The right's rearguard sap attack on Clinton with the Juanita Broaddrick story has been an unexpected success for Republicans, who until last week were nursing impeachment blues. The political effect of pumping Broaddrick's accusations into the mainstream, where it has won wide acceptance even eliciting sympathetic comments by NOW's Patricia Ireland has been to wipe out Democratic hopes of any serious "retribution" against conservative politicians.
Now it's the Rebublicans also energized by the prospect of running against Hillary who are launching fundraising drives. And transforming the president from lighthearted rogue to a Jekyll and Hyde figure, who ought to register with the police along with other sex offenders, can't help either Gore or Hillary. Question is: will entertainment industry moguls, so far almost solidly for Clinton, begin to back off?
As Clinton's image grows darker, he looks weaker, a shadowy front man for a nation whose affairs are run by others, preeminent among them Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve who is the real figure watching over the economy. Now president in all but name, Greenspan has begun to speak out more freely on matters of state, dressing down obscenely overpaid CEOs, warning of an inflated stock market, bluntly telling even Clinton to shelve his nutty ideas of government investment in the market lest they injure the economy.
Sexual Predator President
More Clinton Attacks Alleged
Shaking the Clinton albatross won't be an easy matter. Vermont's moderate Republican senator, Jim Jeffords, who voted against impeachment, and who is up for reelection in 2000, provided an object lesson last week for any politician foolish enough to comment publicly about the president's sexual peccadillos. (It didn't help, of course, that Jeffords's incredible statements seemed almost calculated to offend feminists.)
Asked on a talk show last Friday about Juanita Broaddrick's charges, Jeffords responded: "I don't know why it wouldn't be a private matter. If something that happened 21 years ago with a woman who invited, at least under her story, the president to her hotel room and she was not happy with what happened, I don't know why that's not a private matter." By the end of the day, faced with a storm of protests, Jeffords reversed himself, saying: ". . . I truly apologize if my inarticulate comments this morning gave anyone the wrong impression."
Then, over the weekend, Capitol Hill Blue, a conservative online news service, alleged additional sexual assaults by Clinton, going back to 1969, one reportedly involving a woman when he was a student at Yale Law School. Follow-up articles based on the report appeared in the Progressive Review in Washington and the Daily Telegraph in London.
Capitol Hill Blue also charged that female students at the University of Arkansas Law School alleged efforts by Clinton to force himself on them while he was teaching there in the '70s. The online service, which gave the names of the women reportedly making the charges, also said a British woman had claimed that she had been assaulted by Clinton while he was at Oxford.
These reports followed yet another allegation by Lucianne Goldberg, the literary agent who was Linda Tripp's handler in the Monica imbroglio. Goldberg told a reporter for the Canadian National Post that she knew of an instance of forcible assault by Clinton while he was president, although, according to Goldberg, it was "not rape because there was no sexual entry."
In addition, Capitol Hill Blue quoted a woman who was a legal secretary in Little Rock in 1979 describing a fundraiser at which she met the governor, and after which, she asserted, she was escorted to his hotel room by a state trooper.
"When I went in," she said, "he was sitting on a couch, wearing only an undershirt. He pointed at his penis and told me to suck it. I told him I didn't even do that for my boyfriend, and he got mad, grabbed my head, and shoved it into his lap. I pulled away from him and ran out of the room."
Capitol Hill Blue reported that when it asked for additional details, the woman said, "I'm sorry I ever talked to you about this. Please don't call again."
Meanwhile, Washington eagerly awaits news of George W. Bush's Animal House days. Not to mention Matt Drudge's weekend exposé about the potential presidential candidate who once danced naked on top of a bar.
Jax Jr. Tangles With Rangel
Split in Black Caucus Over Trade Bill
Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago confronted New York's Charles Rangel recently in the first-ever open split in the Congressional Black Caucus.
Last year Rangel became the lead proponent in the Caucus for the Growth and Opportunity Act, which had been rammed through the House 233-186 by Phil Crane, the Illinois arch-conservative, and Speaker Newt Gingrich. The bill envisioned quota- and duty-free exports to the U.S. from 48 sub-Saharan African nations among the world's poorest and the creation of a U.S.-Africa free-trade zone. The measure was overwhelmingly opposed by pro-labor House members, including a third of the Black Caucus led by Jackson, who argued that it was a device to exploit African workers. Jackson compared conditions the bill would have allowed to slave labor.
Although the bill passed the House, it was sidetracked in the Senate by opponents who tied restrictive amendments to it, thereby killing it. Now Rangel is pushing a revived bill. However, this time it is facing an alternative, offered by Jackson, that would set up a free-trade zone but also forgive $200 billion in debt that African nations owe the U.S., First World banks, the World Bank, and the IMF. In addition, Jackson's bill would set standards for labor, requiring companies to pay a living wage and stipulating that firms participating in the arrangement have majority African ownership.
A spokesman for Rangel said the Harlem congressman was "not concerned with Jesse Jackson's bill," portraying Rangel's measure as the centerpiece of Clinton's "African initiative," which was highlighted by the president's tour of the continent last year. Of the Jackson measure, the spokesman said, "It's not a competing bill. It is not a trade bill. It's a debt-reduction bill. It's not going anywhere."
Puny Penalty for Massive Spill
Ten years after his ship crashed onto the rocks in Prince William Sound off Alaska, causing the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, former Exxon Valdez captain Joseph Hazelwood will begin serving a court-ordered community-service sentence this summer, picking up trash in the streets of Anchorage. More than 1000 miles of Alaska's shoreline were polluted by the 11-million-gallon spill.
The ex-skipper, a resident of Long Island, was convicted on a single misdemeanor charge in 1990 by an Alaska jury, and sentenced to pay $50,000, serve one year's probation, and spend 1000 hours scrubbing oil from the beaches of Prince William Sound. But by the time his appeals were exhausted last summer, the beaches had long been cleaned up.
Hazelwood, who was fired by Exxon after the accident, tried to beg off going to Anchorage to fulfill his sentence. "I have no relatives or friends in Alaska, nor have I any reason to visit Alaska in the future," he said in an affidavit, pleading with the court to let him clean tanks at a fish hatchery in Cold Spring Harbor near his home, lest, as Hazelwood put it, he find himself "unable to meet my financial obligations to my family." But the court balked, finally agreeing to let Hazelwood pick up trash for a month every summer for five years to meet the terms of his sentence.
It seems incredible that picking up trash in Anchorage is the most severe punishment dealt out in the Exxon Valdez affair. So far, Exxon has paid $900 million in compensatory damages, but not a cent in punitive damages. In 1994, in a suit brought by commercial fishermen, native Alaskans, and others claiming to have been directly harmed by the spill, an Alaska jury found Exxon liable for $5 billion in punitive damages. But Exxon appealed the verdict, and the final disposition of the case is pending. .
Pennsylvania Is Fastest-Growing 'Hate State'
Despite the death penalty meted out last week to John William King in the atrocious "dragging death" of James Byrd Jr., the far-right racist movement is on a roll, with identified groups in the U.S. increasing last year by 40 percent, to 537, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Fastest-growing state for far-right action is Pennsylvania, where the gung ho chapter of American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is led by a woman, Kay Ryan of the western Pennsylvania village of Rural Ridge. There are now 27 racialist groups in Pennsylvania, making it the number four hate state, after Florida, California, and Texas. (In what must be another wacko first, Courtney Mann, a black woman who lives in Philadelphia, leads the state chapter of David Duke's old National Association for the Advancement of White People.)
The American Knights is the fastest-growing group in the Klan. It doesn't bother with more recent Klan niceties, such as promoting a yuppie look, describing blacks as "primitive, ugly, foul-smelling, jungle savages [who] have polluted America with their ape-like odor and disgusting habits," and using similar invective against Jews and Asians. Growing from a single unit in Butler, Indiana, in 1995 to 27 state chapters today, American Knights sports a cadre of thug leaders (not including Ryan) with lengthy rap sheets for offenses ranging from gang rape to attempted murder.
Denny's Finer Dining
Putting his stamp on the House Republican agenda, "good guy" Speaker Dennis Hastert won two victories last week. The first makes 911 the universal emergency number for all phones, including cell phones. The second relaxes House rules so corporate lobbyists can buy House members dinner or lunch. Previously, members were restricted to nibbling finger food from corporate-sponsored buffets.
Additional reporting: Ioanna Veleanu
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