Politics & Policy

Iron Bill; Chuck Schumer, Putz


I have no desire to become a James Carville to Richard Cohen’s Ken Starr, but indulge me. Today, in the Washington Post, Cohen writes about the re-instatement of Mike Tyson by the Nevada Boxing Commission. I’ve taken the liberty of replacing the name Mike Tyson with Bill Clinton, champ with President, fight with politics, fighter/athlete with politician, Mel Sokolow with Harry Thomasson, and Fallen Champ with The Man from Hope. Everything else is the same. Here we go:

“As a mere teenager he learned that . . . he could obliterate not just his opponents, but the difference between right and wrong. Occasionally, of course, he would be caught and punished for something he had done, but mostly people would look the other way or make excuses. Bill Clinton, after all, is no mere man. He is an industry.”

“. . . So a predictable charade ensued. As in the past — whenever Clinton assaulted someone, or as it happened, raped someone — all sorts of people came forward to vouch for his essential sweetness and how, on account of religion, he had reformed. Christian ministers said so, and later, so did Islamic ones.”

” . . . Now, the new ministers — nearly all as qualified as the others — are psychiatrists. A gaggle of them . . . peered into the President’s head and found — surprise — that he is quick to anger, often feels victimized, can be impulsive, is overly aggressive, but is fit [for] politics.”

“One of the shrinks . . . found that Clinton has ‘executive control deficits.’ ”

“The good doctors prescribed anti-depressants and psychotherapy, but they have their work cut out for them. If Clinton is to remain anywhere near the immensely great politician he once was, he will also have to remain a very angry man . . . .”

“. . .The television producer Harry Thomasson understood that Clinton’s life had ‘the quality of a Jimmy Cagney movie.’ So he and his wife . . . commissioned a movie — The Man from Hope. Thomasson was right. [The movie] tells the story, simultaneously true and hackneyed, of the ghetto youth, fatherless, poor, and almost wholly amoral, who turns out to be one of the great politicians of the age. He is both cocky and insecure, amiable and hostile — everything the shrinks and ministers say he is. But he is also incredibly willful and at times downright dangerous.

“Mostly, though, Clinton is a mega-celebrity. As such, he is precisely the sort of role model politicians, ministers, and other gasbags are always mentioning. In fact, in Clinton’s case, [the movie’s] camera found many young people who said precisely that: Clinton’s their hero. If that’s the case — and adoring crowds prove it — then what’s the lesson here? The answer — no different for Clinton than any other great politician — is that exceptional talent is its own pardon. With a little luck you can probably get away with murder.”

“A lesser politician — an ex-con, a masher, a virtual unstable chemical compound — would never have been sanctioned with this record.”

Now, I have made some edits of the Cohen column for clarity’s sake and some facts don’t mesh entirely. Bill Clinton has never been convicted of rape, and it is wrong to imply that he is a rapist, abundant rumors notwithstanding. Clinton is not so much from the ghetto as the wrong sides of the tracks of Hot Springs, Arkansas (not Hope, by the way). And with exception of Farrakhan, not that many Islamic ministers have absolved Clinton, that I know of.

But the moral of the tale is eerily similar. The only odd thing is that in this column Cohen attacks the excuse industry for absolving Tyson. But in his recent columns about Clinton, Cohen heaps up piles of excuses for Clinton. The spear-catcher for most of his barbed excuses is, of course, Ken Starr.

Cohen, of course, is right about Tyson, and he has written a good column on the subject. Indeed, I’m sure the White House is filled with heads that nodded as they read Cohen’s words. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the opportunity to replace Clinton with Tyson in his future columns and see who nods and who doesn’t.


The ugliest and best political contest in America is between Charles Schumer and Alfonse D’Amato for senator from New York. I don’t really like D’Amato. But he is immensely preferable to Schumer. Besides, I love the Manichean quality of New York’s senators. Pat Moynihan is sage and kind (though he is far more reliable as a scholar than as a senator) and D’Amato is, as one wag put it, the sort of guy who only swims with a knife between his teeth.

The fight is getting uglier. In a private meeting with Jewish Republicans, D’Amato referred to Schumer as a “Putzhead.” Putz is a Yiddish word for, well, penis. It’s generally used like the word ass (as if I need to tell people this) to mean someone is an idiot or a jerk. Anyway, Schumer is trying to turn the comment into an anti-Semitic smear. “I challenge you at the debate Saturday to use that cheap slur,” Schumer declared according to America’s most enjoyable newspaper, the New York Post. Jerrold Nadler, backing up Schumer opined, “This shows a pattern of contempt for people generally, or, perhaps, for Jews in particular.”

Now D’Amato is a blunt guy, but he ain’t stupid. He needs Jewish votes and he has been a big supporter of Jewish causes for years. So the idea that his intent was to be anti-Semitic in front of a group of Jews is bizarre. Cavalierly playing the anti-Semitism card is bad for the country and it’s bad for the Jews. In short, it’s dumb. D’Amato addressed this point in a letter to Schumer:

“The Yiddish word I used to describe you at a private meeting means fool . . . I stand by my remark 100 percent.”

Man, do I miss New York.


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