With Rudolph Giuliani out and Rick Lazio in, you might have figured that “the nation’s most-watched Senate race” (the phrase has been used often enough to deserve ironic quote marks) would become distinctly less interesting, less worthy of endless hours of analysis in endless numbers of television studios throughout the land. (As I am faithful to the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Christian Sabbath, I have been unable to track personally the number of television appearances made by the Senate candidates themselves, their spokespeople, their surrogates and various New York media folk. My scouts, however, inform me that the total of hot-air hours spent in contemplation of the goings-on in New York is approaching O.J. Simpson levels.)
Apparently the late-game substitution on the Republican side, however, has actually added to, not detracted from, this gothic spectacle. Writing in the New York Post , toe-licker Dick Morris demonstrated yet again why nobody calls him Richard: Mr. Morris puts forward the notion that the infamous Clinton smear machine, i.e., his onetime colleagues, has added yet another scalp to its prodigious collection. Hanging this particular scalp from a post may prove problematic; nevertheless, Mr. Morris seems convinced that Clintonian dirt-diggers did in hair-challenged Rudolph Giuliani, former Senate candidate. This is a variation on the theory that those who stand in the way of the Clintons would be well advised to make sure their life insurance premiums are up to date.
Was it coincidence that the very newspaper for which Mr. Morris toils-a newspaper that is not, safe to say, especially sympathetic to Hillary Clinton-broke the story of Mr. Giuliani’s lady friend at the very moment when he was most vulnerable? Only a naïf would think so, Mr. Morris believes. The Judi Nathan story, the former fetishist posits, was deliberately leaked to news organizations in order to cause maximum damage-the political equivalent of those cluster bombs NATO dropped in the Balkans last year.
Without being able to answer his question with actual evidence, Mr. Morris asks: “Could an operative who worked, directly or indirectly, for Hillary or her campaign” have tipped off the Post about the Mayor’s dinnertime liaisons with Ms. Nathan? Mr. Morris thinks so, or, more to the point, he wishes his readers to think so, no doubt hoping none will ask for proof.
Furthermore, Mr. Morris suggests that when the imagined Clintonian operative thought the Post was sitting on the story, he or she then tipped off the Daily News , which was tricked into running a semi-blind gossip item about the Mayor and an unnamed dinner companion, which then forced the Post to publish what it had been fed. What a delightful little conspiracy! What wonderful insight into the soul of one of America’s most celebrated power brokers!
One hopes that a Post reporter or two took offense over Mr. Morris’ rather cynical analysis of his colleagues’ integrity and judgment. Indeed, Mr. Morris urges reporters, including his fellow Posties, to ask “tough questions” in order to find out “who outed Rudy.” It is a shame indeed that Mr. Morris missed the May 15 issue of The Observer , which told how a horde of New York reporters, including the Daily News gossip writer who subsequently ran the half-blind item, interrupted their drinking at Elaine’s to catch Mr. Giuliani in the act of dining with Ms. Nathan in a restaurant across the street! The Mayor outed himself.
At least it can be said that Mr. Morris has not accused Sidney Blumenthal or Harold Ickes of kidnapping the Mayor and injecting him with rogue cells, or of making certain promises to Donna Hanover (“We have friends in Hollywood, Donna, who would love to work with you, if you would just …”) in exchange for her damaging public reference to the Mayor and his onetime press secretary. Perhaps we anticipate next week’s dispatch from the loony bin.
Mr. Morris wishes to shock us with the revelation that the Clintons always investigate the sex lives of their foes. (And perhaps even their own political consultants. How, after all, did the supermarket tabloids get that photo of Mr. Morris in the act of toe-sucking?) Whether or not this is true, the notion of politicians spreading dirt about an opponent’s private life is, alas, hardly newsworthy. In 1988, certain Republican operatives were delighted to speculate about the mental health of Michael and Kitty Dukakis. Perhaps the Clintons were behind those rumors, too, knowing full well that if Mr. Dukakis lost, the path would be clear for Mr. Clinton in 1992.
It is heartening to see that Mr. Morris will continue to monitor this campaign with the insight and wisdom he has displayed throughout, going back to the days when he assured us that Hillary Clinton would never be a candidate for Senate.