Drop the Big One

Political commentary and more.
Jan. 19 2000 5:08 PM

Drop the Big One

Memo to Bob Shrum: Your candidate, Al Gore, needs to "strangle the baby in the bath"--that is, crush Bill Bradley in both the Iowa caucuses next Monday and the New Hampshire primary eight days later. If Bradley gets into the open field of the post-New Hampshire contests, he'll surely deplete your campaign treasury, and he might just win. Unfortunately, the latest polls from New Hampshire are all over the lot. The CBS and Newsweek polls show you ahead; the University of Massachusetts poll shows Bradley beating you by 10 points. Other polls show a virtual tie. As you know, New Hampshire voters can shift en masse in the final few days before the primary--ask Walter Mondale. This year, they may be inclined to vote for Bradley to "keep the contest going" and prevent you from wrapping it up.

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It looks pretty iffy. Which is why I sincerely hope you're busy finishing up the 30-second ads that can destroy Bradley in New Hampshire, the ones highlighting his 1996 vote against welfare reform. Remember the poll last fall that showed 38 percent of Democrats--let alone the all-important independents--thought less of Bradley when told of his welfare vote? (That was twice as many as thought better of him.) ... The welfare spots don't have to be harsh or anti-left. They can be uplifting. Ex-welfare mothers going to work, earning income, gaining respect ... and Bill Bradley voted against it! ... Bad man! ... Keep the ads in the can and drop them on Bradley starting Jan. 25, the day after all those liberal activists in the Iowa caucuses have had their say. ...

Jeffrey Toobin, Hypocrite, Part II: In his book A Vast Conspiracy, you'll recall, New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin denounces "sexual investigative reporting" as "tawdry voyeurism" and "sleaze." But that doesn't prevent him from recounting, on Page 53, the allegation of one Dennis Kirkland that Paula Jones "gave him a 'blow job'" and that he'd seen her "giving blow jobs to three of his friends, whom he named." Is that really relevant? Well, maybe it is. What's inexcusable is that Toobin waits 100 pages to mention that a) Kirkland is a convicted forger; who b) had had "five, six, seven, eight even" beers the night in question; and c) hadn't actually seen Jones give the serial blow jobs to his friends. Simple fairness should have suggested that Toobin at least hint strongly during his initial presentation of Kirkland's tale that it was uncorroborated and would later prove a problem for Clinton's lawyers. Toobin could easily have done that while preserving narrative suspense. ... He might also have mentioned that none of Kirkland's friends backed up the allegations. ... But then, actually checking out and evaluating a story like that is "sexual investigative reporting," isn't it? ...

Plotting the Perfect Kausfiles Vacation!Kausfiles is always willing to follow the innovative lead of its fellow start-up publication, Talk magazine. This month's Talk features a charming six-page travel section entitled "Chasing Mr. Ripley," a tour of Italy keyed to the locations used in The Talented Mr. Ripley, the movie everyone's talking about. ... OK, nobody's talking about it, but it does just happen to be produced by Harvey Weinstein's Miramax Films, which co-owns Talk, and which certainly hoped that people would be talking about it. In this synergistic spirit, kausfiles dispatched Raoul Danto, one of its top doppelgängers, on a no-expense-spared quest to map out the ultimate, self-promotional kausfiles holiday. He filed this report:

Planning the perfect kausfiles vacation can be tough to do, because basically this guy just sits around his living room staring at his Toshiba laptop. Sometimes in his bathrobe! This can be a little disorienting for the dedicated kausfiles vacationer. Just getting out of bed and eating breakfast is a day's travel for the new Web publication's editor! "Think of it as a mosaic, a jigsaw puzzle," he said when I rang him for help. "The map of kausfiles bears little relation to a real map. It's a map of kausfiles' head."

The trick, of course, is not to get too literal-minded. (It's not that big an apartment. And he's out of milk.) But a rough kausfiles tour might start at the picturesque ethnic JJ Fresh Produce, across the street from the kausfiles pensione in Battery Park City, New York. (Think Alphaville meets Last Year at Marienbad.) Say hi to Sam, the counter man. Then it's off to catch the Metroliner to sun-dappled Washington, D.C. Visit the romantic Brookings Institution--economist Gary Burtless greets you at the door!--and browse the bookstore for the latest on Section 8 housing vouchers. Try not to buy too much! ... Next, grab a cab to Capitol Hill to the forbidding 12th-century castle, funded with MacArthur genius grants, that houses the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where you'll swap food-stamp statistics with Robert Greenstein and Wendell Primus! ... A quick subway ride and you're at the C.F. Folks luncheonette, where Art, the owner, will tell you his plan to save Social Security and what he really thinks of New Republic editor-in-chief Marty Peretz. But don't dawdle, because you have to catch the train back to New York in time to file. ... It's granola bars in the dinette car for dinner (stay away from the Amtrak pizza!) as you unpack your complimentary Heritage Foundation tote bag to discover your own personalized copy of the 1998 Green Book, Background Material and Data on Programs Within the Jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means! ... Before you know it, you're at Penn Station, out of cash. Take the 2 subway home. Get off at the wrong stop. You're in trendy Tribeca! Matt Damon lives around here somewhere ...

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