Unfit to Print; Give Them Hell, W; A Starlit Holiday Party; Stop Sharon

| 16 Feb 2015 | 05:30

    Give Them Hell, W

    In a New York city weekly, known as a bedtime companion to lonely onanists, Mr. Michael Wolff recently predicted that a full-scale crash of the market this spring will effectively end the George W. presidency. Wolff is a competent writer, and he managed to keep the pleasure he derives from this to himself. He also dropped dark hints that news of Bush's bit of drunk-driving malfeasance, which emerged days before the election only to be obscured by the election aftermath, is just the beginning of the new President's deconstruction.

    Talk about giving a guy a break before he assumes office. I know little about markets, but what I do know is that George W. is hardly to blame for what is happening to them as I, and Wolff, write. Something else I know about is drinking, and the few beers the President-Elect had with John Newcombe (a buddy of mine, incidentally, and as good a man as he was a terrific tennis champion). If ever there was much ado about nothing, that was it, but such are the joys of tendentious journalism.

    Exhibiting the sourness of the soon-to-be-excluded, the caddies of the Clinton-Gore years are hyperventilating at the prospect of a Bush recession and the ensuing national malaise. And sounding like an affronted duchess who has just heard a peasant fart, The New York Times, as flatulent as ever, warns George W. that the majority of Americans do not favor government interference in such matters as abortion, welfare and other benefits.

    How was that again? The Times is against government interference? Like George W., I must have had one beer too many after tennis and I'm imagining things. Not to be outdone, Mr. Richard Reeves, a man who takes himself even more seriously than the rest of the liberal pundits regard themselves, predicts that Clinton's future includes a Nobel Prize, a book, and revenge.

    Good for you, Dick. That's telling us. Settling scores is what punks do, and coming from you, a Clinton ass-licker, it's right on the money.

    Unlike George Bush père, a gentleman and a soldier, Bill Clinton is not going to go away quietly. Like rappers who shoot each other for perceived snubs, I am sure that the Draft Dodger will invent, lie, do anything in his power to embarrass the man who succeeded him in the office he disgraced. Bill is going to be in George W. Bush's face, exults Richard Reeves. (Well, I guess it's better to be in someone's face than to be where Reeves keeps his.)

    But I am sinking to the caddies' level. In this I have help from the outgoing president. Take, for example, the case of the Rome treaty establishing an International Criminal Court. Clinton had blown hot and cold on this one. When he was in the throes of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, his refusal to sign it was motivated solely by the wish to not antagonize the Republicans unnecessarily. That crisis being in the past, he felt free to change tack and by doing so spites his successor. What a way to run a presidency! If John Gotti had acted similarly just before he was taken away by the feds, Mike Barnicle would've written that he had no class. (With apologies to Chris Caldwell.)

    What Bush has to do is very simple. After taking office, he should renounce Clinton's actions and urge the Senate to not ratify the treaty. C'est tout, as they say in belle France. Clinton is playing mischievous games, but a superpower like America cannot bind herself to the shenanigans of a man who managed to bring even la Lewinsky down to his level.

    Then there are those Democrats in the House and Senate, the Gephardts and Daschles of this world, who demand equality and full partnership in the legislative process. We are copartners, they crow. Since when? asks the poor little Greek boy. Just because the liberal media pundits invented a victory, it doesn't mean the real victors have to go along. Not since 1953 has the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency. For 47 years, the GOP has excused its failures by pointing to the obstacles posed by the Democrats. Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford were hamstrung by Democrats who controlled both houses. Even Ronald Reagan only enjoyed a Republican-controlled Senate for six years, and was constantly thwarted by the House. When the GOP finally won both houses in 1994, it had to put up with the vetoes of Bill Clinton.

    So, now is the time for all good Republicans in power to act accordingly. Plenty of bills pass 51 to 49. If the Democrats wish to filibuster, thank them in advance and challenge them to go ahead. Because it takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster, people tend to believe it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate. What I'd like to see is the democratic process grind to a halt while the Democrats haul in their sleeping bags and try to stop the nation's business. All the Republicans have to do is realize that they're the victors, and then go about their business.

    George W. Bush is a brave man who is not afraid of challenges; his biggest will be for him to resist the urge to appease the media. No matter what you do, George, no matter how far you bend over backwards to please them, it will never be enough. Steamroll them instead. Like all bullies, the liberal media elite know when they're up against someone who is not afraid of them. None of them have enough style to resonate in one's memory two minutes after they're off the air. Give them hell, George W.


    Scott McConnell The Conformist

    Unfit to Print

    The news reached me over New Year's weekend. A horrible murder took place in Wichita, KS, 10 days before Christmas. It had received virtually no coverage beyond the local news.

    The victims?three men and two women, white and in their 20s?were gathered in a home in a middle-class neighborhood. Two were teachers; two were engaged; one intended to become a priest. At 11 in the evening, two black men, Reginald Carr, recently released from prison, and his younger brother Jonathan, allegedly forced their way into the house, abducted the five at gunpoint, drove them around in two cars, forcing them to withdraw money from ATMs. Then they took the victims to a soccer field and forced them to kneel in the snow. They undressed the women, and raped one or perhaps both of them. Then they shot all five execution-style in the head. Four died, but one woman lived. Bleeding from her wound, she ran naked through the snow for a mile, miraculously reaching a house where she got help. The suspects were arrested the next day.

    Wichita is shaken and mourning. A thousand people turned out for the funeral of one victim, Jason Befort. Rev. James Dieker, celebrant at the funeral Mass, told those gathered to look not for vengeance, but to the wisdom of Jesus on the cross: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what to do."

    Assuming that the criminal justice system will do its duty, those words may be the right ones. Yet in the current national context?with a divisive confirmation hearing looming for John Ashcroft and leading Democrats littering the airwaves with incendiary charges about the racist Republican heartland?some questions about the (non)reporting of the murder need airing as well.

    If Michael McDermott's shooting of seven in their Wakefield, MA, office on the day after Christmas deserves front-page treatment, or if James Byrd being dragged to his death by three white attackers should become a symbol of national shame, why don't Americans know about Wichita?

    They don't because the victims were white, the suspects black. National news editors prefer a different script. Despite the raw drama of the story?the killers might still be at large were it not for the heroic effort of a woman raped, shot and left for dead in the snow?it doesn't conform. What does fit are stories like the Byrd murder: since he was hideously dragged to death by three white men in 1998 The New York Times alone has made references to his killing in 102 separate stories, most published before the NAACP spent millions on a national campaign to boost black voter turnout by linking George W. Bush to the crime.

    Occasionally facts are invented to fit the script. Several years ago, America's evening news viewers were inundated for months with stories about an epidemic of burnings of black churches?carried out, it was charged, by racist whites. A federal investigation eventually concluded there was no racist conspiracy behind the church fires, indeed no epidemic of arson at all: just a normal rate of fires, some in white churches, some in black, some set in insurance scams, some as pranks, some because the arsonist wanted to become a hero by reporting a fire he had himself set.

    But a few civil rights and anti-hate "watchdog" groups hyped stories of the black-church arson epidemic, probably for their own fundraising purposes, and the press lapped it up.

    If asked, many editors would claim that one sort of crime (a racially motivated killing like James Byrd's) deserves substantial coverage because it is a "hate crime," while the murder of four Wichita young people is not. The distinction is both false and pernicious. First, though no bias crime investigation is under way in Wichita, there is no reason whatever to think that a murder involving so much gratuitous and symbolic humiliation of the victims (forcing one to watch the rape of his fiancee in his last moments) is not motivated by "hate." Indeed, what might a thorough hate crime investigation turn up? Could the suspects have been stirred to anger against whites, for instance, by Jesse Jackson's overheated charges that vicious racism was at work in the Florida election?

    The hate-crime rubric itself is a blueprint for corrosive double standards. In law, it requires classifying crimes purportedly motivated by certain kinds of "bias" as more grave and deserving of serious punishment than others. The dual standard at once weakens a force that could unite Americans of all races and cultures (horror at crime) and threatens to transform the criminal justice system into an arena for exacerbating the country's fault lines of race and ethnicity.

    I suspect some promoting the dual standard feel virtuous and progressive?that they are advancing the multiculturalist cause by hyping news of crime of one sort and suppressing another. Some might see whites, and particularly the sort of straight, normal heartland Middle American types, as obstacles to desired social change and not deserving of very much sympathy. Others simply adapt to prevailing newsroom expectations, internalizing the double standards. Either way it's a shameful spectacle, which does no honor to American journalism.

      Melik Kaylan The Spy

    Accolades, Anathemas

    Last year I reviewed my own annual Christmas party with some venom, reserving the highest odium?a social "fatwa"?for the inexcusably MIA. This year I see no reason for change. Don't misunderstand though. My parties are soignee and starlit events and I won't bother to say "though I do say so myself." Gossip columns across four continents have noted them over the years. Indeed, if it weren't so, I couldn't afford to mete out the insults that I am about to.

    Yet I must. People now expect it and some have even asked for sneak previews.

    I begin as tradition elegantly prescribes with accolades before anathemas. Le Maitre came downtown, and though he passed like a neutrino, it was a treat to have him. Years ago Taki and I did opposite columns in Spy magazine entitled, after our zip codes, 10021 and 10012, respectively, and we used to have fun all over town together. He ventured south more happily in those days with the bells of Nell's a-tolling, calling the faithful to frolic. This time, at the party, I turned my back for some catering problem and he'd gone. I sorely missed him. As did Michael Okwu, among others. Okwu's a CNN correspondent, former Ibo warrior and Harvard grad. Taki and Okwu chatted at a dinner I gave two summers ago for Kurt Andersen's book Turn of the Century and hit it off.

    Melissa Ceria too, the luscious golden girl of Harper's Bazaar. This time especially luscious for being some months pregnant. Better, perhaps, that Taki didn't see her as he flirted expansively with her at the last bash. Her boss at Harper's, Kate Betts, also a radiant blonde, actually elicited "Who is that babe?" inquiries (as usual). You'd think people would know by now. The Keno twins of Antiques Roadshow fame, who two days before appeared on Jay Leno, both stayed the course, perhaps mindful of the fatwas from last time. They spoke at length to the jocundly incoherent Web Stone. The last movie he produced with brother Rob was fatally entitled Gone in 60 Seconds, starring Nick Cage. It went in exactly that. Caio Fonseca charmed and delighted like a contact high. He'd recently sold a monumental painting to the Whitney and another went up in the lobby of Renzo Piano's new Sydney Harbor building Down Under. The Bulgari girls, Veronica and Natalia, have moved in near my house. They luminesced on the assembled company like haloed sirens.

    Kurt Andersen came early. He'd just launched the print version of Inside.com, a feast for mediaholics. Since Spy days, Kurt has done more than most others have in a lifetime. I'm still waiting to appear on his NPR show. His dot-com partner Michael Hirschorn sparkled brilliantly the whole evening, as did The New Yorker's Tad Friend, one of our generation's few world-class literary aphorists. Perhaps top laurels in that category go to my friend Tunku Varadarajan, now a bigwig on The Wall Street Journal op-ed page. Tunku ranks among the literary lights from the subcontinent without whom classical Anglo-English would have ebbed out like a tide. He was a law professor at Oxford in his 20s and later became the London Times bureau chief here. Still thirtysomething, he's the nearest thing to a G.K. Chesterton or Edmund Burke de nos jours.

    Finally, a word about Richard Johnson. Richard might just be the most powerful journalist in the city, and he should be a complete shit. Anyone else in his position would be. Imagine our town without him and you'll measure his power profile. But amazingly and uniquely, he's an utter gent, approachable, impish and genuine as a long draught of Guinness.

    Which brings me to the hall of shame. Now that you all know the standard of attendance, I trust you'll join me in the fatwa chorus out of sheer incredulity at the no-shows' parlous sense of judgment. Let's begin with Vanessa Bismarck. Not since 1859 when Otto von Bismarck was professionally exiled by Prussia's King William to Moscow has a member of the clan miscalculated so. Fraulein Bismarck clearly forgets that I have a photo of family members dressed in wigs and fishnet tights. Vanessa runs a fledgling p.r. company stocked with exquisite females. I give her work. My wife gives her work. Vanessa, trust me, in New York you march to such parties en bloc. Alles Klaar?

    Matthew Doull is the unnecessarily handsome husband of my former colleague in Top Drawer, whom I won't name but who's now the executive editor of Talk magazine. Toby Young routinely disparages her for being a Tina clone, a "mini-me," which Tina now actually calls her, says Toby. Well, pace Toby, I think she's rather dishy and I won't name her because she displayed courtesy enough to call ahead and apologize: she'd come late if possible, but husband would definitely attend. He didn't. There's a corporate odor of sanctity that builds around such couples that mischiefmakers love to breach. I don't, really. But Matthew, let's have lunch.

    Henry Allsopp likes to loiter on the edge, apparently. A young star at the Christie's NY private sales division, his father is Lord Hindlip, international chairman of Christie's. Henry and his girlfriend, a lovely Venezuelan from the mega Cisneros clan, RSVP'd to my face two days before. Now you all should know that I've been plugging Henry and Christie's in various places of late. Indeed, I'm planning to interview his boss. So what is he thinking? I should inform you, also, that his father starred in a notorious tv interview with Ali G, the Brit comedian. Ali G asked Allsopp Senior why van Gogh had chopped his knob off and why art was only for nutters and poofters. Lord Hindlip reclined throughout the chat and never stopped tittering, to the extent that Ali G wondered afterward if His Lordship had been "smokin' somma dat weed." It's a wonder that no Brit journo followed up on the matter, easy enough to do at any Christie's opening. I go to several a month.

    Happy New Year to Henry, and to you all.


    Charles Glass The London Desk

    Stop Sharon

    Raise the alarm! Light the beacon fire! Raise high the warning flag! Ring the Liberty Bell until she cracks again! Only America with all her might can prevent catastrophe. Please, listen, my countrymen, for you will share the blame if the worst comes to pass. Ethnic cleansing, that unfortunate term for the expulsion of one people from its homeland by another, looms. In Croatia and Serbia, the world accepted it as a solution, however unjust. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the world tinkered with it at the end, but permitted it nonetheless. In Kosovo, the United States, although it did not act to prevent it, stepped in later, devastated Yugoslavia and reversed it.

    When it happens this time, my fear is that the United States and, therefore, the world will ignore it. I spoke on the telephone last night to an Israeli friend, who lamented that his people were about to elect "our Milosevic" as prime minister. Step forward, Gen. Arik Sharon. Opinion polls put him well ahead of the other general, Ehud Barak, who has presided over the inertia of the discredited Oslo settlement and the outburst by Palestinians against it that began last September. In fact, these are the two men, along with Yasir Arafat, who brought the uprising that the Palestinians call the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" to pass: Barak, with his policy of increasing settlements; Sharon, with his ill-fated intrusion last September onto the Temple Mount, where the Aqsa mosque stands; Arafat, by making life for Palestinians under his partial rule worse than direct occupation since 1967. If Sharon wins, as it seems he will, he will not tolerate the intifada. His settler supporters see a solution in demographic terms: create a Jewish majority in the West Bank as the Israeli army once did in Israel, by expelling the natives.

    Until recently, I did not believe Israel would choose the option of expelling the Arabs from the West Bank. It seemed to me that neither Israeli nor world opinion would allow it. I hope I'm right, but an article in the magazine Between the Lines last December by the Israeli journalist Shraga Elam casts my optimism in serious doubt. Elam writes that "further escalations will be followed by transfer of Palestinians from 'sensitive areas' and the 'arrest of Palestinian Authority officials and imposition of a new military administration.' The ensuing house-to-house battles would kill thousands of Palestinians, both armed and civilian. The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] must calculate in the framework of this operation the death of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and with thousands more wounded on both sides."

    Shraga Elam found the study with these policy recommendations on the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. The author is defense analyst, Sen. John McCain former staffer and sometime ABC News pundit Anthony Cordesman. In the 1980s, Cordesman helped me with stories I was doing for ABC on Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs. He is reliable, conscientious and, as I read him in the latest version of his report, ruthless. I recommend that you read his "Peace and War: Israel versus the Palestinians?A Second Intifada?" (available at www.csis. org/stratassessment/reports/IsraelPalestine.pdf or by mail from the CSIS). Cordesman's analysis of the Palestinians' economic and social deterioration (about which Edward Said and Noam Chomsky had often warned Americans) since the Oslo accords went into effect in 1993 is as brilliant as his conclusions are terrifying. The combination of failure to agree to a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, together with the accession of Sharon to high office, makes Cordesman's "worst-case scenario" more rather than less likely:

    The end result of warfare might be a situation where the Palestinian response would explode to a point so serious that the only solution available to the IDF would be a state of massive armed occupation in which the IDF had to occupy most Palestinian cities, react with extreme force, and deal with constant low-level violence. Such a "reoccupation" would be far more costly than containment, and could lead to the equivalent of "ethnic cleansing" and Israeli security measures that would drive large numbers of Palestinians out of Israeli security zones or the Gaza or West Bank. His next sentence, written last December, is most worrying: "Much would depend on the character of the Israeli government involved." Sharon's record, from the night in October 1953 when he commanded the famous Unit 101 in a massacre of between 60 and 70 Palestinians in the village of Qibya to his devastation of Beirut in the summer of 1982, speaks for his character. After the Qibya raid, Foreign Minister Moshe Sharret wrote in his diary, as quoted by Benny Morris in his excellent history, Righteous Victims (Alfred Knopf, 1999), "A reprisal of this magnitude...has never been carried out before. I paced back and forth in my room perplexed and completely depressed, feeling helpless." Sharret wrote that, had he known what Sharon would actually do on the ground, he "would have screamed to high heaven." The UN condemned Israel for Sharon's action, just as the UN, the U.S. and Israel's Kahan Commission would later condemn Sharon for the massacres at Sabra and Shatila in 1982. Sharon's record is no mystery. Who will be surprised if he remains true to his character, his promises and his gut instincts?

    The question is: Will America stop Sharon? Will America's new President prevent the implementation of the worst-case plan that has been partially underwritten by an American think-tank analyst? Or will young George Bush wait and, once thousands of Palestinians are dead, wounded and expelled to Jordan?with all the potential for instability, overthrow of the monarchy and Iraqi intervention that implies?"scream to high heaven"? Better that all of us scream now, when we may make the difference.