It was perfectly predictable that in the aftermath of terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the search for political scapegoats would be as intense as the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It was just as obvious that Bill Clinton would quickly become the favorite quarry of this quest–particularly among the former President's old adversaries in the national media and the Republican Party (two entities which often seem to be locked in a mind-meld these days).
There's another convenient place where these worthies might look for culprits but never do: the mirror. Whatever the various failures and flaws of Mr. Clinton's tenure may have been, his efforts against terrorism compare favorably with the frivolous preoccupations of his critics.
As articulated by America's foremost analysts, the general complaint is that the Clinton administration "didn't do enough" to forestall the atrocities of Sept. 11. This deep insight is a truism: Al Qaeda's suicide operatives achieved their mission despite any and all measures taken by the government to frustrate and destroy the bin Laden network. Those measures, which were hardly insignificant, were by definition not "enough."
That simple notion was at the heart of The New York Times' Dec. 30 investigative report, a long disquisition whose front-page headline conveyed its slant: "Planning for Terror But Failing to Act." The facts and quotes accumulated by reporters Judith Miller, Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeff Gerth didn't quite justify that damning summary.
The Times reporters appeared to be laboring under the assumption that Mr. Clinton could have mustered a full-scale unilateral invasion of Afghanistan to capture the Al Qaeda leadership–at a time when the Congressional majority was seeking to impeach him. But if that naïve fantasy is discounted, it is clear even in The Times ' account that the Clinton administration made many attempts to strike lethally at Mr. bin Laden. And the fact that Mr. Clinton took terrorism very seriously would have been clearer still if The Times had mentioned the enormous increases he approved in counterterrorism spending by the F.B.I. and other federal agencies.
Speaking of the F.B.I., the Times story neglected another prominent name that scarcely passes the lips of those seeking to apportion blame. That would the bureau's former director Louis Freeh, a bungler who has become virtually invisible since September. In an article that highlighted several paragraphs of preening recollection from Dick Morris, that's an odd omission.
The indefatigable consultant evidently convinced the Times reporters that, based on polling done in 1996, he strenuously urged his Presidential client to federalize airport security and prosecute a "broader war on terrorism." Mr. Morris didn't reveal this prescient proposal anywhere in the 340-plus pages of Behind the Oval Office , his memoir of his years advising Mr. Clinton, which scarcely mentions terrorism at all.
If Mr. Morris did foresee the horrors to come five years ago, he was quite alone in his clairvoyance. More likely he is rewriting history to denigrate his old boss and inflate himself, an important duty of his current career. In truth, he has been heavily preoccupied during the past several years by smut and petty scandal, not by the looming "terrorist threat." And in those obsessions, he wasn't alone at all.
The pundits and personalities who now assign responsibility to Mr. Clinton might as well interrogate themselves about the failure of news organizations to focus on the problem of terror (and, for that matter, on broader international issues); that is a subject, after all, about which they know a lot.
Not all are equally culpable. Several reporters on the Times staff, for example, did outstanding work long before Sept. 11. But as independent broadcaster Simon Marks recalls in Quill , the journal of the Society of Professional Journalists, the failure was general. Most American reporters and commentators were far more interested in Chandra Levy than Osama bin Laden.
In a remarkable passage, Mr. Marks notes that both Reuters and United Press International ran dispatches last June about Al Qaeda plans to attack the United States. Hard to believe, but true–and wholly ignored by every significant news outlet in the country. Most of them were too busy frying Gary Condit to notice.
Harold Evans makes a similar argument in the November/December issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, in which he examines the decision by the major media to ignore repeated warnings from the U.S. Commission on National Security of a terrorist assault on American shores. The former Senators who chaired the commission, Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, were stunned when only a handful of newspapers bothered to feature their findings.
"The Hart-Rudman Report is the kind that required elite opinion to engage in a sustained dialogue to probe, improve, explain, and then press for action. None of the network talk shows took it up," laments Mr. Evans. "But the commissioners were particularly bewildered by the blackout at The New York Times ."
Proud owner of an UES project.
It's not exactly a fixer-upper, but at least the three-bedroom co-op at 115 East 67th Street is old. And there are plenty of charming pre-war details, like a wood-burning fireplace, that could conceivably require some expertise from new owner Bob Vila. We just hope the co-op doesn't have summer work rules!
That is, if Mr. Vila ever even moves in. The most famous toolbelt-wearer in the country has a track record of flipping Manhattan properties, although not always profitably. There was a townhouse on the West Side, a condo in Tribeca (shockingly, the place was move-in ready when he bought it) and now he's moving in on Lenox Hill. Could the man of a million houses finally be looking to settle down in a pied-a-terre?
It looks move-in ready. What a disappointment!
Mr. Vila and wife Diana Barrett paid $2.46 million for the sunlit spread, a little under the $2.99 million ask. Not bad considering that it offers eight rooms on a high floor of the Millan House, a swanky co-op built by the Rockefellers in 1931 for Standard Oil execs. Of course, we all know that the Rockefellers themselves preferred the far tonier private elevator landings of 740 Park.
Still, this is about as close to blue blood as the blue collar hero moved in Manhattan. Not only does the apartment come with a small staff wing—two staff rooms, a private bathroom and separate laundry facilities, but buyers can also purchase lobby level staff rooms with separate baths. Although we can't imagine the king of D.I.Y. will take advantage of such offerings.
The apartment was sold by the estate of Norma and Richard Flender, a banker at JP Morgan who divided his time between East Hampton and Manhattan.
Besides a little refinishing here and there, what can the bearded home improvement guru look forward to? The co-op listed with Brown Harris Stevens brokers Burt Savitsky and Elayne Roskin, has some awfully nice touches, like a 30-foot-long living room, that make it feel more like a Massachusetts Victorian than a box in the city. And we bet the co-op board interview was a breeze for Mr. Vila. After all, how many millionaire residents can fix their own leaky faucets?
In the category of strange, random things that come to our attention:
State Senator Ruben Diaz and City Councilman Hiram Monserrate - who is running for State Senate against incumbent John Sabini - somehow found their way into this video promotion for Dr. Jaerock Lee's appearance last month at Madison Square Garden.
And we somehow missed it.
Jaerock Lee - also known as Lee Jae-Rock - is a faith healer who made into the local news recently when an embarrassed David Wright appeared, then renounced his appearance, in a promotional ad for the event. (Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams and Manny Ramirez also took part in the promotional campaign.)
In addition to the individual testimonials, the ad for the MSG event features a narrator saying this sort of thing: "In the name of Jesus Christ, the blind have come to see, the mute speak, the lame stand up from wheelchairs and all kind of incurable diseases, included AIDS, have been healed."
Monserrate, in his brief appearance, said that he would "help get the word out to the people."
-- Josh Benson
Here we go, folks! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Yahoo’s board has approved a rumored deal to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash money. It’s not clear whether Tumblr’s board has also approved the deal, but if it’s true that the company has only a few months of runway left, they’d be fools not to.
It’s a happy enough ending for Tumblr’s employees and investors, sure, but it’s not exactly the stirring success story the New York startup scene might’ve wished for. (A YouTube’s nice, but a Google would be better.) Yahoo’s got a long history of snapping up startups and frittering away their potential, and $1.1 billion must dash a few hopes for Silicon Alley’s flagship. The company only made $13 million in revenue last year, but as of March it had 117 million unique users worldwide.
You might not be able to bring out your blingy gold Martone Cycling Company bike with a Louboutin-red chain designed by Marc Jacobs’s ex Lorenzo Martone, but competitive biking does get you fit and ready for fashionable, less-is-more summer outfits. So get your wheels ready and race in the Campagnola Gran Fondo, which brings Italy’s hard-core cycling obsession to New York. Over 7,000 cyclists tackle a 105-mile course that goes from New York to Bear Mountain ... and back! Get ready to get up early and burn those calories.
Start at the George Washington Bridge, 6:30am-5:30pm, $280 per person including registration insurance.
CANNES, France -- Who needs movies? Within a 24-hour period, street gunfire and a hotel heist have kept the masses entertained here in Cannes. In the early hours of Friday morning, $1.4 million in Chopard jewelry was stolen from a Suite Novotel when company reps from the U.S. had their room safe ripped out of the wall and swiftly spirited away. And Friday afternoon, at a live beachside taping of French entertainment show Le Grand Journal guest-starring Tarantino muse (and double Oscar-winner) Christoph Waltz, a lunatic shot off two loud blanks and caused a panicked audience to stampede off the stage before the 42-year-old perp was wrestled to the ground by local police. (The French newspaper Nice-Matin later reported that the man was carrying a starter’s pistol, a switchblade and a plastic grenade.)
Bling Ring star Emma Watson denied involvement in the jewel heist. (Getty Images)
Luxury robberies are nothing new to the Côte d’Azur. Hitchcock immortalized the act in 1955’s To Catch a Thief; and as recently as 2009, crooks absconded with more than $21 million in jewels from the Cartier store here in town. Cannes has always been a magnet for petty crimes, too, with humble festivalgoers occasionally getting mugged or having their accommodations raided. A few years ago, a group of Danish reporters had their computers taken; and even the late great Roger Ebert got his laptop swiped one year. The timing for the Chopard incident couldn’t have been more uncanny, though, since the world premiere of Sofia Coppola’s luxe robber flick The Bling Ring happened just hours before the crime. “I’m innocent! I promise I had nothing to do with it!” laughed Emma Watson, the film’s star, when on Saturday the Hollywood Reporter cheekily asked if she was wearing some of the stolen rocks.
Violence is no stranger to Cannes, either. One angry attendee set off a bomb in the Palais in the 1970s; and ever since 9/11, the festival has enforced a strict code of examining bags and using metal-detector wands on every person entering the main venue, an enormous concrete convention center (affectionately known as “the Bunker”) which hosts scores of daily screenings scattered throughout dozens of theaters large and small. One vigilant bag-checker was so lugubriously thorough at the first 8:30 a.m. screening on the very first day that it caused a backlog of hundreds of audience members—and eventually forced the guards to throw up their arms and let in the uninspected crowd en masse.
Bulgari better watch their back: on Tuesday night, they are joining Twentieth Century Fox in presenting a 50th anniversary screening of the Elizabeth Taylor blockbuster Cleopatra, with Jessica Chastain reportedly hosting the evening and wearing four different choice pieces from the storied jeweler. The reception that follows at the Bulgari rooftop will feature some of Taylor’s original jewels, as well. Let’s hope the film’s 192-minute running time will keep any sticky-fingered party crashers at bay.
Chef Marc Murphy of Landmarc.
Tribeca is known for big-bucks lofts, celebrity residents and fancy food. The Taste of Tribeca, started in 1994, is a great way to pig out on glamorous grub from eateries like Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Grill, Bouley, Landmarc, City Hall and many others. The family-friendly event benefits the neighborhood’s public elementary schools P.S. 234 and P.S. 150, and thus features a play-all-day Kids Zone. And for the parents: a New York State wine tasting.
Hudson Street, 11:30am-3pm, tickets from $45.
Oh, One57! Don't just lie around moping.
Poor, lonely, luxury condo tower! Unlike the co-ops lining Central Park to the East and the West, whose residents really love them, it seems like One57's new residents are only interested in it for its money. Or, more precisely, how their money might become even more money if they buy apartments there.
As the condo's top-floor units go into contract, New Yorker's real estate community has been speculating on who the super-secretive billionaires buying there are. Tantalizingly, Extell confirmed two contracts for more than $90 million, but for months and months and months, there's been no indication of who the buyers might be. So imagine the collective glee when The Wall Street Journal revealed that one of the buyers was billionaire hedge funder William Ackman. Sort of.
Mr. Ackman, leading a group of investors, is buying the 14,000 square foot duplex on the 75th and 76th floor, not for personal use, but as an investment, much like his Pershing Square Capital Management bets on J.C. Penney. Every property is an investment, of course (words that all real estate brokers murmur in their sleep), but this one is nothing but an investment. Mr. Ackman doesn't plan to live there, according to sources. He didn't study the renderings, look at the glittering glass walls and the high-end appliances and think the happy life they would lead together. He did not, in other words, fall in love—what every home, even luxury condo towers dream of.
Nor, apparently, have many (any?) of the other suitors studying the mock-ups and One57's pinstriped under-construction exterior. Nick Candy's overtures were reportedly rejected by Gary Barnett because Mr. Candy wanted to flip his unit before the building was even completed. Michael Holtz, the owner of the SmartFlyer Travel Agency, is one of the few other buyers who have been identified, but it's unclear if Mr. Holtz plans to live there either—he never moved into the apartment he bought at 15 CPW. And then there's the Chinese couple who bought a condo for their 2-year-old—to live in when he's a college sophomore, which they optimistically assume will be at either Columbia or NYU.
Of course, high-end luxury condos are often bought as investments, infrequently visited pied-a-terres. One broker estimated that only 10 percent of Plaza residents lived there full-time and 15 CPW's $88 million penthouse may have fetched more money than any other residence in the city, but as far as anyone knows, it's still sitting empty.
Still, One57 has been having a tough time of it recently—rendered a laughingstock by Hurricane Sandy, hated by its neighbors and not even the tallest residential building in the city (an honor claimed by 432 Park). All it really has is the promise of the highest closing prices in New York City history. But money can't buy happiness, and there's no sadness like having the finest things in the world and no one to share them with.
Glasshole Missed Connection Betabeat finally had the distinct pleasure of trying the dorky looking face computer we love to mock so much at a party last night at Meetup HQ. We (only slightly drunkenly) approached a tall white dude donning Google Glass and timidly asked if we might be able to try it on. When we slipped on the device (in slate!), the display was incredibly blurry–not due to our eyesight, but because Glass specifically calibrates to the wearer’s eye. It was hard as hell to see, but the voice commands worked almost seamlessly, impressive since we were at a loud party.
The device’s functionality is fairly limited: you can take a picture, record video and get directions to and from places. It also has the added benefit of making you look like a complete dork while somehow also attracting swaths of attractive ladies to get up real close to your face.
The New York Times Book Review is modernizing under the editorship of Pamela Paul, who was appointed to the positon in early April. The section announced three changes in a new column in this Sunday's issue (it was posted online today). Starting this weekend, the e-book bestseller list, which first joined the printed list in early 2011, will be online only. Additionally, book prices will no longer be included for any books.
"The e-book list has migrated online, the digital world being its natural habitat," the Times announced. "Given the fluid variety of pricing in today’s marketplace, we have also stopped including cover prices on the lists. The third change is the one you’re reading right now."
The third change is a more bloggy look. There will be a new column, called "Open Book," devoted to readings and panels (there are, after all, many a literary event on any given night), as well as an outlet for archival looks back in time. In the debut column, for example, there is a blurb with choice quotes from a 1925 review of The Great Gatsby (amazingly, people were writing about it even before Baz Luhrmann). "Open Book" will replace "Up Front," the front of book (front of review?) page.
Although nobody, least of all Times Book Review readers, likes change, this one seems relatively benign.
In what has to be the best endorsement of the mayor’s race so far, Jimmy McMillan from The Rent is Too Damn High Party has earned a nod from none other than Papaya King.
The cheapo hot dog eatery not only plans to promote Mr. McMillan and his mutton chops in its stores, but has invited him to treat its new location on St. Mark’s Place–which will be celebrating its grand opening tomorrow–as an “unofficial” campaign headquarters. It’s also planning to introduce a new specialty hot dog, “The Jimmy McMillan,” in his honor.