NEW YORK CITY - New York City showers big bucks on John Kerry. Stephen Sondheim, the composer of brilliant musicals, posted a $5,000 cover charge on his fund-raiser for the Democratic nominee. He used an apartment - by coincidence, surely - once owned by Leonard Bernstein, another brilliant music man whose infamous '60s fund-raiser for the Black Panthers exposed the acute naivete that inspired the term "radical chic."
What is it about showbiz people who have artistic savvy in abundance but who can't think straight about politics? Maybe it's because New York is about arts and entertainment and the artists and entertainers try to overcompensate when they realize that they're outsiders who don't know beans about how politics is practiced in the nation's capital.
They have no understanding of strategy nor sensitivity for tactics, and their politics is about self-aggrandizing. Show business creates celebrity conformists who take their cues from liberals who have been out of the power game for most of the past three decades.
The New York City they inhabit buzzes with prosperity and creativity, but all they do is whine and complain about how awful things are in America. As if they would know. And it isn't as if they aspire to spread their own wealth. They rarely get out of their celebrity covens, where aides and lackeys jump to assuage every wish to see how other people live.
The president has been true to the words he spoke when he stood on the smoldering rubble at Ground Zero and promised to punish the terrorists who destroyed thousands of lives. Three days after 9/11, he took a bullhorn in his hand, draped his arm around the shoulder of a fireman and told the crowd that "the nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey." The crowd that responded with chants of "USA, USA, USA," spoke for all of us.
But the spirit of that remarkable day has vanished. Bush-bashing is back with a vengeance. The men and women a visitor meets in Manhattan assume that everyone agrees with them, and that red states are populated only by bumpkins. They can't understand how the polls can possibly tilt toward the president. Young men and women who talk as if they know better buy their fashionable clothes in shops stocked with goods made in foreign countries by cheap labor, and rail against the "outsourcing" that makes such bargains possible.