Has Gore Hit Bottom?
It was,as Chris Caldwell writes in "Hill of Beans" this week (page7), a "klutzy" week for the Texas Governor. Bush's last-minuteappearance at a convention for minority journalists in Seattle was thefirst example of Bush deviating from Karl Rove's brilliant, long-rangeplan to gain the Republican nomination and then the presidency.
Hillary Sucks Up The Media's GushAnd Mush He was invited,but it wasn't necessary to attend; not many other candidates did, and Bush hasenough juice at this point with minorities that his absence would've been aone-day story. Instead, he looked indecisive.
However,with President Clinton lapping the country on his belated poverty tour, whilehis wife commanded national media attention in New York, it was probablythe best week this summer for Bush to make such a goof. Now, I can ask whereNYC journalistic hack Randy Rothenberg has disappeared to andnobody would care; but where the heck was Al Gore this past week? I'msure he was on the hustings, but you'd have to read the papers very closely,which I do, to learn of his itinerary. He did tell the journalists in Seattlethat he never, ever wants to go back to recessionary times-deliveredwith that unctuous, prefab passion-but otherwise he was invisible, aside fromphoto-ops with his new grandson, conveniently born on July 4.
I can onlyguess that Gore was in a bunker somewhere, trying to figure out why his campaignis in such talk-of-the-Beltway free fall. But maybe the Vice Presidentisn't as bright as everyone's given him credit for all these years: After all,in the past two months he's authorized curious hires, the ethically challengedTony Coelho and tobacco bill-killer Carter Eskew only the mostegregious. Gore needs a vacation. He should just take his attractive familyoverseas, preferably to a nonpolitical location, say Norway, and assesshis fortunes and plan for the future. There's no sense in spinning his wheelsin the U.S., adding layer upon layer of bureaucracy to a mixed-up, feudingorganization.
Gore's hitsuch a rough patch that even The Washington Post's David Broderhas taken pity on him. In a light-hearted (for Broder) column last Sunday, theveteran journalist claimed that Gore now has a leg up on his rivals becauseof his newborn grandson. He writes: "George W. may think the voters aresuffering buyers' remorse for having booted his dad out of the White House in1992 and want to bring back a Bush. But the Bush part is irrelevant. What wereally want is to restore those three-generation picnics to the South Lawn withthe National Gramps surrounded by ankle-nippers... As voters, grandparents arethe most discerning people in the electorate. Our eyesight and our hearing areperhaps not as sharp as they once were, so you can't beguile us with a TV gameshow host's phony smile or a lot of smooth talk."
And TheNew York Times is getting nervous too about their favored successor to Clinton.In last Sunday's lead editorial, headlined "The Burden of Inevitability,"the paper is so distressed by the current political climate that it lapses intocliche after cliche, closing with this beaut: "Presidential politics, acivic exercise that thrives on unpredictability, is once again providing itslittle surprises. The Republican race was supposed to be the busy one, the Democraticside a done deal. Now, it appears the scripts have shifted, as Mr. Gore looksfor his footing outside Bill Clinton's White House."
Of course,the editorial writer refused to state the obvious: Gore has fucked up. Regardingthe addition of Eskew to the campaign, the paper's criticism was mild: "[Eskew's]tobacco credentials would seem to be at odds with Mr. Gore's heart-wrenchingstory at the Democratic convention in 1996 about how his sister died of cancerfrom smoking." Would seem to be at odds? Now that's taking the VicePresident to the woodshed with a feather in your hands.
Then there'sBill Bradley, the grumpy goo-goo the media elite is ga-ga over this summer.There was a silly cover story in the July 12 New York by Meryl Gordonthat treated the two-man battle for the Democratic nomination as an UpperEast Side cocktail party gone awry, and included the absurd notion thatBradley's is a 60s-style quiet revolution. Rich NYC boomers are stressed, Gordonwrites, because they're not sure which candidate to contribute money and timeto; and if so-and-so found out who the recipient was, why that might jeopardizefriendships, club memberships and private school applications. What is an affluent liberal to do?
Meanwhile,Newsweek's Howard Fineman demonstrates in his July 19 articleon the Bradley campaign, imaginatively called "A Man on the Move,"that he's been spending too much time on the tube and letting his writing skills,such as they are, atrophy. Okay, Bradley was a basketball star. Does that meanthe entire puff-piece has to be infused with jock talk? Fineman: "As abasketball player, Bradley's skill was to move without the ball. He let theflow of the game come to him. He was slower than the other guys, and short forhis position. But he knew where to be when the game was on the line, and used sharp elbows to get there. As it was then, so it is now."
Again: "Alwaysa good ball handler, Bradley is trying to dribble left and right at the sametime."
And again:"Now he's playing one-on-one in the biggest contest in American life-andprofesses not to be worried if he loses. But he's a student of timing and rhythm,and clearly thinks this is his moment... It's on the line now, and Bradley wantsthe ball."
I preferredTucker Carlson's take on Bradley's Los Angeles trip inthe June 29 Weekly Standard. He was unimpressed by the challenger's entireshtick: the windy speeches; the self-effacing barbs; the gun control "boilerplate";the nastiness disguised as earnest thought; and his lack of manners (Bradleyoften forgot to introduce his wife at rallies). "At one point," Carlsonwrites, "he talks about the importance in politics of being 'true to whoyou are.' It's obvious he means it. Unfortunately, Bradley has decided to beso true to who he is that he has neglected to put on stage makeup. In the glareof the spotlight, his enormous forehead has become a mirror, reflecting a beamacross the ballroom. He looks like a lighthouse. For Bradley, it's a point ofpride not to worry about details like shiny foreheads. And he may be a better,deeper person for it. On the other hand, this is politics."
Carlsonconcludes with an anecdote about an old friend of Bradley who echoes the thoughtsof many: that he was "destined for greatness." Yet, after watchingthe candidate perform, this fellow confessed to the journalist that Bradley"[I]s a bit like a warmed-over Paul Tsongas."
And that'swhy I think once the media has its fill of Bradley, gets its middle-aged jockenvy/hero worship out of the way, reporters and pundits will fall back in linewith Gore. As will the sheep-like Democratic voters. Right now, I'd put Bradley'sodds at capturing the nomination at one out of five: not too shabby, really,but still unlikely.
Yet rightnow, Gore is being victimized by his fair-weather friends, the Clintons. Anynormal person would beat themselves silly wondering why, after he's been sucha loyal soldier, irreparably damaging his reputation, the First Couple has decidedto torpedo his candidacy. The President has occupied the Oval Office forseven long years, and now he decides to don his Cesar Chavez/JohnSteinbeck/Bobby Kennedy costumes and visit impoverished areas ofthe United States. That's Bulworth for you. I don't buy the pundit spinthat Clinton is working on his legacy: It's simpler than that. With his wifeattracting so much media glory, Bill wants his share, too. So he travels toWatts, an American Indian reservation in South Dakota, Appalachia,promises a few piddling monetary grants, and manages to sneak into the newscycle. You can never be too cynical in questioning Clinton's motives.
Newsweek'sJonathan Alter, who writes like a grandfather, bought the whole routine.He was along for the ride on the Poverty Charade and says, in a July 19 column,that he emerged "strangely hopeful," despite the desperate settings."The source of my good feeling was, of all people, an upbeat Jesse Jackson.God isn't finished with him yet-he's turning the reverend into a proud capitalist.'This isn't a War on Poverty, it's a War for Profits,' Jackson told me on AirForce One. [That's the President's plane, in case you missed the reference.]In the old days, that would have been an attack line; now, it neatly summarizesthe message of Clinton's 'New Markets' tour. Jackson's three-word mantra wasonce: 'I am somebody.' Today it's: 'Access to capital.'"
In the olddays, Jesse Jackson was a con man. Today, he's still one, because Goddon't make junk, He makes junk bonds.
Meanwhile,in the Bush campaign, I have to guess that topic number one is the possibilityof a viable third party candidate. No, I'm not referring to nutty Bob Smith,the New Hampshire senator who is polling miniscule numbers in his homestate; his resignation from the GOP is meaningless, and his U.S. TaxpayersParty candidacy will probably win the same amount of support as RalphNader or Michael Moore might. (Sorry to say, the latter possibilityis not a figment of my imagination: It's said that Moore might represent theGreen Party in the 2000 presidential election. As repellent as that imageis, the good news is that Moore probably will win a few votes, and guess what:They'll all come from Gore's base.)
The Bushbrain trust must have two men on their minds right now: Steve Forbesand Jesse Ventura. I don't think Forbes presents a real threat, eventhough he'll spend a lot of money on attack ads, which are due to begin anyday now. In the end, he'll wind up as a Bush supporter and might be rewardedwith some post in that administration. (Depending, of course, on how nasty hisads are.) Now, Ventura is a horse of another color: He's been making the cabletv rounds lately and comes off as a likable, no-nonsense libertarian who couldpotentially demolish Bush, and Gore, in a debate should he decide to carry theReform Party's banner. It's true that Ventura pledged to Minnesotansthat he'd complete his term, but given political history, that's a promise thatcould be broken without difficulty. The times have changed, my friends, we needa real leader who isn't an establishment insider, blah, blah, blah. Venturacould post the kind of numbers that Ross Perot did in '92, if not surpassthem. The only saving grace is that he must have past personal baggage thatwould stymie even the few intelligent conveyor operators at Newark International.While it's true that Clinton has lowered the bar for such indiscretions-alleged rape is pretty hard to beat-Ventura's drug history, not to mention repeateddalliances with prostitutes, could kill his presidential potential.
Bush, ifhe's smart, will cozy up to that bear of a Jesse and make him part of his kitchencabinet. Praise the work the first-time governor is doing in Minnesota.Knock back a few Cokes and then go out hunting on the sly. Reach outto his constituency. Mi casa es su casa. Nothing becomes a front-runner as muchas being complimentary to his adversaries.
On the Hillaryfront, I'll try to be as long-winded as possible about her dizzying mediaorgy this past week in upstate New York. Hypocrisy is a Democratic disease andSen. Pat Moynihan is only its latest victim. I don't know if it's drinkor senility, but something must explain his behavior in championing the womanwhose health-care boondoggle he held up to public ridicule six years ago, notto mention the welfare bill passed in '96 that he opposed. Now he supports herall the way, as he retires to his farm, and puts politics, but not Jim Beam,behind him. Moynihan, whom Hillary condescendingly called "the wisest NewYorker that we can know of at this time," when she couldn't answer a specificquestion that related to New York, forever disgraced himself by voting to acquitPresident Clinton earlier this year in the impeachment trial. Future historianswill take note of that decision and cross out Moynihan's name when they cometo listing statesmen of the late 20th century.
There wasa telling story in the New York Post last Saturday by Brian Blomquist,who interviewed the sheriff in Moynihan's county. According to Blomquist, ThomasMills said he had an offhand chat with Elizabeth Moynihan, the Senator'swife, while she was mulching trees on their farm. Mills told the Postreporter that Mrs. Moynihan said, "We do not approve of her running, wejust wish that-she's not even from New York." Mrs. Moynihan wouldn't commenton her conversation, but the Senator's chief aide, Tony Bullock, puton his Mike McCurry/Joe Lockhart hat and denied the remarks, sayingthat both Moynihans are "totally supportive" of Mrs. Clinton's candidacy.
Almost everyonein the media had their say about Hillary's Senate run last week and most ofit was mush. But none was worse than Lance Morrow's "Viewpoint"thumbsucker in the July 12 Time. Morrow, Nostradamus that he is,predicts a Clinton victory in New York by stating what is obvious only to thosewho lunch at Zabar's. He claims Hillary's gender, celebrity, RudyGiuliani's temper and a large minority turnout will send her to Washington.Morrow also has this startlingly original statement on her behalf: "Donot underestimate Hillary Clinton's ambition, or her destiny. It is no smallthing."
Morrow repeatsthe current conventional wisdom that New York's media are really pussycats andwon't beat up on the First Lady. Well, sort of, Lance: It is true that eversince Watergate, when future lawyers or doctors turned to journalisminstead, fouling a once-honorable craft, city newsrooms have turned as sterileas those of a quality hospital. He writes: "The nasty New York press issaid to be ready to eat Hillary alive. Nonsense. The New York press is a scarecrow.Its famous brutality is mostly saloon bragging by tabloid drunks on their 10thbeer... After all, Ted Kennedy ran off a bridge a long time ago, and a womandrowned, and he's had 30 happy years in the Senate since then."
I'm withyou on Teddy, Lance, although Chappaquiddick, along with no coherentreason for running, doomed his presidential bid against incumbent Jimmy Carterin 1980. But Morrow is wrong about the "scarecrow" media in New York.In a scan of newspaper stories I found the coverage pretty even, meaning thatwhile Clinton sycophants like Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and almostall of CNN shined up the First Lady, others were more harsh.
Before provingMorrow wrong about the local media, let me share my favorite Hillary quote ofthe week. In The Washington Post's July 8 edition, MichaelGrunwald reports: "She laughed heartily when a reporter suggested theremight be an element of chutzpah to her quest to represent a state in which shehas never lived, and even conceded there probably is. 'I understand that characteristicis not all bad, in certain parts of New York,' Clinton said with a broad smile.'I may need a lot of that.'"
The NewYork Post's Deborah Orin, who I doubt consumes 10 beers in a saloonafter hours, is one of Washington's hardest-working and most respected WhiteHouse reporters. On July 9, she wrote: "Until she began eyeing NewYork's Senate seat, Mrs. Clinton had broken publicly with her husband on onlyone issue beyond Monica Lewinsky: She backed a Palestinian state in May 1998and won plaudits in the Arab world. Then yesterday, Mrs. Clinton broke withher husband again, this time in the opposite direction. She now takes Israel'sside and favors an 'indivisible' Jerusalem as its capital and wants the U.S.embassy moved there... No wonder Arab-Americans accuse Mrs. Clinton of pandering.Her positions on Jerusalem and a Palestinian state sure seem contradictory.The open question is whether the switch wins her votes or backfires."
The daybefore, Orin was even more critical: "What's in it for New York if HillaryClinton becomes the Empire State's next senator? Most likely, nothing buttsuris. Which, for visiting Arkansans who don't know Yiddish, means a wholelot of trouble... Polls say the most likely next president will be a Republicannamed George W. Bush who has no love for the Clintons-and Republicans will keepcontrol of both the Senate and the House. Which means Mrs. Clinton would bea junior senator in a minority party in a country with a new president electedon a pledge to move in a non-Clinton direction. In other words, Sen. Clintonwould have zero clout."
The Post'sAndrea Peyser, who is admittedly a bit more hysterical than Orin, gother own shots in on July 7, unleashing a torrid attack on Hillary that must'vebeen brewing for months. "There is a name for someone like Hillary,"she writes. "There is a name for someone who exaggerates accomplishments.Who believes her innate superiority entitles her to obfuscate, evade and lie...[T]here is a deeper disorder afflicting the First Lady, a woman so deluded,she believes she can bend the rules, stomp on friends and squander taxpayermoney without penalty. It is what led her to put her name on a book she didn't write, while refusing to give her ghost writer any credit. It is what made hernot only fire staff, but trash their reputations."
Newsday'scolumnists Jimmy Breslin (a thug) and Ellis Henican (an AlanAlda 80s kind of guy) were on opposite sides, both writing on July 7.
Henican:"Who cares where you come from? You're in New York now. We're all immigrantshere. And a lot of us came from a whole lot farther than Arkansas and Washington,D.C. None of our big-time politicians actually live here. As far as anyone knows,they live on television."
Breslin:"Right now, I am not sure whether she actually will run or not-and I'llbet this Clinton woman isn't sure either.
"Itis the most bizarre thing we have seen in politics in some time.
"Afterthe last four years, with her husband rolling around the White House hallwayswith Monica Lewinsky, after all this cheap, grubby lying, after Hillary Clinton'ssmug deviousness and untruthfulness, after all these character collapses, itis implausible for her to run for the United States Senate from New York.
"Clintonand his wife spread a layer of soot over this country and now she comes aroundwithout even brushing the soot from her sleeves, smiling all over the placeas if it never happened, as if New Yorkers are the same as those in Appalachiaor Arkansas or any of those other low-IQ areas in which the Clintons do best...And the most hideous thing about it is that she is the only candidate alivewho Giuliani can beat. Otherwise, Giuliani, this surly cadaver, would lose toany decent citizen from the United States Postal Service."
Breslinwas less ballistic on July 11: "As they show you, Clinton and Giulianiare the same candidate. Right now, she is most active in the field of fraud.In a couple of days this week, she came out for Hasidic Jews against everybodyelse, and for cows ahead of children. She wants the upstate milk cartel to getprice rises that will cost children in Harlem 20 cents more for milk and shewill defend them. She has no idea of what she was doing, and that is fine witheverybody else."
Messageto Lance Morrow: Breslin's been sober for years.
On the sameday, Breslin's Newsday colleague, Larry Levy, a Hillary devotee,voices his concern that she's making promises that can't be kept. Levy lovedall the pomp and rural splendor of the upstate whirlwind, but wrote: "Everytime she chose to talk instead of just listen, she raised expectations she'lleventually have to meet. Even when she merely offered supportive platitudes...shewas signing political and policy due-bills."
The NewYorker, under the editorship of both Tina Brown and David Remnick,hasn't done its civic duty in exposing the fraudulent First Couple, lardingits pages with laudatory, and sometimes downright sickening, praise for thispolicy scam or that Ken Starr bromide. However, Elizabeth Kolbert,writing for the July 12 issue, wasn't as polite as former New Yorkerpolitical columnist Sidney Blumenthal, now an administration tool, wouldexpect. Like most cynics, she explores the possibility that Mrs. Clinton isusing this convenient open Senate seat as a stepping stone back to the WhiteHouse, whether to resurrect her husband's legacy (the masochistic view) or createone of her own (the more sensible position). Kolbert explains that this ratherblatant scenario-never mind Clinton's statement in Utica last week thatif elected, "I intend to serve out the entire term," a vague responsethat means nothing, especially coming from a Clinton-has some state Democratsnervous.
Already,it's obvious that the Clintons have little intention of helping Al Gorebecome president. Otherwise, Hillary would wait until 2004 to run for Senatefrom her native Illinois and raise money and, more importantly, campaignnonstop in New York, California and the Midwest for the hapless Veep.Bill Clinton's another story altogether: He's so consumed with jealousy thatGore will take his office, and pissed that his underling scolded him, that betweenplaying golf, praying with Jesse Jackson and dreaming up contradictory policytours of the country himself, he won't raise a finger to help the Vice President.
Kolbertwrites: "The possible effects of such speculations on a candidacy alreadyburdened with carpetbaggery have made some Democratic leaders nervous. 'If Iwere the state Party chair, I would go off the wall,' one told me."
The currentNew Yorker's cover is an endorsement of Hillary's candidacy: anillustration by Harry Bliss entitled "The Tough Guy and the Tourist"which depicts the First Lady as a tourist about to be mugged by Giuliani. Inside,however, Kolbert's brief article about last week's events are noncommittal.While conceding that Hillary's jaunt was a success, Kolbert also wrote thatit was a snooze, and, between the lines, a scam. She mentions the confusionof the press: "Had we gathered for the most sensational political storyof the year, or was it more like one of those sting operations that profferfree Yankees tickets to gullible fugitives?"
The NewYork Times, predictably, was solidly in the Clinton camp. Their beat reporterfor the race, Adam Nagourney, fairly gushed in the July 8 edition ashe described the First Lady's visit to Moynihan's farm. "Mrs. Clinton thenplunged into her first day on the campaign trail for herself, as opposed tobeing the candidate's spouse. [I suppose all those visits earlier this year, when she toyed with Rep. Nita Lowey, didn't count as campaign appearances.]She visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, ate lunch at a barbecuerestaurant in Oneonta, and savored the generally large and enthusiastic crowdswho turned out to catch sight of the First Lady and her entourage at every stop.She also held the first of the orchestrated 'Listening to New Yorkers' forumsthat are to anchor her schedule this summer, listening intently and taking notesduring a long discussion about education.
"Itwas, by any measure, a remarkable day in the politics of both New York and thenation."
While Nagourneydutifully reported all of the phony-baloney of the "Listening Tour,"Gail Collins, writing on the same day, attacked Giuliani on the editorialpage of the Times. "The Mayor is a native New Yorker," Collinsadmitted, "but lately he seems compelled to gild the lily. To hear Mr.Giuliani tell it this week, he is a cross between Johnny Appleseed and an upstateAmway salesman. He has not only campaigned in upstate New York, he used to workthere! In a bunch of different places! He is expert in state geography and anoutdoorsman familiar with the local flora and fauna." After gleefully explainingthe gaffe the Mayor made about the location of the Orange County townMonroe, confusing it with a northern county, Collins continued: "Hemanaged to make Hillary Clinton look like the candidate who is best at handlingthe carpetbagging issue."
Collinswill be first on line to vote for Hillary come November of 2000, but she's correctthat Giuliani's harping on carpetbagging is counterproductive.
But eventhe Times editors realize there must be at least 10 percent balance intheir coverage of the campaign, if only to still claim their paper is "objective."On last Wednesday's op-ed page, Matthew L. Lifflander, a lifelongDemocrat who's worked on, and raised money for, local campaigns for 40 years,registered his disapproval of Clinton's candidacy. He's disgusted that his partycouldn't find a New York resident to run against Giuliani, saying, "thisis a shameful show of political bankruptcy at a time when the Democratic Partyis by no means politically bankrupt." Being polite, and a man of the 90s,I'll tell Mr. Lifflander that we can agree to disagree on that statement. However,he continues: "Spare us Mrs. Clinton's patent patronizing and give theopportunity to a real New Yorker-somebody who already understands that upstatersare concerned about mid-size cities, jobs, the flight of industry, taxes andthe plight of dairy farmers. We cannot take pride in a party that sells itssoul to an outsider whose major credentials are that she can raise a lot ofmoney and that people feel sorry for her."
Over atthe Daily News, columnist Jim Dwyer, maybe only on his fifth beer,wrote that while Clinton was doodling in a notebook upstate, Giuliani was beingmayor. In a July 8 piece headlined "Blackout Shows Rudy Has the Power,"Dwyer wrote: "What better moment for a small, manageable catastrophe tostrike New York City than the very day that Hillary Rodham Clinton went to anupstate farm on her gimmicky Listening Tour. Rudy Giuliani, blackout boy, wasback in Washington Heights on a Doing Tour. Surrounded by his armies, he hadrolling command posts in Winnebagos, walkie-talkies on every belt, cell phonesin every palm, briefings on the hour. Emergency lighting, food, generators.Even an emergency lawsuit."
I loathethe writing of Wendy Wasserstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrightwhose work is on the level of a Seinfeld sitcom, but even UpperWest Side liberals show a lick of common sense once or twice in their lifetimes.Wasserstein wrote an op-ed piece in last Sunday's Washington Post inwhich she described the ostracism that women of her presumed persuasion encounterwhen daring to question the inevitability of Clinton's victory in the fall of2000. She's impressed with the First Lady, Wasserstein admits, but doesn't likethe coronation, doesn't care for a "steamroller" campaign. (Which,interestingly, puts her in the same camp as Republicans Pat Buchanan,Gary Bauer, Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle, for probablythe first and only time in her life. Politics can be very cool.)
She writes:"The question of the first lady's legislative track record seems irrelevantto the fantasizers. Bottom line, Schumer's calling card was his nine terms asa congressman. Mrs. Clinton's is her presumed ability to win. Whenever a liberaldinner party strays into a Hillary discussion, the conversation inevitably endswith, 'But she can beat Giuliani.' Never mind the fact that she's never heldoffice. Never mind the question of why she suddenly deserves this office-andwhy New York. Besides, her experience as a single-minded advocate wouldn't necessarilytranslate well in a body where compromise is key."
As for theweeklies, The New York Observer's Joe Conason, in the July12 issue, goes back to the well of Giuliani's youthful writings in his collegenewspaper, the Manhattan Quadrangle. Giuliani was blustery even backthen, as Conason points out: "The young Rudy had little sympathy for theextremists who took over the Republican Party in 1964 with the nomination ofBarry Goldwater, whom he considered a right-wing 'patsy,' a sycophant of theJohn Birch Society and 'an incompetent, confused and sometimes idiotic man.'"It's interesting, but not exactly cricket to dissect the political views thatsomeone held 35 years ago. After all, in '76 I wrote in my college paper anendorsement of Fred Harris for the Democratic nomination, with heapsof abuse for Jimmy Carter. God knows what Conason was writing at such a tenderage. Besides, today's Giuliani is hardly a creature of the hard-right: He'spro-choice, pro-gay rights and in favor of immigration, positions that wouldget him thrown out of Sen. Bob Smith's house.
As for examiningstatements made in the past, the Post's Fred Dicker unearthedlast Sunday Mario Cuomo's views on carpetbagging. Cuomo, certainlyNew York's most overrated politician in the last generation, blasted his '82gubernatorial challenger Lewis Lehrman, a Republican who owned a homeand voted in Pennsylvania. Cuomo said back then: "Is it right thathe should be able to come into this state without a history, without roots,without a philosophy, without a commitment, without knowing anything and buy...ageneral election." But that was then. Today, Cuomo insists it's not analogous,because Hillary Clinton has a "philosophy" and won't be using herown money to fund her campaign. "To the extent she has the resources torun it will be because people from New York have the confidence in her to giveher the money." Sure. It'll be fascinating when contributions are madepublic to see exactly what percentage of her war chest is from this state.
TheNation's Christopher Hitchens was having none of Hillary's bullshit.In the July 26 issue he thundered: "In almost two decades of unstintingservice to The Nation, I have never quite penetrated to the pulsing quickand core of New York liberalism. I understand dimly that Mrs. Clinton must havesomewhere to live. I also quite see that she must have something to do, andsomewhere to sit. I haven't yet had it convincingly explained to me why thisis all up to us, or why a nomination to the United States Senate is not justhers for the asking, but hers even without the asking."
(Hitchens,by the way, is a besotted journalistic whore to his core. Not only does he writefor any publication that'll pay him-except NYPress, because of his feudwith Alex Cockburn-but in the grand British tradition he shops his materialaround two or three times. The Nation article I quoted was availableto the public last Friday; on Monday, it popped up once again in Salon,almost word for word, with no explanation that the piece first appeared elsewhere.Are Salon's editors so dim they don't mind being snookered by a creeplike Hitchens? Never mind. That was a dumb question.)
On Monday,the Times asked seven prominent New Yorkers, "Can Hillary Speakfor New York?," a compilation that appeared on their op-ed page. Most ofthe respondents' comments were forgettable, with the exception of RobertF. Kennedy Jr. He cited the famous leaders that have come from New York-FDR,Teddy Roosevelt, RFK, Nelson Rockefeller, etc.-and with stunning naivete made Hillary an equal. "Each had the common traits thatNew Yorkers admire," Kennedy wrote, "and that Mrs. Clinton has inspades: the peculiar mix of toughness, idealism, compassion and intellectualrigor." I met Bobby Kennedy once and he seemed like a decent guy. I'm stunnedthat he'd besmirch his father's memory by comparing an opportunistic, hypocriticalwoman like Clinton to him.
Now, let'samp up to the hard stuff. I'm glad that Peggy Noonan, who wrote a pieceabout Hillary Clinton called "The Natural" in last Thursday's WallStreet Journal, is fidgeting with her worry beads. That keeps the rest ofus who are so disgusted, and at times complacent, about the prospect of a Sen.Clinton on our toes. Noonan watched the commencement of the "ListeningTour" on cable and was impressed by the First Lady's preparation and automatongrace. Noonan's doomsday thesis is that Hillary is shoring up her left-wingbase currently, getting the usual sad-sack liberals whipped up and then steelingherself for a steady assault from reporters. She writes: "A year from now,when it matters, if New York's pundits-the Dunleavies and Dowds, the Brookhisersand Breslins-are still attacking her, they will look obsessed and winded. Shewill look long suffering and glistening. The criticisms of '99 will be but amemory." Yet Noonan concludes that last week's love-fest might be a reminderto Republicans, "in the same way that an alarm clock going off at the righttime is good news. It rings, you hear it, you wake and get dressed and stopdreaming and go to work."
The Journal'sPaul Gigot, in his "Potomac Watch" column last Friday, wasgloomier still. Gigot sticks to the majority view that Rep. Rick Lazio,with Gov. Pataki's blessing, is really going to challenge Giulianiin the GOP primary next year, thus dividing the party and exhausting the winner'sresources for the general election. "This is the first lady's dream,"Gigot speculates, "and maybe even her expectation. And why shouldn't itbe? If her husband can make a career of beating dumb Republicans, so can she."
Time of the Season
On Saturdaymorning, after buying coffee and water at the local deli, a jogger with hispup says to me: "Hey MUGGER, aren't you glad I'm cleaning up this dogshitwith the cover of the Village Voice?" I nodded in approval, butdo have to admit it was the best Voice cover in a long time: a full-pageillustration by Seattle's Peter Bagge. The story, Eric Weisbard's"Generation Ex: Caught Between the Boomers and the Brats," which AdamHeimlich comments on in his new, and prickly smart, column "Heimytown,"was stupid, but that's not Bagge's fault.
Still withthe Voice, I rarely agree with its publisher, David Schneiderman,but he gave the Daily News' Celia McGee an hilarious, and dead-on,quote for her June 29 column. Commenting on a union walkout at his shop, Schneidermansaid: "[It's] an every-three-year event. I've been doing this for the past21 years, and it's part of the drama of our negotiations." Why owner LeonardStern hasn't smashed that tin-horn union I don't have a clue, but hey, powerto the people! Especially those of color!
Which remindsme-before tackling Voice "Press Clips" columnist CynCotts' latest blunder-sometimes it's perplexing working with people stillunder 30. The other day, I was walking by Andrey Slivka's office andhe had some folk music playing, presumably to soothe his angry Ukrainian soul."Hey," I said, "if you're going to San Francisco, man..."He didn't get it. Upon further inquisition, Slivka admitted he didn't even knowwho sang or wrote that 60s anthem. So much for a Columbia Universityeducation. "Wasn't it some one-hit wonder, like the guy who warbled thatawful song about destruction?" I summoned John Strausbaugh to thescene and we forced our boy editor to listen to an entire rendition of BarryMcGuire's classic "Eve of Destruction."
Anyway,Cynthia, grrrlfriend, I don't blame you for not reading NYPress coverto cover, if at all. But when you're writing a media column, maybe your researcher could give you a few pointers. In Cotts' July 7 piece she included a bit aboutPhilip Nobile's crusade against Don Imus, the over-the-hilltalk radio personality politicians and pundits regularly schmooze with on theair. After all, he's safer than Howard Stern. Nobile's beef is that Imusis racist, homophobic and anything else you can think of after reading TheNation. Cotts: "Nobile has been contacting journalist friends of theI-man in hopes that he can find someone willing to take Imus to task. But thewriter thinks Imus is protected from criticism by a 'white posse of major media players' who crave the publicity they can generate by going on his show. Sofar, no response from Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Jeff Greenfield, or Frank Rich."
Fair enough.Trouble is, Cotts could've devoted her space to another item that week: Nobilewrote an "In Rotation" column on the very same topic in the June 9NYPress.
On the topicof my limited social life, Mrs. M and I spent two wonderful hours at AmySohn's party for her book Run Catch Kiss at Joe's Pub lastWednesday night. Before taking a cab down to the Noho location, I readin The New York Observer Alexandra Jacobs' bitchy descriptionof the affair, in which she dubbed Amy a "smut columnist." Hands off,Alex, she's our smut columnist; your insult is sorta like a wigger callinga black guy a nigger. And God didn't create no junk.
Anyway,Mrs. M was the first to arrive and spoke with Amy before the hordes of peopleshowed up. Jam-packed. Before getting to the bold-faced names, I do have toregister a note of astonishment: It was a wine-and-beer-only bash, which wasfine, but what do you think Joe's Pub charges for a simple Campari &soda? Eight bucks! Jeez, not that I'm being cheap, but you could purchase abottle of the stuff up the street for a few dollars more.
DaveDaley was down from Connecticut, where he's covering Hillary Clinton'scampaign for the Hartford Courant, so we had plenty to ramble on about.Then Howard Kaplan showed up, looking very fit and proud to report thathe's keeping his sweeping rituals to a minimum; New York's MichaelWolff was on hand, as was Manny Howard, one of Brooklyn'smost famous glad-handers who's now working for Ruth Reichl's revampedGourmet. Mrs. M and I spoke with Adam Heimlich and Lis Kerr, HillaryKearns and Don MacLeod, Kim Granowitz, Mistress Rubyand Ned Vizzini, NYPress' boy wonder journalist who's taking ayear off after high school to get a real job before joining the academics atColumbia. My bet is that he'll never make it to 116th St.; the money and stimulationwill be too much to pass up for all-nighters and Karl Marx seminars.Strausbaugh bonded with Open City's Tom Beller and I saw the Post'sRichard Johnson, although he never mentioned the party in "PageSix." Probably just wanted a look at Amy, like so many other men in thecrowd.
Amy toldme the next day that she was more than satisfied with the turnout, as was herSimon and Schuster publisher David Rosenthal. "It was alsothe night my parents met my boyfriend," she said. "It went okay. Ikept the interaction to a five-minute maximum and then whisked him away so theycouldn't interrogate him. All the books disappeared within minutes."
As for theweekend, the boys were crabby on Saturday morning-it was beyond me-and thingsonly got worse as we drove around the East Village looking for a BobaFett action figure. There was a store that Mrs. M remembered had all sortsof Star Wars junk-and that's the word for it, if you ask me-but whenwe found it the place was closed. At 1 p.m. on a Saturday. The boys were dumbfounded:I had to explain that storekeepers in the East Village generally don't wakeup until after the sun has gone down.
However,once we hit a Burger King on 6th Ave., where the premium for a kids'meal is a pair of sunglasses, they turned into angels. "These chicken tendersare so much better than McDonald's," Junior chirped happily. "Yeah,and dig those fries," MUGGER III piped up. Later, we went to the Tribecalocation of St. Mark's Comics, where my sons are on a first-namebasis with the help. They all speak in a language I have no comprehension of-Spawnthis, Darth Maul that. I'll bet that St. Mark's Andre doesn'tknow who sang "Eve of Destruction" either.
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Free Speech Award Is Imprudent
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