Rendezvous in New York
Up Your Face
Haider Runs
King and I
Light Fantastic

Rendezvous in New York

Political professionals now believe John McCain's campaign could become unstoppable. Pollsters see the Arizona senator as the beneficiary of the rebellious "Reagan Democrats" of the '80s and the angry Perot voters of the '90s. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says, "Ultimately it's a vote of positive admiration for McCain rather than a protest vote," adding, "This is like the early Perot vote. This is a vote for straight talk, with the irony that they don't know exactly what he's talking about."

By Monday George W. was paddling upstream in New York with his pathetic plea to the failing Cardinal O'Connor. McCain, having garnered the New York Post's endorsement, circled the Christian right redoubt at Virginia Beach, practically laying siege to the Christers around Pat Robertson. (Perhaps the best thing about McCain is that he doesn't prattle on about God.) On the Democratic front, Bradley, less zombie-like than usual, expressed outrage over the Diallo trial, while Gore meekly echoed the equivocating Hillary on the verdict.

What will happen when voters take stock of McCain's actual record? Last week the former navy pilot and POW aimed his campaign more directly at Republicans, proudly boasting of being a Reagan conservative—which is, in fact, what he is. (Indeed, through more than 100 town meetings in New Hampshire, he appealed heavily to independents from a most conservative stance.) He calls workfare the most important reform of the last century, and wants to build a navy-based Star Wars system that could knock out missiles aimed at countries like Taiwan, as well as the U.S. Like his Republican role model T.R., his foreign policy would be bellicose, and would include the targeting of "rogue states," such as Libya or Iraq, along with attempts to overthrow them through overt and covert action.

He is pro-life (though, one suspects, without real fervor) and opposes serious gun-control legislation. He talks tough about military boondoggles, and vows to provide better benefits for veterans. On race, he speaks bluntly, angering liberals over the weekend with his refusal to condemn the Diallo verdict. But he also has denounced Bush's visit to Bob Jones University. Perhaps most importantly, he is, as Republican pollster Robert Teeter told The Washington Post, "the perfect anti-Clinton candidate."

In New York, long a home of "liberal" Republicanism from Nelson Rockefeller to D'Amato/Pataki, this sort of conservative message could flounder, especially since Dubya, a transplanted New Englander, is campaigning here on a much more moderate message of accommodation domestically and restraint abroad. In New York, Shrub takes on the aura of a flatliner, a caretaker much more in the mold of a Wall Street Republican than the unpredictable McCain, some of whose pronouncements could make the financial community uneasy.

Moreover, New York politics is now framed around the Hillary-Giuliani contest, with the First Lady running on the Republican lite "New Democrat" Clinton legacy against another moderate Republican. Hillary's race overshadows and defines Gore, who also runs as a New Democrat, albeit a more aggressive one in foreign affairs.

Alpha Man Ascends Mountain
Up Your Face

Not since Gary Hart scuffed his bare feet along a pebbly California beach and ruminated about life in the sunset has anything like the new Al Gore ad hit the airwaves. Last summer we heard about how Gore had to get away from it all and climb Mount Rainier with his son, as the veep had always dreamed of doing. Now we find out that wasn't all that was going on.

The alpha male wannabe wasn't getting away from anything—he was making an ad to be aired a few days before the Washington primary. In this gem, Jim Frush, a Washington state resident and experienced Himalayan climber, relates how Gore persisted through wind and cold to get to the mountaintop, even though others in the seven-member party turned back from reaching the top of the 14,410-foot-high active volcano.

"Before I guided Al Gore and his son to the summit of Mount Rainier, I knew him primarily for his environmental positions, not as a person," Frush says. "But you get to know somebody in the mountains—how they react to pressure, how they handle adversity. And we had a very tough climb. Terrible conditions. A lot of people turned back, but Al, he didn't want to quit. He wanted to try to get to the top. And we made it—safely. Strength of character, perseverance, grace under pressure—these are qualities you look for in a mountaineer. They're even better in a President." If this bullshit doesn't make you vote for Bill Bradley, nothing will.

The Blair Which? Project
Haider Runs

Jörg Haider, Austria's pop fascist leader, who on Monday resigned as head of the Freedom Party, contends that he is "arguably" less extreme than British Prime Minister Tony Blair when it comes to immigration and asylum seekers. On February 20, Haider told the London Daily Telegraph that both he and Blair defy traditional left-right labels and share "amazing similarities," and that the Freedom Party is committed to social justice and finding "a new sense of community."

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