Bush Backer Smiles While Hollywood Frowns

The lights of Times Square were just beginning to put a

false face on twilight when a guy in a green double-breasted suit and a fur cap

parked his livery cab near the corner of Broadway and 49th Street and started

preaching. “We are not a dictatorship,” he bellowed in a thick, vaguely Central

European accent. “We are a free people.” His black Caprice was decorated with

U.S. flag decals and bumper stickers for Rick Lazio and George W. Bush. Even

with his fractured English, his arguments could be heard over the traffic and

chaos of Times Square at rush hour on Dec. 7.

He raised a pair of binoculars and looked south, where a

planned pro-Gore rally was taking shape seven blocks away. “They are sore

losers, the liberals” he shouted. “They want to bring a Marxist dictatorship

here.” He laughed at his own exaggerations. A businessman in a Toyota stopped

in traffic rolled down his window. He was talking into a cell phone. “Could you

be quiet for a minute while I make my call?” he asked, surprisingly polite. The

man in the green suit obliged, for a moment anyway. A Latina-looking woman

passed by. “Viva Latina Americana,” the man in the green suit said. It was

freezing, the wind whipping from the west across town, but he was coatless. Two

black kids, maybe 18 or 19, walked by, wearing turned-around baseball caps.

“Black, white, we are all together,” he said, returning to his bellow. “We are

free people.” The black kids laughed. A guy in work clothes yelled something

obscene about George W. Bush. “Have a happy holiday, sir,” said the man in the

green suit.

He gave his name as Paul Christache, a 60-year-old immigrant

from Romania. “I fought the dictatorship there,” he said. “I was a great bus

driver. Here, I have letters from people saying what a good bus driver I was.”

He was standing out in the cold, he said, to protest the protesters who were

gathering to the south, who were preparing to hear politicians and celebrities

accuse Republicans of all kinds of depredations. Mr. Christache, of course, was

not to be outdone, comparing Al Gore to the Communist oppressors of his

homeland. But at least there was a smile on his face and a hint of laughter in

his voice.

Seven blocks south, on a hastily constructed stage, things

were a bit more serious. Thousands of demonstrators, most of them recruited

from public-employee unions, gathered on the sidewalk on the east side of

Broadway, from 42nd Street south to the upper 30′s. Bundled up, they listened

patiently as speaker after speaker spoke of the need to count all the votes in

Florida. The crowd was festive enough, and actually seemed to enjoy hearing

from a gaggle of elected officials, from the measured Alan Hevesi to the glib

Mark Green (“George W. Bush and I agree on something. There should be a

concession. It’s time for George W. Bush to concede!”) to the antic Anthony

Weiner, a fuzzy-cheeked Congressman from Brooklyn.

Before long, it was time to bring out the drearily

inevitable Hollywood types, those modern-day bosses who preside over the Show

Business Democratic Club. Harvey Weinstein was brought onstage after a speaker singled out his Miramax Films for

its enlightened positions on public policy. Mr. Weinstein started off by

reminding his listeners that he usually can be found chatting with the likes of

Ben Affleck. But on this occasion, he wished to talk about the great

vote-stealing conspiracy in Florida. He told the audience that he was

personally challenging the news media-he mentioned the three city dailies and The Washington Post -to investigate fraud

in Florida. He challenged these great organizations to go to Florida to “break

the conspiracy,” as they did during Watergate.

It is wonderful to be reminded that all people, even great

Hollywood moguls, are capable of personal growth. Why, just about a month ago,

Mr. Weinstein was so suspicious of the press that he roughed up an Observer reporter who dared to make an

unauthorized inquiry about a movie. But Mr. Weinstein has seen the light! Now

he challenges the press to go down to Florida to ask tough questions and break

the unnamed conspiracy! Well, then, my colleagues: You have heard the

challenge. What will you do? Whatever path you choose, do not presume that you

may ask Mr. Weinstein a question about his patriotic challenge-unless, that is,

you are highly skilled in the art of self-defense.

Mr. Weinstein was followed, inevitably, by Barbra Streisand,

who was kind enough to send a phoned-in message. “They are not just stealing an

election,” the singer said. “They are stealing our soul.” My, my. Such a

serious, earnest business.

Back up north, Mr. Christache was yelling at passersby, and

having a ball doing it.