Undercurrents

He's brokering peace between ancient enemies in northern Ireland. He's investigating Olympic scandal in Salt Lake City. But no matter how illustrious he is, a guy has to take a break and make some money.

So former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell found himself in Fort Lauderdale last week giving several speeches as a visiting professor at Florida Atlantic University. These appearances were paid for by the law firm of Tripp Scott and by JM Family Enterprises, Jim Moran's Toyota empire. The university wouldn't say how big Mitchell's paycheck is, but it must be hefty to keep one of Washington's priciest lobbyists coming back to FAU for five years running.

Now that he's out of Congress, the former Maine senator, who was known as a sharply partisan Democrat, can afford to be statesmanlike. Asked whether Gov. George W. Bush of Texas has the national experience needed to be President, Mitchell said experience isn't necessarily the prime qualification for the job. "Abraham Lincoln had only been a congressman," Mitchell said. "And back when Franklin Roosevelt was first running, and all the newspapers were Republican -- as opposed to now, when only most are -- they called him a lightweight."

Elizabeth (Liddy) Dole also received high praise from the man who many thought should have been the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988 or 1992 and who declined President Clinton's request that he stand for nomination to the Supreme Court. "I like Liddy a lot, and if [she were] elected, I believe she would make a good President." Mitchell's bipartisanship, however, only goes so far. "But I will support the Democratic nominee. I don't like Liddy that much."

All the news that's unfit.
The country's newspaper of record, the New York Times, should've checked the record more carefully on one story in its Sunday magazine published January 31. The writer got it wrong, and he knew he had it wrong when he wrote it.

Contributor Jeffrey Goldberg set out to do a piece that told the readers of the mighty New York Times that he found the sons of slain Mafia don Paul Castellano living quietly in Fort Lauderdale. Apparently he wasn't about to let the fact that someone else had already reported on Joseph Castellano get in his way. After all, this was the New York Times, and nobody beats it to a story.

Goldberg writes, "Despite his wealth and surname, Joseph Castellano never appears in the Florida newspapers." Oh but he did, and prominently, in New Times ("The Miniacis & the Mafiosi," Bob Norman, July 2, 1998). A mere oversight by Goldberg, you say? Hardly.

Goldberg was fully aware of previous coverage; he had called up that very New Times story on the Web. Goldberg called Norman and congratulated him on a fine piece. Once here, Goldberg then bought Norman a dinner at the Bobby Rubino's restaurant that the Castellanos own. Norman gave Goldberg names of sources and also turned over investigative transcripts that Goldberg used in the story. Of course, a New York Times contributor would never mention this help in the piece, and we didn't really expect it. But to misrepresent the facts regarding previous news coverage in order to make himself look good is inexcusable.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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