The front page of yesterday's Times offered a photo of President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown merrily golf-carting around Camp David. We glanced at the shot, amused by the cowboy president's attempt to do his squinty-eyed tough-guy look while piloting a conveyance most often used on the manicured fairways of Shinnecock or in the retirement communities of Boca. We were about to flip the page when we noticed something: A placard on the front of the vehicle labels it "Golf Cart One." We chuckled to ourselves, and we thought that it's sort of the perfect presidential vehicle for this particular commander-in- chief, for his underpowered golf cart of a presidency. Then we got worried; were we being unfair? Perhaps this isn't Bush obnoxious frat-boy humor ("I'm the president, and it's my golf cart, so it's Golf Cart One. Heh heh heh.") but rather a longstanding tradition. So we asked President Clinton's spokesman. Did that administration, too, call the presidential scooter "Golf Cart One"? The e-mailed reply came late in the day: "Nope." Good.
The Timesis indignant, Gawker is indignant — hell, we're even feeling a little indignant — that President Bush commuted convicted perjurer Scooter Libby's 30-month prison sentence yesterday afternoon. "I respect the jury's verdict," Bush said yesterday. He continued: "But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive," which is basically the opposite of respecting the verdict. (He also said back in 2003, when the Plame leak first came to light, that "if there is a leak out of my administration and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of." Just not too harshly.) But we wondered: Are average New Yorkers indignant, too? A quick 20-person poll later — our interns asked twenty passersby in front of the office on Madison Avenue — it seems they're not, or at least not as much as we'd hoped. Damn. Questions and tallies after the jump.
So Tony Blair is now, officially, no longer Britain's prime minister, having tendered his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II earlier today. He's off, presumably, to become the Quartet's Mideast peace negotiator, while Gordon Brown has been approved by the Queen as his replacement. For President Bush's take on his great ally's departure, we refer you to low in the AP news item:
"Tony's had a great run and history will judge him kindly," Bush told Britain's The Sun tabloid in remarks published Wednesday. "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."
The trouble with polls these days? They're all biased. Those damn liberals don't ask whether you think George W. Bush is doing a great job in office but whether you'd like to see him kicked to the curb. That, you should understand, is a rigged question. Thankfully, the Heritage Foundation has stepped in to fix the problem; the right-wing D.C. think tank has sent a survey to "Conservatives and Republicans Only," the results of which they promise will end up on the desks of some very powerful people in Washington. Through what can only be an act of Daniel Ellsberg–like political bravery, a copy of that survey arrived at the home of a neither conservative nor Republican magazine writer in the very blue state of New York. So what can we learn about the conservative mind from this leak? Well, according to the Heritage folks, most media surveys are "inaccurate … because they don't ask the right questions." So what are the correct, unbiased questions?
Sony BMG chief Clive Davis doesn't like Kelly Clarkson's music, even though it makes his label a lot of money. Barbara Corcoran dropped trou for a bunch of people who commented that she'd lost weight. Ellen Barkin returned some diamonds she was loaned to wear to a Darfur benefit at Cannes at 3 a.m. Usher has taken to calling in radio stations to complain about hosts who make fun of his fiancée. President Bush promised a bunch of Vietnam vets that he'd read a book that alleges that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, were responsible for keeping soldiers in Southeast Asia even after the U.S. withdrew from the region. In her new book, former venture capitalist Christine Comaford-Lynch compares Barbara Walters to a small action figure.
There's a new Times/CBS poll out today on the Iraq war, and it's bad news for Mr. Bush. "Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the war began," as the Times bluntly put it. Six in ten say the country should have stayed out of Iraq in the first place, the paper reported. Three of four say things are going badly there. And a whopping 63 percent disapprove of Bush's overall performance as president, with only 30 percent approving. The one bit of good news is that a majority support continuing to finance the war, assuming the Iraqi government meets benchmarks. But it's a poll of all Americans. What do New Yorkers think? We asked the first twenty people we found on Madison Avenue in front of the office. Oddly, only 45 percent said the country should have stayed out of Iraq (we think maybe we phrased that one wrong). Otherwise, the locals are even more pessimistic than the rest of the country. By a lot. The questions and tallies are after the jump.
Moveon.org's "Emergency Veto Rally" converged on Union Square at rush hour last night to protest President Bush's veto of the Democrat's war-funding bill, which set a date for troop withdrawal. The youngest protester looked to be about 3; the oldest no doubt saw plenty of anti-Vietnam rallies as well. There were some college kids, too, but not many. Whither the young radicals? (On the other hand, the college kids probably came up with our all-time favorite rally chant, replacing words in a Ludacris lyric: "Move Bush, get out the way, get out the way Bush, get out the way.") —Everett Bogue
• The City Council overrode Bloomberg's veto and instituted a ban on metal baseball bats in high schools. And council members did the same with his veto of pedicab restrictions. A two-hitter, if you will. [Bloomberg]
• President Bush is in town today for a speech and a photo op at the Harlem Village Academy Charter School, because it's been doing well under the No Child Left Behind act. We're sure the city had nothing to do with the improvement! At any rate, enjoy the gridlock. [amNY]
• Historian David Halberstam, Pulitzer-winning legend of New York journalism died in a Bay Area car crash. Halberstam covered the Vietnam war for the Times and went on to write dozens of widely read books on that and other subjects. [WNBC]
• The condo-weary Upper West Side is making like the Lower East and mulling a height limit on buildings. Under a proposed plan, all new construction west of the park between 97th and 110th Street would top off at about fourteen stories. [NYDN]
• And the Waverly Inn — still not officially opened! — got slapped with 38 points for nine violations by the Health Department, including "mouse activity." We're sure our Grub Street brethren will have more to say, so let us just quickly smile at Mr. Carter's plan for a "Waverly cat" to deal with the mice. [NYT]
Mass public whining doesn’t seem to have deterred either George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton’s political trajectories. So, with all else failed, there’s always voodoo. No, really. Writer Turk Regan — the author of such literary classics as Sports Fan Voodoo and Pimp My Cubicle — has heard the masses who “loath,” “despise,” and “fear” Hillary, he explains. And he feels you, if you want George W. “to pay for the sins of his administration,” he says. So he’s teamed up with Running Press to create George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton voodoo kits, complete with rudimentary doll, pins, and 56-page books of “spells” designed to help you, er, “stick it to them.” The spells are less abracadabra, more snarky explanations of each politico’s wrongdoings. Use the “Problem Child Spell” for Bush “to compel W. to turn in his adult suit-and-tie outfits for a naughty schoolboy uniform like the one worn by the guitarist guy in AC/DC.” And since “Hillary’s hairstyles have been almost as instrumental in her rise to power as her clothing,” the “Bad Hair Decade Spell” — involving pinning while humming music by Poison, Flock of Seagulls, or Bananarama — sends Hill into “an extended coiffure crisis.” Of course, regardless of whether the dolls work, Regan doesn’t have much reason to care. He lives “as far from the political fray as possible” in Montana. —Rebecca Milzoff
And so the "nappy-headed hos" remark has cost Don Imus his job. The final denouement, which came with CBS Radio's canning the I-Man last night, a day after MSNBC dropped the simulcast of his show, has seemed inevitable for most of the week, as protests had intensified, advertisers had balked, and the great and august Ana Marie Cox had announced she would never again deign to appear on such a juvenile broadcast. (Cox first gained fame as the editor of Wonkette, where she was known for her anal-sex jokes.) But it has not always been thus; many, many public figures have uttered bigoted slurs and lived to tell the tale. After the jump, a look back at some Great Moments in Bigoted Slurs.
• Clipper Equity's ingenious PR notwithstanding, the would-be Starrett City buyer was thwarted again. On Saturday, the state's Housing Commissioner rejected the firm's second bid for the complex, concerned with the group's poor track record in the area. [TheStreet.com]
• A blaze in a Bronx apartment building injured 53 people by AM New York's count (the Post has the number at 41), including 14 firefighters. The three-alarm fire began on the first floor and quickly spread up and out through hallways. [amNY, NYP]
• Barack Obama (who evidently can't just come to a city; he either "swings through" or "invades" it) is back in New York for more fund-raising. He'll hang at a couple of good addresses before stopping by the Letterman show. Obama's previous New York City take is estimated at $3 million. [NYDN]
• Bush knew. About Bernie Kerik's past, that is, when NYC's then-top cop was nominated to head Homeland Security. Thus, the doomed pick could have been a purely political gesture. Oh, and Alberto Gonzales had a hand in it, too. [NYP]
• And East Hampton becomes a two-newspaper town: The Press, an import from one town over, is taking on the 122-year-old local institution the Star (as New York reported last month). Get ready for war. [NYT]
Rudy Giuliani's front-running presidential campaign has lost a key staffer with connections to Karl Rove. Margaret Hoover joined Giuliani's Solutions America PAC in September to help direct fund-raising operations, but her greater value was to shore up the former mayor's credentials with conservatives and to signal Giuliani's seriousness about a White House run. Hoover, a great-granddaughter of the 31st president and an intergovernmental-affairs aide to Rove before taking the Giuliani job, brought important national campaign experience to the team, having worked for Bush-Cheney '04.
A federal judge who is George W. Bush's cousin killed a New Haven, Connecticut, police officer in a traffic accident in October, and this afternoon New Haven police decided not to pursue criminal charges. Judge John Mercer Walker Jr., a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is first cousin to former President George H.W. Bush they share a grandfather, George Herbert Walker and first cousin once removed to the current president. On October 17, in what a New Haven police spokeswoman termed "difficult weather conditions," the 66-year-old Walker was driving an SUV that struck 38-year-old Officer Daniel Picagli, a seventeen-year veteran of the New Haven police department.
• That was fast: Spitzer has earned the epithet "tyrannical" for the first — and probably not the last — time in his gubernatorial tenure. Apparently, the Spitz now tours fellow Democrats' districts to individually rip the legislators for reneging on the comptroller deal. [NYDN]
• Late policeman Cesar Borja became the human face of the post-9/11 illnesses befalling first responders. The Times bursts that heroic bubble today by reporting that Borja wasn't even a second responder; he never rushed to the site on 9/11 and simply picked up a few shifts there, in December 2001, for overtime pay. [NYT]
• The president, meantime, can't keep his mitts off another hero — Wesley Autrey, our bunny-hat-sporting subway savior; weeks after his cameo at the State of the Union, he is back at the White House for some sort of George Bush Cares About Black People shindig. (Among other invitees: Charlie Rangel.) [NYP]
• Chuck Schumer, Christine Quinn, and Hillary Clinton pile on Clipper Equity, threatening to block its Starrett City purchase unless they see an ironclad pledge to keep the complex's 6,000 units affordable. Turns out Clipper "doesn't have a written plan" for its $1.3 billion impulse buy. [amNY]
• And get ready for actual snow, if you remember what the stuff is; a few inches of it are expected this afternoon. But don't get too excited: This bit of real winter will quickly be replaced by that post-millennial stand-in — freezing rain — by tomorrow morning. [4 Weather Plus]
Members of the ten-person Iraq Study Group, which included Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan, almost came to blows over a disagreement. Both Paris Hilton and Britney Spears were no-shows at the Heatherette show. Sienna Miller's secret to having a nice rump in Factory Girl? Spray-on makeup. Park Chinois, the haute Chinese restaurant that was to open in the Gramercy Park Hotel, is no more. Owen Wilson ate with the boldfaced names but hung out with the nobodies at the Waverly Inn. After getting dumped by boyfriend Isaac Cohen via phone, Britney Spears went out "partying like a college girl looking to get laid." (And how, we must ask, is that different from all other nights?)
“The Loneliest President,” the cover story in this week’s magazine, keeps resonating with us. Earlier, we wondered aloud whether Bush’s near-delusional state had something to do with the departures of his two pastry chefs. Now we discover that a new memoir, White House Chef , from former head cook Walter Scheib, who was fired by the Bushes in early 2005, supports John Heilemann’s suggestion that W. is an emotionally stunted, narcissistic personality incapable of empathy or growth.
The president was in New York yesterday, and he brought some odd tidings for our city's financial industry. In a speech strategically delivered across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, George W. Bush — who on a trip to New York years ago delivered his famous "Some call you the elite, I call you my base" line — spoke out against excessive executive pay and lush severance packages. Meantime, an editorial in the same day's Wall Street Journal posited that any legislation curbing executive pay would immediately translate into higher taxes. As the person hectoring the gaggle of Wall Streeters about fiscal modesty was the same person who had drastically cut taxes for everyone in attendance, the listeners could be forgiven for mild confusion. The Sun calls the crowd's response "muted." But of course it was: The real target audience for the speech was the general public. "The fact is that income inequality is real," said Bush. "It has been rising for more than 25 years." And you're first noticing that now, George? Pardon the pun, but that's rich.
Bush Warns Wall Street on Pay [NYS]
George W. Bush: The Elite, My Base [YouTube]