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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday May 16, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 20)

The Diddling Dictator; NRA Compared to KKK; Marx’s Moment

1. The previously infidelity-phobic magazines reveled in the unfolding marriage of Rudy Giuliani. Newsweek tabbed Rudy as "cruel" and a "benevolent dictator." U.S. News drags out the hoary old line about the Clintons being "blessed by their enemies."

2. Basking in the afterglow of the so-called "Million Mom March," Time lauded the march organizer for "perfect, puffy press for protest," and essayist Roger Rosenblatt equated the NRA with the KKK. Newsweek hit Bush’s funding support from the NRA, which "could make more than a few moms his enemy." U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman complained "if water pistols can be regulated by the federal government, so, too, can real pistols."

3. Time took on George W. Bush, including a Michael Weisskopf investigation of how planned Texas sales restrictions on dietary supplements with the herb ephedrine were weakened in "a case study of politics, policy and money in George W. Bush’s Texas."

4. Author Francis Fukuyama explored the future of socialism and suggested in Time that "Karl Marx's exhortation ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ has never seemed more apt."

On the covers of this week’s news magazines: Newsweek featured Michael J. Fox and his crusade against Parkinson’s Disease. Time Magazine offered another set of "Visions of the 21st Century," with the cover focus on Tom Peters’ take on the hottest jobs of the future. U.S. News highlights prostate cancer. Only Newsweek ran an article on former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards being convicted of racketeering and extortion, and didn’t refer to him as a Democrat until the fourth paragraph of its five-paragraph article. Time mentioned Edwards as both a loser in its "Winners & Losers" feature and in their "Milestones" feature. Neither mentioned his party affiliation.


The previously infidelity-phobic magazines reveled in the unfolding marriage of Rudy Giuliani. The Giuliani headlines didn’t read "Money for Mischief" (U.S. News), "We’re Voting for Senator, Not Pope" (Newsweek) or "Who Cares, Anyway?" (Time). Those, with slight modifications, were the headlines on the Gennifer Flowers story in 1992. Instead, a common thread of Giuliani coverage was the subtle defense of Bill Clinton during his impeachment travails in comparison to the recent revelations from Giuliani.

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter found in Giuliani’s behavior a rationale for investigating the private lives of lesser officials than the President. "This is a quick way to start an argument. If you admire Clinton or Giuliani, you most likely believe public performance and character are disconnected. You can be a good president and an irresponsible man; a good mayor and a cruel man." Apparently, Clinton’s Lewinsky battle only reveals he’s "irresponsible." Giuliani’s behavior, on the other hand, is "cruel." He mourned: "Both Clinton and Giuliani could have been not just capable administrators but real leaders; not just good, but great."

His colleague Howard Fineman found an authoritarian: "The mayor’s still secure in the role of workaholic, benevolent dictator – a cross between Batman and parish priest." Is this more demeaning to Giuliani or parish priests? And isn’t this weird in a magazine in which Fidel Castro is occasionally identified as a "president"?

In U.S. News, Roger Simon dragged out the hoary old line about the Clintons being "blessed by their enemies," and pondered the wonderful "luck" the Clintons always seem to enjoy. "There is luck, there is good luck, and there is the luck of the Clintons. And we know they are lucky because no first couple in history has been as blessed by their enemies as the Clintons have. President Clinton went through an agonizing period of scandal and impeachment in which the public was forced to choose between him, Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich, and the House prosecutors. No wonder Clinton's popularity soared." Of course, he failed to mention the good fortune of the Clintons in having a highly sympathetic media to act as apologists for their behavior. Luck indeed.

Time’s Eric Pooley harshly criticized Giuliani for the press conference where he announced his intention to seek a legal separation from his wife and Pooley used this to once again paint Hillary as a sympathetic figure. "He brought the trouble on himself, mostly by his treatment of Hanover. Simply put, what kind of man would hold a press conference to announce the end of his marriage without first coordinating it with his wife?.....Giuliani strategists are clinging to the idea that marital discord can't hurt you in a race against a Clinton. But Rudy is running against the wronged woman, not the philandering man."

After reading this, another question pops into mind. What kind of woman, after learning of another instance of her husband’s philandering, helps perpetuate a finger-wagging lie to the American public to further her own political career?


Basking in the afterglow of the so-called "Million Mom March," Time’s "Winners & Losers" feature found a winner in march organizer Donna Dees-Thomases: "Milliom Mom March founder gets perfect, puffy press for protest. John McCain advising you?" On the magazine’s last page, essayist Roger Rosenblatt explored the NRA’s pledge to put $1 million into gun-safety education, along with the philanthropy of the tobacco giant Philip Morris: "Is it right, one asks, to discount such deeds because one condemns the source? What if the Ku Klux Klan were to institute a $1 million campaign for universal literacy, with a KKK mom appearing on TV and asking, ‘Won’t you join us in making good readers a clan we can all be proud of?’ Thank you." This is getting a little cliched, since Time’s John Cloud just compared the Boy Scouts to the KKK.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Pat Wingert report another Million Mom story predictably found gun politics favored Al Gore, even though Pew Center pollster Andrew Kohut just found voters with moderate gun-policy beliefs currently favor Bush. "Though Gore runs the risk of losing some gun-owning Democrats, his advisers long ago concluded that passionate gun advocates aren't likely to vote for him anyway."

By contrast, "Bush is in a far trickier position. A strong gun-rights supporter, he can't afford to alienate pro-gun voters in Republican-stronghold states by appearing weak on the issue. Yet he well knows that presidential elections are won and lost on the vast numbers of more moderate swing voters, and polls show those people—especially suburban women like many of the marching moms—are weary of gun violence and want politicians to do something to stop it." They concluded with Bush’s financial support from the NRA: "With friends like that, Bush could make more than a few moms his enemy."

U.S. News owner/editor in chief Mortimer Zuckerman, in what has become a media trend, portrayed this demonstration as a struggle between helpless mommies and the dark and all-powerful NRA. "We have just witnessed one of the great spontaneous events of our democracy––a million moms across the country marching on Mother's Day to plead for federal gun control laws. The shadow across the march was the National Rifle Association (NRA). It has opposed virtually every gun control initiative in a period of gun outrages and still gained 500,000 members last year. Have the moms got any chance at all?"

Zuckerman bashed guns. "Guns change everything. People with guns kill people. Limit weapons to stones, or bats, or knives, and anyone attacked can fight back or run away. But with guns, especially rapid-fire weapons, there is no escape, and they are still too easy to acquire....They know that guns protect but also kill––mothers and fathers, grandfathers and babies, and more teenagers than any natural cause. Indeed, if water pistols can be regulated by the federal government, so, too, can real pistols." Last time we checked, there were tens of thousands of laws on the books that regulate the purchase and use of guns.

Zuckerman concluded with an either-or proposition between guns and mothers: "If the NRA previously had the intensity on its side, that intensity has now been equaled by the commitment of mothers seeking to protect their children. If guns are as American as apple pie so too is motherhood. Politicians will have to choose."


Time took on George W. Bush. James Carney and John F. Dickerson explored Bush’s meeting with and endorsement by John McCain. They explained the feelings of McCain aides: "When he emerged after an hour and a half without rope burns, they joked that he hadn’t spent that long alone in a room with another man since he was interrogated at the Hanoi Hilton." They argued "The worst moment was Bush’s." He ducked a question asking if he would denounce Pat Robertson for declaring McCain would be a "very dangerous" president. "McCain, though disappointed, understands the bargain Bush has made with the preacher."

Time also published a Michael Weisskopf investigation of how pending Texas sales restrictions on dietary supplements with the herb ephedrine were weakened by state health commissioner William ("Reyn") Archer: "records and interviews obtained by Time suggest...the office of Governor Bush encouraged, if not inspired, Archer’s about-face after lawyers close to Bush began work for a leading manufacturer. Those same lawyers funneled $40,000 to Bush’s [1998] re-election drive about the time of a key industry meeting with Archer. The rise and fall of ephedrine regulation offers a case study of politics, policy and money in George W. Bush’s Texas."


Lastly, an item from Time and its "Visions of the 21st Century." Author Francis Fukuyama, who just years ago was arguing in neoconservative quarterlies about the "end of history" caused by the decline and fall of Soviet communism, pondered whether socialism will make a comeback in the next century. "Today it's a cliche to say that socialism didn't work, that it produced a society in which, as the Soviets used to joke, they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work. In fact, socialism did work at one period in history: during the 1930s, and again in the '50s and '60s, socialist economies like that of the U.S.S.R. grew faster than their capitalist counterparts." That’s only true if you blindly accept communist government economic data. This kind of analysis led the CIA to miss the collapse of communism, projecting the Soviet empire as much stronger than it was.

Fukuyama detailed how "There is plenty about our present globalized economic system that should trouble not just aging radicals but ordinary people as well," since "Democratic countries find their their options for political choice [read: government intervention]...are curtailed by the increased mobility of financial capital and information." So "the sources of grievance against the capitalist order are still there and increasingly powerful. The questions is, what form will the backlash against globalization take?"

Fukuyama preached: "It is clear that socialism cannot be rebuilt in a single country. Workers pushing too hard for higher wages in Michigan will simply see their jobs disappear to Guadalajara or Penang. Only if all workers around the world were unionized, pushing simultaneously for a global rise in wages, would companies be unable to play off one group of workers against another. Karl Marx's exhortation ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ has never seemed more apt."

Apparently, Karl Marx was just a man out of his time.

-- Paul Smith




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