Flying Carpetbagger

A Shrub Grows in Texas

War in Court

‘Cleansing’ the Capital

Gun Battle

Strom’s Back

Flying Carpetbagger

Hillary’s N.Y. Bubble Bound To Burst

With every visit to New York, every use of the collective “we,” it will become harder for Hillary Clinton to eventually explain why she won’t run for the Senate in New York. If she presses ahead, problems abound. According to pollster John Zogby, her negatives remain substantial— a third of people polled don’t like her. And even when asked about her stands on issues, many want to know why she is thinking about running in New York instead of Arkansas or Illinois, her home state. And why doesn’t she dump Bill?

“The voters are off-message before the tabs get involved,” Zogby notes. In addition, Hillary exposes the first couple to a risky, two-front campaign. Make no mistake: the Clintons crave a Gore victory to help assure their own legacy. If Gore is defeated, it will be seen, at least in part, as a repudiation of the Clinton administration. And a Hillary race in New York assures a whole new life for the Clinton scandals— from Filegate to Travelgate to the commodities-trading windfall. There are also bound to be questions about the use of taxpayer money to fly her in and out.

Even with the splits in the New York Republican Party, she would face a vicious opponent in Giuliani, or even— if the mayor is somehow derailed— a possible upset in a race with Pataki-backed Rick Lazio. To win, she would need a huge plurality in the city, Schumer-like margins in the suburbs, plus crucial wins in upstate urban areas. Any way you look at it, Gore gets lost in the hubbub.

A Shrub Grows in Texas

Rivals Press Queries on Premature ‘Dubya’

When George W. (“Dubya”) Bush sallies forth on the campaign trail from his Austin stoop next month, he will be plunging into a dangerous political swamp. Already the governor’s rivals for the Republican nomination have begun the attack, with aides to Steve Forbes and Lamar Alexander raising questions about his alleged snorting of cocaine while his father took the presidential oath in 1988, and spreading rumors about “Shrub” (as he is referred to in rival camps) having danced naked on top of a bar as a young man.

The Alexander and Forbes campaigns deny the smear. However, Brian Kennedy, Alexander’s campaign director, told the London Telegraph that Bush would continue to face speculation until he speaks out. “This sort of talk is out there, and it’s encouraged when he admits to having had problems with drink but refuses to answer questions on drugs,” Kennedy said. “Until such time as he gives a full answer the governor can expect that it will be an issue.”

Karen Hughes, spokesperson for Bush, said the rumors reflect “the sad state of American politics,” adding, “Governor Bush has admitted that he was not perfect, that he made mistakes more than 20 years ago. He is not willing to itemize them because he does not want his own daughters and other young people in America to do something because he did it.”

Bush himself has said: “What I did as a youth is irrelevant to this campaign. What is relevant is, have you grown up— and I have.”

Once beyond the initial campaign shell shock, “Dubya” will settle into pushing his ideas, and here the “compassionate conservative” will be relying on his former Marxist mentor at the University of Texas, Marvin Olasky.

Olasky is the subject of a lengthy article by Michael King in this month’s Texas Observer. In the piece, King recounts a turning point in Olasky’s religious and political life. As a young Jewish student flirting with radicalism, Olasky was pondering Lenin’s dictum “We must combat religion . . . ” when God “changed my worldview not through thunder or a whirlwind, but by means of a small whisper that became a repeated, resounding question in my brain: ‘What if Lenin is wrong? What if there is a God?’ ”

Olasky was transformed into a fundamentalist Christian and an advocate of “Bible-based free market economics.” He has since written: “Today’s poor in the United States are victims and perpetrators of illegitimacy and abandonment, of family non-formation and malformation, alienation and loneliness; but they are not suffering from thirst, hunger or nakedness, except by choice, or insanity or parental abuse.”

Regarding this statement, King notes: “In Texas, where one-fifth of the children live in families with working adults who earn insufficient income for food, such a declaration amounts to willful if not malicious ignorance.”

War in Court

Hearing on Suit To Stop Bombing

With the peace process stalled, the focus of the war shifts this week to the legal front, and the suit against Clinton by 26 House members to stop the air campaign. Led by California Republican Tom Campbell and Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, the group argues that under the War Powers Resolution, Clinton was required to get congressional approval within 62 days of the start of hostilities. Since bombing began on March 24, time ran out on Tuesday.

The government has moved to dismiss the suit, claiming that even an argument on the merits would jeopardize U.S. foreign policy and signal lack of resolve. District Court Judge Paul Friedman has tentatively set this Thursday for arguments on dismissal.

Meanwhile, in Yugoslavia, the opposition to Milosevic grows bolder as mothers in southern Serbian towns demand the return of their conscripted sons. They are carrying on a tradition of protest begun during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, when women demanding an end to the fighting stormed past guards and took over the Serb parliament. At the same time, Veran
Matic, director of independent B92 Radio, was in Montenegro planning a broadcast switchboard devoted to reuniting Kosovar families. Currently banned in Yugoslavia, B92 operates through Web sites in Holland and Spain.

‘Cleansing’ the Capital

Springtime for Williams and Washington

It’s springtime in Washington and the people who count are playing croquet, going to “Great Gatsby dances,” and upgrading from Saabs to Mercedes. Last month’s photos of despairing Albanian refugees were a downer, but now that Congress has shown its humanitarian side by passing gun regs, it’s time to celebrate the return of social conscience.

In the spirit of the season, new mayor
Anthony Williams is promising to cut taxes. In addition, the District and Congress are working together on legislation to benefit upper-income residents whose main complaint usually is that their garbage is not picked up on time.

The legislation is intended to compensate parents for the lack of an adequate District university by having the government make up the difference between in-state and non-resident tuition at any state university in the country. A bill introduced by Virginia congressman Tom Davis and backed by D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton places a $10,000 cap on reimbursement for each student. Total cost: $17 million a year.

D.C. public high schools graduate about 3700 students a year, but only about 700 go to college. On the other hand, most students from private high schools in the District go to college.

So, as longtime D.C. activist Sam Smith, who also edits the feisty Progressive Review Web newsletter, points out, the tuition measure is an extraordinary subsidy for well-to-do Washington families. Those eligible will include well-heeled lobbyists and members of Congress. What is particularly galling is that the proposed subsidy comes after a 45 percent cut in federal funding for the University of the District of Columbia.

But there’s nothing surprising in all this. It’s part of what Smith calls the District’s own brand of polite “ethnic cleansing,” Along with low-
interest loans for gentrifiers who are pushing out
lower-class residents, the cleansing of Washington includes a 40 percent cut in public health centers, a 60 percent cut in homeless services, as well as cuts in public library spending, welfare, funding for the one public hospital, and rental assistance.

Gun Battle

Twisting Arms on Trigger Locks

Following up on the Senate’s modest measures last week on guns, the Clinton administration will be twisting arms in the House this week to oppose stiffening of a key provision on trigger locks. There are no trigger-lock standards in the Senate legislation, which essentially means that section of the law is meaningless. In addition, the legislation is broadly worded to protect manufacturers and others from any liability.

The administration has told anti-gun groups that it will oppose setting standards in the House, where the fight against gun regs is led by former NRA board member and impeachment fanatic Bob Barr of Georgia. The Republican leadership is battened down with the gun lobby, with perhaps the most moderate voice being that of Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Despite all the hoopla, the Senate legislation is riddled with loopholes. For example, not all sales are covered. Dealers at gun shows can display guns without marking them “for sale” and later sell them in the parking lot without going through any of the registration rigamarole.

Footnote: While Gore cast the tie-breaking vote on gun-show background checks, the
Republican National Committee (which has a Web site called Prince Albert in a Can) lost no time pointing out that in 1985 Gore voted against a 14-day waiting period for handgun purchases, and five years later opposed an amendment stiffening a proposed ban on semiautomatic weapons.

Strom’s Back

To keep fit, South Carolina’s 96-year old Republican senator Strom Thurmond goes to chiropractors, available to members of Congress at army and navy hospitals just a limo’s ride away through a little-known $7 million-a-year perk called the Chiropractic Health-Care Demonstration Program. “Since all members of Congress are entitled to medical treatment at these facilities,” Thurmond wrote his colleagues recently, “you may want to consider contacting one of the participating hospitals. . . . I utilize these services on a regular basis, and I can personally attest to the high level of care provided. . . . ”

Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu

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