Al Gore's Mondale Impersonation; Bush Conquers California

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:23

    Bush Conquers California What a disastrousweek for the hapless Al Gore. Not only was his impressive fundraisingtotal for the first half of '99 dwarfed by George W.Bush's astonishing$36.3 million, but his erstwhile bus buddy, Bill Clinton, was monopolizingthe news cycle, doing his best to sabotage Gore's flailing presidential campaign. No, there's not a rift between the two, Clinton insisted, even though everybodyknows that's just another lie burbled from his lip-biting mug. Last Thursday,Clinton joined some of Bush's GOP opponents and criticized the amount of moneythe Texas governor has amassed so far, saying Bush is captive to bigmoney interests. David Beckwith, a Bush spokesman, said: "Gov. Bushhas several ideas for campaign finance reform. It's not surprising that they'redifferent from President Clinton. For example, we're not taking Chinese money." Every timeyou think Clinton has redefined the word "hypocrisy," he ups the ante.

    At thispoint in his lame-duck term, the President is like a kid who's been banishedto his room for the remainder of the evening, yet reappears every five minutesfor another stab at attention. I suspect that when the devil comes a-knockin'and Clinton descends below, his funeral will be well attended but will beara remarkable resemblance to Ebenezer Scrooge's in Dickens' AChristmas Carol. Eulogies will be given while the various guests look attheir watches and wonder what kind of buffet will be laid out after the crocodiletears are shed.

    Also lastweek, Gore's campaign chairman Tony Coelho, who was an architect of theDemocrats' disastrous '94 election effort, demonstrated his faulty politicalacumen by shaking up the Vice President's staff. Coelho hired Carter Eskewas a consultant, a choice that's curious for a couple of reasons. First, Eskewwas once a business partner of Bob Squier, a close Gore ally, but thetwo had an acrimonious falling out. The bad blood between them, as well as othersin the Gore camp, like pollsters Mark Penn and Celinda Lake, guaranteesdaily fistfights within the organization. More importantly, however, Eskew,a partner in the firm Bozell Eskew, produced, according to the AssociatedPress, "a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for the tobaccoindustry that is credited with helping kill the Senate's tobacco bill last year."Squier told The Washington Post, "He certainly would not have beenallowed to represent a client like this inside our company."

    So, speakingof hypocrisy, it seems that Gore, who choked back tears at the '96 DemocraticConvention describing the lung-cancer death of his sister and vowed to fightthe evils of tobacco until his final breath, has learned a lot from Clinton.Gore hasn't commented yet on this compromise of his beliefs and I doubt he will:What possible explanation can he offer for such a bald-faced contradiction?

    Then there'sBill Bradley, who surprised, and scared, Gore supporters with his reportof $11 million raised through June 30, thus guaranteeing that his candidacywill be well funded and not just a nuisance of the Lamar Alexander variety.Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who must regret not getting intothe race himself, endorsed Bradley on Monday, joining Minnesota Sen.Paul Wellstone, and I imagine that several other members of the Democraticestablishment, smelling defeat and suffering from post-impeachment guilt, won'tbe far behind. In addition, Stephen P. Yokich, leader of the UnitedAuto Workers, repudiated an endorsement of Gore by the union's Iowabranch. Yokich said: "A group of less than twenty members in Iowa doesnot speak for the International Executive Board of the union and no one shouldthink that they do." Gore is also having trouble rallying the AFL-CIO,the Teamsters and building trade unions, groups that have disagreed withthe Clinton administration's stance on trade policies.

    Buttressingmy oft-stated view that Gore will go down in history as Bill Clinton's lastvictim, Ed Koch, who's endorsed Bradley, wrote in the Daily Newslast Friday: "The public sees the same Clinton swagger undiminished. Heis neither cowed nor bowed, and there's a sense that like O.J. Simpson, he floutedjustice... If there ever were a whipping boy, a surrogate for the now unreachable,untouchable Clinton, it's Al Gore. Gore's decision now to condemn Clinton forhis affair with Lewinsky, when he was so circumspect and resolute in defendingthe President during the impeachment proceedings, looks like an act of desperationby someone slipping in the polls."

    The delusionalGene Lyons, still suckered by Clinton, used his Arkansas Democrat-Gazettecolumn on June 30 to offer advice to the pal he calls Al. "Only six monthsafter the failed GOP impeachment effort, the episode has already taken on thefeel of a half-remembered dream," Lyons fantasizes. "Only two groupsseem unable to let it go: crackpot Clinton-haters and the great majority ofthe Washington press corps. For the latter group, the failure of the nation'sfirst-ever TV coup d'etat constituted a terrible blow to their self-importance...Mr. Vice President, you have already apologized for Bill Clinton's misbehaviora couple of times too many... Every time reporters badger you into deploringClinton's adventures with Monica, they succeed in making you look like a pantywaistwho's afraid of the Washington punditocracy."

    Oh right,there's that coup chatter again.

    Back toreality. At least Gore can rely on The New York Times to ram his candidacydown its readers' throats. Last Thursday, the day after Bush announced his fundraisingtotal, the Times ran a sanctimonious editorial that was another de factoendorsement of the Vice President. Not that it was presented that way. The writerused Sen. John McCain's speech in New Hampshire about thenecessity for campaign finance reform as a vehicle for its pro-Gore sentiments.The Times advises Bush, as "the leader in the Presidential polls"to "shove his party's leaders in Congress toward a fair and open vote onMr. McCain's legislation. If he chooses not to do so, voters will have a rightto question whether his brand of conservatism offers its compassion first andforemost to big-money special interests."

    A few pointshere. I guess last year's defeat of the McCain-Feingold campaign financebill wasn't "fair and open" because it didn't yield the result theTimes ivory-tower Big Thinkers desired. The Times asserts that"the stunning totals Mr. Bush is amassing could goad Vice President AlGore into copying President Clinton's reckless methods." Short-term memoryproblem at the alleged paper of record? Does the writer not remember Gore'smantra of "no controlling authority" when trying to wiggle out ofhis Buddhist nun contributions in the '96 campaign? Besides, it's not as ifthe Times, in the unlikely event that McCain is the GOP nominee, wouldendorse the Arizona senator. He's simply a pawn for their irresponsibleagenda of continuing the corrupt Clinton-Gore administration.

    Gore hasraised upward of $18 million for his campaign, which would've been a recordhaul if it had not been exceeded by Bush. What if the Governor had reported,say, $14 million? Would the Times have then made Gore the recipient ofits high-minded lecture on the evils of "special interest" money?Not likely, even though Gore certainly didn't raise that much cash by collectingnickels from kids all over the country, a la Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

    But theTimes wasn't alone in criticizing Bush for raising money. In an outrageouslyone-sided editorial on July 3, The Boston Globe asked, "Is [Bush]trying to buy the election? Why should voters think otherwise?" Incredibly,ignoring recent history, the editorial continues: "Bush's donor list, likethose of other candidates, already includes hundreds of people with a financial stake in federal policy decisions. What are they buying? Will their contributionssecure invitations to the White House?" When the Lincoln Bedroom was soldin '96 for Clinton's reelection effort, it's simply amazing that a major newspapercan ask such questions without mentioning that campaign. In addition, Gore isnever cited in the editorial: Could it be possible the Globe editorsreally believe the Vice President has had as little luck at shaking down contributorsas Alan Keyes?

    Perhapsthe most pleasing result of Bush's $36 million report last Wednesday was seeingthe temper tantrums by Beltway beat reporters, who aren't used to GOPcandidates playing smart politics. The Bush campaign purposely downplayed estimatesof their fundraising, knowing the press would distort the total and declareit a "disappointment." All David Beckwith told the media was thatBush would exceed the original goal of $15 million and expected more than $20million. He told the truth. Yet, according to Howard Kurtz's WashingtonPost story last Friday, several reporters were seething at what they interpretedas deception on the part of Bush's staff.

    Kurtz quotesJohn Harwood of The Wall Street Journal: "I think they werespinning. It's dangerous when you're talking about a moving target and a campaignthat has an interest in low-balling you." Good guess, John. Kurtz continues:"The Bush campaign 'has not established a good track record of credibilitywith reporters' in describing its finances, said Susan Glasser, who covers moneyand politics for The Post. 'In presidential fund-raising, a difference of $13million in one day's time is an extremely misleading thing to say to reportersthat cannot be justified as a press strategy.'" The New York Times'Don Van Natta Jr. added, "I don't quite understand why they're doing it...They're playing a game with us." Only the Los Angeles Times'Mark Barabak admitted the press was outfoxed, saying, "They left themselvesa certain wiggle room, an almost Clintonesque kind of thing... You sort of haveto tip your hat to them."

    Given thepartisanship that the major U.S. dailies display every day in favor of Democrats,and the abysmal track record of Republican candidates-Bob Dole beingonly the most obvious example-of acquiescing to that bias, it's refreshing tosee a GOP candidate who has the same kind of "war room" strategy thatserved Clinton so well. The media is perplexed: mostly because it can't fathomRepublicans not playing by conventional rules.

    Not surprisingly,Bush's GOP challengers for the presidential nomination were not pleased by thefront-runner's financial report. Elizabeth Dole, interviewed by JudyWoodruff on CNN's Inside Politics last Wednesday, was downrightsilly, saying that gosh, with all that money going to Bush's campaign, Americanswon't have enough left to buy Christmas presents! It was Steve Forbes,of all people, who registered the most outrage. The millionaire publisher, who'snever held elective office, lashed out at Bush, saying that the Texan is nowa captive of Washington insiders. As reported by The Washington Postlast Friday, Forbes claimed that Bush's contributors are "substantial people,lobbyists, part of the establishment?who are backing him because they know thatthis way there is not going to be real, substantive change." JuleannaGlover Weiss, a spokeswoman for Forbes, told The Washington Times'Ralph Z. Hallow, "This is self-mutilation that Bush is engaged in.He has stepped into a big bear trap."

    I expectDole to drop out of the contest before the New Hampshire primary. A picturein Monday's Times, showing Bush with his arm around her at a New Hampshirerally, says it all: Liddy's lobbying for a cabinet post in GWB's administration.

    And McCain,despite his POW credentials and forceful statesmanship during the Kosovointervention, will never be the GOP nominee, mostly because the usuallyconservative Senator has engaged in some wacky behavior during the past year.Forget his legendary temper, and impolitic, off-color jokes; McCain's real sinwith Republican primary voters is his campaign finance reform crusade and sponsorshipof anti-tobacco legislation last year that would've resulted in a huge tax increase.Last Friday, in The Wall Street Journal, columnist Paul Gigotspeculated that McCain's views are colored more by his desire to finally cleansehimself of his limited involvement in the Keating Five scandal in thelate 80s. McCain said in a speech last week: "The people whom I serve believethat the means by which I came to office corrupt me. And that shames me... Theircontempt is a stain upon my honor, and I cannot live with it." Gigot writes:"In that sense, campaign finance is a metaphor for the entire McCain candidacy.It's more about the man than the message. The senator's fiercest convictionsare about his personal character, not his ideas."

    And that'swhy the media's favorite Republican (although they'd never vote for him overGore or Bradley) doesn't have a shot with the GOP's rank-and-file voters. Still,the Daily News' Lars-Erik Nelson continues to plump for the ethicallychallenged Senator. In his July 4 column, like Jim Bowie at the Alamo,Nelson writes: "But McCain has something even more powerful than money.He has a story as old and as beautiful as America. With luck it will be thestory of the next year: a courageous, scrappy underdog fighting the most powerfulspecial interests in the country so that this nation of ours works for the benefitof all its citizens, not the 75,000 richest."

    Wasn't cornpone like that made illegal at least three decades ago? Ignore for the momentthat Arizona beat reporters, who know McCain a lot more intimately than Nelson,will tell you another story-and it's not pretty-about this "scrappy underdog."I have a question for the naive News pundit: Sir, do you really believethat if McCain could raise as much money as Bush, making him the prohibitivefavorite for the GOP nomination, that he'd turn it down?

    It's openseason on Bush for reporters, which explains the thin article published in theLos Angeles Times on July 4 questioning whether the Governor received preferentialtreatment 31 years ago in the Texas Air National Guard. ReporterRichard A. Serrano writes: "While there is no evidence of illegalityor regulations broken to accommodate Bush's entry and rise in the service, thedocuments do show that doors were opened and good fortune flowed to him at opportunetimes." Fair enough: President Bush was a congressman at the timeand it's not surprising that Guard officials might grease the wheels for hisson. Just as they did for the son of Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, the Texanwho ran for vice president with Michael Dukakis in 1988.

    Serranointerviewed retired Col. Walter B. Staudt, who said, "Nobody didanything for him. There was no goddamn influence on his behalf. Neither hisdaddy nor anybody else got him into the Guard." And Willie J. Hooper,a retired major in the Texas Air National Guard, said, "He did the work.His daddy couldn't do it for him." Bush told the press in New Hampshireon Sunday: "I wanted to fly fighters. I applied and I was accepted. I'mvery proud of my service."


    Of course,The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, on last Sunday's Meetthe Press, furrowed his brow when speaking about Serrano's story, sayingthat, well, I don't think it's fatal to the Bush campaign, but it certainlyraises questions. The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigotquickly batted him down, insisting that the only slight beneficiary of the "revelation"would be POW John McCain, and his campaign is going nowhere anyway.

    Bob Beckel,Walter Mondale's campaign manager in '84, wrote an op-ed piecefor the L.A. Times on July 4, making the preposterous claimthat "Bush has yet to prove he has any base outside Texas." Say what?Where is all this money and adulation coming from, then? In fact, Bush hasn'teven tapped into many lucrative markets yet for donations; he's expected toraise big bucks in Denver, Seattle, Virginia and even reliablyDemocratic Baltimore. Why, even lifetime liberal Warren Beattyattended an L.A. fundraiser for Bush that netted $2 million and spoke with thecandidate, introducing himself as "Bulworth." According to the DailyNews' Rush & Molloy, Beatty showed up at the home of WarnerBros. executive Terry Semel-a longtime Democratic contributor-wherethe candidate said, "My job is not to hold up anybody for scorn... There's a lot of reasons why we have violence in our society."

    Even DeeDee Myers, former press secretary for President Clinton, who now holds aposition at Vanity Fair (honorific, if you ask me, but that's anotherstory), was complimentary about a Bush appearance she witnessed in Los Angelesbefore a teachers' group. She told Washington Post reporter Dan Balz:"He's utterly Clintonian in his style. It's a totally Democratic audienceand he connected with them." She added that Bush's campaign apparatus was"at almost a White House level of execution."

    Beckel alsorepeats the tired claim that no one knows where Bush stands on the issues: "Bushis a likable yet unproven candidate with an unknown record. Already, he hasmade several mistakes, from gun control to abortion." What were the "mistakes"?He's been clear about abortion: He's pro-life but won't impose a litmus teston the issue for Supreme Court nominees. You'd think Beckel would applaudthat stance, even if right-wing nuts like Gary Bauer don't. As for guncontrol, Bush has signed a bill in Texas that makes it difficult for gun manufacturersto be punished by frivolous lawsuits. Beckel obviously doesn't agree with that,but it's not a "mistake," not a "gaffe."

    The NewRepublic, Marty Peretz's propaganda sheet for Al Gore, isso distressed by their favorite son's performance that Dana Milbank wentso far in the magazine's July 19 issue to take Sen. Orrin Hatch's lateentry into the campaign seriously. Milbank makes the obligatory jab at Hatch'snoble performance during the '91 Clarence Thomas hearings, satisfyinghis readers' sympathy for Anita Hill, but then praises the veteran legislatoras a man of substance. I agree with that assessment, but it's somewhat strangecoming from The New Republic. Milbank writes: "What's more,Hatch's background contrasts nicely with George W. Bush's. Hatch grew up inpoverty [sort of like Gore], not privilege (the senator once worked as a janitor),and he has had far more experience in government?than the Republican favorite."Hatch told Milbank that he's worried Bush will have a "tremendous learningcurve... Do we want somebody like that leading us into the new millennium?"

    Syndicatedcolumnist Robert Novak, a hard-line conservative, had a different spinon Hatch's candidacy. Writing on July 4, he said: "Longtime friends saySen. Orrin Hatch is running for the GOP presidential nomination because of intensepersonal dislike for his colleague and now presidential rival Sen. John McCain...His friends contend Hatch wants to divide support that might make McCain aneffective challenger." According to Novak, Hatch has another goal in mind.By helping Bush, and "keeping fellow Mormons from backing conservativecandidates Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer," he hopes to be rewarded with aseat on the Supreme Court.

    In addition,Novak pushes the chances for Michigan Gov. John Engler as Bush'sveep selection. Novak's soft on Engler, but I don't think that will influencethe Bush campaign to deviate from their plan of tapping PennsylvaniaGov. Tom Ridge, a pro-choice Vietnam vet. In the general election,Ridge's Rust Belt state is just as crucial as Engler's, and his stance on abortionwill be a plus for swing voters.

    Milbanktrudges on: "This should be a potent argument-except that, if the 2000campaign has taught us anything so far, it's that voters don't care much forthe experienced candidates. The most experienced guys in the race are Hatch,Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Lamar Alexander and, to be sure, Dan Quayle. Just lookhow they fare in matchups against Bush. Experience, it seems, is a liability.No wonder there's a clamor for a Jesse Ventura candidacy."

    The clamorfor Ventura, if you ask me, is strictly in Milbank's programmed mind.The New Republic, as well as Democrats in general, just can't stand thatBush has become so popular. Contrary to what the Beltway insiders would haveyou believe, it's not the Republican Party that's heading for a crack-up, butrather the Democrats. And there's ample reason for concern: With Bush creamingGore in national polls for the past several months, leading in Californiaand running neck and neck in New York, it's not inconceivable that there'sa GOP landslide on the horizon. Unlike the mistaken opinion that this campaignresembles the '88 race, where Vice President Bush was temporarily trailing sadsack Michael Dukakis in the polls, it's more similar to the Tony Blair-JohnMajor faceoff in England two years ago. Major was baffled: The economywas strong, yet voters were ready for a change after years of Tory control.While Major was personally popular, and considered a man of integrity, unlikeBill Clinton, Britons simply wanted to clean the government's house.

    Anothercommon theme sounded by pundits is the disingenuous complaint that this year'scampaign has started so early. That's silly. Any time there's an open seat inthe White House the race begins shortly after the current president'sreelection. For example, it was in May of '87 that Gary Hart, the leadingDemocrat, was banished because of his exposed philandering with Donna Rice;it was in September of that year that Joe Biden had to withdraw becauseof plagiarism charges.

    Liberaljournalists are so confused, and miffed, at Gov. Bush's dominance this yearthat some have resorted to praising his father, the former president who wasreviled by the media in his unsuccessful reelection bid against Clinton in 1992.In Slate, for example, David Plotz writes an essay posted on July1 that compares father and son. Not surprisingly, he finds the latter lacking.He writes: "The elder Bush enlisted in the Navy in 1942, became the service'syoungest fighter pilot, flew 58 missions in the South Pacific, was shot downover enemy waters, and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. The son also becamea fighter pilot-for the Texas Air National Guard. He spent the Vietnam War flying'missions' over the Texas scrub... (Americans tend to forget the heroic lifeof President Bush. This was one of his unfortunate talents: He could make theextraordinary seem mundane.)"

    How timeschange. Why, it was only seven years ago, writing in The New Republic,that Sidney Blumenthal besmirched President Bush's combat record andall but called him a phony war hero. Never mind that the Beltway media swoonedover Clinton in '92, who wasn't even in the National Guard during Vietnam,even though he gave ample evidence of all the lying during that campaign thatwould define his presidency. I don't know that Plotz was writing about politicsin '92, but I'll bet he was a Clinton supporter.

    Nevertheless,he now praises President Bush as a noble man who achieved "high-statusaccomplishments." Gov. Bush, by comparison, Plotz implies, is a lucky guywho's lacking in brains, courage and the gravitas of his old man. Plotz concludes:"George W. Bush jokes that his father's idea of a perfect son is Al GoreJr. This may be America's choice in 2000: the George W. Bush who isn't GeorgeH.W. Bush, or the Al Gore who is."

    As Jay& the Americans sang back in the 60s, "Only in America." It'strue that the country's voters feel a certain nostalgia for President Bush:Jumping out of that plane a couple years ago was merely symbolic of the changein heart; the comparison to Bill Clinton is the substantive reason. But whenjournalists, so dismayed that Gore is flaming out, resort to comparing Goreto President Bush, you know the Vice President is in serious trouble.

    The newspaperson July 4 ran a lot of hokum about the Fourth of July and continuallyinvoked "the Founders," presumably to knock down Bush. MaryMcGrory's column in The Washington Post was typical. She wrote,in a piece headlined "Not What the Founders Had in Mind": "Voterparticipation in presidential elections is shamefully low... Our highest officeis for sale, and the process has become too crass for most Americans-but theyhave refused to do anything about it. Where is Jefferson when we need him?"Well, aside from being corpses, I don't imagine Jefferson, Franklin,Hamilton, Washington or any of the other 18th-century Americanheroes would have much to say. After all, the Declaration of Independencewas written more than 200 years ago and the country has evolved at a prodigiouspace. It's not as if "the Founders" were from Mt. Olympus;there were plenty of scandals, moneygrubbing and slave ownership back then.It's absurd to even contemplate what those men would think of our present politicalsystem. Hillary & Sharpton: So HappyTogether The HillaryClinton/Rudy Giuliani slugfest continues, as it will for months tocome, but I got too lost in national politics to concentrate on the preliminarysquabbles. The week started off with Jeffrey Toobin suggesting in TheNew Yorker that President Clinton might run for Senate in Arkansasin three years, a for-now far-fetched story that the White House lingeredin responding to, presumably to keep Al Gore out of the news cycle. ThenHillary's house-hunting: Frankly, I don't care where she ends up (as long asit's not in Tribeca); it's simply not an important issue. Ditto for allher taxpayer-funded trips to New York. You just can't compete with theWhite House spin on that one, and ultimately, one more example of the Clintonson the take won't make a difference in the Senate race. At this point, who hasthe energy to point fingers at those two? Far more significant was Ken Starrletting felon and presidential scapegoat Webb Hubbell off the hook, cuttinga deal, thus avoiding a trial and gobs of Hillary sympathy from the likes ofThe New York Times. My friendPeggy Noonan is worried that Hillary might actually win; I still can'tsee it. Even traditional Democrats are recoiling at her hubris. James Brady,writing in Crain's New York Business on June 28, was downright mean indescribing the First Lady, and he's not known for pissing people off. A lifetimeof schmoozing does that to a writer. Anyway, he bitches: "Hillary, angry,cynical, ambitious, clever and conniving, a Lucrezia Borgia in pantsuits, hasn'teven gotten to town yet and already she's got people at each other's throats.The latest-Tina Brown, John Kennedy and the mayor... Maybe the Senate race is her only option in getting out of a dysfunctional marriage and creating a newlife for herself. I can't believe that's what senate seats are for, but still...whenI hear 'Hillary,' I think of Lillian Hellman, a bitter, vengeful woman definednot so much by her ideas as by her resentments." The Post'sJack Newfield, no Giuliani fan, wrote a dumb column on July 1, one ofthose imaginary bits where "A mole at the White House faxed us..."but it still shows where he stands. Newfield's not a born humorist, but he tries:"Spielberg told me to put on paper three true reasons why I want to bea senator. So here goes: 1. I am entitled to this as a reward for all the humiliationsI endured because of Bill. 2. Rudy is part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.3. I want to be president while Bill is a junior senator from Arkansas."

    I doubtthat either Brady or Newfield would actually vote for Giuliani, but it is anindication that Hillary's supposed electoral base isn't as solid as her adviserHarold Ickes thinks. This might be the first time in his life that Newfieldsits out an election.

    Before hewas felled by a heart attack late last week, Ed Koch joined fellow formermayors David Dinkins and Abe Beame at City Hall to denounceGiuliani's silly scheme to revise the City Charter so that the obnoxious MarkGreen can't replace him once he-I hope-defeats Clinton for the Senate. Whenwill Rudy get it through his meanspirited noggin that this is an issue thatwon't gain him a single vote? So what if Green takes over as mayor for the shortspell until the 2001 election? Giuliani would be better served by plotting insecret to make sure there's a credible Republican challenger who will carryon his regime despite the short interruption.

    But I didget a kick out of Dan Barry's June 29 column in the Times describingthe unlikely triumvirate of Democratic pols uniting against Giuliani. Barrydescribes Beame's appearance: "Abe Beame is 93, slight and on the shortside of five feet-so fragile in appearance that Mr. Green made a move to helphim. But Mr. Beame quickly demonstrated that he needed no assistance, stridingup the steps as though it were 1975 again."

    Just whatthe doctor ordered: a reminder of Beame's calamitous tenure as mayor, when thecity almost went broke and even Jerry Ford made fun of New York.One can only hope that Beame campaigns as vigorously as possible for his fellowhack Democrat, Hillary Clinton.

    Which bringsus, no surprise, to Mr. P.T. Sharpton. He's made it clear that HRC willhave to kiss his butt if she wants the support of him and his "people,"and simply being invited to the White House to watch her don a Yankeescap isn't enough. In a fine July 19 New Republic piece by MichelleCottle, she quotes political scientist Fred Siegel, in an amusingcough of hyperbole: "[Sharpton] is the single most powerful Democrat interms of being a kingmaker." My goodness, what in the world does that sayabout the state of Democratic politics in New York City? Shiver me timbers!

    But moreludicrous, and perhaps frightening, are the Rev's own words: "There isno question that the majority of people in the African American and Latino community,many of whom support me, would support a Hillary Clinton. The question is: Canshe turn them out?... [This] is the reason Hillary Clinton at some point isgonna have to deal with people like me. If she only goes with the traditionalclub and union kind of campaign-that's what we had in '93 when Dave Dinkinslost."

    Could be,Al. Trouble is, Hillary's is a statewide election. I hope she's foolishenough to bring Sharpton along on a leash as a mascot, but I suspect that Ickesknows that won't play too well upstate or in Nassau and Suffolkcounties.

    Back toHillary's major booster: The New York Times. In a front-page story onJuly 4 about the upcoming Senate race, fully 80 percent of the article by AdamNagourney was devoted to Clinton, even though the headline read "InNew York Race For Senate, Pacing Takes Prominence." Why the piece meritedfront-page status is beyond me. After all, Nagourney's third paragraph reads:"But there is a growing perception among New York's political leaders thatthe 16-month campaign for Senate that effectively begins with Mrs. Clinton'sappearance in Pindars Corners will pose an extraordinary challenge for the DemocraticFirst Lady and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the Republican New York City Mayor who isalso likely to run for the seat."

    Well, thatwas illuminating. If you're a tourist visiting the city from Little Rock.

    On the op-edpage, Gail Collins voiced what Hillary must be thinking, writing abouther meeting with Sen. Moynihan in Oneonta this week. "Ifestablishing an exploratory committee, renting office space and hiring staffare not enough proof that Mrs. Clinton is a serious candidate, this trip oughtto do it. Nobody travels to Oneonta without a really, really good reason."

    And in theJuly 12 Newsweek package on the New York Senate contest, readers aretreated to a poorly written, let's-state-the-obvious primer from George Stephanopoulos,the former Clinton flack who threatens to provide media analysis as long as one or the other of the First Couple remains in the public spotlight. George'sadvice to his former boss? Raise a lot of money. Lose the Secret Servicebubble that separates you from real New Yorkers. Be friendly to the media. Watchout for Giuliani's attacks. I don't know how much Newsweek is payingStephanopoulos for this grad student thumb-sucking, but if it's more than apenny a word, the magazine is getting ripped off.

    The leadstory about Clinton, written by Jonathan Alter and Debra Rosenberg,has more substance than Stephanopoulos', but not much that's new. The two reportersrehash the Giuliani/George Pataki feud, and state with near certainty that the Mayor willface a primary challenge from Rep. Rick Lazio and possibly Rep. PeterKing. An unnamed national "Republican insider" is quoted as saying:"[Giuliani] will drive the largest turnout of minorities in the historyof New York. This would hurt George W.'s ability to carry this state. Here'sa presidential candidate trying to reach out to women and Hispanics. Rudy takesall those pluses away from you."

    This doesn'tsmell right to me. After all, as Fred Barnes said on The Beltway Boyslast Saturday night, the media is treating Hillary Clinton like the second comingof Joan of Arc. I suspect that Alter and Rosenberg's source is in theLazio or King camp: His or her analysis doesn't square with Bush's desire toprevent a bloody primary fight. He wants Giuliani on the ticket, unbruised,to showcase the Mayor's remarkable achievements in New York City. Giuliani'sgutter-mouth will be hard to zip, but if he wants a future in national politics,if may be the first time in his life he takes marching orders with a smile.

    Finally,a few words from NYPress correspondent Bill Monahan, who's ponderingwhether it's worth the effort to write about the campaign.

    Monahan:"What's frightening about Hillary is what's frightening about Bill Gates.They know they have a crap product; they don't care. That may be an angle. Hillaryhas no talent, no brains, she's sort of this virus-like thing, that should,maximum, have been a low-rent personnel officer, but escaped from the petridish and hit the road, wearing that sick smile, altitude-sick, totally out ofher depth, but on the march. She's gotta know she's gravely unsuitable and activelybad for people, who deserve better. She doesn't fucking care. She wants whatshe wants. That's what creates the late-century nausea.

    "There'salso a tragic component in a literary sense: She's making a huge, overreachingmistake, and the only thing she's gonna accomplish is making Giuliani look likea combination of Thomas Jefferson and Jesus Christ. I saw heron tv talking to the U.S. citizens as if they were illiterates to whomshe had brought religious tracts and wagons of food paid for out of her ownpersonal First Lady Treasury and almost lost my lunch.

    "Soit's insane. I could do it. I wouldn't like it. But I could get something outof it if the nausea is just gotten over with, which is the thing I was missing." Hotter Than a Matchhead It was aslow week in the city for the MUGGER family, and it was only the central airconditioning in the loft that left Mrs. M feeling human. We're opposites inthat regard: Years of living in Baltimore, where soupy summers are thenorm, and traveling to Bangkok many times, erased my Northeastern dislikeof extreme heat. I think New York's climate sucks. I'd far prefer itto be like Houston or Miami, where the humidity is so intensethat people are lulled into a fever-like calm, a wash of well-being settlesin that stimulates imagination and Big Thoughts. But I suppose that's a minorityview. Last Wednesday,Mrs. M, Mike Gentile and I traveled to East Soho-what the Timesbelatedly calls NoLita-to a gallery on Mott St. to view apainting of John Waters by our old friend Susan Lowe. The smallspace was too crowded to spend more than a few minutes there, and Mrs. M wasput off by the "cologne" that many young women wafted-she likenedit to vaginal discharge-but amid the poachers drinking Budweiser tallboys,pretending to look at the jammed walls of art, we did manage to spend a fewminutes with Sue and Dennis Dermody. I hadn'tseen Sue in a coon's age: Back in Baltimore, in the late 70s and 80s she wasa regular on my social circuit, and we often shared bottles of wine at croquettournaments in Hampstead or the splendid garden parties of Vince Peranioand Delores Deluxe down in Fells Point. One night that I barelyremember, Sue, Gentile, Waters and I, after the Club Charles had closed,wandered to Pat Moran's apartment for an after-hours nightcap, and Iwas horrified to find that the only booze in the house was vodka. I have a hugeproblem with that popular potable: It dates back to college when my roommateMark and I polished off a half gallon of Smirnoff's with our friendsJenny and Paula while playing poker. Never did regain a tastefor the stuff. However, I threw caution to the wind for the 99th time that particularyear, and the five of us yakked until the sun rose.

    After thegallery opening, Mrs. M, Mike and I walked on Houston St. to Boca Chica,at 1st and 1st, and it was simply remarkable how that stretch of concrete hasbeen transformed in just the past couple of years. It's one thing to noticeall the chic shops that have opened east of the Puck Bldg.-Blue Bag,Terra Plana, Wang, Zero, Hedra Prue, Janet Russo,Jamin Puech, to name just a few-but Houston had always been a dicey stroll.Instead of bums sprawled on the sidewalks, smashed glass in the gutters, wefound a stream of well-dressed passersby, not one collegiate panhandler andeven the caged-in park by the restaurant, once the repository for crackies andother undesirables, was on this night, at least, populated by at least a dozenupright citizens, three with cell phones, four waiting on line at an ice creamstand. My feelings about Rudy Giuliani are well-known, but this wasn'tDavid Dinkins' New York.

    Our boyshave just about exhausted their mania for Pokemon-I can only hope thosedamn trading cards are worth something in about 15 years-and have dived intoall the Star Wars paraphernalia. Junior's seen the film three times,and on Saturday engaged in a conversation about it with a guy behind the prepared-foodscounter at Dean & DeLuca. I have no patience for movies of that ilk-Imissed the first installment and never caught up-but the kids are gung ho andso that's meant trips to Forbidden Planet, King's Pharmacy andToys R Us for all the action figures.

    On Sunday,Junior found a "rarity" at Forbidden Planet, Mace Windu, andit made his day. He and MUGGER III have a Star Wars lineup in their room,including the likes of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ki-Adi-Mundi,Padme Naberrie, and a dozen more that I don't have the patience to listhere. After that excursion, we patronized the Virgin store at UnionSquare, where MUGGER III was jubilant at finding a Freddi the FishCD-ROM and I was just as happy picking up the I Love Lucy European seriesvideos. My six-year-old tried to sneak a South Park tape into our basket,but that was quickly met with a parental "N," as in no, SeñorJunior.

    Later that4th of July, we hosted a small gathering of friends on our rooftop andbesides all the complaints about the heat, the one common thread of conversationwas about the lack of fireworks exploding nonstop. Time was, not so long ago,that Chinatown was a war zone for a solid week in and around the holiday,with shady youths selling explosives and tossing cherry bombs willy-nilly intothe crowded streets. That's a no-no in Rudy's New York and I don't miss it abit: The first year I lived in Manhattan it was kind of cool, the continual,deafening noise on the Fourth, but enough is enough.

    It was toohot for a proper barbecue, so Mrs. M laid out a spread of Smithfield ham,guacamole, jerk chicken salad, olives and cheese-downstairs in the kitchen-anda dozen or so of us drank beer, Evian and Cokes on the roof, lookingacross the river to Hoboken and noticing that no one else was on theirTribeca terraces. At one point, MUGGER III took a spill on some steps,adding a nasty bruise to his little body, but an ice pack and some children'sTylenol fixed him up quick. Mrs. M and I were proud of Junior: Not onlydid he alert us to his brother's mishap, but after the incident he stayed inbed right next to the little nipper, watching a video with him. The two of themare less than two years apart in age and despite the frequent skirmishes theytaunt us with, they become closer each day.

    JULY 5