Bigger Creeps

Clinton Seduced and Abandoned by the Right

Contrary to Clinton's spin doctors, a trial in the Senate won't be easy. The indictments are harshly drawn, and Democratic senators concerned about the political fallout will not fall in line for Clinton reflexively. For starters, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the senior Democratic member, who has for some time made it clear that he believes the president's actions are serious, could become the "conscience of the Senate"— and a harbinger of trouble for Clinton.

The president, left high and dry by the ravenous right he tried to woo, must be feeling a little like Monica did when she finally realized the score. After all the heavy petting with the Republicans, he thought they would be there for him. Instead, he has been seduced and abandoned by the Big Creeps.

Although Clinton promotes himself as a post­New Deal "New Democrat," since becoming president he has prided himself on espousing traditional Democratic values. Initially, he supported the welfare net, embracing equal opportunity for minorities and protections for the poor— especially in the failed first-term campaign for universal health care led by Hillary. But following that defeat, and particularly after the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, Clinton abandoned much of his liberal posturing and got in bed with Newt Gingrich's resurgent right.

Byrd's eye view: The "conscience of the Senate" waits.
Byrd's eye view: The "conscience of the Senate" waits.

The signs of the president's equivocal nature were there early on for anyone who cared to look. At the first hints of contention, he backed away from equality for gays in the military with his typically Clinton "don't ask, don't tell" solution. He then deserted the poor with "welfare reform," turned his back on habeas corpus, boosted prison construction, and tried to co-opt the Republican "family values" campaign by incorporating many of its goals in his reelection campaign. In this term, he has acceded to the right's demands for Social Security privatization.

In Congress, Clinton has been practically a lap dog for right wingers, which is one reason many congressional Democrats sought to keep their distance from him. Of course, some Democrats in the Gephardt-Bonior wing of the party fought the president, notably on trade issues.

Now that the Republican right has left Clinton to twist in the wind, the irony is that the president's most effective defenders have been the very people he arrogantly scorned as president— the congressional black caucus, Dick Gephardt, and the liberals around John Sweeney's AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, like the Eveready rabbit, the Republican Right keeps going and going. Far from sinking into moral decrepitude, Bob Livingston seems to have emerged from the outing of his numerous extramarital affairs as a sort of hero, ready to retire to the Republican backbench, which is now HQ for the Republican revolution. The backbenchers, who pride themselves on right-wing "principle," eye the curtailing the federal government, and principally the executive branch, as hungrily as ever. Their true leader now is Tom DeLay, even though the low-key Illinois Republican, J. Dennis Hastert, has emerged as a consensus choice for the Speaker's post.

But the present center of power for House Republicans is the backbench, where, as the leadership which is now decamped there has repeatedly discovered, it can't function without support from a growingly fractious junior contingent.


Down & Dirty in the Senate
Chamber of Impeachment Horrors

Senate Democrats plan to throw the chamber into gridlock all year if the Republicans push for impeachment.

Although Majority Leader Trent Lott had hoped to run a "dual track" effort, with senators doing regular business in the morning, then sitting as a jury in the afternoon, a top Democratic aide told Roll Call that "we will close the place down."

Other Democratic staffers threaten to try to shut down the Supreme Court if a trial takes place. However unlikely that is, it's possible that if the Senate spends a protracted period on impeachment, Chief Justice Rehnquist might have to recuse himself from court for part of the year.

In the House, new members might even introduce legislation to revisit the impeachment issue on the grounds that the articles were wrongly drafted. Alan Hirsch, a constitutional scholar who has written a Citizen's Guide to Impeachment, argues that they should not include specific punishment. That, he says, is the job of the Senate.

Then there is politics. Nineteen Republican Senate seats are in play, while Democrats must defend 14.

Key to Clinton's Senate strategy are two former majority leaders: George Mitchell and Bob Dole. Both are partners in Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson & Hand, the big Washington lobby shop that represents the tobacco industry. Dan Coats, Dole's former Senate colleague from Indiana who is retiring, recently signed up to join the firm. Texas Democrats Lloyd Bentsen and Ann Richards also are members.


Is Clinton Crazy?
How To Replace an Incapacitated President

The massive bombing of Iraq, announced suddenly on the eve of the impeachment vote, again called into question the president's use of military action to distract attention from his personal problems— as was the case in August when he bombed Sudan and Afghanistan in the midst of testimony in the Lewinsky case.

Since the abbreviated attack will have little military effect and ended any chance for arms inspections, it raises questions as to whether the administration actually has a serious policy on Iraq. But beyond the lack of a coherent policy, Clinton's penchant for sudden military action when his personal turmoils reach crisis points raises questions about his sanity.

Last week, a former close associate addressed the question directly. Interviewed on the BBC, Clinton's ex-press secretary, Mike McCurry, said he was concerned about the president's "incredibly bizarre personal behavior," adding, "It's surely reckless, contrary to the way you'd expect a rational human being to behave."

What if a president is unable to run the country?

The 25th Amendment, adopted after the Kennedy assassination, sets forth a procedure under which the vice president can take over. The amendment is best known for establishing protocols allowing the government to function during the transition from Spiro Agnew to Gerald Ford, and from Ford to Nelson Rockefeller. Under the amendment, if a president is removed, dies, or resigns, the vice president becomes president, or, in certain circumstances, acting president.

There also are procedures in the event of a president's "inability" to act, under which the vice president and cabinet members (or a group specified by Congress) can transmit to the Senate and the House "their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." The vice president then becomes acting president.


Confederacy With Dunces
Impeachment Leaders Addressed Racist Group

It can't help the impeachment lobby to discover that two of its most active proponents have flirted with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor group to the old White Citizens Council, which spread terror among African Americans during the civil rights movement.

News reports recently that both House Judiciary member Bob Barr and Senate majority leader Trent Lott have spoken at CCC gatherings resulted in both men hastily backing away from the group. Barr, after being criticized for addressing the Council's semiannual convention in Charleston, South Carolina, this summer, said he disagreed with many of its "ridiculous views."

Lott was the keynote speaker at a 1992 Council meeting in Greenwood, Mississippi, and told the group: "We need more meetings like this across the nation. . . . The people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy." Later, Lott told The Washington Post that he had "no firsthand knowledge" about the Council and was not a member. When his office was told the Council claimed he was a paid-up member, a spokesman said Lott "doesn't consider himself a member and 'has no recollection' of ever paying dues."

The Council's newsletter, The Citizens Informer, regularly bashes blacks, Jews, and gays, and opposes AIDS research and nonwhite immigration.

Klanwatch, which tracks the racialist movement, claims that 10 percent of 175 Council members it surveyed have links to the Klan, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.


New 'Desert Fox'
Original Had Better Military Strategy

Operation Desert Fox, which incredibly echoed Erwin Rommel's nickname, couldn't have come at a better time for the military contractors, who've been itching to do more business. Clinton had promised to increase defense spending by about $10 billion next year. The industry would like to jack that figure up to $15 billion.

The military used over 300 sea-launched cruise missiles, pretty much depleting that arsenal. The missiles, made by Hughes— most of which is now part of Raytheon— cost $1 million each. Other products, like Boeing's carrier-based F-18 fighters and Lockheed's F-117 Stealth fighter, also were featured in the attack.

Operations such as Desert Fox work like a big air show for the military contractors, giving them a chance to display their weaponry. Plus, with the whole thing featured live on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, it's free advertising.

Research: Bob Frederick

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