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.”

Haider is no stranger to New York City, where he ran the marathon last November (time: three hours, 30 minutes), and was a guest of honor, along with Rudy Giuliani, at this year’s Congress of Racial Equality festivities on Martin Luther King Day. Last week, although he was in Austria, he was the focus of a demonstration outside the Austrian Consulate here. Protesters railed against his party’s inclusion in the Austrian government, and some called upon him to state openly that he is gay. Although Haider, who is married and has two children, remains mostly mum on gay issues, the Freedom Party is on record against same sex-marriages and the existence of gay and lesbian clubs.

Of course, the modish fascist harbors grave doubts about the abilities of blacks to run a government. During a 1995 trip to Africa he told Austrian public television, “I’ve visited friends in Namibia [the former German Southwest Africa] together with my family because I wanted to find out how living together with the blacks is when they got the majority. It’s really a problem with the blacks. Even where they got the majority, they can’t run things. It’s totally hopeless with them.”

A Haunting Refrain

King and I

Who said the following? “As far as Rep. [Peter] King’s opinions are concerned, I could hardly care less… His accusation of grandstanding is laughable given that there is little in Mr. King’s singularly unimpressive legislative record to suggest that he is motivated by anything other than a compulsion to utter provocative sound bites. I have never met a single other Republican who felt that Mr. King spoke for the party or for any Republican other than himself. Indeed, the only ‘Republican’ organization I have ever noticed Mr. King represent is the Irish Republican Army. Mr. King says that I have put my own ambitions before the party. If by that he means that I intend to run for president, he knows something I don’t, and his argument is self-contradicting.”

Answer: John McCain in The Hill newspaper, December 1997 (uncovered by The National Review). King, who recently broke with the GOP hierarchy, now heads McCain’s New York campaign.

Light Fantastic

U.S. astronauts had sex in space to help NASA figure out which positions work best in a weight-free atmosphere, according to recently unearthed 1996 project reports. The experiments called for participants to fuck in 10 different ways, often in an inflatable tunnel where wall straps held participants together. Other positions involved couples floating in space. Previously, a Russian cosmonaut was rumored to have had sex on a space station and a British astronaut said she’d had “fantastic experiences” on MIR as she floated around in a pink nightie. NASA did not return repeated phone calls.

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi