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Strange Days


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Clinton/Dole, Dole/Clinton

Did you catch the Clinton-Dole back-and-forth on “60 Minutes”? The exchange entirely confirmed Jay Nordlinger’s worst fears. Clinton was his old audacious, slashingly partisan self. And Dole was himself: wry, self-mocking, unideological. Clinton bashed President Bush’s tax cut. Dole declined to defend the tax cut’s economic value – and ended with a lame joke about how he was willing to give his tax cut to charity. The point-counterpoint had the feel of a basketball match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Senators* – a setup from the start.

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The Strange Case of Georgie Ann Geyer

Consumers of punditry often encounter Georgie Ann Geyer’s obsessive antipathy to Israel in their morning papers. Her antipathy is so strongly felt that it overcomes any journalistic scruples she might have. In a May 10, 2002, column, for example, she reported that Ariel Sharon had recently told the Israeli cabinet, “I control America.” The quote was a hoax that had originated in an October 2001 press release from a pro-Hamas association, the Islamic Association for Palestine. It had then been widely circulated on anti-semitic websites. Geyer reproduced this astonishing statement from an obviously suspect source without making any personal effort to check or verify it. This credulity is not typical of her work on other subjects.

So where does her credulity come from? Geyer is a respected American journalist. She is the recipient of many awards; she was chosen as one of the four questioners for the 1984 Reagan-Mondale debate; she is a trustee of American University. It seems incredible that such a person could be motivated by something as vulgar as anti-Jewish prejudice. Yet she does keep saying strange things.

Last Thursday, for instance, the widely syndicated columnist accused President Bush of an “Old Testament reliance on forcing others to do and to believe as you ….” The Jewish Bible contains many dark passages. But there is one thing that the reader will very seldom find – any commandments to go force others to do and believe as you do. On the contrary, the Jewish tradition insists that human beings will have to wait until the coming of the messiah for unbelief and idolatry to disappear. If anything, the Jewish tradition has historically been criticized for its inwardness and particularism, its unwillingness to demand that others do and believe as Jews do. There is no Jewish equivalent of jihad. So to reach for the Jewish scriptures when searching for a metaphor for oppression and compulsion – well, as I said, it’s … strange.

I Remember You …

A friend writes: “This weekend I read a Washingtonian magazine interview with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the nation’s most prominent and respected Democrats. Former Senator Moynihan was asked to rate the best recent Presidents. Moynihan replied, ‘You’d have to give Ronald Reagan that accolade. He was best at getting what he wanted… He was the best president in this era, as he had the perfect temperament for the job.’

“Senator Moynihan was then asked, ‘How good were Carter and Clinton?’ And this is what he said: ‘Carter’s a good man. Washington was a bit more than he was ready to handle. That hostage-taking in Tehran did him in. It could have happened to any president. I don’t need to talk about Clinton. You know all about him.’

“Given their recent comments — Jimmy Carter’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York
Times is just the latest example — I would fully concur with the judgment of
the former four-term Democratic Senator from New York. Washington was ‘a bit
more’ than Mr. Carter was ready to handle. And the hostage-taking in Tehran ‘did him in.’ And, well, you know all about Mr. Clinton.”

*As many readers have noted the Globetrotters’ opponents were of course the Generals. The Washington Senators were the team that was famously first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.



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