As John McCain's campaign picks up support around the country, his strongest suit, in addition to his POW status, is his ability as an architect of campaign reform to attack Clinton and Gore on questionable fundraising practices. Already, McCain has opened this line of attack (the only other candidate seriously pushing the issue is Bill Bradley).
So far, McCain is getting little help from Republicans in Congress or elsewhere among the GOP elite. With George W. Bush's enormous war chest, establishment Republicans fear that the fire could be turned back on themselves. Instead, they are mounting desperate offensives on McCain as an inside-the-Beltway hypocrite who has become the darling of the liberal press corps.
Unlike National Guard air ace Dubya, who last week charged that McCain had deserted veterans' causes in Congress, the Arizona senatorwith Fred Thompson at his sidehas real credentials to successfully attack Clinton-Gore on scandals growing out of the 1996 campaign. In New York, such an attack could catch Hillary on the edges. And the issue is not dead. Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that newly obtained FBI documents show that Democratic fundraiser Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie smuggled a wealthy Taiwan businessman into the White House to meet the president, using a false identity.
Trie also said that a Jakarta entrepreneur with ties to the Indonesian army had sent him $200,000 in travelers' checks to "help out" with campaign donations, and that he had used part of it to make illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee and reimburse donors to the Clinton legal defense fund. Federal law prohibits contributions from foreign sources as well as hiding the identity of donors.
In another revelation that could potentially embarrass Gore, Trie told the FBI that it was he who had first suggested that Clinton or Gore hit up Buddhist nuns and monks at an L.A. luncheon. The DNC got $140,000 at the luncheon. When the temple affair was first revealed, Gore said he thought it was "community outreach," but later admitted it was "finance-related." McCain charges that Gore was "asking monks and nuns to pay thousands of dollars to violate their vows of poverty so they could spiritually commune with him."
On Monday, oral arguments began in Washington in the trial of Maria Hsia, a longtime fundraiser for Gore. She is accused of illegally disguising campaign contributions to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign committee. Indicted after the Buddhist temple fundraiser, she pleaded not guilty.
You'd think the right would love having an authentic candidate like McCain. But conservatives are in suicide mode these days (what's new?), so they have begun to attack the one candidate whose policies actually do resemble Ronald Reagan's as a "liberal."
During a tour of Auschwitz, President Bush raised eyebrows when he declared, "Boy, they were big on crematoriums, weren't they?" The elder Bush's malapropisms soon became famous, as when in 1989, after a candidate for a cabinet post was defeated in the Senate, he reflected, "I mean, I think there will be a lot of aftermaths in what happened, but we are going to go forward."
Bush Sr.'s gift for the faux pax is not lost in Shrub, as has been demonstrated thus far in the campaign. An article in the London Telegraph reveals that Dubya has invented three new words: "tacular," "mential," and "bariffs." And as Maureen Dowd noted in the Sunday Times, Bush has come up with whole new expressions, telling children in a New Hampshire school who were celebrating Perseverance Month that he was happy to be joining them for "Preservation Month." (Added Bush, "I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You gotta preserve.") Shrub is, of course, keen on education, recently telling one dumbfounded audience, "Rarely is the question asked, 'Is our children learning?' "
As indicated, Dubya's original turns of phrase can leave listeners puzzled, as when he told one gathering that they live in a "world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mential loss" or last month, when the candidate declared that he would "rip down terriers and bariffs."
As Bush put it straightforwardly to one interviewer: "When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them and it was clear who them was. Today we are not so sure who they are, but we know they're there."
On the last day of the New Hampshire primary, a group of environmentalists led by Greenpeace sent out press releases announcing that they would commit nonviolent civil disobedience at Gore headquarters in Manchester over an old campaign promise on which the vice president had reneged. During the 1992 campaign, Gore promised to stop operations at a $167 million hazardous-waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, until a risk study was completed, then stalled on the pledge after the election. Greenpeace hoped that the threat of a demo in the close race against Bradley might push Gore to finally move toward closing down the plant.
At 11:30 a.m. on January 31, a small group assembled in the snow across from a line of cops who milled in front of Gore HQ. But nothing happened. It turned out that Greenpeace wasn't really going to hold a demo. Instead, they were negotiating the controversy, holding the threat of a demo in the air. Greenpeace was asking for a public hearing by an EPA ombudsman with a promise that the administration would abide by the findings. The government agreed to a study, but no binding action. Though the environmentalists huddling in the snow all explained that Clinton-Gore were far from meeting their demands, they inexplicably capitulated. People held frayed copies of Gore's book Earth in the Balance like it was the Bible, reading sections aloud to a small group of reporters who soon lost interest and wandered off.
The WTI incineratorthe nation's largest commercial facilitywas built 1100 feet from an elementary school with 400 pupils in the flood plain along the Ohio River 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. It began operations in April 1993. Its hazardous waste permit expired in 1995, and it has been operating on "interim" status since, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In July 1992, while campaigning in nearby Weirton, West Virginia, Gore declared, "The very idea of putting it in a flood plain, you know, it's just unbelievable to me," and he promised opponents, "We'll be on your side for a change." However, after the election, Gore announced that the incinerator's permit couldn't be revoked unless it violated health and safety standards. Since then, at least two reviews have found no violations, according to spokesmen for the vice president. Gore has refused to meet with incinerator opponents.
The incinerator is owned by Von Roll America, which was fined $126,000 by the EPA in 1997 for problems with its continuous-emission air-monitoring system, which had not worked properly since the facility's trial burn in 1992.
Last week, in an interview with Roger Ebert, President Clinton raised the possibility that he might someday replace Jack Valenti as Hollywood film czar. But there are other possibilities out there. A tantalizing clue to one comes in an ad for the new Clinton Entertainment Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand, unearthed recently by Sam Smith's Progressive Review:
"This new Plaza . . . has six floors with themes, so that if you know the type of entertainment you want, then you can go directly there:
"The first floorentrance hall with live music, Charlie's Bar, and some shops.
"The second floorpubs, restaurants, and pool rooms.
"The third floorhostess clubs.
"The fourth floora'go-go bars.
"The fifth floorprivate club, conference centre, and offices.
"The sixth floorarts and crafts stalls, Internet access, general stalls and cafes."
The promoters add, "Enjoy a beer at 'Popeye's,' or on the way to the 'White House' call in at 'Monica's' for a beer with good head."
Already a mecca for white supremacists seeking Aryan women to propagate the race, Iceland has awarded a contract to a U.S.-funded corporation to study the medical records, family trees, and genetic information of every one of the country's 270,000 citizens.
The information is to be culled into a single database. Iceland is the world's most homogeneous society, with little immigration since the Vikings arrived. No other nation has ever collected and sold its genetic information.
Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi
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