Surprise! Gore Exploits the Misfortune of Bradley; He's Bill Clinton's Star Pupil Hang down your head, Al Gore. Hang down your head in shame, Mr. Greenjeans, for you've become almost as despicable and immoral as Bill Clinton. Last Friday, after rival Bill Bradley was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat, a common, treatable condition, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane issued the following statement: "Our hearts and prayers and our thoughts are with Sen. Bradley." This is the "politics of personal destruction" at its most disgusting level, as it gives the impression that Bradley had just suffered a significant medical malady?can you say heart attack??and is unfit for the rigors of the presidency.
Gore's stake in hell is now secure.
Last Saturday, The New York Times published a letter from Bradley's doctor, written after an examination of the candidate on Dec. 3. It said, in part, after stating that Bradley has an excellent cholesterol level of 161 and normal blood pressure, "When you have atrial fibrillation, you note an irregular heart beat but have no other symptoms. Thus, this rhythm does not, in any way, interfere with your ability to function. Other than the arrhythmia you have no other health issues." As most newspaper accounts noted, former President George Bush also suffered from a similar condition; at 75, he's a model of fitness for a man his age.
Unfortunately, I think Bradley's quest for the Democratic nomination is now in serious jeopardy. Most voters, who won't take time to read the fine print of his condition, and just see the word heart in headlines, will assume that he's an immediate candidate for a coronary and will be hesitant to elect him to the stressful job of president. So Gore, after a miserable campaign, botched by hubris, sleazy aides, an abundance of bureaucracy, lavish spending and embarrassing gaffes by the Vice President himself, has finally caught a lucky break. You'd think, under the circumstances, his spokesman could've issued a more accurate message of concern, something along the lines of: "Vice President Gore is pleased that Sen. Bradley's brief hospitalization revealed nothing serious. We wish him the best." In fact, a day later, Gore did tell reporters it was "good news" Bradley was okay. He said to The Washington Post's David Broder: "He's a good man, a great competitor. I look forward to continuing our discussion of the issues."
But, as Gore knows, the damage was done.
I believe that Al Gore was once an honorable man. I find it reprehensible, for example, that conservative talk-show hosts and pundits are questioning his record in Vietnam, making an issue out of the possible special treatment he received there as the son of a senator. That might be true, but so what? Gore, unlike Bradley and Gov. George W. Bush, actually went to Vietnam, and though his tour was as a journalist, that didn't protect him from a random bombing or shootout. (Sen. John McCain, obviously, was also in Vietnam, although he was raised in a military family and had always planned to serve.) Gore didn't support the war; he enlisted to help his father in a tough reelection race in Tennessee, to demonstrate that even the privileged had an obligation to their country. Has he milked his military record in subsequent political campaigns? Of course. Yet it was the loyalty to his father, as a young man just out of college, that's so admirable.
What's happened since to make him such a detestable figure? He became immersed in politics, for starters, and engaged in the usual flip-flops that legislators are ridiculed for (Gore was once pro-life), and his hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement was probably greater than the norm in Washington. He ran a badly organized campaign for president in 1988, showing his naivete by hitching his fate in the New York primary to Mayor Ed Koch, who was one year from being booted out of City Hall. He skipped the New Hampshire primary and counted on sweeping the South; as a result of this misguided strategy, Mike Dukakis got the media bump early on and made a hash of Gore's plans. A disappointing result for the Senator, but he was certainly a Democratic contender for the future.
But then he was tapped by Clinton to ride shotgun in his administration. I suppose it would take a man of extraordinary will not to be influenced by such a corrupt, deceitful human being as the President, and Gore clearly wasn't up to the challenge. Since he's been linked with Clinton he has exploited family tragedies to gain votes, has participated in shady fundraising efforts, has palyed the demagogue on race issues and, above all, didn't have the conscience to resign from his post when it was clear that his boss would go down in history as a deeply flawed president, in the company of Richard Nixon (without the international accomplishments) and Warren G. Harding. Instead, Gore stood by Clinton and forever blemished his public record by saying to the entire nation that Clinton would be remembered as one of the country's greatest presidents ever.
What a sickening transformation of a once-decent person.
I've made it clear in this column the past 18 months that my preference for president in 2000 is Gov. Bush (or, in the unlikely event he's not nominated, Sen. McCain). But if the country has an irrational streak on Election Day next November and chooses a Democrat I hope it's Bradley. The stench of Clinton has enveloped Gore and no drycleaning of his earth-tone suits, Hawaiian shirts or casual trousers will ever wash the muck away. Gore is a disgusting, evil man and I can only hope that voters repudiate him in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond.
Bradley's health interruption of his campaign came after a particularly nasty week between the two candidates, with Gore lying about his rival's tax plans. Bradley, like Gore, has not ruled out tax increases if the economy sours; such increases being a necessity for the Big Government entitlements both Democrats favor. Bradley, finally showing some temper?which he'll need against Dirty Tricks Gore?said in a statement from Cedar Rapids, IA: "In falsely asserting I want to raise taxes, Al Gore is once again turning an honest discussion about a future no one can predict into a proposal I've never made. Al Gore needs to respect voters enough to be honest not just about his plans, but mine. Honesty and trust is what they would like to have in a candidate and what they expect and deserve to have in a president."
Gore has no shame. When Bradley's campaign handed out fliers in New Hampshire last week, saying that the Vice President was guilty of "uncontrollable lying," Gore told The Boston Globe: "I thought he was proposing a different kind of campaign, but this doesn't even meet the minimal standards of civility." Inexplicably, Doug Berman, Bradley's chairman, apologized, saying, "This flier is not characteristic of Bill Bradley, nor the style in which he has run this campaign. I am confident it will not happen again."
That's the sort of acquiescence that contributes to a losing campaign. When you're up against a man with no scruples like Gore, there's no need to apologize for telling the truth. Gore has lied about Bradley's plans for the country. That message shouldn't have been confined to mere fliers in New Hampshire drugstores; it should be the guts of a television commercial. Let the voters know something about the real Al Gore.
When former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin endorsed him last week, Gore took the occasion to repeat his latest mantra about Bradley and taxes, saying his competitor's plan "is if the economy ain't broke, let's break it."
In Atlanta last Saturday, Gore, who supported (correctly, I think) the welfare reform bill that Clinton signed in '96 that angered liberals, was a soul brother. He told an audience, according to the Times' Katharine Seelye, who said the speech was "rife with biblical cadences": "The other side is counting on blowing the roof off all of the election finance and breaking all the and records and lining up all of the special interests. Well, I can tell you that here in the South, we have the capacity to blow the roof off voter registration and turnout and grass-roots enthusiasm."
And as in '98, no doubt, tell lies about Republicans burning black churches.
I don't agree with Bill Bradley's politics, and I think that some of the compromises he's had to make?like giving an audience to the fraudulent Al Sharpton?are unfortunate. But if Bradley's aloof and elitist, he appears to be a decent man. About the only good news he received last week was an incredibly premature endorsement from The Seattle Times, which wrote, "Bradley calls up the best instincts of a Democratic Party that lost its way."
But everyone knows that editorial writers in Seattle have their heads in the clouds. Paul Gigot's column in last Friday's Wall Street Journal, which spelled out how dirty Gore can and will be, had the best take on this race that Bradley, especially now with the bogus health issue, is sure to lose. Gigot wrote: "Liberals supporting Bill Bradley are thus discovering the real price of their Faustian bargain with Clintonism. They defended the lying and lawbreaking in order to defeat the evil Republicans. But now they're learning the same tactics can distort and demonize their ideas too.
"The Bradley agenda isn't mine. But there's something admirable about his attempt to reclaim the moral authority that liberalism has lost under Mr. Clinton. Like Ronald Reagan, whom he often cites, Mr. Bradley wants an honest campaign debate that would give him a mandate to govern. He'd have a better chance of winning if more liberals had denounced Clintonism while it was keeping them in power."
Bush's Next Challenge First, let's dispense with "The Smirk." You can shoot a roll of 36 pictures of Gov. George W. Bush, as I did while watching the Arizona GOP town meeting on Dec. 6, and 20 percent of them will capture "The Smirk." It can be attractive or not, depending on how you're disposed toward the Governor, but it's not something he can control: it's a tic. It's more pronounced when he's nervous, like at a debate when every challenger for the nomination is looking to trip him up; or when he's defensive, a natural reaction to reporters asking him if he's dumb. I sympathize with Bush: I've had a facial tic since I was a kid, a combo of my eyes moving and nose wrinkling and ears wiggling, usually under stressful conditions. When I was in camp as an eight-year-old my nickname was "Crazy Eyes." I can't imagine how I'd cope, tic-wise, with the pressure that Bush is under. But that was his choice.
Still, it's irritating when candy-ass pundits make fun of "The Smirk," as if it were a reason to vote for Orrin Hatch instead of Bush. In the Dec. 20 Time (a magnificent issue, by the way, with its "Columbine Tapes" investigation), Margaret Carlson shows her partisanship and lazy writing with the following sentence: "The focus on the smirk may be just one more example of that crazy thing called life, where a once endearing trait suddenly turns sour, a winning smile and blasé demeanor transmogrify overnight into a Cheshire grin and cluelessness."
Last week, as a New York Times editorial gleefully pointed out, was Gov. Bush's worst of his campaign. He was ganged up on in Arizona by the other candidates?which is fair, since he's the frontrunner?abused by the media and saw a flurry of polls in New Hampshire, most of them showing him even or behind Sen. John McCain in that state's primary. The respected pollster John Zogby even predicted the possibility of a McCain landslide there, which could conceivably alter the course of the Republican contest.
Bush took it from all sides in the press: conservatives like Robert Novak who mooed about his tax plan not being bold enough and, though not said publicly, for having the last name Bush; liberals tut-tutting that the Governor just wasn't very smart and probably not up to the job. Bush is not "stupid." His IQ might not match Bill Clinton's or Richard Berke's, but I would guess it's in the top 10 percent of all Americans. That's fine. You really do have to be a smug, arrogant horse's ass to think you're more intelligent than the governor of Texas (and therefore "better"), but that's the Washington press corps in action. A charming group of men and women: I'll bet McCain feels the same way about the Arizona reporters whose calls he won't return.
The presidential campaign is reaching its most volatile stage?by March, it's almost certain both candidates will be decided?and both the media and candidates are in a frenzy. Tucker Carlson, an engaging journalist who works for The Weekly Standard and CNN, contradicted himself completely about Bush within the space of 24 hours last week. On Dec. 7, he wrote on CNN's website: "But as [Bush] continues to exhibit weakness in public forums, Bush's campaign could turn out to resemble a volatile tech stock: Once investors sense that a company has been wildly overvalued?or that Bush isn't as capable a candidate as he was thought to be?they flee, one by one at first, then en masse. A panic ensues."
The next night, on Crossfire, Carlson said in reaction to Bill Press' snotty complaint about the "niceness" in the GOP debates: "Well, I mean, no matter how many gloves they take off, none of them apart from Bush has a chance of being the nominee, so it's probably pointless. I mean?your hopes of being appointed head of Amtrak are going to be dashed if you, you know, attack the frontrunner. I can see why they're not."
(A short digression. On the same program, Carlson and Salon reporter Jake Tapper were discussing Bill Clinton's legacy-burnishing press conference that day. Tapper, asked by Mary Matalin whether Clinton, as a relatively young man out of office, should get a grip on his "demon," replied with a strange answer. He said: "You know, I think if he had a normal ego, then he probably wouldn't be the president of the United States. I mean, obviously, this guy has some issues, but that's not really the point.
("The point is that?the Republicans spend an entire year trying to get him. Now, I happen to agree that I think the President committed perjury. But the point is, he skated on the charge, and the Republicans had basically a loss when it came to the November election. So the question is, you know, do you move on, or do you not? And those in the Congress who decided they want to move on will be able to get something accomplished with the President.")
But there's no doubt the Bush campaign's floundering right now and needs to be reenergized. The Governor should show some of the fury he directed at reporters when they first attempted to pry into his personal life last summer. He was pissed that the media tried to portray him as a cokehead when no evidence was provided and no allegations were made (even though newspapers had combed through his past extensively), and his angry retorts were sincere and true. Since then, his strategy has been all about positioning and posturing: it's a winning formula but lacks drama and engagement. Bush is a much better person than Bill Clinton and more morally serious, but he's allowed himself to be hemmed into a formulaic campaign.
Bush has presented the groundwork for a successful administration, with excellent speeches on education, and foreign and domestic policy. Now he must show passion: why he wants to be president. What would he do in his first 100 days in the White House besides fumigate it? Peggy Noonan, a McCain supporter, I gather, wrote a smart piece in The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 8 critiquing the last two GOP debates. I'll leave her praise for McCain alone, since I don't quite understand it, but she made an excellent point about Bush.
Noonan: "Would he stick with the right but boring or unfashionable thing; would he stand firm if all the polls were going one way but he was certain the county had to go another? Would he dedicate himself to the hard, slow work of changing public opinion? Would he lead and take the knocks and allow himself to be thought less of by the various elites? Or does he deep down want to be friends with them, play tennis with them, be approvingly called a 'moderate' by them even when 'moderate' is not at the moment what is needed?"
If you judged Bush by his lackluster performances in the two debates he's participated in (I'm writing before the third tonight in Iowa) I'd ask those questions, too. But, following Bush these past 18 months, I think he's made it clear that he's played enough tennis until retirement and that he's a legitimate Reagan conservative, more so than his father or John McCain.
Finally, if I were advising Bush, I'd get him on the attack with hard questions for his rivals. Say, "Sen. McCain, you've worked hard to pass legislation against the big tobacco companies. Why haven't you done the same with the alcohol industry, which peddles a drug, like tobacco, that ruins the lives of countless Americans each year?" Or: "Sen. McCain, the centerpiece of your presidential platform is campaign finance reform. Why? Why would you abridge the First Amendment rights of Americans to participate in our democratic process?"
McCain would answer with rote remarks, but he'd be rattled, and then the media would have someone new to pick on.
All in the Family I got less sleep than usual last Friday night. I'd met Mrs. M at a holiday party at Junior's school, a jubilant event where we saw our friends Marita and Michael, our son's first-grade teacher, the school's headmaster and many other parents who are familiar from drop-offs and pick-ups each day. It was a semi-potluck affair, and Mrs. M spent 10 minutes or so trying to find the cheese platter she'd lugged uptown in the car on that rainy night, while I had a few shrimp and handfuls of fancy nuts. We had a long conversation with the parents of a classmate of Junior's, speaking of holiday plans and the like, and things got a little dicey when the mom reminded me that she's worked as a lawyer for the Voice. We discussed the sale of Leonard Stern's newspaper chain, which has yet to reach fruition. She claimed I might know more than she, as she's been on maternity leave; I set her straight that I was bereft of any inside dope, as Stern and puppet publisher David Schneiderman don't exactly consult me on business affairs at the beatnik weekly.
The media world is surprised that a sale hasn't yet been consummated, thinking that the auction Stern announced in September would quickly bring forth several eager buyers, perhaps a young and wealthy Internet sucker who'd be willing to pony up the absurd $200 million price tag that hack reporters were bandying about. As usual, the business press is ignorant; just a look at the financials publicly revealed by Stern's broker?$80 million in revenues for the seven-paper group and an alleged 20-percent profit margin would tell you that nobody but a vanity buyer would pay more than $130 million. (Mind you, I haven't seen the "black book," so I'm just going on the numbers as represented by Stern.) My guess is that the interest is lukewarm, otherwise a deal would've been announced by now.
Anyway, we got home and Junior wanted to sleep in our bed, a rarity now that he's at the advanced age of seven, and so quarters were tight. Sometime during the night MUGGER III wandered in from his bunk bed and joined the crowd: now we had teeth-grinding Junior sleeping horizontally, Mrs. M with her head at the foot of bed, fighting for space, and our younger son waking me up every half hour saying it was time we arose for the day. Our nuclear family is just dandy, but four in a bed is a strain. I told him to hush up and go back to sleep, but at 3:30 gave up and the two of us wandered into the kitchen. He had some white grape juice, I drank a Coke, and then settled down for a reading of Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle Book.
It's been a few years since I've combed through that mini-masterpiece and I'd forgotten its transparent Cold War theme. I did remember that several years ago Junior wouldn't go anywhere without his stack of Dr. Seuss tomes?whether it was the Caribbean, our rentals in Bridgehampton or Water Mill, or his grandmother's ranch in Malibu. He's way beyond that now (although he's now started to read the books himself) and is fully mesmerized by anything with James Bond in it, whether it's a Nintendo 64 game or video. Given my age, it's no surprise I prefer the classic Sean Connery films like Goldfinger and From Russia with Love; Junior opts for License to Kill and The Living Daylights.
I worked at the computer for a while until MUGGER III came into my office, sat in my lap and said: "Dad, can I ask you a question?" I nodded yes and he continued, "Well, I really want to go to Storage. Can we drive there today?" When we moved a few blocks down the street in Tribeca last spring, Mrs. M packed up a load of items that weren't necessary in the new loft: boxes of record albums, books, two cribs, the boys' memory trunks, assorted furniture, a few paintings and, most important to the kids, some long-forgotten toys. Now, MUGGER III thinks of the Long Island City Moishe's (where our space is located) as a kind of Oz; he believes that everything he's ever wanted is contained in those lockers.
I can see his point. When I was a kid, we had an attic in the house that was accessible only by ladder, and it was strictly forbidden territory, mostly because it was a dangerous climb. Sometimes, when my parents were out, one of my brothers would lift me up and we'd rummage through the junk accumulated in the dingy area. It was pretty cool stuff: old comics from the 40s and 50s, my dad's saxophone from college, family photos, broken cameras and Howdy Doody paraphernalia.
Of course, our hideaway was a dump compared to my Uncle Joe's. When we'd visit his family's house in Glenhead on holidays, the cousins would wait for Aunt Winnie's permission to delve into the treasures of their attic. One huge advantage was that you simply had to climb stairs to gain entrance. Once inside we'd find trunks filled with old furs in mothballs, political buttons by the score (a preponderance of "I Like Ike" badges), more baseball cards and photos of when my mother and her two brothers were nippers themselves in the 1920s. A close second to Joe's attic was his basement, which was finished?meaning it was a real rec room and not just a concrete bunker like my family's, which usually got flooded with a heavy rain?and had a player piano and a fridge full of Cokes, a treat for my brothers and me since we always had off-brands of cola, if any at all.
So when MUGGER III bugs me about Storage five times a day I try to remember my own grand illusions from 39 years ago.
On the sleep deprivation front, Saturday night was even weirder. MUGGER III, exhausted from his long day, conked out early; Junior and I fell asleep in the master bedroom sometime after 9. I woke up at one point and heard Michael Stipe's voice on the television, singing "Man on the Moon." Mrs. M had stayed up specifically for this Saturday Night Live appearance, but she was fast asleep. I listened with nostalgia. Stipe the celebrity is everything I hate about contemporary American pop culture: he's antifur, a kneejerk Democrat, an advocate for every ridiculous fad cause that hits the campuses, loathes wealth even though he's filthy rich and is probably a vegan. But he's a talented songwriter?or used to be, I can't separate his public persona from REM's music anymore?and "Man on the Moon" was one of his later classics. Although he sings about Andy Kaufman, with the killer line "See you in heaven if you make the list," I always associate the lyrics with Warhol as well. It's hard not to, as Stipe sings, "Hey, Andy, did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?" Since both Kaufman and Warhol, icons in different worlds, both died somewhat mysteriously, it all makes sense to me.
I'd drifted back to sleep when MUGGER III wandered in about 2 a.m., wanting to start the day. I shoved him aside, told him to stop hogging my pillow, until I gave in at 4:15 and we went out to the living room. Surprisingly, Junior joined us a few minutes later. He stumbled into his own room, marked off the date on his Star Wars calendar, took a sip of ginger ale and promptly turned on a Bond film on the VCR. In Mrs. M's study, MUGGER III was playing his new Dr. Seuss CD-ROM, while I looked at The New York Times online. It was our own personal Fight Club, without the violence: a whirlwind of activity, with each of the boys coming into my office to fool around, sit on my lap, tell jokes or ask for help with their different projects. I knew we'd be beat later on, but it was very cool: as my old college friend D.H. Warren used to say, "Russ, the only way to get ahead is to run while the world is asleep." Still great advice to this day.
Finally, I was mortified two weeks ago when my niece Zoe was misidentified in the "MUGGER" photo scrapbook of our family trip to Necker Island. It was Zoe doing a mean limbo in the shot, not her older sister Jenny. Zoe's a gal around the city, a few years out of Boston College, and now works with Barbra Scott, an ultra-florist who was recently featured on Martha Stewart's tv show. According to Zoe: "We use a unique technique to suck out the flowers' moisture, which allows them to retain their original shape and color for a minimum of three months. Consequently, we save our clients about 50 percent on their fresh-flower budget." That's all beyond my ken, but to find out more call 691-0277 or go to barbrascott.com.
Clinton to Pardon Pollard? What a week in New York's phantom Senate race. Not that I'm complaining: it's a lot more interesting following the vitriol between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani than the likely matchup that we'll have next November, Andrew Cuomo vs. Rick Lazio. In the latest Giuliani shakedown letter I received in the mail, dated Nov. 29, 90 percent of the text was devoted to why Clinton is a carpetbagging money machine who's a tool of left-wing activists. The letter states: "The bottom line is that I need your help now to stop Hillary Clinton... Your contribution at this time will help me stop her and prevent her from becoming a U.S. Senator... As I write this letter, Mrs. Clinton's determined base of hard-core left-wing supporters are filling her campaign coffers with massive sums of money. Their goal is simple?get her elected to the United States Senate where she can fervently champion their left-wing agenda."
And provide a stepping stone to the presidency, he might have added.
Rudy says little about why he wants to represent the state in Washington. (Mostly because he doesn't: his real interest is the governorship, but he's stubborn enough that if Clinton actually does run, he will too, just to spite her and the Upper West Side automatons she's somehow turned into disciples.) In fact, this is about as strong as his message gets: "With your help today, I can rest assured that I will be well-funded and well-positioned to fight back against the early negative campaign that is already part of the Democrats' strategy to keep this Senate seat in their column. In addition, I'll use your contribution to remind the voters that our next U.S. Senator must actually have a strong connection to our state, pay taxes in our state and have lived and worked in our state."
Clinton's latest fundraising pitch in my mailbox was directed to a national audience. It's typically condescending, so I'll share. My favorite excerpt: "You and I have been through a lot together [that's for sure]. We have pulled together many times, often in the face of strong opposition, on campaigns for shared ideas and ideals. We have come together to make our voices heard on issues of vital importance to our families and communities. I hope you'll agree that because of this, our country is a better place than it was in 1992."
Can she be any more vague?
Here's a touchy-feely part that I cherish: "You may not be able to travel across New York with me, but in a very real sense, I am counting on you to be by my side."
Hillary, in a very real sense, I'd like to see you behind bars, preferably next to James Carville and that rotten husband of yours, who, if there were any justice, would be taking it up the ass from a 7-foot, 350-pound serial killer.
I haven't yet read Hillary's Choice, Gail Sheehy's book about the First Lady that's already drawing howls from administration partisans like Gene Lyons and Joe Conason for its shoddy command of facts. Welcome to book publishing today, guys, where factcheckers are as rare as white servants in New York Times publisher Artie Sulzberger's city and country homes. I will read the book on an upcoming trip to California. Why? Only my Maker really knows.
The First Lady is routinely described as a brilliant woman, and maybe she aced the SATs, but she's a dope when it comes to politics. Last week, for example, she caved in to Al Sharpton's demands and agreed to meet with him next month. She's also taken Sharpton's side against Giuliani on the homeless issue, although she has yet to be arrested alongside her current favorite "reverend." Another wacko Clinton's aligned herself with is Rosie O'Donnell, the dimwitted celebrity who blasted the Mayor on her tv show last week. O'Donnell said: "He's out of control, this guy. He cleaned up New York. He made it better. He thinks he, like, runs the world. He's running for Senate, you know. This is the way to get those voters. Sure, just, you know, arrest all the homeless people... Let me tell you, I want to be one of those [protesters] who goes and gets arrested."
As of press time, Rosie hasn't made good on that promise.
On Dec. 8, actor Tim Robbins appeared on O'Donnell's show to denounce Giuliani's program of ridding the streets of dangerous vagrants, while helping those able-bodied homeless to find work and providing them with shelter. Robbins, a wealthy, throwback activist in the Spielberg-Geffen-Beatty vein, said: "We can't lose respect for people because they have bad luck... It shouldn't be a reason to arrest you. It should be a reason to figure, hey, there are a lot of lucky people right now on a good run on Wall Street."
Robbins may have a better command of English than O'Donnell?so does Daffy Duck?but his reasoning is on the same third-grade level. What do "lucky" people on Wall Street?most of whom work more than 60 hours a week?have to do with psychotic creeps who harass law-abiding citizens and sometimes bash bricks into their heads? As usual, Giuliani was short on tact when he announced his homeless plan?but he was correct. Believe it or not, the Mayor is acting on behalf of all New York's citizens, including the downtrodden.
Hillary Clinton took the celebrity position, saying on Dec. 9, "Rosie O'Donnell has very strong feelings about children. I think Rosie was speaking for a lot of parents?a lot of mothers?who cannot imagine the idea of their children being taken away from them because they fell on hard times." But as Suzanne Fields, writing in the Dec. 9 Washington Times, said, echoing the feelings of many, "Hillary Clinton, who mostly sees the streets from behind her limousine's tinted windows, calls the mayor Scrooge. But as an outsider, she has little personal knowledge of New York's homeless problem or how generous New York is to the homeless. The services are better than in most big cities."
But the best summary of this latest controversy, in which Clinton has joined the likes of Sharpton, David Dinkins, O'Donnell and Robbins, was given by Heather Mac Donald in the Dec. 7 Wall Street Journal. She wrote: "New York's homeless advocates, now joined by Mrs. Clinton, have declared war on the mayor, and no wonder: His plans have a good chance of succeeding. Asking the homeless to take responsibility for themselves is a vital first step toward rehabilitation. The majority of the homeless spend their days in the pursuit of drugs or alcohol; regular duties could provide a lifeline out of that morass.
"The advocates and Mrs. Clinton, however, need the homeless on the streets?locked in their addictions and madness?to serve as symbols of society's heartlessness and the need for greater welfare spending."
As for Clinton's other miscues last week, how about her bucking the President's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military?a disastrous and feeble copout on a real issue of human rights?and then announcing she'd like to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade? As even The New York Observer's Tish Durkin (probably the worst writer on the New York Senate beat) could tell the First Lady, gays and lesbians are inexplicably excluded from the parade by its organizers. State Sen. Tom Duane, an openly gay Democrat, was gentle in telling a New York Times reporter last Thursday: "I think she probably does not know the depth of feeling surrounding New York's St. Patrick's Day parade and its history."
As regular readers know, I'm a fan of Chris Matthews' Hardball political tv show, despite his obsequiousness to sleazeball guests like Donald Trump, Lanny Davis, Gary Bauer and even Sharpton. Matthews is convinced Al Gore's got the presidency locked up, partly because of the lessons he learned from the current Oval Office occupant, the crook who was excoriated nightly by Matthews during the Lewinsky scandal.
Matthews, on his Dec. 7 program, played Perry Mason in grilling Hillary Clinton's beleaguered spokesman Howard Wolfson. He was so merciless I almost felt sorry for the misguided bum.
Matthews: I know this may be seen as enemy territory, but I'm going to try to give you a great opportunity tonight to speak for your candidate... Is Hillary Clinton a politician?
Wolfson: Well, she's running for political office. I think...
CM: Well, are you comfortable saying that she's a politician?
HW: Well, I would describe her more as an advocate?as a lifetime advocate for the things that she believes in.
CM: But she's going to seek the senatorship from New York, but she's not a politician. How is that possible to do that?
HW: Well, I think people come out of?people come to office?and seeking office from different walks of life. She has spent a lifetime as an advocate for health care, for better schools...
CM: Well, would she be a politician if the voters of New York elected her senator? Would she then be a politician? When will she become a politician in your light?
HW: If?if it'll make you happy, I'll say that she'll become a politician if she's elected to the Senate.
CM: When will she become a New Yorker?
HW: She's going to be moving in by the end of the month. She's going to be spending as much time as possible in her house in Chappaqua. Next year, she's going to be phasing down her first lady responsibilities.
HW: ...and really focusing on the Senate race.
CM: When do you think she will become, in, for all practical purposes, a New Yorker like the other New Yorkers in that state of 17 million people? When will you be able to comfortably call her?since you're uncomfortable calling her a politician, when will you call her a New Yorker and say that with confidence?
HW: I'm already calling her a New Yorker and I have been.
CM: How? By what standard is she a New Yorker?
HW: Well, she's moved here. She's bought a house here.
CM: She hasn't lived a night in New York in a house?in a home that she's owned.
HW: ?She's bought a house. She's made a significant investment...
CM: ...Let me ask you this: Is Hillary Clinton ambitious?
HW: Well, I think anyone who is running for office has an ambition?
CM: Why are you hesitant to say she's ambitious?
HW: Well, I'm...
CM: She wants to be the senator from New York, and you don't seem to be comfortable in saying that she's ambitious.
HW: Well, I'm saying...
CM: That's a political ambition.
HW: Well, I'm saying that she's motivated by issues.
CM: It just seems like she wants it both ways. She wants the position, but she doesn't want to admit to the ambition. That is a real conflict here, because she wants to be a politician and have all the benefits of political power and all the perks that go with it, but she doesn't even want to admit that she's a politician or someone with ambition. Neither?these are obvious and you can't admit them.
HW: Well, I don't think it's necessarily relevant. I think what matters is that she's running for office because she believes in better health care for folks, better schools for our children, the future of Social Security and Medicare... Those are the issues that she cares about... What else do you need to know?
CM: ...At what point is she going to admit that she's going where she's headed, which is to get political power? People who seek political power are ambitious by definition. Do you agree?
HW: Well, if you?if you?if you say so. If it will make you happy, I'll agree.
Whew, I'm exhausted, how about you?