First, Dr. Redlener has never met Elian Gonzalez or any member of his family; second, he didn't visit Miami to talk to anyone who had; third, he's a pediatrician, not a psychiatrist. His speculations on the psychological suitability of Lazaro Gonzalez's house should be granted about as much credence as we'd grant those of a Republican orthodontist who diagnosed Janet Reno as a paranoid schizophrenic.
So how does Red-Leaner come to pronounce on what is turning into an international scandal? Here's how: No medical professional in the United States has a longer record as a party hack than Irwin Redlener. In 1981, he was one of the heads of a group called Physicians for Social Responsibility, which devoted itself to attacking the American military, and pretty much everything else that Ronald Reagan showed the slightest enthusiasm for. He had long experience working with abused children in?yes?Arkansas in the 1970s. In 1992 he started off backing Bob Kerrey, but switched to Clinton during the primaries, working for the campaign as the head of the National Health Leadership Council for Clinton/Gore '92. He was rewarded with a seat on the Clintons' top-secret Health Care Task Force and was one of Hillary's closest?and most radical?confidants on the issue, even after the Democrats got drubbed in the 1994 elections. Redlener appeared with an unrepentant Janet Reno in the months after Waco in 1993 to drum up support for her odd perspective on children's issues. In other words, he's a True Believer, the apparatchik to end apparatchiki, wedded to the Clintons and serving their interests?which they've come to see as identical to Fidel Castro's. What's most disgraceful is that neither Redlener nor the people who put him up to his propagandistic dirty work have seen fit to come clean about the connection.
Simply Smashing Seventeenth St. was blocked Tuesday morning, so I had to get out of my car two blocks from my office. Up ahead I could see flashing police lights, milling crowds and riot cops. Just then a colleague walked by with a big bandage on his neck. He'd merely had minor surgery, but when I asked him what the hell happened to him, he pointed to all the brouhaha down the street and joked, "Someone mistook me for capitalism and tried to smash me."
That was the closest I got to the World Bank protests two weeks ago. A few hundred kids had been blocking traffic on K Street with an "impromptu" gathering when the police tried to arrest them for parading without a permit or jaywalking or something. They'd scattered north and through a clever police trap were herded onto M St., which the police already had blocked. The arrests all took place practically in the lobby of my building. (Denying me access?gadzooks!?to my dry cleaner and espresso bar.) It was a nifty move. The generally maligned District police did a job that left everyone in town impressed.
Two things got a lot of attention from the marchers. The first was how black the cops were. One of the protesters even remarked on television that he felt a bit betrayed, since his parents had marched in the 1960s to get black cops onto police forces?a beautiful example of the left at its most racially paternalistic. And I liked the marchers' compassion for the inner city. When the first bunch of protesters got booked at one of the City's more rundown jails, their lawyer complained, "How are they going to get back? This is not the safest neighborhood, either." Police Chief Charles Ramsey, a veteran of civil rights demonstrations, remembered that violent incidents occurred most frequently when cops were undisciplined and out of control. So DC's were disciplined and in control.
The other thing was how athletic the cops were. In the 1960s, your average Offissah McCahthy was a 64-year-old chain-smoking drunk with a body that had been developed over decades in Dunkin' Donuts. The most milquetoasty anti-war protester could outrun him. By contrast, your average member of the DC riot police in the year 2000 is about 25 years old and looks like he was playing Big Ten football until three years ago. The news photo of the decade ran on page A7 of last Monday's Washington Post. It showed a trim, 240-pound officer charging at a protester and carrying a club that Mark McGwire would have had trouble lifting. If you've ever seen old highlight photos of the great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s, he looked like Jerry Kramer pulling in front of Paul Hornung on a power sweep?except with 4.2 speed in the 40.
The protester was in a bicycle helmet, tripping over his spindly legs trying to get away, his knapsack flying about his neck. I felt I had this fellow sized up. This was Sven Nerderrup, 48-year-old adjunct professor of vegetarian studies at the University of Uppsala. Two seconds before, Sven had probably been taunting the cop, calling him a faggot and pinging jellybeans (or maybe rabbit shit) off his visor. The sort of thing he probably does in Scandinavia with impunity every Sunday, before repairing to the local boozer to whine into his gløg about how repressive capitalism is. Not here, Sven. If I don't know what was going through Sven's head at the moment the photo was taken, it's only because I don't know the Swedish for "Ohhh, shit."
Johnny Reb You knew the Bushies were setting their sights low when, after the unobjectionable choice of former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to co-ordinate the campaign's vice-presidential selection, one Bush aide bragged that Cheney's "stature is as good if not better than [Warren] Christopher['s]."
Too bad they feel that way, because the veep pick is a stone with which Dubya expects to kill many birds: lock in a key state, woo Catholics, pick up women, and placate the center. That's why he tried to cozy up to John McCain last week, to the limited extent his grammar would allow. Bush said he had McCain under consideration for veep, and in what seemed to be a Texanese attempt to marry the clichés take him at his word and take him for all he's worth, Bush said he'd like to sit down face-to-face with the Arizonan and "take him for his word."
It was always unlikely that McCain?whose primary victories make him the de facto shadow party leader, much as Ronald Reagan was by the autumn of 1976?would want any part of being his chief opponent's valet. But in case any doubt remained, McCain took Bush's vice-presidential feeler, tore it to shreds, lit it on fire, doused it in acid, and then dropped it to the bottom of the ocean: "I have no interest in being vice president," he said. "I believe I can serve the country better in the U.S. Senate? I do not seek and do not want to be considered for vice president of the United States. I would categorically state to Governor Bush that I do not wish to be asked."
Wow?I couldn't have written a more unequivocal no-freakin'-way-in-hell statement if you'd given me all week.
The way liberal pundits responded was stunning. Mort Zuckerman said McCain sounds "more interested now." Andrea Mitchell chimed in: "John McCain may well be on this ticket." Aren't these some of the very pundits who, during the Hill-Thomas hearings, turned "No Means No" into a watchword? The press' unwillingness to take McCain at (or "for") his word is evidence of one of two things: Either (1) the swoon they went into this spring has grown so delusional that they can't envision a presidential election without John McCain, or (2) they really do believe in a "right-wing conspiracy" so vast that it extends to active collusion between two candidates who, every chance they get, drop public hints that they hate one another's guts. Not to mention actively working against one another's interests.
McCain's speech last week on the Confederate flag certainly hurt Bush, but beyond that it's hard to see what he was getting at. McCain claimed his position?that the flag should come down off the South Carolina capitol?didn't imply a change of heart. No, his apology was for "not revealing" a point of view he'd held all along. McCain said it was "a matter of conscience" to reveal that point of view (now that there was no price to pay for it). He delivered a tooth-gnashing, garment-rending diatribe in which he claimed to have known all along that he was doing the devil's work. I'm scum. Beat me with a stick. McCain's political director John Weaver said: "There will be some lumps associated with [the apology]?and well-deserved." Oh, that's talkin' out of school! But... but... but Weaver was McCain's political director, his most trusted old hand (not to mention the source of the most vitriolic, anonymously sourced anti-Bush quotes throughout the primary). He was likely responsible for formulating the suddenly-shameful-in-retrospect appeasement strategy. He wasn't leaking?he was spinning. And one hates to see journalists get sucked into reporting this kind of spin as a revealed confidence.
That's what Jake Tapper of Salon did when he quoted "sources close to" McCain as saying the issue is "a personal one for McCain." In general, does this exaltation of the personal over the political remind you of any other national leader of the last quarter century? Of course it does. Twenty years into the Reagan era, look at what the Republican Party is offering us for candidates. George W. Bush has obviously patterned himself on Bill Clinton, right down to the speaking tics.
But who is McCain? It's becoming just as obvious that he's the Jimmy Carter of the new millennium.
Kennedy Watch Last week Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visited Vieques (off the coast of Puerto Rico) with protesters, threatening to sue the U.S. Navy if it doesn't stop using the place as a bombing range. A pointless act of grandstanding, since the President has promised to halt the bombings by executive order if Vieques residents ask him to in an upcoming referendum.
But what is the principle that's being established here? Will New Mexicans and Nevadans be permitted to hold similar referenda? On the topic of the Fury of Aerial Bombardment, last week we mentioned Rhode Island Democrat Patrick Kennedy's fracas with a baggage-scanning guard at the Los Angeles airport. Kennedy had urged his constituents to watch the video of the incident. Especially since the scanner, Ms. Della Patton, implied that an assault took place. In typical California-state-employee fashion, she has used the incident to bilk California's liberal workmen's comp provisions (of the sort that Patrick Kennedy supports) for a monthlong vacation. If she's lucky, she'll be able to retire at full salary.
Patton is clearly a creep. But it's bewildering that Kennedy would see his own behavior as anything but a disgrace. Kennedy basically arrived at the scanner with a bag that was too big to fit through. And when Patton held him up, Kennedy gave her the JUST-LEMME-THROUGH-BITCH!-I'M-A-KENNEDY! treatment.
Just as disturbing is the willingness of the Boston Globe to carry water for the young Laird of Providence. Here's the lead of Anne E. Kornblut's "news" story "Kennedy Accuser Has History Of Theft, Drug Convictions" from last Thursday: "Washington?A female security guard who accused Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of assaulting her in Los Angeles International Airport has a four-decade history of arrests herself, including cocaine and theft charges, according to court documents."
Why the Washington dateline for an altercation involving a Rhode Islander in California? And what court documents would those be? Are they ones the Kennedys' private investigators turned up and mailed to the Globe with a note reading, "Print these"?