Prostate surgery, of course, has generally placed an awful choice before middle-aged and elderly men: Ring down the curtain on your sex life?or die. Some people take it in stride, like Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, gutsy to the last, who jokes, "There's nothing more impotent than death." But there's evidence that politicians, wrapped up in fantasies of their own irresistibility, find that decision harder to face than most. Take the late California Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, arguably as mighty a Democratic politician as the state produced in the 20th century. Unruh is known today for two quotes: (1) "Money is the mother's milk of politics" and (2) "If you can't drink their whiskey and screw their women and still vote against them, you don't belong in this business." When he was diagnosed with a serious prostate cancer in 1987, Unruh decided, after some reflection, that if he couldn't get laid, he'd just as soon die.
But it's in this light that Giuliani is extremely lucky. Given that prostate cancer is both deadly and inevitable?all men who live long enough get it?the advances in detection and treatment over the last two decades have to be counted among medicine's giant steps. Rectal rummaging is still the main weapon in doctors' diagnostic arsenal. (Harry Ricketts' new biography of Kipling notes that, after his first prostate examination, Kipling said, "If that's what Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for, I think they should have given him the Victoria Cross instead.") But Giuliani was diagnosed through a PSA test, which catches the cancer before it shows any symptoms. That means doctors have an excellent chance of (a) knocking the thing out completely, and (b) performing a delicate surgery that will spare him the choice Jesse Unruh faced. So Giuliani could be running for office and leading a "full life," if you'll pardon the euphemism, when his wife is a mere answer to a trivia question. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Uphill Upstate The new development leaves open the question of how the First Harridan is going to campaign from here on out. As it now stands, Hillary is a genuinely crummy candidate with a genuinely solid strategy, which should be enough to land her in the Senate in November.
At the heart of her strategy is shaking enough hands upstate to deprive Rudy of the regional landslide he'll need to win. Her own landslide margins in the city, meanwhile, look unassailable, post-Dorismond. Whoever devised this upstate strategy has some excellent ideas. The best is one she discussed at a CNN "town hall" at SUNY-Buffalo last week: raising the estate tax exemption for farmers from $600,000 to $1.75 million. Such narrow-cast cuts and fiscal fine-tuning cost next to nothing, and have given Democrats a real political advantage on taxes. People take more seriously a Flood Victims Relief Plan, say, that gives specific people specific breaks, than any Across-the-Board Tax Relief Plan.
This is partly due to Democrats' successful casting of any wide-ranging tax reform as a "scheme." But it's partly the fault of Republicans, who sometime over the last two decades stopped caring about tax equity. Back when the squeaky wheel of business was getting the grease of tax cuts (while payroll taxes rose every year to make up the deficit), Republicans developed the very bad habit of dismissing cui bono questions with a disingenuous "Oops! we'll get the poor next time!"
This failing derives from a GOP virtue?the right thinks of taxes not as a planning tool but as someone's money. But the in-the-trenches tactic that results from this philosophy is that Republicans back all tax cuts, period. That's why Republicans fall silent on any tax cut or tax "scheme" the Democrats propose, no matter how unfair. (Hillary's estate exemption for farmers is unfair; so is the Internet tax moratorium that uses the sales taxes raised by Main Street shop-owners to subsidize the Clintons' high-tech cronies.)
If Hillary can just lay out her plans without discussing them, she'll win. Her only chance of losing lies in making herself available to the public, and giving them a glimpse of what a shallow, sanctimonious, lying authoritarian she is. Her town-hall appearance with Wolf Blitzer last week was a good example of how dangerous it is for her merely to talk to people. Hillary expressed her delight that Juan Miguel, now in the United States to summon his son back to Fidel Castro's totalitarian rat-hole, should have a "taste of freedom." (Of course, given Juan Miguel's weeks-long sequestration in the Cuban interests section, a desire for anything more than a taste would be gluttony on his part.)
But think about that comment for a sec. Hillary is a lover of regulations and court orders of all kinds and (as she said last week) "a very strong supporter of law enforcement." There is not a politician in America who holds the autonomy of families in more contempt, and she has been the most gung-ho of all the President's advisers in urging the White House to protect its secrets through the doctrine of executive privilege. Let's just say that Hillary doesn't blow a lot of evenings clicking back and forth on FreeRepublic.com, agonizing over the erosion of the Bill of Rights. A country doesn't have to be particularly free at all to qualify as "free" in Hillary's book.
So that "taste of freedom" remark means Hillary knows Cuba to be really?deeply?profoundly?unfree. She seems to be putting the cart before the horse, then, in attacking Rudy Giuliani's skepticism about the dark-of-night raid her husband ordered. "Inflammatory and divisive rhetoric," she called it. Even if it is, Hillary is obviously in the camp of those left-wing wackos who can't tell the difference between the crimes of Joseph McCarthy and the crimes of Joseph Stalin.
Then Blitzer asked her who she'd root for in a hypothetical Cubs-Yanks World Series. This was a softball question disguised as a baseball question, and Hillary managed to lie repeatedly in the course of her 15-second answer: "Well," she said, "I got into trouble when I told people that I was a Yankees fan growing up. But part of the reason I was a Yankees fan is because I was also a Cubs fan. You know, I needed an American League team that could win. It's depressing to be a Cubs fan year after year after year."
This is evidence that Hillary has never watched a baseball game?let alone rooted for a baseball team?in her life. Rooting for a baseball team is a close relationship, almost a familial one. If the team you root for is lousy, you don't "need" a team in the other league?any more than you "need" a new daughter if your own doesn't make the cheerleading squad. And however "depressing" it may have been to root for the Cubs when Hillary was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I know people who would have given their right arm to see Ernie Banks play.
Dunkin' Donato A sad sidelight of the Elian affair, which has no bearing on the merits of the case, is the media's trashing of Donato Dalrymple, the 40-year-old, four-times-married American house-cleaner, who went out on his cousin's fishing boat Thanksgiving Day and discovered Elian lashed to an inner tube three miles off the Florida coast. The worst of these attacks, by a Washington Post staff writer named Michael Leahy, ran last week under the headline: "A Fisherman and His 15 Minutes; Man Who Found Elian Enjoys the Spotlight."
Leahy's idea is that Dalrymple is milking Elian for all he's worth, using him to promote a television career. The fourth paragraph of the piece is: "'Did you know Elian liked to lick my face?' he asks, apropos of nothing." As if Dalrymple were not just a gold-digger but also some kind of weirdo. After the jump, though, are the details of the face-licking incident, and they show that in no sense was it "apropos of nothing." "Let me tell you the moment when I knew my life had changed," Dalrymple says. Watching The Lion King, his favorite movie, Elian liked to imitate the lion, licking cheeks of those around him. After doing that one night, Elian lay his head on Dalrymple's chest while Dalrymple held his hand. "I felt like the most important man in the world that night," Dalrymple said. "You know?what the kid went through, and the lives he changed being with him, well, it's hard to explain. He makes people feel important and loved and powerful."
Every inch the Washington journalist, Leahy seems to think "important," "loved," and "powerful," are all synonyms for "famous." They're not, of course. Donato is desperate to convey not what a star he is but what a loser he is. Or was, until Elian. The epiphany that Dalrymple desperately wants Leahy to understand would be beautiful and disturbing if one read it in a novel. It is an archetypal American Baby Boom experience, an egotist's slow realization that he is profoundly un-special. Must I spell it out? Donato moves as a young man from New York to Florida, hoping to party a lot and get laid. He stints on his education and drifts from job to job and from woman to woman, none of whom wind up liking him. Suddenly he's 40, working as a glorified maid, driven to the mug's game of body-building to preserve his fleeting youth, and so bereft of family or anyone to love him that he has nothing better to do on Thanksgiving Day than to spend it on the fishing boat of his cousin?who hates him. And suddenly, there is a boy there who loves him, loves him enough to hold his hand. And needs him?Donato saved the kid's life! For the first time in his life, he belongs! To a boy, to a family, to a community, all of whom care for him! It doesn't matter that the whole thing happened by accident.
What Dalrymple got out of Elian is neither heroism nor fame, but belonging, which is something he had good reason to give up all hope of. Dalrymple has clearly wasted much of his life. He's got big problems. But it takes the metaphysical sophistication of a gerbil to suggest his biggest problem is that he's not famous enough.