If Hillary actually did use the phrase "Jew bastard" (which, again, I doubt), it was probably less an ethnic slur than a way of saying "lunatic, Jew-obsessed bastard." But the reason she deserves every bit of the calumny that's been flung at her is that over the past week everyone on her campaign was behaving like a lunatic, Jew-obsessed bastard. What kind of person devotes his time, money and effort to launching the national political career of Bill Clinton? Why, someone like Paul Fray, of course, one of those ethnic determinists who buzz around the Democratic Party like flies about shite. The whole lot of them remind you of those solo drinkers you meet who lean down the bar and inform you that their "spiritual side" (funny, I hadn't noticed it!) is due to their being one-16th Choctaw Indian.
This is not to say the Clintons are anti-Semitic; no administration has been more open to Jews. It's only that they look at everything through this tiresome ethnic lens, which leads to all sorts of moral distortions. The biggest of these is the paramount moral importance they impart to the "slur." Thou shalt not demean has become an 11th Commandment next to which the other 10 pale in importance. This is the attitude behind hate-crimes laws: Sure, everyone kills people from time to time, but if you call someone a fag or a nigger while you're doing it, you're gonna be in real trouble.
Hillary smelled real trouble. You could see this obsession in the sneaky rapid-response memo Hillary staffer Karen Adler sent to the campaign's "Jewish advisory group." What the hell is that, by the way? Are these Hillary's Jewish advisers, walled off in their little campaign Bantustan of ethnic specialization? Or are they advisers of all ethnicities, whose brief is to help Hillary "deal with the Jews"? What's incriminating about this Adler memo is that it shows someone on the campaign, whether Jewish or not (or three-quarters Jewish, or 11/16ths), must have said, "Make me up a list of Influential Jews, so Karen can send a directive asking our friends to lie to them." Because after opening her memo by listing two Jewish journalists, Adler wrote, "I would appreciate it if you could call these people as concerned citizens. (It is important that you do not say that you [sic] calling because the campaign asked you to, but because you are outraged with what was said about her.)... Attached are Talking Points on the issue." The talking points were a combination of dirt dug up on Paul Fray (he lost his law license in 1980 "amid impropriety") and an astonishing three-year-old blanket letter of retraction for practically anything he might say about the Clintons. "At one point in my life," the letter runs, "I would say things without thinking, without factual foundation, and without rhyme or remedy until it furthered my own agenda. I was wrong and I have wronged you. I ask for your forgiveness."
It's that letter from Fray that really sets off alarm bells. I know a lot of people who've been wronged in life, and had untrue things said about them?but I've never, ever heard of anyone receiving a letter like that from an ex-enemy. The Clintons, by contrast, have such letters coming out the wazoo. When Kathleen Willey alleged the President had groped her in the Oval Office?presto!?there were reams of correspondence suddenly available in which her untrustworthiness was visible in every line. When Betsey Wright set out to quash "bimbo eruptions" in 1992, she was able to get several people to sign affidavits to the effect that what they'd always said happened hadn't happened.
How do the Clintons keep getting their hands on airtight exculpatory documentation like that? There would seem to be three ways: first, you can offer your accuser a job. Second (in the case of a political simpatico like Fray), you can convince him that internecine warfare of the sort he's practicing plays into the hands of the VR-W Conspiracy and threatens "the causes we both believe in." Or third, you can send out a gumshoe like Terry Lenzner to find all sorts of stuff he'd be embarrassed to have revealed and make him an offer he can't refuse. Remember that preposterous moment, late in the Clinton impeachment drama, when aide Sidney Blumenthal said the President had likened his predicament to Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon? At times it looks as if Koestler was not so much Clinton's consolation as his playbook.
Some Girls Lisa Stofko Boscola, a Democratic state senator in Pennsylvania, was arrested last week for drunk driving. Boscola registered .264 percent alcohol in her blood, which is to the Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzer machine what Bob Beamon's gold medal in the 1968 Olympics was to the long jump. Boscola, 38, has always been a smart legislator, was Miss Slovak Heritage Queen in 1986 in Bethlehem (where I have many Slovak-American friends) and is described by many (including her staffers) as a "hot blonde." My heart went out to her.
A lot of people saw this coming. The Allentown Morning Call has noted a string of "inappropriate" incidents: cracking bad jokes to Senate president Robert Jubelirer about the stunning nudie pictures of his wife that had been uploaded onto computers at the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation; describing her own blowjob technique to three legislators at the Maverick Steakhouse in Harrisburg; and shouting down the keynote speaker at a February dinner of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.
But Exhibit A in the mounting case against Boscola actually provokes not disgust but sympathy. Boscola was invited to sit in the Bell Atlantic luxury box for a Rolling Stones concert last year at Philadelphia's First Union Center. She sat in the front row, pulled her skirt up to her waist and kicked her fully exposed legs around, to the delight of dozens of nearby male spectators. Then she wandered into the bathroom and passed out.
Ceteris paribus, one would prefer to have a slightly less mercurial personality representing one in the state capitol. But a Rolling Stones concert isn't a caucus. I'll remind the reader that people used to get killed at Rolling Stones concerts. It wasn't Boscola who was behaving "inappropriately" here. Perhaps it's more "appropriate" to sit with your hands folded, applauding politely and muttering, "That was a catchy number!" and nodding gravely while execs and lobbyists from Bell Atlantic schmooze you about how they can help finance your next campaign. But if so, Mick Jagger has become the Lawrence Welk de nos jours. If you can't pass out in the bathroom at a Stones concert, where can you pass out in the bathroom?
Swept Away Al Gore's big rhetorical problem is not that he's too staid but that he's too passionate. Once he starts on a topic, you need the Jaws of Life to drag him out of it. He's a bore in the way hobbyists are bores. ("...But the blue version of the two-shilling stamp was sometimes printed off-center, and there are 19 copies in the world that we know of... If you have five hours, I'll describe all of them to you...")
Gore's current hobby is crime, and he's sticking to it like a Yorkie to a postman's pant cuff. It looks like he'll be able to prevail on the Democrats' platform committee to harden the party's pro-capital punishment plank at the Los Angeles convention, and he said last week, "Here is my commitment: the toughest, most effective anticrime strategy this nation has ever seen." It's hard to see how people can be brought to (a) trust Gore to pull his party so far in a draconian direction or (b) want him to. The lesson of waning support for capital punishment seems to be that hardline crime policies are one realm in which politicians get less and less popular the more they stick to their promises.
And does he really mean the toughest ever? Tougher than Mitchell Palmer? Tougher than J. Edgar Hoover? Tougher than longtime Philly Mayor Frank Rizzo (who in one election campaign promised voters,"I'm going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot")? That would be pretty tough. Oh, and does it involve lifting the statute of limitations on pot-smoking? Just asking.