's boyfriend difficulties at Stanford. He writes: "On November 25, the New York Post, the trashy daily comic book that is a hoot to read but can usually be safely ignored, achieved a prominence that must make its editors (and proprietor Rupert Murdoch) proud." He then complained that many "usually serious" news organizations picked up the story. A few points: At least Brill admits the Post is a "hoot to read," unlike his magazine. In addition, the Post is a tabloid and includes gossip. Finally, the Post has an engaging editorial section, as well as the crack Washington reporter Deborah Orin, and just creams the Daily News for substance.
In "The Notebook," on page 32, Content informs readers that Time magazine twice this year ran two separate covers! The first, when the Yanks won the Series, pictured the team on the cover for New York readers; the rest of the country saw Tom Wolfe. The second featured "The Fall of Newt" while Minnesota readers got even more of Jesse Ventura. This common ploy by a magazine is news or even worthy of observation?
On page 34, we learn that Carl Bernstein's favorite magazine is Vanity Fair, where he's a contributing editor; also, he prefers Dan Rather over Tom Brokaw or Peter Jennings, while admitting he's a consultant at CBS. Yawn, that's a fun fact I could've discovered in Entertainment Weekly. On the same page, Ted Rose apes a New Republic piece by Jason Zengerle about law professor Jonathan Turley's prominence as a talking head. With one twist: Rose's headline is "A Pundit's Rise and Fall," when in reality, Turley is still on the tube almost as often as James Carville.
Calvin Trillin, the two-century man I wrote about a few weeks ago, appears in Content with a column absurdly called "The Wry Side" and proves that he can double-dip just as adeptly as Alex Cockburn (only at NYPress we nab the genial iconoclast). Trillin writes about the "Sabbath gasbags," a phrase that shows up in his Jan. 11 Time column and on a recent interview with Tim Russert on CNBC. Trillin refers, of course, to the talking heads who appear on Sunday news shows. Again, evidence that Content has nothing original to offer readers.
In "Stuff We Like," I have no problem with Brill plumping for The Weekly Standard or Leslie Heilbrunn praising The Economist's "Lexington" column, but Effron gooing over Jim Mullen's dreadful "Hot Sheet" in Entertainment Weekly gives a major clue about the new editor's questionable taste. Jeff Pooley recommending the Harper's "Readings" section is only about eight years too late.
I did like Lorne Manly's piece about the feud between James Wolcott and Jay McInerney. The novelist told Manly: "I'm a little too old and jaded at this point to be shocked by vindictiveness and perfidy." But this kind of piece certainly fits in more at Manly's previous publication, The New York Observer.
Then there's Ben Stein on how the 50s wasn't the boring decade that Boomer journalists make it out to be (duh, although including Perry Como as a highlight of those years is suspect) and a feature about the revitalized crossword puzzle at The New York Times. And... I can't go on. Sleeping pills too expensive? Get a subscription to Brill's Content.
Hip Replacement Need any more reasons why the Village Voice is so lame? Try Linda Stasi's "From the Hip" column, a piece of work that's even stupider than Lynn Samuels' in the Long Island Voice. In last week's issue, combing through stories from 1998, she found room to slander Margaret Thatcher, the great British prime minister. Stasi bleats, in typical Voice-speak: "The nation was rocked, the citizens were shocked that House Speaker Livingston [speaker-designate, hon] admitted to extramarital sex. Me? I was more shocked that he ever even had marital sex. Look at the guy. Who did he fool around with? Margaret Thatcher?"
I must repeat once more my disgust with syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage. Even though he's a partial owner of The Stranger, the alternative newspaper that competes with the Seattle Weekly, owned by Leonard Stern, he still allows his work to appear in the Voice. Even though Stern is trying to put The Stranger out of business. Savage once told me that he gets freaked out about money and considers any talk of it dirty. Listen pal, what you're doing by accepting Stern's dough is plenty dirty and don't you forget it. It's a disgrace and publisher Tim Keck ought to kick you in the teeth.
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