New York



After Rudy

Hillary Against Herself

No matter who runs against her, Hillary Clinton faces an uphill race. John Zogby, the pollster who’s been following the First Lady’s Senate campaign day-to-day, makes the point that she’s her own toughest opponent, in that she’s never broken 50 percent. In polls taken after Giuliani’s announcement that he had prostate cancer, and then in the wake of news of his marital breakup, Hillary and Hizzoner were neck and neck in the low 40s. In six Zogby polls during that stretch, more than 40 percent voted against her.

Meanwhile, on the Albany Watch, Governor Pataki’s staff continued to insist he won’t run — and Pataki wouldn’t be a shoo-in by any means. Though viewed as the top Republican vote-getter in the state, many professionals see him as a lightweight. In Zogby’s last pairing of Pataki with Hillary, he edged her 47 to 44 percent. Rick Lazio, though young and relatively unknown, might do better. He’s a fresh face, and should appeal to voters upstate as well as those in the crucial suburbs. As for Hillary, Zogby notes, she not only must make big inroads upstate but mobilize a huge turnout of urban black voters.

Home on the Range

Straight-Shooting Shrub

With the wildly popular Bubba Bill Clinton as his model, George W. Bush has been busily transforming himself from a smirking prep-school drunk to a charming Lone Star scalawag whose family came south from the blueblood east to take over the nation’s largest and most prosperous banana republic. As Dubya bounced across his ranch in a pickup truck with Barbara Walters on 20/20 recently, you just knew that this man means well. It’s a dirty job, but with his training at Yale and in the Air National Guard, Dubya is a can-do kinda guy. Like the way he has dealt with killer crooks. Do-gooders are upset that they don’t get fair trials? Sometimes the evidence isn’t all there? Well, look at it this way, any trial is better than no trial at all. And it just makes sense not to let things drag on. It would be cruel and unusual punishment not to kill these crooks as quickly as possible. The voters love to wake up and find that another of these pitiful losers is dead. Remember how Bill Clinton aced it with Ricky Ray Rector?

Shrub knows he’s right about this. He tells everyone he is “absolutely confident” that the death penalty is fair, even though The Washington Post reported last week that since there are few public defender offices in Texas, poor defendants must rely on court-appointed lawyers, some of whom have been known to sleep through crucial legal proceedings, fail to file important legal papers on time or correctly, and have been cited repeatedly for misconduct. Since Bush took office, 127 prisoners have been offed — one every two weeks. Currently, 465 inmates are awaiting the needle, almost all of them indigent. Their lawyers, the Post reports, are linked to patronage through appointment by elected judges. One such legal eagle acknowledged in an interview that he was an active alcoholic and a cocaine user, but said he stayed sober in court. However, he couldn’t file an appeal for his client because his law license had been suspended. Another, whose indigent client was executed while Dubya was governor, was arrested during this unfortunate’s trial and charged with failing to file legal papers in the death-penalty appeal of an earlier client. In one case, when a new lawyer asked for a new trial because the previous attorney was caught snoozing, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that just because a lawyer sleeps at the defense table, he is not necessarily ineffective. A new trial was refused, and the defendant was executed.

Then there’s so-called pollution — even though Texas has plenty of wide-open spaces. But since the do-gooder EPA says the state is one of the most polluted in the nation, who can blame the governor for calling together the big polluters and asking them to write a new environmental law they can live with? According to the lib-symp National Public Radio, in March 1997 the presidents of Marathon Oil and Exxon devised a voluntary atmospheric cleanup program that lacked any enforcement provisions. It later became the legislation Bush backed and signed. NPR reported that “no one knew about the collaboration between the industry and the governor’s office” until it was leaked to environmentalists. According to NPR, environmentalists have pointed out that Bush received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from polluters who benefited from the industry-designed program. “The documents that we got from the agency clearly showed backroom dealing between the governor and industry,” Peter Altman of the eco group SEED told NPR. “And in fact, it showed that the Texas environmental agency had tried to close the loophole on these dirty old plants, and it was the governor’s influence, responding to the oil industry, that prevented them from doing it.” What do you expect Dubya to do? Close down Exxon? Hey. If you can’t make it in the city, move to the country.

As for guns, what’s the problem? Everyone should have a gun in Texas. If they don’t, they’re damn fools and likely to get shot. Sunday’s Million Mom March missed the point. It was Suzanna Gratia Hupp of the Second Amendment Sisters who was on the money. Her biggest mistake was not to be carrying her .38 when a crazed merchant seaman burst into a Killeen, Texas, restaurant in 1991 and wasted 23 people. Suzanna reached for her pistol, but she’d left it in the car. Both her parents were killed. A chiropractor, she had started carrying the weapon at the suggestion of a client who was an assistant D.A. When she remonstrated that it might be illegal, he replied, “Better to be tried by 12 than carried by six” — a sentiment the straight-shooting Shrub might heartily applaud.

Blowing in the Wind

Lost Alamos

A key problem in fire-ravaged Los Alamos is the fear that depleted uranium and toxic nuclear lab may have worked their way into the atmosphere and become part of the huge plume that has been floating over eastern Colorado, across the Oklahoma panhandle, and into Texas.

No one knows for sure what has happened. But in recent years, a lot of testing of high explosives has been done at the plant. It’s as a test site for these explosives that various toxic metals may have come into play. Explosives are sometimes bonded with depleted uranium. Los Alamos also manufactures bomb triggers: grapefruit-sized objects sheathed in stainless steel, aluminum, or vanadium. The Los Alamos laboratory has disposed of at least 17.5 million cubic feet of hazardous and radioactive waste in 24 areas on the site since 1944, according to the Los Alamos Study Group, an antinuclear outfit. The list of contaminants includes lead, beryllium, arsenic, thorium, uranium, plutonium, PCBs, and barium.

Controlled burning in the area in May is unusual since the forests are especially dry and winds are often gusty. Normally, burning is done in early spring or fall. Among federal workers, the National Park Service — which runs Bandelier National Monument, where the fire that led to the conflagration was lit — is viewed as sloppy when it comes to safety.

Radiation’s Long Reach

Chernobyl’s Legacy

An alarming new report in the British science journal Nature says that radioactive pollution released from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986 will continue to contaminate British sheep for at least 15 more years. Already, 230,000 sheep in the upland regions of Wales, Cumbria, and Scotland are restricted from being sold for meat because of higher than normal levels of radiocaesium in their blood.

Scientists had originally thought the fallout wouldn’t last long because it would bind to the clay matrix of the soil, preventing further uptake. But a recent study suggests they miscalculated. Of the 389 farms involved, tests on three show that some sheep have levels of radiocaesium that are nearly twice the limit deemed safe for human consumption. As bad as the problem is in parts of Britain, it is far worse in Belarus and western Russia, where livestock restrictions are likely to remain in place for another 50 years.

What’s My Line?

Bush Boners

Neither Dubya nor his Dad is known for having a firm command of English grammar. But when it comes to turning an unusual phrase, each has a style all his own. Which Bush is responsible for each of the following?

  1. “We ought to make the pie higher.”
  2. “There is madmen in the world and there is terror.”
  3. “[Those are] hyporhetorical questions.”
  4. “I hope we get to the bottom of the answer.”
  5. “Please don’t look at part of the glass, the part that is only less than half full.”


(1) Dubya; (2) Dubya; (3) Dad; (4) Dubya; (5) Dad

Heaven on Earth

Asked by decorous radio talk-show host Diane Rehm to sum up what life in the White House has meant for his marriage, President Clinton breezily answered, “Oh, I think it’s been good for us, because I got to live above the store.” The president said that he and Hillary spend “happy days” reading and talking out by the pool or on the Truman Balcony.

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi

Archive Highlights