Gore in Freefall
Al Gore’s presidential bid, newly headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, seemed to be in meltdown by the end of last week, with campaign manager Tony Coehlo, the sleazeball congressman forced out of the House at the start of the early-’80s S&L scandal, at the center of yet another ethical firestorm.
On Friday, the Center for Public Integrity excerpted findings from a report by the state department’s inspector general alleging that while Coehlo had run the U.S. pavilion at a 1998 expo in Portugal, he lived in a luxury apartment that cost the government $18,000 a month, misused airline tickets, gave his niece a federal job, and received a $300,000 personal loan that may end up being repaid by the federal government.
On Sunday, Gore, seeming confused, continued to embrace Coehlo. Appearing on Face the Nation, the vice president said that although he hadn’t seen the report, “I know him, and he is going to continue doing the terrific job he’s been doing as my campaign chair.” Regarding the report’s implications, Gore said that “people I talked to are not interested,” adding that it was “inside baseball.” That is essentially the same way Gore tossed off questions earlier this year about his appointment of Carter Eskew— one of the tobacco industry’s leading flacks— as his media adviser.
On Monday came Jane Mayer’s report in The New Yorker (site of a previous Clinton-Gore “friction” leak), quoting the president as telling “a confidant” recently that “but for his father,” Gore “would have been a professor, or something more solitary.” According to Mayer, “Clinton’s friend concurs. ‘Gore is the most introverted person I’ve ever seen in public life,’ he says. ‘When I watch what he does, it’s heroic. He works like a dog— but it’s excruciating.’ ”
Well, at least he didn’t characterize him as “wooden” and “boring.”
Forget About Not Having a Prayer
Having lost its tax-exempt status for violating IRS rules, Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition sought shelter in George W. Bush’s campaign at its convention in Washington last weekend on the grounds that it is time to back a candidate who can win. Fundamentalist Christians, always the most fickle of political allies, now are painting themselves as the victims of a godless, liberal-driven crusade that is resulting in their being hunted down and slaughtered in the sanctity of their own churches, as in Fort Worth last month, or in high schools such as Columbine.
The bible belt legions who once proudly portrayed themselves as soldiers in God’s Army have been reduced to gossiping about whether the presidential hopeful closest to their heart— ex-Reagan aide Gary Bauer, the single-digit presidential candidate who formerly headed the Family Research Council— had sex with a young campaign aide behind closed doors. A few even found themselves begging for (gasp) tolerance and freedom of expression.
Talk of abortion was muted, as young women wearing Forbes T-shirts debated whether God would forgive them for drinking a beer. Married women said they would never, ever have lunch with a single man. The audience cheered Bauer when he told them he wouldn’t be scared of going to Minnesota to confront Jesse “the bully” Ventura, who had called religion “a crutch for weak-minded people” in his Playboy interview.
What with Giuliani’s “Hail Mary” attempt to shut down the blasphemous Brooklyn Museum last week— a naked ploy to connect with upstate conservatives— one could almost envision the newly pragmatic religious wackos rallying behind New York’s secular, prochoice strongman, who fittingly also endorsed Bush last week.
Northern Irish Echo
The Army’s Delta Force and the Navy Seals weren’t the only observers at Waco, which, as details spill out, looks more and more like a training op for the international commando set. Among others present were representatives of Britain’s elite Special Air Services, infamous for its counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland.
In a July 31, 1996, letter to Senator Charles Robb, unearthed recently by the Irish Echo, John E. Collingwood, head of the FBI’s Public and Congressional Affairs office, revealed that “two SAS soldiers visiting at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, requested and were granted a courtesy visit. The main purpose . . . was to experience how the FBI operated its command post. They were shown the relationship of the FBI’s command post to the tactical operations center, were allowed a visit to the forward tactical area, and were provided generic briefings regarding the incident. Although the HRT [Hostage Rescue Team] had tactical interface with the SAS during routine practice and training, at no time was the SAS called upon to participate in . . . the siege.”
Footnote: Rumors abound on talk radio and the Internet that three Delta Force members who may have been at Waco have since mysteriously died. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that three Delta Force members had died recently, but said none were at Waco.
Helped Bell Skirt Tower Review
Washington politics remains a clubhouse game so hidden most of the time that the public hardly has a clue about what goes on in the backroom.
For five years Bell Atlantic has been trying to get permission to set up relay towers in Rock Creek Park, in the middle of Washington. Arguing that the phone company hadn’t submitted detailed information, the Park Service balked at approving the permits, and the National Capitol Planning Commission, citing safety and lack of information, tabled Bell Atlantic’s request.
Instead of negotiating, Bell Atlantic lobbyists went to the Senate, where they enlisted the aid of nice-guy minority leader Tom Daschle, who introduced a rider to permit the construction without review. When Mayor Anthony Williams and congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton asked Bell Atlantic to work with local authorities, the phone giant refused.
Last week, Clinton vetoed the District’s $429 million FY 2000 appropriations bill, which would have allowed Bell Atlantic to install the towers, because it contained Republican prohibitions on how money can be spent by local authorities.
Why did Daschle answer the call? Did it perhaps have something to do with the fact that during the past year, he was the fourth largest recipient of campaign contributions from telephone companies? In 1998, Bell Atlantic was the top contributor among phone companies to both major parties, spending $2 million, and the top lobbyist, shelling out $21.3 million.
A spokeswoman said that contrary to reports, Daschle first became concerned about the issue of cell towers in Rock Creek Park when Washington police complained they couldn’t talk to each other in the park. She said Daschle “was not aware of” Bell Atlantic’s contributions when he first heard about the issue. She added that the senator felt the cell towers could be “camouflaged” and “made to look like trees.”
Howard Wolley, a Bell Atlantic vice president, said the company had more on its mind than buying a senator to vote for “putting up a stick in Rock Creek Park,” and that the phone giant hoped better cell connections would help fight crime, which, he contended, was why park joggers were solidly behind them.
A survey by Capitol Hill Blue, a conservative Web site,gives a startling view of the underbelly of Congress, showing large numbers of wife beaters, check bouncers, and drug abusers. The investigation found: 29 members accused of spousal abuse; seven arrested for fraud; 19 accused of writing bad checks; 117 bankrupted at least two businesses; three arrested for assault; 71 with credit reports so bad they can’t get a card; 14 arrested on drug-related charges; 21 defendants in lawsuits; and, in 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving but released after they claimed congressional immunity.
Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi