Al Gore’s Dilemma

Odd Men In

Watch Your Step

‘W’ and the New World Order

Hillary Loves You

Post-Littleton Panic

Capitol Hill Buttheads

Al Gore’s Dilemma

Caught Between the Clintons

No wonder Al Gore is beside himself. He’s going down. The ego-driven first couple is going to make sure of that. Try as he might, Gore can’t lose the Clintons. Even as his handlers try to separate the snoozy veep, the administration strikes back, as in the story leaked to The New York Times over the weekend about how furious the president was over the ingrate Gore’s statements about him. Bill and Hillary just won’t go.

After doing his Napoleon IV bit in the Balkans, Clinton taunted Gore with
another of his suicide plans to “fix Medicare.” Then he floated the idea that after leaving the White House he might run for the Senate from Arkansas. Then he called the story crazy. Every time Clinton opens his mouth, Gore loses votes.

On Monday, the president also announced plans to tap into the tantalizing budget surplus and add $700 billion over 15 years boosting Medicare while covering prescription drugs. In putting forward this plan, Clinton pulled the rug from under Gore on any plan he might propose. Like it or not, Gore— whose own record blocking affordable AIDS drugs for South Africa is disgusting and now hounds him with screaming protesters
at practically every stop (see Mondo
Washington, June 8)— now has to run on Clinton’s plan.

Nor can Gore shed Hillary, who last week kept a high profile in the tabs, hiring Nita Lowey’s aide as a campaign adviser and being featured in a battle between Tina Brown and Rudy Giuliani over a Brooklyn Navy Yard bash for Brown’s new mag, Talk, which plans to picture her on its first cover. Now, thanks to Webb Hubbell’s plea deal with Ken Starr, Hillary’s New York run, though apparently free of the threat that she will be subpoenaed to testify, will be accompanied by never-
ending speculation on her role in the Hubbell affair.

Foot Note: At the G8 summit, “Imelda” Clinton bought 18 pairs of shoes from Bruno Magli for $5000. Said a Magli rep: “They are classic mid-heel pumps, in black, bone, navy, brown. It’s not normal, though, to buy this many shoes at once.”

Odd Men In

Russians Creep Toward Kosovo

It turns out that it will take the Russian army 40 days to transport 3600 peacekeeper troops to Kosovo (what are they riding, mules?), underlining once again the lessons learned in this war. The first is that Russia is a dirt poor country with declining sway in European affairs. America’s propping up of Yeltsin has staved off anarchy and the rise of the ultra-right, which is just around the corner.

The second lesson lies in the rise of China. Milosevic has stashed millions in China, which over the weekend offered the Serbian strongman asylum. Ironically, it was the Balkans war that propelled China onto center stage. Meanwhile, in this country, the right’s new “yellow peril” scare continued unabated, with China reported at the start of this week to be making final preparations to test fire a mobile ICBM incorporating stolen secrets and capable of hitting targets in the western U.S.

Watch Your Step

Slick Willie’s Land Mine Lies

“I don’t want anyone else to lose an arm or a leg or a child because of a land mine,” declared President Clinton in his best touchy-feely style last week on a visit to a refugee camp in Macedonia. Hugging Kosovars in the camp, Clinton implored, “Please be patient with us. Give us a couple more weeks to take the land mines up. You are going to be able to go back in safety and security. I want to make it a happy return.”

In fact, one reason the Kosovars will have to tread warily upon returning home is that the U.S., under Clinton, has been the leading world power refusing to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of land mines— which more than 100 nations have signed— thereby clearing the way for their continued use.

Bobby Muller, the Vietnam vet who heads the campaign against land mines in the U.S., says Clinton told him, “I can’t afford a breach with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” Muller adds that on one occasion Clinton ridiculed his efforts, asking, “When you’re done with this land-mine stuff, why don’t you go after rubber bullets?”

Clinton’s position is that he’ll sign the Ottawa Treaty only if the Pentagon has an alternative weapon— and the president’s refusal to set a date for coming up with an alternative leaves U.S. policy on the use of land mines essentially unaltered.

‘W’ & the New Word Order

Holy Moses

“I have no problem with the Ten Commandments being posted on the walls of every public place,” Republican front-runner George W. Bush told reporters last week. But which version? Protestant? Catholic? Jewish? Muslim? “The standard version,” replied Bush. “Surely we can agree, as a society, on a version.”

Thus did candidate Bush place foot in mouth in what could become a semantic religious quarrel, the implications of which House Republicans totally missed in their rush to twist the debate on gun control by capitalizing on the symbolism of the Ten Commandments. It turns out, of course, that different faiths view the Commandments from varying perspectives, and thus word them, and order them, differently. In addition, some translations are quite wordy and unsuitable to be used as catchy slogans on schoolhouse walls. In short, the whole thing could turn out to be a religious nightmare for the Republicans.

At the same time, Knight Ridder reports that Dubya is a bit slow in getting up to speed on the new world order, confusing Slovakia, the nation that broke off from the former Czechoslovakia, with Slovenia, which separated from Yugoslavia. Bush also has referred to Greeks as “Grecians,” Kosovars as “‘Kosovarians,” and East Timorese as “East Timorians.”

Hillary Loves You

New York PR Offensive

Hillary Clinton’s appearance alongside her husband in the Balkans refugee camps last week ought to ingratiate her with the estimated 200,000 Albanians in New York City. And now right-wingers are worried that the First Lady might be using White House pressure to ingratiate herself with New York’s huge Puerto
Rican community.

Capitol Hill conservatives are muttering that the White House ordered the Defense Department to declare a moratorium on bombing runs at the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility on Vieques island in Puerto Rico. This spring, Vieques became the center of protests in Puerto Rico after Marine pilots fired shells containing depleted uranium in a test, spreading fears of radioactive contamination among residents, and mistakenly bombed an observation tower, killing a security guard (see Mondo Washington, June 22).

On June 11, the Pentagon issued a press
release announcing that Clinton had asked Secretary of Defense William Cohen to appoint a special panel to search for “viable alternative locations” for the tests. Navy Secretary Richard Danzig then announced a suspension of all bombing on Vieques until the panel’s report is completed.

According to press accounts, the suspension followed talks between Maria Echaveste, deputy White House chief of staff, and Puerto Rican representatives.

The belief is that suspension of the tests will neutralize an explosive issue among the 900,000 Puerto Ricans living in New York City. In addition, there are 2.6 million Latinos in New York State.

Post-Littleton Panic

Chem Set Hijinks End in Jail

Since Littleton, there’s an ominous, quick route into the headlines for public officials looking to make a name for themselves: accuse kids of making bombs. Consider the following:

On April 29, a little more than a week after the Littleton massacre, a high school administrator in Glen Burnie, Maryland, tipped local police that a student, Aaron Sweitzer, 14, might be making bombs. Aaron’s mother gave the cops permission to search his room, and they discovered match heads, chemicals, and wires. In the backyard, cops found a charred area where they surmised Aaron might have been testing homemade explosives. The cops then arrested Aaron and two friends, Matthew Dearmond, 15, and Sean Townsend, 14. Aaron and Matthew were charged with possessing bomb components, and Aaron and Sean were charged with making bomb threats. Searching the boys’ rooms cops had found charcoal, an old
hollowed-out grenade, instructions downloaded from the Internet on how to make a bomb, aluminum potassium sulfate, and a flier reading: “The School Is Going To Blow” (the basis for the threat charges).

Various “tipsters” at school— their names blacked out on police reports— said that there was a “hit list” circulating. The Glen Burnie fire marshal said items taken from the boys’ rooms were bomb-making components. “There are a lot of students who know things,” declared prosecutor Michael Bergeson at a hearing.

Then suddenly, last Monday, the charges were dropped. It turned out the fire marshal’s office couldn’t find any bomb-making ingredients. Bergeson, reversing himself, announced there was “no chemical evidence of anything explosive, toxic, or incendiary.” Defense lawyer Patrick Smith explained that the grenade was from a family heirloom. The instructions on bomb making had been innocently downloaded while the boys were surfing the Net. The chemicals were from a toy chemistry set. The fliers had been circulating around school previously, and were not linked to the boys. Tests on the powder taken from Matthew’s room revealed it wasn’t gunpowder. Matthew and Aaron were released from jail.

“I think the police did just what they should have done,” Bergeson maintained, adding, “I think it’s like finding an unloaded gun. It’s great that it’s not loaded.”

Capitol Hill Buttheads

If you’re having trouble finding cheap cigarettes, you might try the Senate or House snack bars. Members of Congress and Hill insiders can buy their smokes there without paying the District of Columbia’s high cigarette or sales tax. Best Buy: The Senate sells a carton for $22.90— $10.40 less than the closest drugstore.

Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu

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