Politics & Policy

Portrait of An Artist; Go, Safire, Go


A big part of my job these days requires me to be a morning crank. I walk around the house in my underwear. I don’t shave. My house is a minefield of empty beer cans and pizza crusts. I scream at the TV and the newspapers and if what I say sounds good to me, I write it down. My pants don’t fit me, I’m so pale I look like I’ve been living in the basement for a year, and the neighbors are frightened of me. I pissed off Greta Van Susteren recently in an article I did for the print edition of NR and she called my mom to complain, leaving me free to rant unobstructed.

In other words, it’s a dream job.


And today’s newspapers make it easy. First, William Safire’s column needs to be passed around like samizdat for those who feel America has become a different place than they thought or hoped it was. Safire says Republicans have irresponsibly dropped the impeachment issue. Because the Republicans have been as poll-driven as Clinton, Safire says the Republicans are mice, not men. Besides, in any contest of who can better sail the winds of the polls, Clinton will win. He was constructed in a lab to feed off polls, the way James Carville feeds off live rats.

But Safire surmises that people are telling pollsters what they think they are supposed to say. John Zogby, the best pollster around, admits that “the nasty secret of this business” is that more than fifty percent of people approached by pollsters decline to respond so they can get back to their soup that eats like a meal. Safire says impeachment is the “800-pound gorilla of the election.” And, he concurs, I said yesterday about the Republican scandal ads, “it’s about time.”

4 “V”S AND A “P”

Speaking of those scandal ads, Al Gore stepped up to the plate yesterday to call the ads a sign of Republican desperation and “obsession.” The putative Democratic nominee for President in 2000 said “the American people will look at these ads and say enough is enough. Get on with the business of the American people and talk about real issues.” The President himself said the ads were attempt to “distract you and divert your attention.” Party Chairman Steve Grossman who only a few months ago, called Clinton America’s moral leader, called the ads “vicious, venal, vindictive, vitriolic, and, yes, pathetic.” Apparently the “V” section of his thesaurus let him down in the end.

Well, the ads may in fact be a sign of desperation. Republican campaigns, especially presidential ones, have a tendency to stumble onto the right idea only after dancing with all the wrong ones. But the question is, if these ads are as ineffectual as Gore et. al. say, why are they complaining so much? If the Republicans were blowing millions on ineffectual ads about trade policy with Chad, do you think everyone from the President on down would get their panties in a bunch about it? Or would they simply let the Republicans bleed the cash?


The real good news in the paper today is that it looks like General Pinochet will be let go. Britain’s High Court ruled that Britain’s venerable common law precludes Pinochet’s arrest. The decision is being appealed to the House of Lords, but most analysts predict they’ll get it right too. The arrest of Pinochet was ill-conceived and set a dangerous precedent. If we want to start getting serious about exploring the crimes of former regimes, let’s do it seriously. Egon Krenz, Mikhail Gorbachev, call your offices. Pinochet’s arrest was a step in the wrong direction.


That screeching you hear, the smell of burnt rubber filling your nostrils, is the result of Richard Cohen slamming on the in today’s column in the Washington Post. Cohen, who gave every indication he was speeding headlong into the H.O.V. lane, is all of sudden sounding reasonable again. Look both ways on the crosswalk when Cohen’s around.


The Washington Times reports today that Hillary Clinton can’t transfer her buoyant effect on her husband’s ratings to other candidates. After campaign stops for both Carol Mosley-Braun and Charles Schumer to prop up their respective senate campaigns, they both dropped in the polls. According to a New York Post tracking poll, after Mrs. Clinton “helped,” Schumer’s lead dropped by half.


As reported yesterday, the current issue of Rolling Stone is a hysterical love letter to Bill Clinton. Coincidentally, the Washington Post reports (in fine print) today that the editor of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, and his guest attended the State Dinner at the White House last night. It’s only fair. Geraldo Rivera got an exclusive interview from Clinton in China.


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