Kingdom of Heaven

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

Kingdom of Heaven

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

Kingdom of Heaven
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Oct. 12 1998 2:56 PM

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

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Oh you wild optimist: to think that you can find out the exchange rate 24 hours before you return. Last time I looked out of my window exchange booth across the road, the rate was 15.75, but that will change by the end of the day. I'll keep you posted.

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I'm not sure I could get through 5000 words of Andrew Sullivan, but I'm infinitely relieved that there is still somewhere in the States that will give him that length--even if he only has one point to make. The Russian approach to Clinton, of course, continues to be much more pragmatic and "European." On the surface at least. Twenty-seven percent of Russians questioned by the Fund for Public Opinion, which used to poll for Yeltsin (still does, probably) said over the weekend that they would vote for Clinton if he ran for president of Russia. That puts Bill well ahead of the other front runner, Gennady Zyuganov (the man with the cube-shape balls, as Central Committee staffers called him because of his strange gait and the apprehensive look on his face as he walked). You can argue that this is a healthy sign: that people here are not interested in the man's repugnant personal behavior, but in what he can achieve as president. But, you know full well that what most respondents are saying is that they wished their president had enough energy to hump a woman half his age. It's the same attitude that leads my driver, a thoughtful and unfailingly courteous man, to make mildly sarcastic remarks to himself every time he sees a woman behind the wheel.

No humping this week for Boris. It sounds as if he will have to put all his energies into walking straight. The TV news said last night that he needed to be supported as he arrived in Uzbekistan on a state visit--probably due to a "difficult" four hour flight in the presidential jet, Independent TV said sarcastically. And he has another cold. As Boris is one of the few people who needs multiple heart bypasses after heavy colds, this bears watching. Another of the polls done last weekend by Fund for Public will not improve his sense of well being--a 1 percent approval rating, an 89 percent disapproval rating.

You've chosen a good time to get back, of course, with Monday being a no-news day in the literal sense of the word, the day that most papers traditionally do not come. Even the two I was expecting did not arrive--"looks like the delivery system has collapsed" the janitor told me with masochistic satisfaction.

So I had to go across the road (eight/nine lanes, I can never remember). In the underpass there was the normal collection of beggars. An elderly couple, their air of piety somewhat eroded by the signs of drink, were chanting prayers painfully off key. A woman ahead of me stopped and put something in their collection box. The woman singer looked down and was disgusted.

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"You won't get into the kingdom of heaven for 50 kopecks," she yelled at her benefactor as her comrade urged her to be quiet. Welcome back.

Masha Gessen is chief of reporting at the Russian newsmagazine Itogi and author of Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia After Communism. Paul Quinn-Judge is Time's Moscow bureau chief.