Keyes for Bush's Cabinet; Throw Talk, Brill's and "The Masher" in the Trash

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:50

    It was a nonstop he-said, she-said complaint session among the two. I actually started laughing, and almost choked on an olive from my pate platter, when the lady complained about a large party behind them that included four children. "Why do they have to be so loud?" she moaned. "Well," the gentleman told her, "I looked up this restaurant on the Web and it did say it was kid-friendly." That didn't cut it. "Fine, but this is a circus here." I was about to intervene, tell the couple to skedaddle back to the Upper West Side, Jersey or Massachusetts, but Mrs. M, who can anticipate my indiscretions, gave me a hairy eyeball, and I kept silent. Still, I was at a loss to figure out this kooky pair?who split appetizers and entrees, then complained they were full, until they each had a full portion of dessert?who apparently just don't like people. First, it was adults drinking and smoking they couldn't stand; then the kids with their Shirley Temples and wishes upon a star. No doubt in my mind that these loony libs are Hillary supporters.

    Last Saturday was so frigid that the family stayed inside all day, save a short visit to Game Park and King's Pharmacy. Mrs. M tried to contact one of those online movie drop-off places? I call it?to get a video for the kids, as well as popcorn, donuts and a pastrami on rye with extra mustard. No go. The site kept spitting back the incorrect information that her credit cards had expired. After half an hour, she gave up. Funny thing, ever since the AOL-Time Warner merger, suddenly everyone I know is having problems. Al From Baltimore and Mrs. M aren't receiving any of their AOL e-mail; several coworkers have had their e-mail returned to them mysteriously; regular sites take forever to appear on the screen, if at all; and then the movie fiasco on Saturday. Just a coincidence I'm sure, but I'm getting a little .com'd out. And I rely on the Web as a research tool; I can imagine the disgust casual browsers are feeling.

    The brief glimpses of snow falling last Thursday delighted my boys no end. Junior even came home from school with a snowball that he'd fashioned off a parked car; it now sits in the freezer, dirty as the Grover lollipop MUGGER III deposited there before Christmas. I'm not a snow man: it disrupts business, turns ugly hours after falling and ruins leather shoes. However, I do remember, as a lad in Huntington, anxiously awaiting the school-closing reports on WGSM and then, if the verdict was positive, spending the day sledding, hurtling down hills on a flying saucer and having vicious snowball fights with my buddies. Since Mrs. M grew up in Los Angeles, she's with our kids: the more snow the better.

    Voice executive editor Richard Goldstein wrote a fine op-ed piece in The New York Times on Jan. 6 addressing just this phenomenon, citing the fact that "8 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the past decade." A city kid who remembers the snowstorms of his youth, Goldstein took a trip to Vermont, of all places. That's how starved he was for days when New Yorkers "address each other in blizzardspeak, that special tone of awe and empathy." Alas, Goldstein struck out: the temperatures hovered near 50 in New England and he had to content himself with "grog lite" and a "doze by a wax-log fire."

    Alan Keyes Belongs in the Cabinet

    Unlike most of the nation?just a guess?I watched the Iowa GOP debate on Saturday afternoon. Gov. George W. Bush bested the serious competition?specifically Steve Forbes and Sen. John McCain?but he wasn't a patch on Alan Keyes, who, if Bush is smart, will be tapped as an integral member of the Texan's administration. I'm not talking ambassador to Senegal, but a first-tier Cabinet slot. Keyes has earned it; his straight talk in the debates?far more honest than his opponents?means that Bush, who will be the next president, would be imprudent to let Keyes wander back to the talk radio circuit. The press writes off Keyes as a fringe candidate, which he is; he doesn't have Bush's money or the press sycophancy that a phony like McCain commands. But his message, inflated rhetoric aside (which Keyes, in order to attract attention, is forced to amp up), is one that, if he were white, would earn him more support. His position on taxes, for example, is right on target. Keyes said, in response to the other candidates: "I think that as you listen to all these folks, you need to get a little aggravated with the fact that they're all going to give you something. And if you stand back and realize what it is, you'll realize that it's your own money. And at some point, you need to start asking yourself, I don't want you to give me this or give me that. Why won't they give you back control over your own money? Why won't they let us go back to the Constitution our founders wrote, which had a tax system based on tariffs, duties and excise taxes, sales taxes that put the people themselves in charge of the incidence of taxation?

    "So that you can decide that if you need a tax cut today, all you'll need to do is change your habits of consumption. You'll be back in control of your own destiny. That is the tax approach that I recommend. Radically different from what they're all talking about. They want to remain the gatekeepers of your money. I want to put you back in charge of that money. It's the only basis on which we can hope to regain that freedom that we're supposed to have as a people. Abolish the income tax. Return to the original Constitution of our country and put the people of this country back in control of their own destiny."

    Because Keyes knows he'll never win the GOP nomination, he says exactly what's on his mind. Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch and Steve Forbes are fellow also-rans, but they play along with the game. That means thanking the sponsors of the debate, recounting the heartfelt conversations they've had with Iowans, and it's all a bunch of baloney. Keyes blows away the competition, with the most honest and articulate rhetoric of any American statesman today. Jesse Jackson? He's an infomercial hack compared to Keyes. William Bennett and Bill Kristol, two conservatives whom I (usually) admire, aren't as naked in their public statements as Keyes; that's because they have reputations to uphold. Keyes, to use a word I don't suppose he would, doesn't give a fuck. It's interesting that Keyes and Kristol were classmates at Harvard; now, the former is considered a kook, while the latter a well-regarded conservative spokesman (except by the liberally biased ABC, which stupidly didn't renew his contract for This Week).

    In February's Esquire, the writer of the "Esky" column had this pleasant description of Keyes, after the requisite praise of McCain and poke at Bush: "Whom are we forgetting? Well, at press time there was still Gary Bauer and Orrin Hatch. They're creepy. Oh, and that black fellow. The one who keeps accusing the media of ignoring him because he's black. We can't remember much about him, except he's black and he feels very passionately about slavery (enough to detect it in the tax-cut plan of 'Massah Bush'); now, good people can disagree, but we feel there's been sufficient legislation on the slavery problem."

    You wouldn't know it from Al Gore operative Richard Berke, who moonlights as a reporter for The New York Times, but the debate was mostly a snooze, a repeat of past gatherings. Berke's Sunday story, headlined "McCain Leads the Way as Republican Rivals Attack Bush," was misleading in implying that it was a fiery 90 minutes. Actually, there was more jocularity on Saturday than at any other debate. But Berke saw it this way: "In a determined drive to slow the front-runner only nine days before the caucuses here, Gov. George W. Bush's rivals today questioned his credentials as a tax cutter and ridiculed his centerpiece plan to pare taxes by $483 billion over five years. The assaults were led by Senator John McCain, who warned that Mr. Bush's prescription favors wealthy Americans at the expense of lower- and middle-income tax payers?and would threaten the future of Social Security."

    In reality, the debate was mostly a rerun, except that Bush was more confident, Forbes even more churlish and McCain fully morphed into a Democrat. McCain evokes class warfare when he attacks Bush's tax-cutting plan as simply a boon to the rich, which led Jack Kemp, still a GOP hero in some quarters despite his disastrous performance as Bob Dole's runningmate in '96, to say last week: "John McCain, who's a friend of mine, has made a big mistake. He has suggested that cutting tax rates across the board is somehow bad for the economy."

    And even Hatch, who's really getting on my nerves in the debates with his lame quips, the constant use of the phrase, "The fact of the matter is," and his insistence that he was Ronald Reagan's sole lieutenant in the 80s?Bauer does this too?said on Saturday, "We could have gotten President Clinton to give a bigger tax cut than John McCain." Hatch might've also mentioned that McCain, in the unlikely event he becomes president, plans to create a new Cabinet post, a "reform czar," to carry out his cleansing of the government. Now, that's a Republican idea: add another level of bureaucracy in Washington.

    On CNN's Late Edition last Sunday, Bush, comparing McCain to Gore and Bill Bradley, said "There's a fundamental disagreement with Senator McCain and me. He trusts money left in Washington, DC, will be properly spent... I happen to think it's going to be spent on bigger government and more programs."

    McCain's lost some of his support in the Beltway press, but not The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt or The Daily News' Lars-Erik Nelson. Hunt is not quite as enamored of the Senator as in recent months, although he still maintains McCain is a "genuine conservative reformer." But when it comes to taxes, the Journal's token editorial page liberal shows why he'll vote for Gore in November. Hunt writes about McCain's paltry tax cut: "Despite his claims that it's directed at working Americans, the plan is almost as tilted toward the rich as Gov. Bush's bigger proposed cut. Call it Bush Lite. In an interview, Mr. McCain seems sketchy on the particulars. This vagueness is a pattern, especially with issues in which he hasn't specialized. Last year, he stumbled over abortion because he didn't really understand Roe v. Wade. Sometimes, when discussing health care, he seems lost."

    We'll know the McCain media honeymoon is over when Hunt finally writes a completely negative column about the ethically challenged Arizonan.

    On the other hand, The News' Nelson is still figuratively on the McCain payroll, lapping up the tepid one-liners, having a brewsky with the former POW and peddling the Senator's faux-populism. In fact, Nelson and Hunt have completely different interpretations of McCain's tax-cut plan, which perhaps is an indication of how confusing it really is. Nelson fumes: "There is a bigger message in the McCain tax bill. It spotlights that Bush, as he seeks the presidency, has never had a real job. He was a wheeler-dealer, a hand-shaker and a schmoozer. He raised money from friends and family and he mostly lost it, and everybody charged it off on their taxes. You pay the difference... McCain's tax plan says: No more George Bushes. Maybe that's why Bush opposes it so strenuously."

    On Jan. 11, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni, who's been fairly brutal in covering Gov. Bush, threw readers a curveball with a profile of Bush's chief aide, Karl Rove. He writes: "If Mr. Bush lopes to the Republican nomination as decisively as many of his advisers and supporters believe that he can, Mr. Rove will be hailed well beyond [Texas'] boundaries as a political mastermind." Rove has been a key element in Bush's success thus far, but Bruni misses the point of the entire campaign. But at least the Times is acknowledging that their preferred GOP candidate, McCain, is dead as a belly-up smelt.

    It's about family loyalty: The man behind the Bush juggernaut is not Rove, but former President Bush, who raised the money and created a political network with a lifetime of hard work. Gov. Bush has enhanced that network, as has his brother Jeb, but it's the old man, still spry at 75, who calls most of the shots. Detractors might howl that the son is seeking the presidency simply for vengeance against Bill Clinton, but I don't think that's entirely true, although there's an element of that emotion in GWB's quest. What's truly stomach-turning is that the same people who complain about Bush nepotism conveniently forget the history of the Kennedys. Do you honestly think Joe Kennedy didn't work his butt off to get his son elected president because he felt slighted in his own career? That there wasn't a strong motive of revenge?

    Last Sunday, The Boston Globe endorsed McCain for the New Hampshire GOP primary on Feb. 1, a prelude to its parent New York Times' similar nod before this state's primary in March. The editorial read, in part: "The courage McCain demonstrated in a North Vietnam POW camp has developed into a fearless independence in the Senate and a bold presidential campaign. Added to it is a dollop of healthy populism, raising the hope that McCain might inspire people to shake off their alienation and participate."

    There was no mention of McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal in the endorsement.

    Whoever wrote that editorial might've profited from reading Joe Conason's column in last week's New York Observer about McCain and Bradley and the myth that they're untainted politicians. I must point out that Conason has no time for George Bush?in fact, he has a cover story in the February Harper's called "The George W. Bush Success Story?A Heartwarming Tale about Baseball, $1.7 Billion, and a Lot of Swell Friends." That Conason's story hasn't created a ripple in the news, other than on The Drudge Report, is something else again, and I'll get to that next week.

    Nonetheless, give the Observer lefty credit for outlining?a little late, but who's complaining??McCain's hypocrisy when it comes to campaign finance reform. He writes: "Actually, Mr. McCain's favors to the casino business may be the least of his sins. The correlation between the money he receives from airlines, railroads, media companies and other special interests and his endeavors on their behalf as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee is remarkable, even for a conservative Republican. In the weeks to come, his symbiotic relationship with his largest career donor?US West, the telecommunications giant?is expected to generate some interesting stories. And it will be interesting to see whether Mr. McCain's technique of deflection-by-confession continues to satisfy his admirers in the press corps."

    The Times also chastised both McCain and Bush for refusing to become involved in the ongoing controversy of the Confederate flag being flown over the South Carolina Capitol. McCain can't make up his mind on the issue, perhaps indicating that the expanding coverage of his campaign is taxing his mind. One day he said the flag was a symbol of racism; another day that it represented heritage. Bush has been unwavering in his opinion, with which I agree, that it's up to South Carolinians to make the decision. A Jan. 14 editorial said that Bush's opinion "won't do... It fails to take into account the concerns of a minority that lacks the political strength to expunge this affront to its dignity as an equal."

    Somehow, if this was as big an issue as the Times makes it out to be, I think you'd have seen Bill Clinton all over it in '92 and '96. The fact that South Carolina is a reliably Republican state undoubtedly is the reason for his nonparticipation in the debate.

    Salon's young Jake Tapper, who's covering the campaign with the bluster and hyperbole that sadly illustrates that Hunter Thompson's seminal '72 political essays spawned a generation of awful imitators, was very distressed at his experience in Iowa last Saturday.

    He writes on Jan. 16: "My trip to Iowa was full of a number of corporate hassles?inflicted by TWA and Sprint PCS and Bell Atlantic and American Express; pains in the ass not worth going into, nothing more than what we all regularly experience at the cold, inept hands of corporate America every day. But then it occurred to me that corporate America is the perfect metaphor for what gives me the heebie-jeebies about the fact that Bush is all but being coronated president of the United States?by many of the same corporate greedbags."

    Tapper then continues with a tirade about the Texas Governor: that he's dumb, evasive, mediocre and "utterly unprepared to rule the nation." Oh, and his "ties to contemptible to racists." When you think about racism in the 2000 election only one name comes to mind: Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager. Is Tapper, and his boss David Talbot, who endorsed Warren Beatty several months back, pleased that Brazile essentially called Colin Powell and J.C. Watts Uncle Toms? That Brazile is determined not to let the "white boys" win the election? That Gore and Bradley have both paid homage to Al Sharpton, one of the country's most notorious, and racist, demagogues?

    The Globe also endorsed Al Gore in the upcoming primary, and while its enthusiasm for McCain seemed a curiosity, it's obvious the paper will be boosting the Vice President in the general election. In fact, the editorial didn't even mention challenger Bradley by name, as it praised Gore for "streamlining and reinventing government and bringing his party toward the political center." I'd say the Republican takeover of Congress in '94 brought the Clinton administration to the "political center." As it is now, Gore and Bradley are competing to see who's more left-wing than the other. The Globe makes no mention of Gore's complicity in the '96 fundraising scandals; and the Vice President's wacky statement on the day Clinton was impeached?that his boss will be remembered as one of the country's greatest presidents?has been erased from the Globe's data files.

    In any case, I believe that Gore will face Bush in the fall. Whenever you look at Bradley, you think of the heart scare and how tired he seems. That episode was the turning point of his campaign, regardless of whether he wins in New Hampshire. Similarly, Bush wrapped up the nomination with his much-derided statement about Jesus; McCain, despite his friends in the press, has never recovered.

    I don't underestimate Gore at all; his general election campaign will be dirty, deceitful and dangerous. But despite the still-booming economy, the country is ready for a change, just as in 1960. "Clinton fatigue" cannot be overestimated, and it's one of the reasons that Hillary Clinton is a likely loser in New York, should she ever announce her candidacy.

    John Judis, a certified liberal, writes in the current New Republic about Gore's conundrum, explaining that his unexpected challenge from Bradley has badly damaged his chances against Bush. He writes: "Gore's ruthless new strategy has worked. Perhaps too well. It is hurting him among the weak Democrats and independents who support Bradley and among the moderate Republicans who backed Clinton in 1996?in other words, among the people he has to win in November. After dispatching Bradley, Gore will have to reinvent himself once again?and it will be harder, because of the image now lodged in the public's mind. And, if he doesn't reinvent himself, he will learn the same lesson learned by Walter Mondale, another Democratic front-runner who dispatched an insurgent preaching 'big ideas': that hewing close to the party's core constituencies is a good way to win a Democratic nomination and a good way to lose the presidency."

    Talk and Esquire to Merge? I'm not a bandwagon-jumper, so just remember that back in August, when mainstream journalists were cooing about Tina Brown's "vision" and "synergy," it was your loyal MUGGER who wrote, right after the first issue, that Talk was an abomination. Currently, that's the prevailing view among elite New Yorkers and Los Angelenos?I doubt there are more than 30 Talk subscribers in between the coasts?and the countdown has begun to when the glossy boondoggle shuts down. I give it six more issues. Too quick with the trigger finger? Some might say that, considering that the Miramax-Hearst-owned monthly just signed a 10-year lease for a 30,000 square-foot office on W. 20th St.?God help us if the estimable Periyali, just down the street, becomes Talk's new canteen?but that doesn't add up to much. When a magazine folds there're a lot of messy details to clean up; getting out of a real estate agreement won't even be in the Top 5.

    Talk has tweaked its design with the February issue, ditching the multi-celebrity covers for just one photo. This month it's actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Liz Taylor one month, Robin Williams another, and now Leo: just covering all the demographic bases, I guess. But the main news is that the magazine hasn't improved a whit, despite the comings and goings of staff, the Liz Smith accolades and the spin from Brown that all is peachy in her palace. In "Tina Brown's Notebook," she writes, almost apologetically, about the publication's new look and direction, while taking shots at the smart people who jumped ship. She recounts the "wonderfully disconcerting" hoopla of the first issue and then zeroes in for the kill: "We are still, of course, wearing our safety belts. There is no getting away from the fact that a launch leaves a lot of scorched earth behind it, as systems and people come together for the first time to face the tribulations of running a new venture in a competitive marketplace. Fallout from that experience is completely natural. It is part of the process. We are very indebted to all those who took the ride."

    I have no idea who ghostwrites that disingenuous drivel, but he or she might have a better career with the Gore campaign. Anyway, flipping through the Leo issue must have been a dispiriting few minutes for anyone sympathetic to the startup. Guess what? Teenagers, even those at the proper schools, are having oral sex parties! That's Lucinda Franks' (the author of the Hillary Clinton piece in Talk's first issue, an article that in retrospect appears to be brilliant satire, even though you know that's not the case) startling observation of the month. Cynics might point to the Washington Post series on the very same subject last summer, which was roundly dismissed as a "Yeah, tell me something I didn't already know," as the impetus for an idea-starved Franks. But that's probably not the case. Like most of Talk's content, Franks' piece reeks of a magazine article that might've been written a decade ago.

    Did you know that Leo DiCaprio is "taller (six feet) and more muscular (175 pounds)" than writer Aaron Latham?a journalist who once had a reputation?imagined? That the pinup celebrity "wears his jeans low and his boxer shorts high: black pin-striped Calvin Kleins." (Is that product placement for Klein, I wonder?) I guess it's true. Of course, to find out this vital info you have to flip through five full-page photos of DiCaprio. I never read Tiger Beat as a kid, but whoever currently designs Talk certainly did. What garbage.

    Really, though, that's only marginally worse than the profile of Karenna Gore Schiff by Hanna Rosin, impossibly headlined "She Lived Through Grunge." After recounting Karenna's mildly rebellious youth at prep school and Harvard, Rosin writes about how the eldest Gore daughter's a soulmate of the Vice President, whose advice on his presidential campaign is given more weight than highly paid advisers. One Gore 2000 staffer enthuses about Karenna: "[I]t's like what people say about John and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis... [JFK] realized the only one who cared 100 percent about [his] image was Bobby. That's what she's like." It's been said that Naomi Wolf's involvement in the campaign can be attributed to Karenna. In addition, according to Rosin, here's another cute contribution: "It was Karenna's idea to chuck the stump speech for open meetings, loose gatherings where he answers all comers until none are left, musing about life in a trailer park, the coolness of Ricky Martin, the guilty pleasure of Itchy and Scratchy."

    Talk must pay its writers about $10 a word. There's no other way that writers like Rosin and Tucker Carlson would allow their work to appear in such an embarrassing magazine. Likewise, Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post's media critic and CNN commentator, a workhorse who'll apparently write for anybody whose money is green, contributes an entirely phoned-in piece about White House correspondents. Let alone that the article could've been published in any number of magazines (or his own column), it's not news that the informal relationship with presidents, when reporters could interview LBJ while he was taking a dump, no longer exists. Many of these unhappy journalists have moved to other beats; to those who remain, I say stop complaining.

    There's more: a story about Miramax's The Talented Mr. Ripley; an out-of-date short on Melania Knauss, called "A Model First Lady," which is now a dead issue since she and Donald Trump broke up; and the requisite piece on The Sopranos. (There's a double-truck advertisement for the HBO series, but it's not unique to Talk. In fact, I might've been too harsh on Vanity Fair last week suggesting a quid pro quo that was exclusive to that monthly.)

    Pat Buchanan, in Iowa, had a funny one-liner about Trump, a man he detests and might possibly contest for the Reform Party presidential nomination. The Boston Globe's Curtis Wilkie reported on Jan. 13: "As for another potential rival, Donald Trump, Buchanan said, 'I don't want to talk about a man when he's had a personal setback. He broke up with his lady.'" Wilkie then writes that Pat Pat the Water Rat "cackled."

    Too Much Content I underestimated Steve Brill's ability to raise capital, and so my prediction that his dull Brill's Content, a media magazine that he hopes will attain a mass circulation of 500,000, would fold in 18 months was wrong. Well. Not even Pedro Martinez wins every time he takes the mound for the Bosox. But the new infusion of cash, in this case, is just another example of throwing money down the toilet. First, the good news: the February issue of Content is handsomely redesigned, with a striking logo and coherent layout. A motto has also been affixed to the cover, and while it's nothing brilliant?"Skepticism Is A Virtue"?neither is it offensive. With this magazine, that's a plus.

    However, Content is still a snooze. Start with the lead story, "JonBenet, Inc.," a piece about the mass-media exploitation of the little girl's mysterious murder a few years ago. Don't know about you, but this unsolved case creeps me out, and I have no desire to read any more about it, much less see her angelic face on the cover of one more magazine. In addition, the sheer earnestness of the monthly is still irksome: I've had enough reports from ombudsmen and holier-than-thou notes written by Brill.

    Eric Effron wrote an intelligent piece on the hysteria over the Los Angeles Times' scandal a few months ago, in which editorial was flagrantly sold for advertising. Effron correctly notes that all the sanctimony in the media is highly hypocritical, and he's right: look no farther than The New York Times, Talk, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Vanity Fair, etc., for egregious examples of the same breakdown of the "wall" separating news and commerce at publications. But due to leadtime, Effron's piece is dated.

    There's an article by Mike Pride, editor of New Hampshire's Concord Monitor, whose column "on editing a daily local paper appears regularly," that held no interest for this reader. I have enough difficulty dissecting nightmares like The New York Times to waste time on the ethical ins and outs of a small paper in New England. Michael Colton has a sensible, if not groundbreaking, article on editorial cartooning; the irritating section "Stuff We Like" survived the redesign; and Ted Rose is the author of a piece about John McCain's fawning DC press, as opposed to the treatment he receives in his home state of Arizona. Rose's article is right on the money. Again, however, it's late, and would've made for far more valuable reading three months ago.

    And that's the problem with even the interesting articles in Content: because of the monthly's deadlines, they appear as documents that are for the record, somewhere between instant journalism and premature history. That's no way to engage even the media community, much less the other 475,000 readers Steve Brill hopes to attract.

    Farther Down the Magazine Ladder For the one or two readers who believe Brill's Content is too playful, frivolous and inconsequential, here is a remedy, as recommended by Don Hazen, a West Coast hippie who publishes a San Francisco Bay Guardian-like column on the Web called "Media Mash." Don is excited that The American Prospect, a liberal magazine edited by Robert Kuttner and Paul Starr, has increased its frequency from quarterly to biweekly. In fact, now that The Atlantic is "in the crude and self-important hands of Michael Kelly," Hazen speculates that TAP might raid some of that monthly's 400,000-plus readers. Yes, I believe that's quite true: and Orrin Hatch will also be the country's next president. TAP is glossier, but its contents remain very dull, dumb or misguided attempts at humor. (As I've written a few times, it's almost impossible to find a left-of-center journalist who can crack a decent joke.) For example, Father James Fallows has an article, titled "But Is It Journalism?" in the Nov. 23 issue that explores the Internet. We can all relax, for the Father has given his blessing: "But I would argue that the developments ushered in by Internet news have been, on balance, positive." Fallows is relieved, for at first he believed the Web might be a vast wasteland of porno and people with Rush Limbaugh-like opinions, and gee whiz, how would the country, especially Washington Monthly-like elites like himself, survive such a catastrophe? But, as it turns out, Fallows has even made money by writing for Slate, where he has friends in high positions. So, while all the IPOs and mergers command attention, Fallows advises, "For now, it makes sense to spend only a little time worrying about the journalistic damage the Net might do, and enjoy the current free lunch of information while it's there." Other articles include one by Randall Kennedy that warns readers to "Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid" if George W. Bush becomes president and appoints the next round of Supreme Court justices. No doubt, Kennedy argues, they'll be Antonin Scalia-clones and we all know what that means. On the other hand, Erik Tarloff, in an essay called "Why Bush Won't be Nominated," is convinced that Kennedy's doomsday scenario doesn't have a chance of coming to pass. With remarkable prescience, Tarloff writes that "Vagueness has taken [Bush] pretty far. Once he becomes specific, he'll inevitably start losing support. Therefore, when specificity becomes inevitable, it will remain minimal." Bush has become specific, Erik. And his polling numbers have remained static: just as in the spring, he holds a lead over Al Gore or Bill Bradley. As I've said before, this election is a rerun of Tony Blair vs. John Major in 1997. The numbers will vary a bit along the way, a bump or two will be encountered by Bush, but come Election Day, he'll win. Tarloff, a committed Democrat, predicts Sen. John McCain will be the GOP nominee, because he's a "grown-up, war hero, reformer, party rebel, mensch." McCain is "incomparably better" than the Republican Party "deserves," he concludes.

    You get the drift. The American Prospect, whether it's quarterly, biweekly, weekly or daily, will still have a roster of writers who preach to the converted, adore Katha Pollitt and Eric Alterman, and party like it's...well, they don't party. No matter. Skip this journal of mostly incomprehensible propaganda.

    January 17

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