David Usborne: Our Man In New York

America is too big to focus just on war all week
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The Independent US

"Stuff it!" This reportedly is what George Bush said at a White House lunch with journalists about a newspaper ad placed by the leftists at MoveOn.org attacking General David Petraeus – the one that called him General "Betray Us".

A near infinity of words were spilled about Iraq last week – Patraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, countless senators all talked endlessly – culminating in a television address by President Bush daring to talk about success and seeing no reason to change strategy. I liked "stuff it" the best.

So much Iraq talk threatened to plunge the nation into a post-summer depression. It didn't help that it was punctuated by the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Was anyone talking about something else? Please.

Of course they were. Competing with Iraq we had Fashion Week in New York, Britney Spears making an ass of herself at the MTV awards in Las Vegas, and 50 Cent vowing to quit rapping if his album was outsold by Kanye West's (apparently it will be, and Fif is now backpedalling). And then there was Jane Asher.

I ducked out of work early one afternoon to see Death at a Funeral, the British farce directed by Frank Oz and starring Ms Asher. It was good enough that at least one line can compete with "Stuff it" for quote of the week. Ms Asher's character, who has just lost her husband, is addressing her daughter-in-law, who unwisely puts her hand on the coffin while asking if she can do anything. The frosty reply: "Don't put your hand there dear, you'll leave smudge marks".

The only surge at Bryant Park, the core of New York's twice yearly Fashion Week, is in the number of A-listers who can be squeezed into the front row for Marc Jacobs's show. (Anna Wintour says the numbers might be cut by a brigade before next Spring., but the public is sceptical.)

Designers sometimes pay celebrities to attend their shows to raise the level of buzz. It is arduous work: pre-show cocktails with the paparazzi; the show itself, often sitting for two hours before the 13 minutes it takes to present the clothes; and the after-party miles away in some overblown club with more intrusive photographers.

Jacobs does not have to pay anyone to come to his shows. Courtney Love helpfully explained why he is so special: "I come to Marc because he stuck with me when I thought all I had was $2,800 in the bank, even though it turned out I had $8m".

When we were meant to be paying exclusive attention to Petraeus most of us were gossiping instead about Britney. While the General can flawlessly lip-synch his Commander-in-Chief, Britney desperately needs lessons. She couldn't even mouth the words to her latest hit without looking as if she were chewing an over-ripe tomato.

"Exclusive: Britney Fired Her Hair Stylist Before The Show," US Weekly trumpeted. "Britney Totally Blew it Y'all!" With headlines like these, who needs to read the ones about Bush's Plan for Success?