Even native Illinoisan Mary Matalin, whose agonized honking throughout the McCain boom made her look even more like the Lady-in-the-Airport-Bar-at-10-o'clock-in-the-Morning than she usually does, was thrilled. "He's a class act," Matalin said. "And he came back and he said he was going to do what he can do quite well, which is go campaign for people in the Northeast where he had a lot of support." But not exactly. McCain is slated to campaign primarily in California. The only district northeast of Pennsylvania where Davis has him slated to campaign is the highly atypical Connecticut 5th, where Mark Nielsen hopes to knock off moderate Democrat Jim Maloney, who didn't even manage a majority last time.
Bush looks simply unsellable in the Northeast, and the candidates who cling to him will be unsellable, too. A clue as to why came when Dubya tried to explain why he and McCain hadn't spoken at all in the past month. "There'll be an appropriate time," Bush said, "for John and I to talk." John and I? Even if Bush hadn't made clear in the course of his prep-school reminiscences that he loathes New England, it would still be obvious to Northeasterners that Bush stands in mortal opposition to at least one thing they care about?grammar.
That's too bad, because events on the ground up here in Massachusetts have left me desperately wishing for him to win. The Bay State's anti-smoking fanatics?against whom Dubya, God bless him, stands firm?are making up for lost time. The selectmen in my hometown of Marblehead have just banned smoking in all restaurants and bars?a particular shame, since hanging around in Maddie's Sail Loft, smoking all afternoon and watching the Red Sox is the entire point of living here. I forget whether they call this the Kill-a-Dozen-Businesses-Within-a-Year Act or the Encourage-Town-Residents-to-Drink-and-Drive Act. But it's authoritarian however you slice it.
Bar patrons, however, will probably grumble for a couple of weeks, smoke outside in the pouring rain like the spineless, self-loathing vassals they are, and then vote to allow Al Gore to continue to persecute them. On Wednesday, Gore attended a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser at the home of Cincinnati tort-lawyer Stanley Chesley. If you wonder who the hell in Cincinnati would pay 10,000 large to break bread with the least scintillating political conversationalist since Dick Lugar, recall that Chesley made hundreds of millions out of the tobacco settlement. In other words Gore spent last week publicly urging voters to "put aside partisanship" and "stand up to big tobacco," while privately promising the most partisan group of con-artists in American politics that there were 10-figure fortunes to be made by standing up to Joe Blow and his diffident working-class drinking companions in Maddie's.
Jack The Lad There were two hot, tip-of-everyone's-tongue topics in Massachusetts last week. First was the Pedro Martinez Sports Illustrated cover that teasingly suggested that this would finally be the season that the Red Sox won the World Series, after an 82-year drought. The effect of this story on the Boston press was curious. The Boston Herald, for instance, objected to the story on the grounds that?it could jinx the Sox. Do you laugh or cry at something like that?
Story number two was the saga of Jack E. Robinson, the black Republican entrepreneur who was until last week the GOP's excuse for a candidate to run against Ted Kennedy in next fall's Senate race. Early in the week, awful stories began to circulate against Robinson in the Boston papers, most of them involving drinking and driving and aggression toward women. It's still not clear whether they came from opposition research the Kennedys had done against him or from leaked oppo that Robinson had ordered done on himself.
But Robinson decided he needed to clear the air, and on Tuesday he called a press conference to distribute the Robinson Report, an 11-page summum of the very worst things he'd done in his life. (As someone put it, if Ted Kennedy had responded in kind, his document would have been the length of War and Peace.) Robinson denied the allegations of the shocked date who had christened him "Jack the Tongue," and established that he'd been cleared of drunk-driving after passing a breathalyzer. But his other answers were hardly reassuring. In fact, they beggared credulity. There was one incident where a cop had pulled him over and found him in possession of a throwing star, a deadly ninja implement, Robinson explained. "As the officer was checking my clothing, he found in my coat pocket what turned out to be some kind of martial arts implement. Neither he nor I knew what it was and hadn't seen it before. We actually got a chuckle out of it until?he checked around and found out that it is against the law."
His answer to drug questions was amazingly self-exculpatory for a man in his late 30s, but it damaged him, too. "I have never taken any illegal drugs of any kind whatsoever," he said. "However, I did make the mistake of mistakenly inhaling one puff of a regular cigarette when I was a teenager back in the early 1970s. I was sick for three days." There's a manly man! Maybe Stan Chesley will back his campaign.
As the week continued, more stuff emerged. First, Jack E. had tried to crash a meeting of Ted Kennedy's top advisers at a Boston hotel days before. Second, those who had been listening to WBUR on the eve of Robinson's press conference were already aware that he got involved in a car accident during a live-by-cellphone interview. But on Thursday, The Boston Globe claimed that one of the other motorists involved had chased Robinson's car a quarter-mile before flagging him down, and had accused him of leaving the scene of the accident. Add to all these incidents Robinson's admission that he'd failed his bar exam four times and you have a candidacy that was best summed up by Boston Herald columnist, New York Press contributor and journalistic genius Howie Carr. Carr warned that this is the wrong guy to run against a Kennedy?he is a Kennedy.
Mixed Metaphor of the Decade Hillary Clinton's bid to tar Rudy Giuliani as insensitive, for allowing the release of the police records of Patrick Dorismond after he was shot by the police last week, could work, but only in theory. A decent candidate (a decent person) would have raised doubts about Rudy's reign by casting the Dorismond case as a civil-liberties issue. But since Hillary doesn't know what a civil liberty is, she was stuck casting it as a psychological issue. "What we have here is a lot of anger and lashing out," she said. Sorry?who's writing Hillary's stuff? Stuart Smalley?
The one consolation in the case is that a journalist named Rick Brand, who's covering the Dorismond shooting for Newsday, used it as an excuse to pen some of the most entertainingly appalling prose in recent memory. In the hands of the aptly named Brand, everything is either sparking up, catching fire, or blowing up: "New York's incendiary brand of racial politics," he wrote, "has ignited the Senate campaign, escalating the rhetoric of both New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton and creating potential land mines that could wind up crippling either candidate.... Once Clinton waded into the explosive issue, she faced a barrage of accusations ..."
And literally blew up!