Bush Confuses The Media Last Thursday,in an astonishing editorial, The New York Times unofficially endorsedAl Gore over Gov. George W. Bush for president in the 2000 election.The headline read "Al Gore as the Un-Clinton," and the writer reactedfavorably to the Vice President's tepid candidacy announcement in Carthage,TN, last Wednesday, pronouncing that Gore is "particularly experton foreign relations and the environment, areas where leading Republican candidate,George W. Bush, is weak."
This, ofcourse, is absurd. Where was Gore-who, according to the Times has beena "key policy player" in Bill Clinton's administration-whenthe President was making a hash out of the war in Yugoslavia? Huddlingwith his wife Tipper, figuring out a way to shed seven years of Clintonianbaggage is my bet. Where was Gore when the Chinese were pilfering U.S. militarysecrets? Helping count the illegal foreign contributions to their '96 campaign,while munching on Charlie Trie's eggrolls. As for the environment,it's true that Gore wrote a book on the subject, but as Mark Hertsgaardpoints out in a Los Angeles Times essay last Sunday, he's beensilent as Clinton has reneged on one environmental pledge after another, suchas increasing the fuel efficiency of U.S. vehicles.
The Timeseditorial continues: "From this early vantage point it appears that themain danger in this campaign could be the spectacle of two candidates clingingso firmly to the center, appealing so consistently to the soccer moms and thesuburban vote, that their themes become interchangeable in the public mind.If that happens, the election could very likely turn on issues of personality,and it would be unfortunate if the public reacted to its disappointment withMr. Clinton by deciding this election on the basis of personal charm. The majorityof Americans who talk to pollsters may say right now that they prefer Mr. Bushto Mr. Gore, but they are also wise enough to admit by huge margins that theydo not know enough about either man."
This isthinly veiled code that says the Times is scared silly that Bush mightactually win the election.
There areseveral points to make about this ludicrous endorsement. First, does the paperreally believe that Americans don't "know enough" about Al Gore afterhe's been in office for seven years? I think they know he claimed to inventthe Internet; said there was "no controlling authority" thatprevented him from making campaign solicitations from his office; that on the day Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, Gore, at that infamousWhite House pep rally, insisted that his boss will be remembered as oneof the greatest American presidents; and that despite his current mantra of"family values," honesty is apparently not one of them. Otherwise,he wouldn't have railed against the tobacco industry in 1996, exploiting his sister's death of lung cancer in 1984, when he had bragged in Southern statesduring the '88 presidential primaries that he tilled tobacco like any hard-workingfarmer.
The notionthat Gore and Bush espouse "interchangeable" themes is laughable.Bush is for cutting taxes and less government regulation; Gore is captive ofBig Labor; Bush is against frivolous litigation, Gore is beholden to the legalindustry; Bush is pro-life, Gore is pro-choice; Bush says that Clinton should'vebeen impeached, Gore stood by the President steadfastly, whereas his resignationwould've demonstrated enormous courage and integrity; Bush favors vouchers forprivate schools, Gore proposes federal initiatives to reduce class size forpublic schools; Bush applauded the welfare reform Clinton signed, while Gorehas promised to "un-do" it; and Bush is against a raise in the minimumwage, Gore is for one.
Bush's well-orchestratedrollout of his campaign, which baffled the mainstream liberal media aching fora fatal gaffe, surprised even conservative and moderate Republicans who wereafraid that he'd be as stiff as Gore on the hustings. To the contrary, he shookhands with voters even after the cameras were gone, and used his father as aneffective supporting actor in Kennebunkport, where President Bushwas humble, admitted past mistakes and said it was his son's turn now.
That's a value Americans haven't seen much of since Clinton took office in 1993.The Bush clan is different: By all accounts, Gov. Bush has been faithful tohis wife, reveres his parents and counts on his siblings for support. I don'tcare much for the Kennedys, but do admire their fealty to each other.Gore was demonstrably close to his father, and has a loving immediate family,but his tacit acceptance of Clinton's abhorrent moral behavior is damning. It'sonly now that the Veep is "distancing" himself from Clinton.
One moresurprise to the Beltway media: They simply don't know how to cover successfulGOP candidates.
Anothercrucial element to Bush's early success is, should he win the nomination, he'llbe the youngest GOP presidential candidate since 1960 (and Richard Nixonwas born looking like he was 60 years old). He's photogenic, lively and exuberant;it's no wonder that he's defeating the buttoned-up Gore among women voters rightnow. And Gore has reacted to Bush's support among minorities, ludicrously speakingin Spanish at his announcement in Tennessee last week. Even a liberal like theChicago Tribune's Clarence Page was impressed by Bush'sinitial performance. In a June 20 column, he wrote: "I was impressed withhow effortlessly the younger Bush appeared to be overcoming his father's biggestimage deficit. The senior Bush suffered in the polls for his failure to conveyto voters the sense of caring that seems to come quite naturally to the youngerBush. Dubya's enthusiasm for winning people's support has paid off handsomely.His crossover appeal is high with women, blacks, Latinos and others in the DemocraticParty's base, judging by the turnout for his landslide re-election to the governorshiplast year, and, more recently, by presidential preference polls."
Yet forall the GOP's giddiness at Bush's prospects for retaking the White House, smartstrategists within the party know that Gore will be difficult to defeat. Hehas a robust economy going for him (not that he had much to do with it), hasan array of dirty tricksters to sabotage his opponent's campaign and, foremost,he's not Bill Clinton. Paul Gigot, in his "Potomac Watch" columnin The Wall Street Journal last Friday, made a key point in saying thatBush's handlers are too "cocky." I don't entirely agree with the followingstatement, but I'm sure the Bush camp has taken it to heart: "Mr. Bushis soaring in part because voters know nothing about him, while Mr. Gore isdown because most of what they know about him is refracted through Mr. Clinton.If he can emerge as Clinton without the character flaws and with a Vietnam record,the political fundamentals make him the favorite."
And Bushis likely to be bested by Gore in the presidential debates, just as the VicePresident made mincemeat out of Ross Perot and Jack Kemp (althoughthe media expectations for Gore will be so high that if Bush gives just B performances,the debates will be called a draw).
Right now,I believe the electoral map favors Bush. Obviously, he'll win Texas andFlorida (where his brother Jeb is governor); with PennsylvaniaGov. Tom Ridge (a pro-choice Vietnam vet) as his running mate,he'll make inroads into the Rust Belt. And if Bush takes California,not the longshot you'd think, given the hunger for a change of administrations,the election is over.
Still, Bushcan't win on charm, compassionate conservatism and a handsome mug alone. Soonhe'll have to come out with major policy statements, daring ideas that willchallenge the electorate, much as Jack Kennedy did in 1960. He has theopportunity to speak about real change in the country-why not be thefirst Republican to advocate making Cuba part of the United States onceCastro falls?-and not just GOP vs. Democrat politics as usual. Just asthe communications industry has expanded exponentially since even the '96 elections,so too can the role of government in this country and the global position ofthe United States in the 21st century. If Bush can articulate bold challenges,he'll win easily. Otherwise, it'll be an election too close to call. The Longest Campaign The gossipin Washington this past week was that Hillary Clinton might notrun for Senate in New York after all. Smells like George Stephanopoulos(via Dick Morris, of all people) spin to me: She totted up discouragingstats that suggest she'll get creamed by Rudy Giuliani and will insteadraise a lot of money and save it for an Illinois race in 2004...or maybe to pay off legal fees. If she had a conscience, which isn't likely, Hillarywould divvy out some of those funds to all the White House aides whoare now in debt because of her husband's consistent lying over the years.
But I'mnot convinced: Her campaign manager, the mercurial Harold Ickes, is fartoo visible these days if the First Lady was going to stay put in the WhiteHouse. Besides, she's already told 1000 of her closest associates that she's"doing this [running for the Senate] for me." And there was an encouragingpoll in the Daily News last Sunday that has her defeating Rudy by eightpoints. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report says in its June 28issue that Hillary will move to New York by the fall, whereabouts still unknown.(Bill Clinton issued a denial of this report, but I don't thinkhe's calling the shots in that marriage. He told CNN, "It's nottrue that she's going to move out of the White House... She is not going tostop being First Lady." Says who, Bill? Also, according to DeborahOrin's June 21 Post report, Clinton said he's known "hiswife was a closet Yankees fan.") An "operative" is quoted bythe magazine as saying, "Everyone will understand if she has to go backto Washington for a NATO summit or something like that. But there's no doubtthat she'll leave the White House early." Yes, it is important thatHillary is present at NATO meetings; with husband Bill out on the golfcourse, and Al Gore taking Spanish lessons, someone has to have a cuppawith Tony Blair.
So, therace is on, putting me in the queer position of agreeing with the wealthy populistMichael Moore. We both say: Run, Hillary, run! although for differentreasons. I'm counting on her staying in New York, fighting a futile campaign,instead of whipping up women voters for Gore in California, New Jerseyand even Massachusetts. With Gore losing to Gov. Bush in preliminarypolls (yes, they're somewhat meaningless, but still a snapshot; he's behindby double digits in Michigan, which ought to make Tony Coelhodirty his drawers), he'll need a lot of help.
Moore, needlessto say, is pro-Hillary, mostly because, as he explained in the July issue ofPlayboy, she's "one hot, shit-kicking feminist babe." Yikes.The interviewer asked Moore about Hillary, whether he'd work on her campaign,and he gave an extended answer, most of which, unsurprisingly, was self-aggrandizing.
"Iwill be doing more than just working for her. I'll be holding her hand the entireway. Give her a neck rub now and then on the campaign trail... I met her ata White House dinner. I went through the reception line where the Marine announcesyour name, and then you have five seconds to say hello. There are 300 peoplebehind you. I shake [Bill] Clinton's hand and he says, 'I'm such a fan of yours.I love Roger and Me.' Hillary hears this and says, 'I'm a biggerfan.' Then she takes me by the hand and she keeps her hand on mine... My facegoes red. I'm having the only physical reaction that the Roman Catholic Churchallows me to have... I'm into my second minute with her. The line is being heldup. Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin is standing behind me. I tell her sheshould run for the Senate. She spends another minute talking to me. If she needsany help after she's out of the White House, I'm there for her 100 percent.Well, 99 percent."
Funny howMoore is such a fan of the Clintons: Weren't they the couple who dismantledwelfare and moved the Democratic Party to the center? Nothing like a "shit-kickingfeminist babe" to make a guy throw his politics down the toilet. Go get'em, Mike; you'll make all the difference up there in Syracuse and Buffalowith your limo and long-suffering entourage.
On the GOPside, Joe Conason gave Giuliani a black eye in his June 21 New YorkObserver column. Noting that the Mayor is making "carpetbagger cries"about Clinton-something he claimed he wouldn't resort to many months ago-Conasonquotes from a 1964 college newspaper article that Giuliani wrote about the RobertKennedy-Kenneth Keating Senate race. The youthful Rudy, a Kennedysupporter, wrote, in a piece called "Ars Politica": "Let us hopethat cosmopolitan New Yorkers can rise above the ridiculous, time-worn provincialattitude that has so disunited our nation." Then Conason throws a jab atthe hypocritical Mayor: "[T]here is something eerily amusing about Mr.Giuliani's words returning to contradict him now. The next time he puts on hisoveralls and starts wisecracking about Arkansas, he may just have to explainwhy political carpetbagging offends him so much more today than it did 35 yearsago."
Good point.And the same one that The New York Times' Clyde Habermandevoted most of an article to on June 11, although without the overt partisanshipthat Conason shows to Mrs. Clinton. I e-mailed Conason, curious as to why hedidn't attribute Haberman in his piece; he called back, said he hadn't seenthe piece and, in fact, was relying on an April 5 Associated Press reportby Albany reporter Marc Humbert who apparently first dug up theGiuliani archival nugget. So I'd say that both Haberman and Conason are guiltyof non-attribution.
Unlike Humbertand Haberman, who are more constrained by phony tenets of "objectivity,"particularly in the case of the Timesman, Conason clearly declares hisloyalty to the First Lady. In a sidebar to Dan Kennedy's June17 Boston Phoenix piece about the upcoming Senate race in New York, Conasonagain brings up Rudy's long-ago column, and then enthusiastically endorses Hillary'scandidacy. This is no surprise, of course, since Conason has been one of theClintons' most vociferous supporters in the past several scandal-infused years.
In fact,two weeks ago, he was the lone journalist (well, with the dubious exceptionof Kitty Kelley) who was invited to a White House dinner in honor ofHungarian president Arpad Goncz. According to a June 9 WashingtonPost article by Roxanne Roberts and Lonnae O'Neal Parker,Conason was among a group of literary figures and celebrities who witnessed the First Lady in "a gauzy, beaded slate-gray gown by Pamela Dennis"while Martha Stewart "opted for pink silk capri pants and a shortmatching jacket." Musical entertainment was provided by Judy Collinsand the assembled had a meal of "salmon with portobello mushrooms, pecan-crustedlamb and bing cherry strudel." Conason was joined at the White House by,among others, Tony Curtis, William Styron, Elie Wiesel,William Cohen, Paul Begala, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. RichardLugar, John Podesta, Susan Sontag and David Rieff.Joe, just like the Jeffersons, you're movin' on up!
Anyway,in his Phoenix piece (which must have been written several weeks ago,considering his unkind mention of Rep. Nita Lowey: "Until HillaryClinton makes up her mind, the field is left to a lone, uninspiring suburbancongresswoman with a wealthy husband"), Conason compares Hillary to EleanorRoosevelt-that conceit is getting mighty tired-saying that she's "preparingto make history" with her Senate run. He writes: "Yet because of herpopular persona and her ties to traditional constituencies, she can serve asa unifying force among Democrats. Indeed, she is in certain respects the real,if not the titular, leader of the Democratic Party." Lord, Joe, easy onthe bing cherry strudel! Hillary is the leader of the Democratic Party? Sayswho, besides you? I'd imagine Al Gore would beg to differ, as would her miserablehusband. Throw in Dick Gephardt, Bill Bradley, the insufferableFlorida Rep. Robert Wexler, Bob Kerrey and, hell, justfor grins, Patrick Kennedy, and I'd say there's a battle for "titular"or "real" head of the Democratic Party.
But wait!Let's call in the reinforcements. The ever-reliable Lars-Erik Nelsonsays that Hillary's a winner in New York because of one man-Ken Starr.Nelson, hurting for material on June 16, writes in the Daily News: "Asshe runs for the Senate, this dweeby Peeping Tom, who was unable to indict [HillaryClinton], threatens through his aides to issue a blistering final report onher supposed misconduct. What more could Clinton ask for? She faces a toughrace against Mayor Giuliani, but if her luck holds, she can hang Starr aroundGiuliani's neck and sink him like a stone."
Sure, Lars.Starr might be a "dweeb," but he's not stupid, and has collected aream of damaging material against the First Lady: all the familiars that would'vebeen forgotten had she not decided to run for Senate. Filegate, Travelgate,missing Rose Law Firm records, etc., all potent evidence thatGiuliani, far more tenacious and media-savvy than Starr, can have a field daywith.
And BobHerbert signaled the New York Times view with his June 20 column,writing: "More and more New Yorkers are seeing Rudolph Giuliani for whathe really is, a power-hungry, petty and vindictive man whose policies are oftenfundamentally anti-democratic." Apparently oblivious that he could be describingthe Clintons, Herbert continues: "For years his excesses have been obscuredor excused because of the falling crime rates in the city. And that has encouragedgreater excesses. The city's tolerance of those excesses seems to be diminishing.Fair and reasonable people can keep their eyes closed only so long."
Aside fromnot mentioning what Giuliani's "excesses" exactly are, I'd wager that"fair and reasonable people" take a look back at the David Dinkinsregime and realize that even though the Mayor may be a skunk, he's contributedto making New York a safer place to live.
The WashingtonPost's E.J. Dionne, a typically squishy DC liberal, is furrowinghis brow at Hillary's embrace of New York, writing a column on June 15 thatquoted several anonymous Democratic "consultants" who are skepticalabout her candidacy. One told Dionne: "Absent her running, the overwhelmingpriority of the administration would have been electing Al Gore. Now you'vegot a three-ring circus at the White House-Clinton's working on his legacy,Gore's running for president, and Mrs. Clinton is running for the Senate. Ifyou think the most important thing Democrats can do is elect Al Gore, this is a terrible idea." Another consultant said: "Her defeat will be seenas a defeat for feminism, for liberalism, not just a defeat for her personally...[This] "would be like us beating Jesse Helms."
DavidShribman, the Boston Globe columnist who also writes about politicsfor Fortune, despairs for Hillary as well. In the July 5 issue of thatmagazine, Shribman said: "Why would one of the nation's most accomplishedwomen want to be a Senator when many of the Senate's best and brightest [Fortunedoesn't edit for cliches] (Sam Nunn, Warren Rudman, David Boren) have givenup in frustration?" I don't know where this "most accomplished"malarkey comes from-unless you consider being used as a doormat by your husband,failing to convince Americans that a quasi-socialist health-care system madesense or dumping old friends when it's politically expedient are virtues-butthat's standard Beltway pundit mush for you.
And don'tforget the rap group Screwball: They're in Hillary's corner as well,releasing a song called "Who Shot Rudy?" that includes the lyrics,"Nobody cried-it was real, like, some Jews celebrating when the Pharaohgot killed." The writer of the tune, Kyron Jones, told the AssociatedPress: "I don't want anybody to go out and shoot him. I'm just voicingthe thoughts of my people." Uh, okay, Kyron. Get back to me when your IQrises above 25.
Even LizSmith is getting into the act, quoting, in her June 21 syndicated column,Camille Paglia: "Hillary loves eunuch geek men! Oh, my God, lookat them all! Sidney Blumenthal, Ira Magaziner, Harold Ickes. They are all theseweird Ichabod Crane men, all high-IQ men who have no natural virility... Sheis the most arrogant, the most moralistic, the most sermonizing and annoyingperson on Earth-and it (her possible bid for the Senate in New York) is justa joke that the media have allowed to go on as long as it has."
Finally,I'll be glad when Hillary sets up her exploratory committee in early July sothat Creators Syndicate Inc. will be forced to terminate her propaganda-ladencolumn "Talking It Over." Her June 2 ditty, which is no doubt printedin many smalltown newspapers, was typical, reading, in part: "We can nolonger ignore the well-documented connection between violence in the media andchildren's behavior. America's culture of violence is having a profound effecton our children-and we must resolve to do what we can to change it."
But notbefore Hillary's Hollywood buds (and Geraldo) contribute to herSenate campaign. Until then, vigorous ID checks at multiplexes across the countrywill go a long way to solving the problem. Summertime Cruise When you'rea kid, birthdays are pure magic. Actually, some adults, like NYPressart director Mike Gentile, never get over it: My calendar always hasJan. 20 circled, because that's when he says the year officially starts. Butif you're born in July or August, like MUGGER III, school-wise, it's a bad deal:Not only do you miss out on parties with your mates there, but so many peopleare out of town that private bashes are often sparsely attended. That's whyit was so cool that Joe, MUGGER III's teacher, on the last day of thesemester, set aside time last Monday to celebrate my boy's birthday two monthsearly. It was asimple half-hour ceremony that had Mrs. M fighting off the waterworks. She andJunior had purchased and doled out the snacks-gummy bears, Gatorade andPringles-and then all the kids gathered in a circle while the "birthdayboy" wore a crown. My favorite segment of the activity was when MUGGERIII walked around a lit candle five times, once for each year, and after eachrevolution, stopped to hear comments from his parents about what he was likewhen was one, two, etc. Smart-aleck Junior piped in with, "He cried a lot,"or "He tried to snake my Power Rangers," while I rememberedthat as a newborn he didn't sleep much, and when he was four he told me storiesabout his imaginary friends who drove all the poisonous blue, yellow and purpleants out of the United States. Mrs. M was a touch more sentimental, saying,"When he was one, MUGGER III was cute as a button, just like now,"and "He had the best appetite of any boy I ever saw."
Then Joeasked each of his friends what they would buy MUGGER III if they had unlimitedcash at their disposal. Thirteen out of 15 pupils chose some kind of Pokemonparaphernalia, speaking in a code that was foreign even to me, and I'm prettymuch of an expert on the fad. Once that was completed the kids dug into thegummy bears, I stopped in at Mary's Fourth Estate newsstand andthen got back to work, to stare down the Deadline Nazis, as some crankout in Seattle I once knew would bleat repeatedly on difficult afternoons.
Lately,my younger son has a new shtick: He asks me to eat his toe, which I do and thenpretend to barf. Keeps him rolling with laughter for five minutes. I've alsobeen counseling both boys to watch out when they jump from the jungle gym inthe park. Why, Dad, they ask me like I'm some kind of sissy. I tell him aboutthe neck injury I incurred when I was 11: My brothers and I played a game ofleaping down the dozen steps of stairs in our house, with pillows at the bottom.One day I didn't make it all the way and pinched a nerve in my neck that hauntsme still. One or two muscles are so kinked up that if I read in a funny position,or slouch in a chair the wrong way, I'm punished by two days of solid pain.If I want to carry the boys on my shoulders I know there's a price to pay andTylenol doesn't do a damn bit of good. One time, years ago, the day beforeMrs. M and I went to Jamaica for a week, I fucked up my neck and literallycouldn't move it from side to side. My doctor prescribed medication that sortof relieved the pain; once I got on the rum tonics I was in a better state ofmind. Mrs. M thought it was a riot back then: A year ago, however, she encountereda similar ailment and finally knew what I was talking about.
On Saturdaymorning, after arising at 5 with the boys, playing with Pokemon cards and StarWars action figures and watching Secrets of the Animal Kingdom, thefour of us trooped down to the ballfield for the next-to-last Downtown LittleLeague game of the season. The NYPress Giants were playing the HighlandProduction Bulls-who sported slick fielding-and, although I'm not supposedto say this, pasted their opponents. Scotty Franchi hit a grand slammer,Gabe Wax hit the ball ferociously and Jack Reidy ran all overthe field trying to make an unassisted triple play. I think he actually succeeded.During the game, MUGGER III told me he had to piss like a racehorse so we wentover to the portable potty by the side of the field. It was pretty raunchy inside,but I told him to hold his nose and ignore the foul conditions. You're nevertoo young to cope with adversity: After all, 60 NYPress employees areforced to endure the shoddy amenities at 333 every day of the week.
Later inthe day, it seemed like the whole team went to the carnival between Reade andChambers St., organized by King's Pharmacy. Marc Brandell,King's chieftain, was a real mensch for throwing the affair for the neighborhoodkids: There were several rides-the Berry Go Round the favorite in ourfamily-and a cool guy who spun fresh cotton candy with the finesse of a glassblower.Junior claimed he puked in the Caterpillar ride but I think he was justjoshing around. There was a sub-rosa Miss Subway, as in the chain ofsandwiches, who showed up, a bit to Marc's consternation, since this was a noncommercial shindig, but she was colorful and grabbed a lot of attention, if not business.The most satisfying aspect of the carnival was that it was homemade: Not a travelingsausage vendor in sight, and none of those obnoxious carnies who travel fromweek to week to the city's overloaded schedule of prefab festivals. Even thoughone of the rides had a flat on the Jersey Turnpike early in the day,and the cops were slow to tow a couple of trucks that blocked the street, theKings carnival was a huge hit, and I'd say that Marc has etched himselfas one of the Good Guys-recalling the 60s WMCA DJs-of this tight-knitneighborhood.
I was upbefore everyone else on Father's Day and engaged in a lengthy instante-mail discussion with a fellow from Tennessee. Initially, he was complainingabout some technical aspect of our website-which I forwarded to Jeff Koyen-butthen we got down to politics. He was in Carthage for Al Gore'skickoff speech last week and wasn't impressed: Said that the Veep was imitatingGeorge W. Bush with his Spanish routine and that he definitely won'tvote for any Democrat next year. As for Bush, "It's a matter of whetherI want to pull the lever for someone who'll win or go with the Libertariancandidate." He then made the observation that Bill Kristol looksjust like Bob Woodward-perhaps, but thank God Kristol doesn't have thathorrendous Midwest accent of the wealthy author who squirrels away his bestmaterial for books rather than releasing more frequent front-page reports forThe Washington Post-but then I had to give up the iMac so MUGGERIII so could turn on his Superman CD-ROM.
When Mrs.M got up it was time for presents and this Dad made out like a prince: seersuckerswimming trunks, a summer sweater and snazzy blue and gold cufflinks. I waspermitted to watch the Sunday talk shows in relative silence and was lucky enoughto see George Will make a fool of Dick Gephardt on This Week.The Minority Leader couldn't back up a single claim of his about guns sold atflea markets, and when Will pressed on he just claimed he didn't have the statisticsin front of them, but it's an awful state of affairs and if it weren't for TomDeLay...
We thenwent to a theater in the East Village to see Tarzan, an absolutelydelightful movie, despite the Phil Collins soundtrack and RosieO'Donnell's voice for one of the apes. Our favorite part, all four ofus, was when young Tarzan jumped in the water from a cliff and then,from under the water, pulled the tail of an elephant, who screamed, "Ow,my butt!" Also, as usual, it was freezing inside. Don't these chain ownersrealize that it's 1999 and people don't escape to movie theaters anymore tobeat the heat? That almost everyone has some form of air conditioning?
Anyway,I'd heard on a talk radio show that Al Sharpton apostles were complainingabout Tarzan because it's set in Africa and therefore makes funof black people. Here we go again. First of all, I hope that linguists carrythe day soon and the silly term African-American is retired. C'mon: My grandparentswere born in Dublin but I describe myself as a white person who livesin the United States. That's accurate. Why the double standard?
Before Itook an afternoon nap, I brought the July 5 New Republic to bed and wasstartled by the most scathing review of Kurt Andersen's Turnof the Century I've read yet. This was incendiary material; the writer,Lee Siegel, seemed like a hyperactive preacher looking for one last glassof whiskey. I have no idea what his agenda was, or whether Marty Peretzput him up to it-TNR's irksome owner is feuding with James Cramer,a friend of Andersen-but once Siegel called TOC's author a "sociopath,"I knew it would be hard to get to sleep. Siegel writes: "Perhaps when thecentury does turn, the anthropologists will be able to examine why a book soempty of wit, imagination, and humanity is being hailed in the universe of newspapersand magazines as a work of wit, imagination and humanity."
But that'sjust a touch of Siegel's wrath toward the Milosevic of American letters.He traces Andersen's career, often inaccurately, and dismisses his cofoundingof Spy-easily the most influential magazine startup in the past two decades-asthe work of a social climber. "[A]t Spy, Andersen knew how to flatterthe rich and famous by provoking them, just as a certain kind of undergraduatelearns how to flatter his instructors by provoking them. An undergraduate approachto life, presented as sophisticated entertainment, and vouched for by a lavishexpense account, appealed to a lot of people in Manhattan in the Reagan years."
I couldgo on, but you get the point. Wouldn't it be splendid if this remarkably nastyessay about Kurt Andersen was entirely honest, and unadulterated by past snubs,either social or professional, or a command from his editor for a hit job? Idoubt it, but Lee, here's a deal: If this review wasn't about settling a score,give me a call. NYPress is always on the lookout for writers who canconjure up such pure invective. And at this paper, unlike TNR, you'llhave real editors and factcheckers working on your pieces, so that the mistakesthat any journalist makes will be caught, and won't wind up marring your printedmaterial.
Siegel'sreview didn't induce drowsiness, so I turned to Dana Milbank's"White House Watch" and that did the trick. As I've written previously,Milbank, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is Peretz's pet lapdogfor the current Gore campaign. I can just see Dana in a pen, hypnotized by ProfessorMarty-when he isn't distracted by calls from the Vice President or Israel-andtold exactly how to spread the gospel of Señor Gore's destiny. In hiscurrent dispatch, Milbank obediently yips and yaps at George W. Bush,complaining about the press accommodations in his campaign and making a jokeabout the Governor's "blue" blood, as if Gore were an immigrant whoclimbed to this level in politics by dint of his hard work and charisma.
Milbankwasn't present for the Iowa swing of Bush's whirlwind trip last week,but he had a "good excuse": "I was picked off by Al Gore, whoheld a series of meetings with journalists yesterday at his residence. It wasan obvious ploy to reduce Bush's press contingent, and I fell for it. Giventhe choice of Bush's plane with 105 reporters or Gore's dining room with threeothers, I opted to watch Bush's Iowa jaunt on TV."
But ourunbiased reporter caught up with Bush's "Great Expectations" tourin New Hampshire, where he grew tired of the candidate's "pleasantplatitudes," as opposed to Gore's "mind-numbing array of proposals."Yet, just paragraphs later, Milbank does a 180 and says, "Bush had beenmaking some troubling nods to the right on this tour." It seems that Milbankis disturbed by Bush's "conservative boilerplate" of cutting taxes, an increased military budget and partially privatizing Social Security.Maybe it's just me, and a majority of the country, but those are the kind ofissues that will send Marty Peretz's protege into a frustrating, if lucrative,retirement. Al From Baltimore Reports June16: First, I laughed out loud reading that hilariouse-mail you sent me. Is there another business in America with interofficecorrespondence like "I'm not going to be a Nazi, but I'm not going to suckhis cock, either"? ExcellentMUGGER this week, number one or two, post-impeachment. Where's Irving?Taki was good again, and of course I enjoyed Jim Holt. JonAmes had a great idea, but went on a little too long-the story wasn't asfunny as the premise. The rest looks great and I'll get to it later. The airof resignation in Peggy Noonan's WSJ Hillary piecebrought me down. I think you've nailed Hillary on the same themes more conciselyand more effectively, with verve. I think you should do an op-ed piece for theJournal expanding on the theme you developed with Jack Newfield-thesepeople would be supporting Giuliani (and giving Hillary a Bronxcheer) if they stopped to think for one minute. Haddassah has throwntheir support behind Hillary! Can you believe it?
Remind meto tell you about Annie and her yearbook. Had Annie's middle school graduationlast week along with Lucy's HS graduation. They were both radiating happiness,Dina and I were both a bit melancholy. Lucy's graduation was a stereotypicalprep school graduation. Go out there, be whatever you want to be, women cando anything they want, blah, blah, blah. Still, it was our daughter's stereotypicalgraduation, so it was beautiful. Lucy's working at her first two real jobs.She's a camp counselor and also working in a sandwich shop. Her first day inthe sandwich shop she had to mop and sweep the floor for two hours. She hatedit; I loved it, because I was thinking "character-builder." I toldher it's good to do shitty work like that for a piece of your life, so you canappreciate the people who have to do it all the time and so you can appreciatewhat you have. We'll see. Later.
June18: As for the rest of the issue, it was a good one. The best all-around"Top Drawer" I can remember. Taki's wasn't quite as good as the lasttwo. But I loved Toby Young. Because John's lead item was aboutpsychiatry, I read it and it was very interesting. The second media item waseven better. I loved "rots of ruck." I haven't heard that for about20 years. I like the illo of Sig and Jesus duking it out, butI think his columns need more to help draw you in, like the reviews in the Tabdo.
Actually,I've read everything in the front section except Knipfel and Monahan'spiece. What was up with Caldwell's column? Is he becoming the anti-MUGGER?I liked Corn on Bradley (surprise). And even though I never readthe "Art" column by the guy with three names, I always enjoy the artthat accompanies it.
Fortunately,I don't think I'm going to have to see Tarzan. I saw Austin Powerstwo nights ago, and it was alternately funny and gross. Sam and Ann lovedit. Pokemon card-collecting has hit my house hard. The only thing Samwants to do is go out and buy more.
June21: Far from being an irrelevancy, which he seems to be on the surface,Bill Clinton continues to turn the country upside down. Just as Monicagateturned Republicans into the biggest defenders of sexual harassment law, Clintoncontinues to transform conservatives into latter-day 60s radicals. Post-Kosovo,many conservatives, some of whom write for you, now see the U.S. as the evilempire, killing people all over the world for the benefit of its political andbusiness elite.
As GeorgeWill pointed out yesterday on tv with Tom DeLay, Republicans arenow preaching that we live in a "sick culture" in need of major overturnor repair. Republicans are now crying about the overemphasis on materialismin our culture. Republicans now talk about (metaphorically) "blowing upour schools." And Ruby Ridge and Waco have become the KentState for conservatives in the 90s. How did we get here?
The problem,I think, is that Republicans haven't yet understood that their big ideas haveprevailed, and still act like the outsider party.
Have theywon over the media/Beltway elite? No. They're still hated, and this doesmake it harder for them to win national elections. But a large majority of thiscountry accepts law and order, capitalism, strict limits on welfare and a robustnational defense as the natural order of things in this country. This wasn'tso 25 years ago.
Republicansneed to realize, the gloom and doom guys don't win the elections in the USA.Reagan transformed the Republican Party, as well as the country, throughhis sunny optimism. George W. Bush realizes this. Hating Clinton, asmost red-blooded Republicans still do, will not get Bush elected. Hating ourcountry won't either. But Where Was Josef? Who didat least 30 people ask me to point out at NYPress' Summer Guideparty at the Puck Bldg. last Friday night? If you guessed our advertisingdirector Jim Katocin, or new publisher Michael O'Hara, you'reout of luck and owe me 20 clams. Why, the correct answer is of course AmySohn. Not that she doesn't love the attention, especially with her new bookRun Catch Kiss out in bookstores, a long feature story in the Postlast week and tv appearances too numerous to list. Hey, that's part of my job:Give the guests what they want, power to the people and all that jazz. And soI did my best to locate Amy and then jaunt off to another part of the room andpress some more flesh. But speakingof old hippie days, it did strike me as ironic that it was Clayton Patterson,a lord of the Lower East Side, who asked my permission to tell the DJto turn the music down a decibel or two. It was loud, ear-bleed loud-althoughthe tunes were custom-made for a mixture of invitees who ranged in age from15 to 80-and even some of the musicians and rock critics were getting hoarsefrom talking over a Latin beat. It was terrific to see Mike Doughty backin fighting shape, even as he's pushing 30. It reminded me of a night back inDecember of '92, pre-Soul Coughing days, when Doughty, aside from writingbrilliant music criticism for NYPress, was taking tickets and pickingup used condoms at the Knitting Factory. Mrs. M and I were there havinga few drinks with John Strausbaugh and I made a joke about Doughty callinghis guitar an "ax." He got a little pissed and replied, "Hey,just because my dick still gets hard you don't have to make fun of me."Strausbaugh pointed to Junior in Mrs. M's arms and just said that he didn'tthink MUGGER had any trouble in that department. Doughty grunted and went backto work.
GeorgeTabb was all over the room showing off his NYPress Pussy nametag, attorney Andy Krentz in tow, and traded barbs with fellow musiccritics Adam Heimlich and Joe Harrington (down from Boston).Godfrey Cheshire (who looked like a camel of a different color with hiscontact lenses), Jonathan Kalb, Armond White and Matt ZollerSeitz hung out, while New York Hangover staffer Bob Falk smokedunfiltered Chesterfields and complained that he couldn't find any bourbon.Holding court at one end of the room was editor John Strausbaugh, wearinga butt-ugly tie straight out of John Waters' Pecker: Johnexplained it to Norah Vincent: "So, I'm in a junk store in Baltimoreand I see this tie on the floor that was kinda cool. I told the guy, 'I'll giveyou a nickel for it.' He got me up to a quarter and now it's in my fancy collection,hon."
MattDrudge slipped into the Puck Ballroom, escorted by the fabulous LucianneGoldberg (whose charming husband Sidney, unfortunately, was a no-show,on business in Zurich), and they quickly got together with pinko radiohost Lynn Samuels, a real dear whose column was killed by the LongIsland Voice. She said her editor, who doesn't watch cable, claimed hisreaders weren't interested in politics. Lynn will be happier than MUGGER atthe reports we've heard from two printers that the Voice offshoot mightbe closing soon. Matt apologized for his attire-he was wearing shorts, arrivingstraight from the airport from his Y2K bunker in Key Largo-but as usualat a NYPress party there was no need for that. He was buzzing about thisand that scoop, but naturally wouldn't budge an inch on the details, just promisingthat they'd be juicy.
We wereall disappointed that two invitees, Hillary Clinton and Mayor Giuliani,decided to make other plans, but there were more than enough notables to makean evening of it. Like George Szamuely, whose front-page piece this weekon the Second Cold War is bound to cause more "Mail" controversy thananything he's written for NYPress yet, and that's saying something. His"Top Drawer" mate Toby Young was chatting away, telling mehe's coming up with a Talk story for a Brit publication that'll makemy blurb from last week look like a Rolling Stone Michael Douglaspuff piece. (By the way, an impeccable source told me that Talk's Hillarycover has been scrapped: The cognoscenti at the monthly decided the First Ladyjust isn't photogenic enough for their debut issue. The June 28 New Yorksays that Tina Brown was rejected by both Brad Pitt and LeoDiCaprio; if it's not Liz Taylor, there's always Anne Roiphe.)Toby brought along his friend Tom Donatelli, a terrific fellow he metat Oxford, now with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, althoughhe shares a passion for politics and journalism. We had a ball discussing somethe mainstream press' more loathsome creatures, who needn't be named at thispoint.
My friendMichael Formica and his companion Bob Hiemstra made a lengthyappearance, and I complimented him on the interior design masterpiece he createdover a six-month period in our new Tribeca loft. Michael's such a familiarfigure at the homestead that he's well acquainted with our boys, and is tickledthat Junior is off his James Bond kick. That makes three of us, includingMrs. M, who did the heavy lifting with Michael on making our home a cozy nest.All I did was sign checks and insist on a huge tv so that I could watch Hardballand laugh at Newsweek's Howard Fineman or Time's KarenTumulty stating the obvious, such as, "Well, Chris, the polls don'tmean much at this point, and after all, a month in politics is a lifetime."Thanks for the trenchant observations, guys.
BarryMurphy, who also worked on the apartment, and was accompanied by JeanineFlaherty, and I had a long chat; it turns out he's from Long Islandas well (Central Islip), and remembers it as a key farming part of thestate, where you could dig up mussels and clams by the bushel and there wasn'tthe congestion that clogs up Suffolk County today. Barry's a Vietnamvet, and wrote the following in a '75 op-ed piece in The New York Times:"There was fear and exhaustion, and, on the perimeter defense, for thosepeering into the swaying elephant grass every shadow was a sniper-terror.In dark rain, two infantry companies on our flanks were confused by incomingsniper fire, and they fought each other throughout the night; in turn we firedon our own flanks. The initiation was over."
It was apleasure to introduce Boy Genius Mike Wartella to two of Manhattan'scomic legends: Kaz and Ben Katchor, the latter of whom debutedhis famous "Julius Knipl" in NYPress back in our first issuein 1988. Ben, who was effusive as he gets, simply told me, "Well, you'reover the hump. Everybody I talk to reads and loves NYPress. It wasn'tlike that even three years ago." I speculated that it was the Voicegoing free that vaulted this paper to the forefront-that and our switch to thebroadsheet/tab format-but he gave his patented shrug, and said simply, "Whoknows how these things happen? You've got people here who were 12 yearsold when the paper first hit the streets."
As usual,there wasn't enough voice power to spend a lot of time talking with everyoneI wanted to. Still, it was grand to see National Review's Jay Nordlingerand his wife Pia, who works at the Post, as well as her colleagueKeith Kelly; Marita and Michael Altman; Sam Schulman;Edie Winograde; Andrey Slivka and his brother Nik,who look like twins, although separated by four Mad Ukrainian years (it wasa little unsettling to see Miss Sohn nibbling on Andrey's ear, but she did have an image to live up to); managing editor Hillary Kearns and Don MacLeod;Jeff and Amy Koyen; Giselle De Vera and Julie Griner; Chris DiFrancesco and Ellen Rand; the Ruxton Group'sSusan Belair and Selene Rodriguez; gallery owner Jon Schorr,who's off on a roots-finding trip to Berlin, Austria and Russia;Suzanne McChesney, Dan Geraci, Libra Tomei and LeahTramante from Harvest Communications; Danny Hellman,who snuck a caricature of himself into a terrific Wall Street Journalillustration last week; Mark Poutenis, who drew that wicked caricatureof Hillary Clinton and George Steinbrenner for MUGGER last week;Pam Richardson from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge; Zoe Smith andAndy Jaye; the irrepressible Alan Cabal; research editor BethBroome with Mauricio Salazar; circulation manager John Baxter,who just completed the difficult task of placing our 300 new street dispensersthroughout Manhattan; The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto;Forbes' Tim Ferguson, who happened to be visiting from his LosAngeles post; David Braff from Union Square Wines and Spiritsand our ace researcher Tanya Richardson.
My particularthanks go to NYPress office manager Tara Morris, who performeda magnificent job in organizing the entire shindig-with lots of help from MelissaMandell and Alex Schweitzer-coordinating with restaurants like Rice,Indiana Market and Catering, Emerald Planet, Monk, Bagatelle,Bar on A, Onieal's Grand Street, Johnny Fox's, Tibeton Houston, Nathan Hale's, Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Ferraraand Tonic, procuring the bartenders, balloons and booze and still lookingas radiant as ever.