Editor's Desk

Primarily Incorrect

Honesty and Kinsley. Whither Bill Maher? Chicago showdown.

By 3.18.02

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SULTAN OF SWAT: Everyone feels sorry for Michael Kinsley, who worried that would be everyone's reaction when he announced he has Parkinson's. More recently it's been reported he has found true love. As if to compensate on both fronts, Kinsley seems determined to prove he's become neither nicer nor deserving of anyone's sympathy. Why else would he open a column with this: "If you're not careful, you can squander an entire journalistic career swatting flies from the Wall Street Journal editorial page" -- the same page that was once gracious enough to allow him a weekly column, a fact the neocurmudgeon isn't honest enough to tell readers about?

Or why else would Kinsley ridicule Virginia Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, for the piece she did for the Journal defending appeals court nominee Charles Pickering -- and then proceed to attack Justice Thomas himself as someone who lied under oath and who now "lies comatose in the Supreme Court"? But here too Kinsley isn't honest enough to describe what was done to Thomas. He writes that Thomas became a martyr in conservative eyes because Democrats and liberals "accused him of being a right-wing ideologue with a close mind about abortion rights, among other vicious lies," though as everyone except David Brock and apparently Kinsley now knows, those weren't ultimately the charges Thomas had to overcome. It was only after it became clear that smearing Thomas as an Uncle Tom Attila the Hun wouldn't defeat his nomination that the left dropped the big one in an effort to destroy Thomas as a sexually harassing pornographer. Again, Kinsley isn't honest enough to confront the actual history of his own side's obsessive and never-ending campaign to eradicate Thomas.

Normally, the notion "honest enough" isn't particularly useful in debate, since it's so redolent of the sort of charge Kinsley above all has been hurling at conservatives since time immemorial. In his view, dishonesty is the one unforgivable sin and he's forever finding it on the right. If only he were more vain and spent more time staring into a mirror.

POLITICALLY INEPT: A Monday link on Drudge informed us that Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" show is apparently, finally, at-long-last-though-not-that-anyone-knew-it-was-still-on going to be dropped for good by the same folks at ABC who failed to oust Ted Koppel or land Dave Letterman. The "Variety" critic who wrote the linked-to story praises "Politically Incorrect" for various mindless reasons, one of which stands out: the very late-starting show attracted almost three million viewers a night even though no one was ever sure when it was actually going to start.

Which pretty much summarized the show's appeal: it was a show pretending to be a show, run and watched by perpetual adolescents pretending to be sophisticated but no more convincing than kids who put on their mother's lipstick, jewelry, and high heels or their father's hat and double-breasted jacket.

His post-9/11 idiocies notwithstanding, Maher was essentially harmless. If he was incapable of passing intelligence pre-9/11, there was no reason to expect he would have known how to respond to the requirements of gravity. Today he looks no older or maybe even younger than he did in the comedic and even dramatic character roles he played on TV and in movies a decade or two ago. He was particularly good at playing the loser. Why didn't he keep his day job?

NOT READY FOR PRIMARY TIME: Tuesday is primary day in Illinois, and one race that's being watched is the Democratic primary starring former Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel, who's in a close race against Nancy Kaszak in the blue-collar 5th Congressional District on Chicago's North Side. It's a perfect Democratic matchup: a big shot Clintonite-turned-investment banker against a union-backed local former state legislator who is both anti-NAFTA and backed by EMILY's List and Gloria Steinem. According to the Washington Post, when Emanuel accused Kaszak of being soft on crime, she called the charge "sexist." Her EMILY's-funded ads attacked Emanuel for his work in passing NAFTA and for brokering mergers and acquisitions that earned him millions but costs thousands of jobs. Will the big shot be brought down a peg or two?

Kaszak didn't help herself when in her presence the president of the Polish-American Congress, an unsavory fellow named Edward Moskal, attacked Chicago-native Emanuel as a "millionaire carpet-bagger," claimed he has dual Israeli citizenship (he doesn't), and accused him of giving "his allegiance" to "certain elements" that "defile the Polish homeland and continue to hurl insults at the Polish people." Moskal should talk. In Polish his last name means Muscovite.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.