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Tony Kornheiser

It's Insulting When They Don't Even Bother to Call You Names

September 13, 2000|Tony Kornheiser

Adam Clymer is the New York Times reporter whom George W. Bush called a "major league (rhymes with glass bowl)" on a campaign stop.

How great is that?

Not only does the possible next president of the United States know your name--but the guy says you're major league. Major league! Wow.

"I didn't know there was a league," my friend Cindy said.

Day after day last week, there was another story about Clymer. What Clymer said in rebuttal. What Clymer's friends say about him. How the journalistic community is reacting to this attack on Clymer.

It's a career-maker. One day, he's just another stooge with a notebook, and the next he's major league. From now on, Clymer will be everywhere. First Elian. Then Darva. Then Rich. Now Adam Clymer.

Enough already about Clymer.

How do I turn this into something about me?

I've got the credentials.

I'm a gaping glass bowl.

Ask my friends. Ask my kids. They'll tell you. They'll sign affidavits.

I don't know if I'm major league, but I'm damned sure Triple-A.

I'd give anything to be insulted by the next president--Bush or Gore, I don't care. Though it's beginning to look like Gore, isn't it? Suddenly, Gore looks presidential. It's not easy for a 52-year-old man to put on blue jeans and a polo shirt and not look like a fat, yuppie poseur. Gore is genuinely studly. Who knew? In the end, it may turn out the most important choice he made wasn't his vice president, but his personal trainer.

On the other hand, Bush is shrinking before our eyes. He's looking small and pinched. And Dick Cheney--what a toadie. It's one thing for Bush to call Clymer a major league glass bowl. Bush is the big banana. But for Cheney to pipe up, "Oh, yeah . . . big time" is snarky. Come on, Dickie, find your own journalist to smear.

Like me!

I'll tell you this: If one of these guys ever sprayed the magic word in my direction, I wouldn't respond with restraint like Clymer did. All Clymer said was, "I am disappointed in the governor's language." And this was after Bush refused to apologize for calling Clymer a glass bowl--only that anybody heard it!

Maybe Clymer's hands are tied by working for the Times and he can't milk this fat cow. But I would. I'd sell T-shirts with my face on the front, and on the back a picture of my backside, and the words "Major League." I'd write a book titled, "From One . . . to Another."

I always envied the journalists who made the Nixon enemies list. As a veteran sportswriter, I've had run-ins with athletes. In a rage, a player for the New York Yankees once threatened to cut off a sensitive part of my anatomy--which he identified as my "tentacles."

But let's face it, being abused by athletes is only one slimy step above being abused by reporters. Just the other day in the New York Times Sunday magazine, I was referred to as "a kvetching columnist for the Washington Post who had gained a surprisingly strong following for his show on ESPN Radio."

Kvetching? Me? How can anybody say that? Do I strike you as a chronic complainer? Show me a single column I've ever written that expressed the slightest dissatisfaction with anything. Calling me "kvetching" is ludicrous.

And how about the phrase: "surprisingly strong following"? Like I'm a complete no-talent, and anybody who listens to my show must be the first person in his house to walk upright.

What really hurt was that the author of the piece used to work here with me.

Being insulted by some freelance writer won't get me anywhere. I need some kahuna to go after me like Bush went after Clymer.

The closest I've come so far is some years back at a formal dinner, George W. Bush's mom, Barbara, called me "Mister Porthauser." I didn't think she meant anything bad by it. But in retrospect, perhaps she did. Like mother, like son? Maybe she called me a "major league Porthauser."

I recall former President Bush speaking to me after Barbara made the "Porthauser" comment. All these years, I thought he'd said, "Care for some wine?" But he probably said, "Oh yeah . . . big time."

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