McCain's Surge; Hillary's Sleaze; Quindlen's Inanities

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:51

    But for the moment, no one can deny it was a glorious week for McCain. His landslide victory in New Hampshire that no one (certainly not this writer), including the Senator's staff, predicted, paved the way for the near-total erosion of Gov. George W. Bush's prohibitive lead in the Feb. 19 South Carolina primary. It also resulted in New York's GOP establishment suddenly backtracking and allowing McCain on the ballot for our state's March 7 primary.

    It appears that The New York Times' relentless editorial campaign to secure McCain a place on the ballot has succeeded; that the paper's cynical sermonizing is part of an agenda to secure Gore's election in November is an atrocity that not many either understand or want to admit. But as I wrote last week, if the Times is so concerned about the GOP's admittedly unfair and Byzantine primary procedures, why didn't they wage this battle last summer? Because McCain, who was an extreme longshot at the time, didn't have the money to devote to a primary as late as March. He thought he'd be in Gary Bauer-land by then.

    It was a spectacular showing by McCain, as have been the massive crowds he's attracted at every appearance he's made since Feb. 1. I've written about politics since 1976, when, as a college newspaper editor, I was present for Jerry Brown's upset primary win in Maryland over Jimmy Carter, an event that was so exciting, given Brown's age and visionary platform, that I almost believed in the political process. I didn't even care that Brown's victory was orchestrated by the corrupt Maryland machine (Gov. Marvin Mandel and his financial cohort Irv Kovens) that wanted to send Carter the equivalent of a dead horse's head. Twenty-four years ago, Maryland was still considered a Southern state.

    The charisma of Brown was jaw-dropping; at every appearance in that brief race, whether it was at Johns Hopkins University, Loyola College or the primary night celebrations at the Sheraton Hotel in dilapidated downtown Baltimore, he had the rock-star appeal that Carter and certainly Jerry Ford couldn't even comprehend. The shortsighted, sheep-like mainstream press would soon turn on Brown, and thus ruin the career of the most promising politician of my generation.

    So I can understand the exultation legitimate McCain supporters feel now. It's a heady time, but it'll be brief. Already McCain is going overboard with his Rocky routine and extemporaneous attacks on Bush. It'll play for a short period, but once he's exposed as the consummate insider who's hoodwinked an atrociously gullible media, a lot of voters will be disillusioned.

    Lest this column be written off as sour grapes, let me state once again that I carry no particular water for Bush. I don't know him; I haven't donated money to his campaign (Tina Brown's $1000 contribution to Hillary Clinton speaks to her journalistic integrity); and I have no fealty to his family. Indeed, I was as disgusted as other conservatives when President Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge in 1990. That mistake, in conjunction with Ross Perot's showboat routine, helped the untested, unprincipled shyster from Arkansas to occupy and foul the Oval Office.

    If McCain is the GOP nominee, I will support him, since he'd be a better president than Gore the Liar-Hearted or the laconic tax & spend liberal Bill Bradley. But he'll be defeated. And that's why I've supported Bush for more than 18 months: because he can win. Indeed, his message has been misconstrued and sometimes muddled, but that can be corrected. He has appeared at times nonchalant and disengaged, fulfilling the worry of some that he was taking the nomination for granted. Yet Bush's campaign operation is far more suited to withstand the dirty attacks of Gore's inevitable dishonest and deceitful (and probably, when the going gets rough, illegal) campaign.

    But let's face facts. When McCain says that Bush isn't ready for "prime time," the same can doubly be ascribed to him. The Texas Governor has been scrutinized by every major newspaper in the country since last summer, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The Times, of course, was looking for any scandal or financial impropriety that would knock him out of contention. What did these thousands upon thousands of words reveal? That Bush was a hellraiser in college (like McCain), didn't make the dean's list (like McCain) and was later the recipient of financial advice because of his last name. Nepotism: a word that the First Family of Liberalism, the Kennedys, knows so well. (Hello, Patrick Kennedy!) Nothing illegal was revealed in these exhaustive reports, and so his candidacy flourished into the fall.

    Many journalists have snickered at Bush's embrace of Christianity, which, given the anti-Christian bias in the media, is not surprising. Some have said that he did "nothing" until he was 40. Nothing, I suppose, except work in the oil business, learn about success and failure, and be involved in his father's political career. Others have even ridiculed his decision to stop drinking.

    The Daily News, in a Feb. 6 editorial, said: "Gov. George W. Bush once said he could not remember any particular book he read as a child. He ought to go back and read the story of Humpty Dumpty. Today, all the king's horses and all the king's men are trying to put the Bush presidential candidacy together again after his disaster in New Hampshire." Reacting to Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating's advice to Bush that he get tougher on the stump and prove his "character and integrity," the News had this rejoinder: "To do that, Bush would have to go back and relive his entire life." I had no idea that The New York Times' Frank Rich was moonlighting for the New York tabloid that may soon go out of business.

    The Washington Post's Mary McGrory, who in her dotage is desperate for a return to Camelot, even if fronted by a Republican, disgraced herself with this remark about Bush: "The last week of the campaign, George W. had been sending out distress signals comparable to a boy's letter from camp?'the water is very cold and nobody here likes me'?His loving parents responded, but New Hampshire voters did not. 'Looked like Parents' Day at Groton,' sniffed one Yankee." McGrory failed to add that that "Yankee" was flinty, earnest and took the state's primary with the utmost of seriousness, like all New Englanders do.

    The plagiarist Mike Barnicle wrote in last Sunday's Daily News, after zinging Hillary Clinton for "want[ing] a Senate seat as a reward for enduring a disturbing marriage," that New York Gov. George Pataki "wasted months trying to steal an election for a prep-school pal."

    When McCain is roughed up by the media (at least by those reporters who aren't angling to work for him in Washington) it'll be devastating. Already, the Senator has tamped down his former centerpiece of campaign finance reform. It's hard to be an advocate of that populist message when, one, polls have shown that Americans list it as a very minor concern, and, two, current articles show that you're in the pocket of DC lobbyists more than any other candidate. In fact, The Wall Street Journal's Phil Kuntz reported last Friday that McCain has received 10.3 percent of his contributions from the DC area and political action committees. Second was Al Gore, with 9.8 percent and third was Bush, who'd amassed 6.7 percent of his war chest from those sources.

    Kuntz wrote: "Declaring victory in New Hampshire Tuesday night, John McCain recited his oft-stated vow to 'break the Washington iron triangle of big money, lobbyists and legislation.' The next morning, the Arizona senator was on the telephone with a cadre of lobbyists and other fund-raisers, exhorting them to capitalize on his big win by helping his campaign raise big money."

    Among the contributors to McCain's populist, I'm-Not-An-Insider campaign are: Viacom, Inc.; US West Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; BellSouth Corp.; Microsoft Corp.; CSX Corp.; Citigroup Inc.; Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co.; AT&T; and Charles Schwab & Co. Not too shabby for a fellow who wants to play the Jimmy Stewart character, Jefferson Smith, in a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

    On Feb. 6, conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote: "While attacking corporate lobbyists on the campaign stump, Sen. John McCain is using them in a fund-raiser next Thursday at Washington's Willard Hotel. Big-time Washington lobbyists Ken Duberstein (former White House chief-of-staff) and Vin Weber (former congressman) are listed on McCain's national campaign steering committee. Included on his 'victory committee' are well-known corporate lobbyists Robbie Aiken, Patrick O'Donnell and Ken Cole. The Willard event starts with a 'private' reception costing $1,000 for each person or each political action committee, followed by a $500-dollar-a-ticket reception. All these contributors will then hear a speech by McCain, sent by satellite to other donors in San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Boston, Columbia, S.C. and Lansing, Mich."

    The following day, Novak reported that McCain is playing fast and loose with primary spending rules, not to mention the use of corporate jets. That's not uncommon, as Al Gore and Bill Bradley might admit (Bush has refused matching funds, so he's free to spend whatever he wants). Novak wrote: "But more than any other serious aspirant for the presidency that I have seen over more than 40 years, McCain's campaign is detached from issues and relies on his role as a reformer. In that context, just how pure he really is becomes a valid question."

    McCain's idea of campaign finance "reform" is a Democratic windfall. Not only would it violate the First Amendment, but it would allow also unions and the powerful legal lobby to continue plying the Democrats with contributions. It would give even more influence to the liberal-biased mainstream media. This is a conservative? As for his antitobacco initiative, had it passed (and cynics, including myself, believe that McCain knew it wouldn't and just used the issue to grandstand), a huge tax increase would've been foisted on Americans who smoke. As any study will show, smokers tend to be the less-affluent in our society; thus, the tax would be regressive. Gov. Bush's tax plan, while too timid from my point of view, is a balm to members of every income level.

    Then there's McCain's obsession of using the surplus to reduce the national debt. I don't think my eyes deceive me when I see a once-stalwart conservative turning into a Gore Democrat overnight. (No wonder so many reporters are enthralled; they believe, like a modern-day Robert F. Kennedy, that McCain's politics are "evolving.") Jack Kemp, who was a listless runningmate for the hapless Bob Dole in '96, yet is still an ardent Reagan supply-sider, told The Washington Times' Donald Lambro recently about McCain's loosely formed tax plans: "This takes the Reagan agenda and turns it upside down. It points the party toward Herbert Hoover (who proposed fighting the depression by reducing the deficit) rather than Ronald Reagan. John McCain's obsession with debt makes him a danger to the economy. This poses a real threat to the Republican Party."

    Also, I wonder why McCain hasn't zeroed in on the liquor industry. Alcohol is certainly as dangerous as, if not more so than, tobacco. It might have something to do with his father-in-law's huge Budweiser distributorship in Arizona, the profits of which helped start McCain's career in Congress. And like Al Gore, who won't sleep at night until every last tobacco plant has been killed, why hasn't McCain called for an outright prohibition on cigarettes?

    McCain's sanctimony on the tobacco issue is troubling, especially given his silence on other huge corporations that manufacture potentially life-threatening products. When The National Smokers Alliance began running ads in South Carolina criticizing McCain's claim as a tax-cutter, the Senator lashed out in typical form. He said at a press conference in Seabrook, SC, "I'm honored by the attacks by the people who addicted our children and lied to Congress. I hope they will spend more money because that authenticates this crusade of ours to get the influence of special interests out of politics."

    Bush, playing to the voters of this conservative state, said about McCain's Clinton-like tax plan: "It's bad enough when Democrats make these arguments against meaningful tax cuts. It's worse when Republicans, like my chief rival in this state, use them. It's worse because our party ought not be reflecting these arguments; it ought to be rejecting them."

    McCain flip-flops on issues on a daily basis, yet reporters give him a free ride. Had Gov. Bush spoken about "gaydar," it would've been a weeklong story; with McCain, it was more plain speakin' from the Straight Talk Express. The Senator has been all over the map on abortion, saying he's for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, but not in the "short term." As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote on Jan. 27: "I don't think this is hypocrisy; I think it is ideological incoherence. For all his fine attributes, McCain seems to lack any philosophical core. When he talks about honor and duty, he is unerring; when he talks about issues, he is all over the place... The senator makes a fine role model. I'm not sure he would make a fine president."

    With no malice intended, I think McCain has exploited his horrendous experience in Vietnam once too often. (It was no coincidence that his bestselling memoir, Faith of My Fathers, was released for his campaign.) Remember, he was from a proud military family; there was no doubt he'd follow his grandfather and father into the Navy. He was shot down in the war and suffered unimaginable torture. Yet, I have far more respect for Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who also fought valiantly in Vietnam, yet came home to organize fellow veterans against a war he believed was unjust. That took a lot more guts, in my opinion, than McCain's blind allegiance to the military and the Democratic presidents who escalated an immoral war.

    For a change from the DC media elite, who have delighted in McCain's one-liners, accessibility and supposedly evolving political views, read the following excerpt from an Arizona Republic writer's Feb. 3 column. E.J. Montini, who's considered "an annoying pipsqueak" by the Senator, sarcastically writes that he hopes "[V]oters in the other 49 states will fall for the same baloney and McCain will become president."

    Montini: "Thankfully, McCain was able to articulate for the voters of one quirky and obstinate state why a politician from an equally quirky and obstinate state is just quirky and obstinate enough to lead the Free World. McCain pointed to his lengthy service in the U.S. Senate (as well as his lengthy confinement as prisoner of war in Vietnam).

    "He articulated his unyielding commitment to campaign finance reform (a stubbornness forged during his POW days).

    "He reinforced his determination to rebuild America's military strength (which he should know about because he happens to have been a POW), and laid out his plans to lower taxes (for everyone, including former POWs), to rescue Social Security and Medicare (now that our veterans, including one-time POWs, are getting older), and to pay down the national debt (while reminding us of the debt of gratitude we owe people, including former POWs).

    "Finally, McCain said he hopes to restore our faith in the presidency, which he believes the American people could best accomplish by electing a man who has served his country honorably in the past.

    "Like, for instance, a one-time prisoner of war.

    "Whoever that may be."

    Meet the Candidates New York Times op-ed columnist William Safire is past his prime, that much is clear, but still towers over the competition on his page. Whereas Maureen Dowd sees all politics through the lens of Hollywood; Frank Rich of the murder of Matthew Shepard; Bob Herbert of the evil of Rudy Giuliani; and Gail Collins of squirrels and BLOCK LETTERS, at least Safire tries to be serious. (Next columnist for the Times, when Artie Sulzberger gives Anthony Lewis the boot? My bet is on Peter Marks, the theater critic who's embarrassed himself so thoroughly on the politics beat this year. On Feb. 7, writing about John McCain making the cover of the newsweeklies, an original idea, Marks said: "The publicity avalanche set off by his New Hampshire victory swept Senator John McCain onto the covers of the three national newsweeklies yesterday, a rare journalistic hat trick that capped a week of the kind of attention that might make a Nobel Prize winner or even a Person of the Century feel a little underexposed." That's some mighty fine scribblin', Massa Sulzberger.)

    Not that you rely on Safire to be fair when it comes to the Bush family. Remember, this is the conservative who voted for Bill Clinton in '92 and then subsequently (and honorably) hounded the Arkansas creep for the next seven years.

    However, in his Feb. 7 piece, Safire does offer one bit of sound advice to Bush: "Don't rely on spots alone; prove your readiness on unrehearsed tv. Your biggest enemy is the growing worry among Republicans that Al Gore would clean your clock in debate. Overcome this by challenging McCain to one-on-one debates now, without the buffering of fringe candidates. If you can hold your own with him, you will astound the skeptics and be more than ready for the best the Democrats have to offer."

    I think a smart move on the Bush campaign's part would be to challenge McCain to a debate this Sunday on Meet the Press. If McCain, flush with polling data, demurs, it would dent his faux-populist image; if he agrees, I think voters will be surprised at how well Bush performs. It's crucial that this debate occurs pre-South Carolina; a victory on Tim Russert's show (or even a draw) will give the Straight Talk Express a flat tire or two. And then maybe Slate's Jacob Weisberg and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter can do some honest work, instead of pimping for McCain, and get the bus back in gear.

    Because of McCain's wartime record, Bush has to be careful in his attacks on the Senator. But as I've outlined above, there's so much nonsense in the Arizonan's platform, so many unfocused ideas, that Bush won't be lacking for ammunition. More importantly, like Bill Bradley (who's been nipping at the cream soda again, by injecting himself in the GOP race), Bush has to be relentless in his references to Bill Clinton and, more importantly, Al Gore. Every single day, at every single event, Bush should lay out for his audience what a disgraceful and shameless administration this country has been subjected to since 1993. As a bennie, he might laud McCain for voting to convict Clinton after the House of Representatives bravely voted for articles of impeachment.

    In addition, Bush has to play down his accomplishments as governor of Texas. They're impressive, as was his victory over the windbag Ann Richards in '94, but voters have heard this from the candidate: move on to the future. I don't believe McCain can last as a credible candidate, but Bush, given the humbling landslide of New Hampshire, has the opportunity to toughen up and prepare for a vicious fight with Gore.

    Sufferin' Succotash, It's That Damn Kristol Again! Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol glows these days. His candidate, John McCain, the man he correctly predicted would clock Gov. George Bush in the New Hampshire primary, is the toast of the Beltway elite. Kristol, who's now seen with alarming frequency on television peddling his propaganda about this deeply flawed GOP contender?I like and respect Kristol, but I don't think it's off base to say he's appearing on talk shows with the regularity of sad sack Lanny Davis during the Lewinsky scandal?simply cannot be contained. Like McCain, he's having the time of his life. It's puzzling to me that Kristol can embrace McCain's increasingly Democratic agenda and that he's in complete agreement with the standard DC pundits, including those of the vile New York Times, men and women he used to ridicule so effectively. But it's a new dawn and a new day for Mr. Kristol and he's feelin' good.

    It's too simple to ascribe Kristol's repudiation of Gov. Bush to his tenure as Dan Quayle's "brain," as his new friends in the media used to say. There are dozens of people in Washington who will say, off the record, that the bad blood between Kristol and the Bush family is legendary.

    In the Standard's Feb. 14 issue, Kristol and coconspirator David Brooks have written a manifesto headlined "The McCain Insurrection," in which the duo liken the Arizona Senator's sudden surge of popularity to that of Ronald Reagan's '76 and '80 presidential campaigns, and Newt Gingrich's brilliantly conceived takeover of Congress in 1994. They write: "Like Reagan and Gingrich, McCain makes the corporate and lobbyist types nervous. The corporate elites have invested heavily in George W. Bush, and they must have been chugging Tums after New Hampshire."

    I have no doubt that that last statement is true. However, I don't think that many of Kristol's new allies, including the editorialists of The New York Times and Washington Post would agree with him that Reagan or Gingrich made corporate America "nervous." Is it possible that Anthony Lewis inhabited Kristol's body when that sentence was written? I'm not sure; the political atmosphere in 2000 is too cloudy and complicated to even guess.

    Kristol and Brooks claim that "McCain attacks a Republican establishment that has already rotted from within." I think that was certainly true in '96, when Dole was chosen as the party's nominee, and in '98 when Gingrich gassed on about Bill Clinton's sex scandal while hiding his own, but Gov. Bush has not "rotted." Indeed, further in the feature article, the pair lavish praise on the besieged frontrunner: "And for much of 1999, George Bush did seem to possess that magic touch. More important, he seemed to understand that if it were to win, the Republican Party had to move beyond its two tired factions. Bush made several bold gestures to distinguish himself from the corporate establishment. He talked openly about his religious faith. He distanced himself from the Dick Darman types. He went on to propose a bold tax cut plan... In a series of subtle and sophisticated speeches, he made it clear that he had a positive governing philosophy. Unlike the Gingrich/Armey/DeLay revolutionaries, he wasn't merely going to cut, devolve and dismantle."

    So what happened in such a short period of time? Last fall, Kristol's magazine called Bush's foreign policy speech the most significant since the days of Reagan. But Bush stumbled in a few debates; he failed a pop quiz from a hack Boston tv reporter. Suddenly, his "bold tax cut plan" didn't meet with Kristol's approval. Instead, Kristol's embraced McCain, who's out of his depth on domestic issues and offers a muddled tax policy that could've been authored by Al Gore or Bill Clinton. Now, Kristol praises McCain for "echo[ing] some of the language and sentiments of John and Robert Kennedy."

    Welcome to the Doll House.

    In closing, Kristol and Brooks play the military card. And this is where the heart of the Standard editor's conversion began, although it doesn't explain his subsequent praise of Bush. "The issue that gave the McCain campaign its initial boost was Kosovo," the duo write. "He argued that America as a great champion of democracy and decency could not fail to act. And he supported his commander in chief despite grave doubts about the conduct of the war?while George W. Bush sat out the debate and Republicans on the Hill flailed at Clinton."

    Kristol's contradictions are very depressing to those of us who looked upon him as a brilliant political strategist and writer, a tonic in a world of journalism that fetes lightweights like Richard Cohen, Maureen Dowd, Gail Collins, E.J. Dionne and Michael Kinsley.

    Paul Gigot wrote a far more sober assessment of the Republican race in the Feb. 3 Wall Street Journal. While outwardly professing allegiance to neither Bush nor McCain, he said: "[Bush] could start by campaigning as if he really wants the job, not as if he's the diffident choice of a party desperate to win. He has to sell his tax cut like he means it. And it would to address directly the issue of character and moral leadership in the White House that so many Republicans are yearning for. Mr. McCain's sudden success leaves Republicans with a nominating dilemma. In Mr. Bush, they have money, charm and a governing agenda, but so far not enough will to win. In Mr. McCain, they have a candidate with strengths of character aimed directly at Al Gore's Achilles heel, but so far no agenda worth the name. Too bad they can't combine the two."

    Cubs in Seven As much as it disgusts me, it appears that Hillary Clinton will be running for this year's open Senate seat in New York. Whether her name actually appears on the September primary ballot is still up to conjecture: but let's assume for the moment that she's actually going to contest Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's chair in Washington, DC. There was a headline in the Jan. 22 New York Times that I believe sums up this election, stating with brevity why Giuliani will win in November. It read: "As Thefts Fall, New Yorkers Find Car Where They Left It." Lapsing into a political cliche: "As a New Yorker, or visitor/worker in the city, do you feel safer than six years ago?" As pollsters have learned, the answer is a resounding yes. Despite Giuliani's childish temper tantrums, his fits of demagoguery and a mean-spirited style of governing, New York City is cleaner, more prosperous and less chaotic than at any time since at least the early 60s. The fact that Giuliani is polling above 35 percent in the city virtually guarantees him the election, although it's too early to send him packing to DC.

    Mrs. Clinton officially announced her candidacy on Sunday at a gym at the state university in Purchase, and was typically incoherent about why she wants to represent New York in the Senate. After a weird introduction by Moynihan?invoking Eleanor Roosevelt but not Bill Bradley, the candidate he's endorsed, in opposition to the Clintons' preference, for president?the First Lady gave a boilerplate speech that was short on specifics and typically full of platitudes. However, the most significant passage was this: "Now, I know some people are asking why I'm doing this here and now, and that's a fair question. Here's my answer and why I hope you'll put me to work for you. I may be new to the neighborhood, but I'm not new to your concerns." That's an answer that could be given to constituents of any state in the country.

    Clinton claimed she was a "New Democrat" and then rattled off a litany of liberal positions: hate-crimes legislation, a minimum-wage increase, helping the homeless, fighting against school vouchers, expansion of family and medical leave and the passage of the comprehensive test-ban treaty.

    And this was the most hilarious promise, considering that she's been First Lady for seven long years and allegedly discussed policy with him, usually while slicing grapefruit: "And I'll be on your side in the fight for a fair share for New York. It is just wrong that today New York sends $15 billion more in taxes each year to Washington than New York gets back. That's a big reason that local property taxes are so high." I agree, darlin' Hillary, but I don't believe you or your husband gave a rat's ass about New York until you decided to run for the Senate. In fact, since New York was always a gimme state for Bill Clinton, he ignored the people here altogether, except to tie up traffic during visits to the United Nations and Waldorf.

    This will be a dirty campaign, as all efforts by the Clintons are. In Monday's Wall Street Journal, Micah Morrison pointed out that Mrs. Clinton is in league with the racist Al Sharpton and has lamented the "tragic murder" of Amadou Diallo, so called even before the four officers involved in the case, charged with second-degree murder, have been tried. Morrison writes: "Politics has never been a pretty business, and out on the campaign trail these days there is much talk about the degradation of the political culture in the Clinton era. So perhaps it won't come as a shock to the sophisticated voters of the Empire State to see Andy Cuomo manipulating the homeless issue or Bobby Kennedy engineering a good scare about the water supply."

    And as far as I know, James Carville hasn't even arrived yet.

    Newsweek is paying Anna Quindlen, the former New York Times pundit, an enormous sum for its biweekly "The Last Word" column. Wow, either money grows on trees in that magazine's offices, or its editors are the victim of one amazing scam. Quindlen, if you can imagine, is even more grating than during her days at the Times; her column for the Feb. 14 issue is a "Dear Hillary" letter, beseeching the morally bankrupt First Lady not to run for Senate and instead live it up. She writes: "You could have given speeches at $75,000 a pop, and had a life, too, lunching with women with sharp minds and tongues, sitting on corporate boards, writing a book on your new porch by your new pool, looking at the occasional swatch."

    Quindlen says that the U.S. Senate is now bereft of "giants," men like Scoop Jackson, Barry Goldwater, Frank Church, Tom Eagleton, Eugene McCarthy and Howard Baker who ruled when she and Hillary were impressionable college kids. Now, I doubt that Quindlen, way back when, would've called Goldwater a "giant," but he was for gay rights in his last years, so he made the club. In the meanwhile, she writes that Vietnam, Watergate, the Clarence Thomas nomination and Bill Clinton's impeachment have made the Senate a less noble institution.

    What baloney. Thirty years from now, Quindlen's equivalent will be writing the same column, listing men like Bob Kerrey, Alan Simpson, Moynihan, John McCain, Teddy Kennedy, Orrin Hatch and, God help us, Barbara Boxer, as "giants" of this era. And the columnist will be just as irritating. That won't change either.

    February 7


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