Cuomo Drowns; Bush's "Summit"

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A few years ago, the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut wrote of the conformist nonconformism that is the hallmark of political correctness, "We taunt traditions that are extinct, we delight in fearlessly provoking antiquated prejudices?because we can't any longer even imagine the human adventure except in terms of a battle of liberation that the living wage against the dead."

Finkielkraut's words often come to mind as one watches the drowning candidacy of Andrew Cuomo. Last week, Cuomo gurgled and sank, and a Quinnipiac poll placed him 16 points behind the not-particularly-deft campaign of Carl McCall. So Cuomo issued an ad to tell us what he really stands for. "In President Clinton's cabinet," he says, "I stood up to mortgage rip-offs, gun manufacturers, even the KKK." I love that "even." Oh, the mighty KKK! I remember attending a counterdemonstration against the KKK in Washington in 1990. There were six, maybe eight, men?not one of them under the age of 70?scheduled to march in their bedsheets and sneakers. God, was I scared as I joined the counterdemo of several thousand infuriated black Washingtonians carrying signs reading, "Fight the Power." (For this was in the wake of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.) If the police hadn't diverted those six dangerous geezers to the other side of the Capitol, we might have been in real peril. Indeed, our "peace demonstration" might have been diverted from pummeling the living shit out of several Asian vendors and stealing their food.

As Cuomo himself puts it, "New times need new leadership." That's why the Dauphin is so forward-looking. In Andrew Cuomo, certainly, we have a candidate who will stand up to the Spanish Inquisition, who dislikes Hitler and does not care who knows it, and who will oppose Joe McCarthy with every fiber in his being, should reports of the Wisconsin senator's death prove erroneous.

Young Cuomo, unsurprisingly, is going along with New York Democrats' ludicrous (and increasingly doomed-looking) plans to exploit the Sept. 11 tragedy with a series of Sept. 10 ads. (Sept. 10, because practically every political organization in the country has declared a moratorium on ads on the day itself.) Several Democratic hacks are planning to recite the Gettysburg address in a series of cuts. They claim they had absolutely no idea that Gov. Pataki was planning to recite the address himself at World Trade Center memorial services that President Bush is scheduled to attend.

Democrats say they planned their own Gettysburg deal months ago. Baloney. The Democrats' little act of death-exploiting plagiarism would be less suspicious if the Gettysburg address were appropriate to the day. But it's not. The Gettysburg address is about a civil war that was testing whether a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal could long endure. That test has been passed, it would seem. The speech does ask us to honor the dead, but as combatants, as active participants in their fate: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here?the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced?the cause in which they gave
the last full measure of their devotion?" The people in the Towers didn't do anything. They certainly didn't fight. They were not advancing any cause. They were just murdered. To forget that is to minimize the crime.

It is Republican tone-deafness that incriminates Democrats, making it crystal-clear that all they are doing is undermining what they see as a mere photo-op. Had Republicans chosen an appropriate speech (or actually conquered their laziness for long enough to write a new one), bad faith would have been harder to prove. But teachers catch copiers with wrong answers rather than right ones. (Two exams that say Montpelier is the capital of Vermont are above suspicion. Two exams that say Albany is the capital of Vermont are a sign that somebody has been copying.)

Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton have already said they want no part of the Democrats' ad. Even party chairman Herman Farrell says, "I may back out of it myself if it becomes a real stink-a-roonie." As of last week, Cuomo was saying that he would participate, but that the spot "has to be tasteful." Anyone praises the KKK, I'm outta here.

Takes One to Know One

What a week for Democratic flailing. Joe Lieberman went to Minnesota to help radical Sen. Paul Wellstone keep a seat the Democrats stand a surprisingly good chance of losing. Lieberman attended the first meeting of an ad-hoc group called "Business Leaders for Wellstone," meant to dispel the impression that Wellstone was antibusiness. I assume Lieberman is going to spend the rest of the summer launching Immigrants for Buchanan and Miners for Black Lung.

If Hillary was not participating in the New York Gettysburg charade, it was maybe because she can fling malarkey on a larger stage. Last week she laid into the "economic summit" that President Bush held in the dust-blown welfare colony of Waco, TX, a half-hour drive from his ranch in Crawford, which turned into a testimonial-fest. "Being a Democrat," Hillary said, "means that there is always going to be disagreements, and I welcome [it] that, unlike what is happening in Crawford, we actually have debates."

This from a woman who in 1993 stacked her healthcare task-force with industry cronies and then ran it with a secrecy that would have qualified as paranoid even if they were gathered to discuss nuclear launch codes. And I don't exactly recall that President Clinton's own Little Rock economic summits?it was he who invented these propagandistic charades, after all?saved a place at the table for Milton Friedman.

Let's be clear, though, that the "summit" was just as univocal as Sen. Clinton described it. President Bush's tax cut was studied by participants and found to be?well, just perfectly calibrated and timed, actually; the President is doing exactly the right thing on corporate corruption; and the most likely outcome of his economic leadership is?well, to be frank and perfectly honest with you, more-opportunities-for-minorities-and-the-poor. It was almost as if the President's economic policy had died and people were eulogizing it at the graveside. Everyone stressed the policy's wit, its warmth and how fun it was to be around. Not a word was mentioned of its early indiscretions: that let's-take-Social-Security-and-plow-all-the-money-into-growth-stocks phase. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum.

The summit was, in short, a disgrace. But it was a disgrace of a very Clintonite kind. The only innovation of President Clinton-without-the-Brains was to hold it near his summer vacation home. (People are hurting here on the outskirts of my latifundium.) Otherwise, the drill was familiar from the reign of Clinton the First. The Stephanopoulite role was played by a host of GOP hacks. Long Island Rep. Pete King was trundled out to parry accusations that it was a partisan gathering. "You had, I think, more than 40 people there who had contributed to the Democratic campaigns," said King?hardly good news, since that means the gathering was made up of those rich and powerful enough to cover all the bases with their mega-contributions. There was something in King's protestation that reminded one of the classic Clintonite stonewalling gambit: "We've released over 10,000 pages of documents." As if voters will never think to ask, "Which ones?" Which documents? Or, in Bush's case: Which donors? Which Democrats?

Bush aide Andrew Card also came to the President's defense when someone claimed that only a small segment of the American population was represented at the conclave: "That's an irresponsible statement," Card said, "because anyone who was here and even watching this on tv would have seen that the participants came from all across America. They represented great diversity." Diversity, that is, according to the Clintonite definition: A black guy, a chick and some guy named Garcia who say exactly what I tell them to.

The New York Post is exactly right to hold that Sept. 11 poses "a largely unmet challenge to American ideals?" In trying to evoke those ideals, the President is resorting ever more to the Democratic lexicon. What are we to make of his constant deployment of the word "leadership"?leadership this, leadership that?which always (and properly) reminds conservatives of Tocqueville's warnings about the paradoxical sheepishness of the democratic citizen. Immediately after the summit, the President went to the northern Midwest to praise the passengers of Flight 93, who last Sept. 11 foiled hijackers' plans at the cost of their lives. Bush sounded an extremely Democratic note when he said these passengers had wanted to serve "something greater than themselves," and enjoined Americans to do the same. Let's hope Bush is different, but whenever Democrats use that turn of phrase, they have a very specific idea of what "something greater than yourself" means. It means My Political Interests.


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