The Rock Star's Arrival

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:20

    The Rock Star's Arrival It's never easy to schedule a birthday party for kids?it seems one or two pop up every week?so Junior's bash fell nine days after he actually turned seven, a fact that was completely irrelevant to the 20 or so attendees at his bowling bonanza last Friday afternoon at Chelsea Piers. I arrived from work exactly at the designated start, but some of his pals were already lugging balls up to the lanes, munching on chicken fingers and drinking more Coke than was healthy. What the hell. Junior was scooting all about his cordoned-off party patch, taking his turn at the tenpins, greeting new guests, asking me to take pictures, and, most importantly, keeping an eye trained for his guest of honor, Mr. George Tabb. When George and his wife Wendy were a mere 30 minutes late?they live in the City Hall District (really Tribeca, but we'll let that go) and it was hard to get a cab with Rudy's Yankees parade bollixing up traffic?my son was getting frantic. "Call him, Dad, please!!!" he pleaded, and I did, knowing it would do little good. Thank the Lord the pair arrived around 4. Junior was beside himself, yelling to all his friends: "Stop what you're doing! My friend George the Rock Star is here!" I swear there were a few gasps, as the first-graders looked in awe at George, in his leather, and bleached hair, along with his glamorous chick. Some even asked for autographs, completely puzzling the parents.

    It was a grand affair, with a lovely administrator instructing the kids on the bowling rules, making sure they kept their drinks and pretzels behind the yellow lines, and making life easier in this swarm of chaos for Mrs. M and me. Next it was off to a private room for pizza, more soda and a chocolate cake, and now George lived up to his legend by teaching Junior how to talk like a munchkin by inhaling helium. That was one of the party's major hits, at least for my boy's friends, if not for Dad. The scene sent me quietly into the near-future, when Mrs. M and I will have more to worry about, behavior-wise, than simply Junior and MUGGER III squabbling over who takes control of the living room tv. When the cake came out and Junior blew out the candles, his buddies from school all sang a chant, followed by thunderous applause, and our seven-year-old just lit up, with his little brother looking proudly up at him. I'd say it was a Kodak moment but that would be frightfully out-of-date, considering that the camera of the moment is the i-zone, that Polaroid that spits out instant small images that can be pasted anywhere.

    Believe me, this plastic contraption (probably made in a country that Pat Buchanan has supremacy dreams about) is so red-hot that it's almost impossible to get film. Mike Gentile was kind enough on Friday to get me a few rolls and it took him forever to find them: all sold out at most stores, he finally got the last four in the hellish Toys R Not Us at Herald Square. It was sort of like trying to find the Britannia Beanie Baby in London last spring.

    After the cake and helium, the celebrants all sprinted to the video arcade and this is where I started to go slightly batty. It was all too dizzy, with dozens of machines making discordant noises, as the preteens tried to collect points on their magnetic cards to win cheap prizes like vampire teeth and Pokemon pencils. What a scene: MUGGER III and I played air hockey, which was cool, but all the simulated race-car driving and waterskiing, the pounding of frogs with felt hammers, action figures that barked instructions at the players?it was trippy and lasted too long. I was talking to George and Wendy, just staring slackjawed at the room, and the setting seemed like an unbelievable chapter from a crummy science fiction novel that I read 30 years ago. None of the kids wanted to leave, including ours, but finally parents gathered them up and we got back to our Tribeca homestead, where Junior built a Lego model and Mrs. M and I ordered takeout from Kitchenette and Il Mattone, respectively. A little tv, some Dr. Seuss stories for MUGGER III and then all four of us conked out for the night.

    Who Is John McCain? As transparent excuses go, at least Gov. George Bush had a pretty decent one for skipping the "debate" in New Hampshire last week. Insisting he wanted to be by his wife Laura's side as she received an honor from Southern Methodist University was a lot better than the "other commitments" dodge he pulled a few weeks ago. It was, as they say in the 90s, a family values conflict, and can't hurt with women voters, but probably a mistake. Still, in truth, if any of the other GOP contestants had the advantage of Bush's staggering amount of cash, dominance in the polls and overwhelming stack of endorsements, they wouldn't be attending every rinky-dink town meeting either. Steve Forbes can mouth off all he wants to the New York Post's Deborah Orin about Bush's absence ("Blah, blah, blah, blah," he told her, and self-righteously said it was an "insult" to New Hampshire voters) and produce attack ads to run in the early primary states, but the plain fact is that the publisher is going nowhere in this race. He's simply wasting his family's inheritance on an ego-fueled road to single-digit finishes. Forbes is a smart man with a logical vision of scrapping the IRS and would be a valuable addition to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey, a seat that would be his for the asking. But he's strung out on the presidential narcotic and refuses to face reality. As John Fund's article in The Wall Street Journal last Thursday blasts home, POW John McCain's free ride with the media will crash soon, but probably not until he's on the cover of at least one dimwitted newsweekly. (More on Fund below.) In last Saturday's New York Times, for example, there was a shameful puff piece on McCain, headlined "Bobbing Up in the Polls, McCain Is Feeling Buoyant," in which Melinda Henneberger gushed about how much "fun" the Arizona Senator is having on the hustings. She writes: "McCain, who bounced onto his campaign bus at 6:45 this morning in an almost illegally good mood...was, on the other hand, completely accessible throughout the day," in comparison to Bush, who keeps a tighter reign on reporters. The Times reporter jauntily noted that McCain was "[M]ainlining glazed donuts and mixing it up with reporters in the back of his bus," and never did get around to telling readers exactly what polls McCain was "bobbing" up in. Details. (Actually, while McCain has pulled to within 12 points of Bush in New Hampshire, in the latest Newsweek poll, he's trailing the Governor 63 percent to 12 percent nationally.)

    Michael Kramer, in last Sunday's Daily News, wasn't quite as obsequious as Henneberger?he actually questioned whether McCain's frankness was an "act"?but he's caught the Senator's "truth" bug as well. Criticizing Bush for not attending the New Hampshire meeting, and predicting that he made a big mistake by doing so, Kramer fully bought into McCain's corruption-in-politics act that's so popular along the Amtrak corridor, especially among Democrats and Independents. How all these journalists have advanced to their cushy positions is beyond me, especially when they can't spot a phony like McCain. I suppose it says as much about their bosses?Arthur Sulzberger Jr., out in your country home, ruminating about the homeless over Sunday brunch, can you hear me??as them.

    But Kramer is nonetheless smitten. He writes: "The polls say the public doesn't care about how our politics is financed, but the audience in New Hampshire sure did. They asked about it repeatedly and clearly warmed to McCain each time he invoked his desire to fix it. Overall, one had the sense that this particular politician means it, and that he just might be able to pull it off if he ever gets the chance to fight for it from the Oval Office. Whenever Mr. Bucks finally shows up?and he has to at some point?the battle over the role of money in politics could be joined in earnest, and that will be worth skipping whatever else is on the tube to see."

    And leave it to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, one of the media elite's Top 5 blowhards, to write yet another testimonial to McCain in his "Between the Lines" column for the Nov. 8 edition. Better watch out John, Alter warns, crusty journalists may love a maverick but they can turn on a dime. Sure. If that were true, McCain, the candidate of The New York Times and Washington Post, would be playing golf with Dan Quayle by now. As is often the case with pundits explaining their fixation with this hypocrite, Alter insists on telling his readers just how he got to know the Great McCain. It was just after he traveled to Vietnam in '95, he writes, and he was simply struck with the Senator's ability to joke about his captivity. That McCain might be putting on a show for Washington reporters Alter doesn't consider. Many cynics, myself included, have ascribed the baby boomer gush-fest over McCain to James Fallows-like guilt over their lack of wartime experience, but Alter says in reality "it's more like awe over his lack of bitterness."

    Alter indicts, inadvertently, fellow journalists in their schoolgirl crushes on McCain. His quote from veteran tv correspondent Bruce Morton, now of CNN, is a beaut: "What we all like about McCain is that he might actually govern on principle, and what a strange sight that would be." This is truly sickening stuff. Alter continues: "Even if he loses, McCain could have an important impact on the Republicans. It's been 75 years since the GOP boasted any major figure who described himself as a reformer." Some would argue that Barry Goldwater, just a generation ago, was a real reformer, not a fake like McCain, but I don't suppose the '64 version of Goldwater is on Alter's radar screen.

    I just love it that the theme this year in presidential politics is campaign finance reform. Where were all these good-government journalists when Jerry Brown was sleeping on couches and raising money with an 800-number in '92 while telling the truth about Bill Clinton's corrupt regime in Arkansas? Sucking up to Clinton, that's where. The truth is: The American public, as a whole, doesn't care about money in politics. The fact that a number of screened people at Dartmouth last week showed up to ask questions means nothing; they're part of the 1 percent who take politics seriously. A chilling number of this country's populace can't even give an interviewer the correct name of the Vice President, let alone members of the Cabinet. They care about the economy, crime, schools and whether their sons or daughters will be sent to war. In other words, about themselves. Any journalist, or politician, who deludes himself into thinking otherwise is just blowing gas.

    Fund's seminal McCain piece on Oct. 28 was deceptively polite, acknowledging his "courage and candor" in the military and Senate. Still, it was the first mainstream article of this presidential campaign, tellingly datelined Phoenix and headlined "Arizona's Unfavorite Son," that goes beyond McCain's faux-folksy bullshitting with gullible Beltway reporters. As I've written for months, this walking time bomb is a fraud who's hated in his own backyard and has a tempestuous relationship with journalists in his home state, who know that the Senator is not only quick with an off-color joke but also a first-class scumbag who grandstands for willing audiences. Fund says that conservatives in Arizona aren't as compelled by McCain's antitobacco stance as Democrats in Washington and that the most current poll in the state shows Bush defeating him by a 35-31 percent margin. His most recent blowup was after The New York Times reported that the state's GOP governor, Jane Hull, endorsed Bush over McCain; the Senator immediately accused the Texan's campaign of dirty tricks, releasing a statement that said: "Apparently the memo has gone out from the Bush campaign to start attacking John McCain?something that I'd hoped wouldn't happen."

    Fund concludes: "[A] president can't rule by heroic example alone; he must build and lead a team. In light of Mr. McCain's record and reputation in Arizona, one must ask how effective a Lone Ranger like him would be in the White House. After all, as powerful a bully pulpit as a president commands, he also has to be able to win the support of Congress."

    But the Journal piece was nothing compared to an editorial on Oct. 31 in the Arizona Republic. Called "Does McCain have presidential mettle?," the statement was an astonishing indictment of a home-state elected official, one the newspaper has endorsed every time he's run for Senate. Writing about McCain's hissy fit over Hull, the Republic said: "Even more disturbing was McCain's reaction to Hull's simple expression of truth. He noted his propensity for passion but insisted that he doesn't 'insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that.'"

    "This is, quite simply, hogwash.

    "McCain often insults people and flies off the handle. This newspaper has chronicled just some of these unfortunate exhibitions. There was the time McCain blew up publicly at a Jewish man at the Camelback Inn who objected to McCain's reference to 'Christian' compassion for the homeless. There have been the many times McCain has called reporters 'liars' and 'idiots' when they have had the audacity to ask him unpleasant, but pertinent, questions."

    I guess Beltway reporters like the Times' Henneberger, Slate's Jacob Weisberg (possibly the journalist the farthest up McCain's ass), Thomas Oliphant, Charles Lane, Lars-Erik Nelson, Albert Hunt, Margaret Carlson, Howard Fineman, Eleanor Clift, to name just the obvious, haven't had the same experience as Arizona's journalists.

    The Republic continues about Hull: "This is, sadly, not an untypical McCain remark: unfounded, sarcastic and condescending. It demeans Hull as an independent political actor, and pretty well validates rather than refutes her description of their relationship and his treatment of her. McCain is running dangerously close to sanctimony in his bid for the presidency, depicting himself as the last honorable politician in America?

    "If McCain is truly a serious contender for the presidency, it is time the rest of nation learned about the John McCain we know in Arizona. There is much there to admire. After all, we have supported McCain in his past runs for Senate.

    "But the presidency is different. There is also reason to seriously question whether McCain has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States."

    I'd imagine George W. Bush has won the Republic's endorsement in the Arizona primary.

    But that doesn't mean squat to the Times. It's obvious that the Gore broadsheet will attempt to sabotage Bush's campaign just as it did his father's in '88 and '92: on the same day as Henneberger's valentine to McCain there was a front-page story about Bush's ties to financier Richard Rainwater. Barry Meier writes: "A review of Bush's relationship with Rainwater did not produce evidence that Bush, as Governor, has sought to aid the businessman, though there would be more potential for conflict if he became President." I'm sure the Times already has an investigative team at the ready should Bush become president, but isn't it a bit premature to announce it before any primary votes have been cast?

    And on Nov. 1, there was yet another front-pager on Bush, this time written by Frank Bruni about the Governor's stump speech, that rarely varies. Noting that Al Gore has changed his standard speech "in midstream" and that Pat Buchanan is liable to say anything at anytime, Bruni says about Bush: "But the ink on Mr. Bush's oratorical calling card has almost dried, and it spells out, as well as any other aspect of his campaign, the personality he wants to project, the place on the political spectrum he wants to inhabit and the priorities he wants to set."

    Bush's lack of oratorical skill is front-page news? I think that deficiency has been amply, and correctly, discussed in the past year. Yet the Arizona Republic's denunciation of John McCain is relegated to page A-15, a small Associated Press dispatch.

    Despite the beginning of the McCain backlash, I expect that the two-man race the media desires in the GOP, to mirror that between Bill Bradley and Gore in the Democratic primaries, will materialize for a short period of time. That's not at all bad news for Bush: the McCain boomlet is essentially harmless, as the Frank Capra character from Arizona won't go far in the conservative GOP primaries (accepting the gospel that New Hampshire is always a wild card). On Nov. 1, syndicated columnist Robert Novak, in analyzing the Dartmouth meeting, spelled out McCain's problem as the political calendar advances: "Planned or not, he sounded markedly liberal for a self-described 'proud conservative.' His closing statement could have been drafted for President Clinton: 'There are great causes in the world, where there are hungry children, where there's seniors without shelter, and where people are killing each other because of ethnic and tribal hatreds."

    As the expected Republican nominee Bush needs to get his face bloodied?granted, he's already been scrutinized by reporters more thoroughly than any other candidate, especially McCain?on the way to Philadelphia. And the mainstream media's bias toward the hypocritical Arizonan?Christ, he even admits that he's part of the campaign finance problem that he barks about?is just part of it.

    The Democratic town hall meeting in Hanover on Oct. 27 was far more instructive in its meaning: Gore's advisers can spin all they want how their candidate is now "connecting" with voters, but it's just not so. He's still tanking. Bradley will lose the general election against Bush, I think, but right now he's the favorite for the Democratic nomination. There he stood, and sat, rumpled and professorial, speaking what seemed like McGovernite gibberish to me (that Hillaryesque health care system just for starters), but is the mother's milk to members of his party. Although I don't think anyone understood his call for gay rights: "I support gays being able to serve openly in the military. If a gay American can serve openly in the White House, in the Congress...why can't they serve openly in the U.S. military? It doesn't make sense." I happen to agree with the gays-in-the-military part, but I had no idea that a "gay American" has served "openly" in the White House. That Clinton, he's quite a guy: First Black President, First Hispanic President, First Woman President, First Greaser President, First Chinese President, First Cokehead President and now, I guess, First Gay President.

    Meanwhile, Gore embarrassed himself thoroughly, popping up and down like a malfunctioning jack-in-the-box, darting all over the floor, asking personal questions, telling stupid jokes and overall giving the impression of a brownnosing grad student. He can't pull off Clinton's I-feel-your-pain shtick and looks stupid trying to; and though he was smartly attired, a new suit can't erase the picture of a desperate politician who just knows opportunity has passed him by. (Time's scoop over the weekend that quasi-feminist author Naomi Wolf has been on Gore's payroll, teaching him how to win the women's vote and pick out a sexy wardrobe, is just more evidence that this is a campaign in deep, deep trouble.)

    If these two really do debate six or seven more times before the Iowa caucuses, I have no idea how many personas Gore will try out, but he'll probably lose votes each time. Meanwhile, steady Bradley will store up Gore's attacks in his head and when he's ready to unload, watch out. He was smart to leave Gore's baggage?the finance "irregularities" of the '96 campaign and the Veep's absurd defense of Clinton on Impeachment Day?alone for the time being. With such potent ammunition, why waste it several months before the first votes are cast?

    And Clinton is still sticking needles in the loyal Gore, telling CBS' Early Show on Monday morning that Bradley is running a "credible" campaign. You'd think he'd keep his trap shut, but no. Clinton: "Bill Bradley is an intelligent, a compelling man with a good life story and a lot of friends built up in professional basketball and 18 years in the Senate and all the other things he's done. And he's running a very credible campaign."

    Oh yeah, his buddy Al Gore? Clinton said that if Gore can establish "his own identity" he thinks the Veep will be nominated. At least Gore has one rabid fan in Washington. Appearing on Crossfire Oct. 27, Dem. Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, one of the President's noisiest supporters in the impeachment battle, had strong words of praise for Gore. Asked by conservative host Mary Matalin to defend his statement that Gore's been a leader, Wexler responded: "Led how? He's a part of an administration that has led us to our greatest economic expansion in American history. Led how? He has reinvented government..."

    Hmm. I've missed that "reinvention." Is the U.S. a monarchy now?

    But this is my favorite Wexler moment, and it's one to savor: "No doubt Bill Bradley is a decent man. He's an honest man. He was in the Senate for, what, 12, 18 years? What do most people remember him for? His jump shot. And I am a Knick fan.

    "But Al Gore has got policy achievement after policy achievement. When you talk about feeling?I had a conversation with Al Gore two weeks ago about prescription drugs, and that man felt the pain that people in Florida are feeling, people all across the country are feeling... Al Gore feels what common people, what working people, are going through."

    The New York Times, of course, was delighted by the town meeting, saying in an Oct. 29 editorial that the Democratic Party, by golly, has "fielded two formidable political performers."

    Small-Town Sketches I had the oddest half-conversation last Saturday morning, at Junior's soccer game, with a devoted mom who was cheering her daughter to glory on the field. We didn't know each other, but you get to talking, and I casually mentioned how buggy it seemed to me that about a third of the boys playing in the game had 60s-style long hair, which often leads to innocently confusing the seven- or eight-year-olds with girls. "Oh," said the woman, "we just call them the Tribeca trustfund kids." I thought that was a terribly catty comment. One, I know the parents of many of the longhairs, and there's not a trust to be found. Second, it shows the still-present division between people who've been in the neighborhood for a long time, or participated in the Downtown Soccer or Baseball Leagues, and those who are newer to the area. I've lived in Tribeca since late '87, which is a fairly long haul, but since I advocate more commerce in the neighborhood?uh, like stores and other retail establishments besides restaurants?to some that puts me in the category of a newcomer. Not that I give a shit.

    Tribeca's a terrific part of town despite the parochial gossip and snubbing and snooting that mar public meeting places. I try not to pay attention to those who speak in native tongue down here, and enjoy the environment. We have lots of friends, of various political persuasions by the way, and spend time with them. One of the most happy, and curious, coincidences is that one of my oldest friends, Elena Seibert, whom I've known since seventh grade in Huntington, lives just a few blocks away with her husband Alan Goodman and two children Perry and Lily.

    It's both natural and strange to spend time with Elena: we worked together on the ninth-grade school paper, The Echo, went to high school parties together, and visited each other during college years. I'd come up from Baltimore to see her at Barnard and just marvel at sights and conveniences in NYC I take for granted now. After years of living almost under the Brooklyn Bridge, before the Rouse Co. took over, Elena and Alan moved into the neighborhood. A friendship that spans from the 60s to the millennium is something neither of us would've predicted long ago when we'd hang out at Kropotkin Records, stage photo shoots at the seminary grounds near Cold Spring Harbor and go to Jones Beach and Joni Mitchell concerts. One of life's rich pageants. (Evoking REM, even though I don't particularly care for Jim Carrey, the trailer Mrs. M and I saw for Man on the Moon looks pretty awesome, if not as sensational as the feature we saw that day, the spooky but yuppie American Beauty, with its David Lynch touches washing over a hyperrealistic thirtysomething episode.)

    In fact, just last week Mrs. M, Junior and MUGGER III went over to Elena's loft to experiment with a project of Alan's, Red Rocket , an online toy store owned by Nickelodeon where you can find all the Nick staples?Rugrats, Blue's Clues, Hey, Arnold!, etc.?but also classic and up-to-the-minute wares that aren't available in stores. The site also sells other gear, like music, books and home furnishings; the company finds out what kids really want by bringing a bunch of them together, letting them loose and opening packages. Preteen focus groups. Nickelodeon's been a staple in our home for several years now, and after this visit, both of our boys wanted to visit Red Rocket, as if they don't try to monopolize the computers enough with CD-ROMs and hopeful jaunts to eBay.

    Halloween combined with the end of Daylight Saving Time makes for too long a day. MUGGER III and I were up extra early and he kept bugging me about when the parade at Washington Market Park would start; oh, in about 12 hours I told him. Okay, he said, then I better get my costume on. What an innocent disinterest in reality. I was pleasantly surprised to find, turning on The Drudge Report, that The Boston Globe ran a front-page story that Sunday on the woeful fortunes of Talk magazine. I tried not to snicker too loudly, lest I wake up my wife and older son. Headlined "All talked out?," Fred Kaplan's report was filled with the gripes of ex-Talk employees, all of which made for fine predawn reading.

    Sunday dragged on and finally it was time for the Greenwich St. parade. The boys were costumed as Ninjas, one the Panther, the other the Phoenix, while Mrs. M was a benevolent queen with a long velvet cape and I went simply, in mask, as former president George Bush. It was a mob scene at the park, naturally, with the kids running all over and parents trying to keep their eyes on them, and I was glad when it was time to take a break before the trick-or-treating exercise. George and Wendy joined us, and brought along their dog Scooter, who was outfitted as a rabbi, and so the group of us marched up and down Hudson St., with the boys sneaking little candy bars along the way. By the time we got home, all the Three Musketeers bars we left outside our door were gone, and the kids just collapsed into bed. Exhausted, I think MUGGER III has now reconsidered his opinion of Halloween as "my most favorite holiday in the universe." Me too.

    Back at Marty's Think Tank I waded through a lot of stupid political articles this week, but for sheer waste of space tops in the field was Dana Milbank's "Campaign Journal" in the Nov. 15 New Republic, an effort I doubt was influenced by that journal's recent change of editors: Owner Martin Peretz's panicky replacement of the steady Charles Lane with an Al Gore puppet, Peter Beinart, couldn't have driven the Jonathan Alter-in-waiting Milbank deeper into the Veep's back pocket. Need a shopworn topic to ruminate on as deadline approaches? Why not campaign finance reform; there certainly hasn't been much written about that liberal favorite in the past 12 hours. And so Milbank opens his piece in stand-up comic mode: "For Halloween this year, I want to dress up as something really scary. That is why I'll be going as Senator Mitch McConnell, and my wife will be outfitted as the Kentucky Republican's omnipresent sidekick, Soft Money. She'll be in a green foam-rubber ensemble; I'll wear the usual McConnell accessories?horns, pitchfork, tail, cash-stuffed pockets."

    In reality, Beltway journalists might save some of their "maverick" jive and medals of courage for McConnell instead of John McCain, but that would be asking too much. Then they'd have to admit that the reason most Democrats want campaign finance "reform" is so that the First Amendment can be trampled while unions, reliably in the camp of hacks like Dick Gephardt and David Bonior, can have their way with taxpayers' money. Never mind that an increase of the current $1000 donation limit, a generation old, to $5000 to adjust for inflation, and a complete screening of all contributions via the Internet, would be an excellent way to prevent Clinton-like abuses in the future.

    Anyway, Milbank used McConnell as a hobgoblin to explain why George W. Bush might've screwed himself by raising so much money. (I'm sure all the other GOP presidential candidates are in complete agreement.) You see, just as Gore scared other candidates out of the Democratic race and left just Bill Bradley, the surprise of the season, now Bush has blown away the competition with his fundraising, leaving?surprise!?just McCain as an alternative. It all works out. Try to follow Milbank's logic: he says that Bush's record cash-haul has "inadvertently" shrunk the GOP field, "knock[ing] out Dole, Buchanan, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, John Kasich and Bob Smith." Funny, isn't that what a presidential contender aspires to, getting rid of the also-rans and becoming the front-runner? Don't you think John Kasich, not to mention Alexander or Smith, would like to be in Bush's position today?

    Milbank deserves a job at The New York Times. You'll remember a few months ago when the paper led with a story detailing the Democratic Party's stated desire to raise $200 million in soft money for the 2000 campaign. Not a negative editorial was to be found in this national organ of campaign finance reform, although people like McConnell are regularly pummeled in its pages. Then, just on Oct. 17, there was a front-page story in the Times about the New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Jon Corzine, written by David Kocieniewski, that was a virtual endorsement of the former Goldman Sachs & Co. chief executive.

    The article read: "Money alone does not guarantee political success. And recent political history is full of examples of candidates with more money than sense of how to use it. But Corzine's journey from political newcomer to a front-runner for the Democratic nomination is a case study in the power of money in politics and how to use it effectively.

    "Corzine's status as a major political donor helped him win the guidance of Orin Kramer, a financier and Democratic fund-raiser, who gave advice about navigating the factions of the state's Democratic party and exploiting its divisions... Corzine has more than money going for him. With his unassuming demeanor and rags-to-riches history of rising from clerk to chief executive, he has convinced many party officials that he can connect with New Jersey's middle-class voters."

    I wonder. Do you think it's likely that a front-page Times story is being prepared about Republican Jersey City Mayor Brent Schundler, giving him advice on how to snare the GOP Senate nomination, despite his lack of fundraising background? Probably not. You'd think, given the Times' editorial view, that the paper would encourage a bright and successful officeholder like Schundler to make the race, and perhaps bemoan the fact that the current campaign finance system is shutting him out.