Your search returned 823 results.

ADS A VISA TO JOB WORKERS

PETE WILSON: LOST AT SEA ON FAMILY VALUES

FURY OF THE MUSLIMS NOW THREAT TO PEACE

WORKERS OF THE WORLD, BE OUR GUESTS

FALSE ASSERTIONS ARE JUST LEGION IN WORLD OF BOB DOLE

DEFEAT FINALLY CREEPS UP ON HIM

COMING SOON: KIDS SLEEPING ON HOT-AIR GRATES

IMMIGRATION KEEPING BLACKS ON BOTTOM RUNG

IF POWELL RUNS, HE COULD BE A REAL DYNAMO

REPUBLICANS' MEDICARE PLAN IS A SICK JOKE

COLIN'S FANTASTIC VOYAGE

NEWT HAS RIGHT MIRROR IMAGE

POLS WHO TALK NICE AND ACT NAUGHTY

WORKING U.S. CITIZENS OUT OF THEIR JOBS

BILL'S GOOD NEWS

BILL HITS BACK AT NEWT

HERE'S ONE PROMISE THAT NEWT GINGRICH MUST NEVER KEEP

A FUNKY WAY OF LOOKING AT U.S. 'GROWTH'

LET THE GOP MEDICAID RX RUN ITS COURSE

NEWT'S A MAN OF (CHANGING) PRINCIPLE

O.J. VERDICT IS BUCHANAN FODDER FOR THE RIGHT WING

MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR GRANNY ABUSE

A BUDGET SHELL GAME TO TRICK THE ELDERLY

LET'S CURE THE HEALTH-CARE GOTCHAS

GLOCK PISTOL MAY BE A LOOSE CANNON

FARRAKHAN PREACHED A POSITIVE MESSAGE . . .

'BORROWING' FROM SOC SEC TO AID THE RICH

GOP'S HUGE CUTS MAY COST THEM IN '96

GOP HATES CRIME BUT ITS MEDICARE REFORMS INVITE IT

KERREY TO GOP: GO TO HEALTH - COVER EVERYBODY

GOP MAPPING AN AGENDA THAT GOES NOWHERE

...BUT CAN HE SURVIVE THE GOP THOUGHT POLICE?

CIA-KGB SCAM IS STILL COSTING US

POWELL KNOWS ABOUT SLINGS & ARROWS - AND THE RIGHT STUFF

AFTER THE ASSASSINATION RABIN WAS LEADER FOR THORNY PATH

LESSON OF RABIN'S FUNERAL: PEACE IS POSSIBLE . . . BUT FIRST PEOPLE MUST CONFRONT THE HATE WITHIN

COLIN SOUNDS THE RETREAT POLITICAL WEB CAN'T SNARE A SANE MAN

THEY'RE GOOD 'PROVIDERS' - FOR THEMSELVES

GOP SHUTS DOWN COMMON SENSE

NEW BATTLING BILL TAKES ON SAME OLD GOP ON BUDGET

GINGRICH SHOWS PIQUE & VOLLEYS CRISIS REVEALS NEWT DEPTHS OF PETTINESS

A CRISIS OVER A NUMBER PICKED OFF THE CEILING

GOP BUDGET DOESN'T BALANCE THE PAIN

CRITICS PUSH BILL INTO CORNER OVER TROOPS IN BOSNIA

REPUBLICAN BILL PLAYING A DIRTY TRICK ON SENIORS

CLINTON'S NAIVE THRUST INTO BOSNIA MORASS

NEWT'S GOPAC FUNDS LOOK DIRTY

WHY BOSNIANS COULD GO TO WAR OVER AN ALPHABET

LEFT TURN FOR RIGHT-WINGER BUCHANAN

CLINTON BRINGS CLASS WARFARE INTO THE OPEN

NEWT MAKES IT TOO EASY FOR DEMS

HOW COULD NEWT KNOW CONSERVATIVES WOULD BE SO GREEN?

REPUBLICANS' SNEAK ATTACK ON MEDICARE

TIME TO MEASURE NEWT FOR CUFFS?

LEGEND OF THE FALL OLIVER STONE'S POIGNANT 'NIXON,' STARRING A POWERFUL AND CONVINCING ANTHONY HOPKINS, DWELLS IN THE SHADOWLANDS OF THE TRUTH

A NIXON CHRONOLOGY

WHITEWATER PROBE FINDS THE CLINTONS ARE IN THE CLEAR

BILL'S STOCKING FULL OF PREZENTS

A SCARED KID IN '57 LITTLE ROCK HONORS HIS HERO

A LOOPHOLE IN GOP CONTRACT

FORBES' FLAT TAX: RICH WILL JUST GET FILTHY RICH

THE BIG APPLE TEACHES U.S. HOW TO FIGHT CRIME

GOP ATTACK ADS ARE GOING ON THE (VERY) OFFENSIVE

D'AMATO ATTACKS ON FIRST LADY: SLEAZY DOES IT

WHITE HOUSE RUN CAN ALWAYS FETCH A HELPING HAND-OUT

BUDGET NO LONGER SCRATCHES NEWT'S SEVEN-YEAR ITCH

GOP TAX PROPOSAL FLATLY DOESN'T WORK

AT&T CALLING UP FOREIGN HELP

GRAMM COTTONS TO SOME STRANGE IDEAS

ARMEY'S TAKING THE BUDGET WAR TO DANGEROUS BRINK

HILLARY'S NOT GETTING A FAIR SHAKE

GOP CREATING MODERN JOAN OF ARC?

THE GOP'S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

THE FLAT TAX: NOT QUITE THE MIRACLE FORBES CLAIMS

GOPERS UNBALANCED ON BUDGET

MINE KILLS G.I. WILL DEATH HAUNT BILL?

COMMUNICATIONS BILL SENDS MIXED SIGNALS

D'AMATO CHANGES HIS TUNE TO CROON OVER WHITEWATER

GOPERS BRINGING OUT THE NEGATIVE

IN IOWA, KVETCH, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE

OH STEVE, BELL MAY BE ABOUT TO DOLE FOR THEE

DOLE'S FEELING A PAT ON BACK REPUBLICANS FEAR A LOOSE BUCANNON

EEK! HERE'S HOW ALEXANDER CAN WIN PRESIDENCY

FORBES IS PREZ' STALKING-HORSE CLINTON, DEMS HAVE A REAL TARGET

BUCHANAN'S FIRE BURNS GOP

BUCHANAN PULLS PAT TRICK IN N.H. OUT-OF-TOUCH DOLE A BLAST FROM PAST

...HE MAY BE A LOSER, BUT WORKERS STILL NEED A VOICE

BUCHANAN, AS SEEN BY JESSE . . .

POLS WILL BLUSTER BUT WON'T HURT CASTRO

PAT BUCHANAN REMINDS DEMS WHO THEY ARE

IN DOLE COUNTRY, SOME SEE ISLAND OF SUPPORT FOR BUCHANAN

SEN. POTHOLE'S BOTTOMLESS PIT

DOLE STILL HAS UPHILL CAMPAIGN TRAIL AHEAD

BOMBS SNARL PEACE POLITICS . . .

DOLE'S DEFINITELY NOT HIS OWN BEST FRIEND

'PITCHFORK PEASANTS' HAVE POINT

STOP INVASION OF JOB-SNATCHERS

MILITARY POLICY ON GAYS: DON'T ASK, DO HARASS

POWELL FOR VEEP? BLEEP!

ARMEY OCCUPIES HOUSE

POLS WON'T ALIEN-ATE EMPLOYERS

HIS DREAM IS OUR NIGHTMARE

STATES' WRONGS THE REAL DANGER IN DOLE'S SLOGAN

CONGRESS VETOES CHECKS & BALANCES IN LINE-ITEM VOTE

WAGERING ON MINIMUM

U.S. BUSINESSES STILL VICTIMS OF JAPANIMOSITY

BROWN A MASTER OF MANY WORLDS

BIGGEST BUCKS NOW END UP IN DEM COFFERS

NEXT CONSPIRACY THEORY WILL SWAMP W'WATER PROBERS

FATAL COMBINATION IN BROWN'S FLIGHT

A 3-PART RECIPE FOR DISASTER


INSIDER DOLE'S RUNNING OUTSIDE BOUNDS OF REALITY

HOW THE FEDERAL GOV'T SPENDS YOUR HARD-EARNED CASH

ISRAELI ATTACKS ARE TERROR BY ANOTHER NAME

CANDIDATE DOLE SHOWS HE'S GOP STEREOTYPE OF GUY

BOB DOLE'S TWO HATS ARE A VERY AWKWARD FIT

A DASH OF SAM MAY BE POLLUTING WHITEWATER CASE

TIMBERRR! GOP LOGGING FOREST OF CAMPAIGN GREEN

HOUSING VOUCHERS A NOBLE IDEA THAT HITS WORKING POOR

CENTS-LESS RAVINGS IN A FUEL'S PARADISE

THE CLARITY OF D'AMATO'S VISION

DOLE'S SLICK PLAN TO GREASE WAY TO WHITE HOUSE

REPUBLICANS COURTING BILL'S DOWNFALL

...AND TURN OFF THE REAGAN DEMOCRATS

NEWEST GOP REPS MAKE CONGRESS INTO MAD HOUSE

FOR THE OVERPAID EXECUTIVE, A VERY CHEAP DEFENSE

GAMBLE IS PERSONAL, TOO

GOP'S ATTACKS MAY GIVE PARTY BIG LABOR PAINS

CONSTRUCTION EXPLODES UNDER TOWNHOUSE PLAN

WASHINGTON, NOT THE MEDIA, KILLED BOORDA

BIG-BUCKS DOLE SPENDS LIKE A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

IF RUSSIA'S REDS WIN, WEST MAY BE TO BLAME

A TERRORIST UNDER EVERY BED? POLS SEEM TO THINK SO

FIRST BLOOD IN W'WATER MESS

VERDICT SENDS PREZ TOWARD ROCKY RAPIDS


GOP GEARS UP TO TAKE LOW ROAD TO ELECTION DAY

NETANYAHU PLOTS A COURSE TOWARD MIDEAST TURMOIL

IT'S NOT A 'CUT' IN MEDICARE, IT'S DAYLIGHT ROBBERY

NEWT'S GRASPING AT STRAWS AS HIS REVOLUTION FADES

DOLE'S FLIP FOR LIBERAL STRATEGY IS PERSONAL FLOP

IT'S LEFT-FACE, FORWARD MARCH AS DOLE DEPARTS

FILE THIS LATEST DEM 'SCANDAL' UNDER N-OTHING

AMERICAN EAGLE SHOULD WEASEL ON RUSSIAN ELECTION

D'AMATO RUNS W'WATER PROBE INTO THE GROUND

SOME IN GOP ARE COZYING UP TO THE PRESIDENT

CAPITOL HILL NEEDS REFORM, NOT LOBBYISTS

FIRST LADY LEARNS LESSON THE HARD WAY

STUCK IN A DESERT QUAGMIRE

ELEPHANT MEMORY FADES ON ECONOMY

DO COWS FLY? SOME LIES DO

MCCAIN FOR VEEP? BET ON IT

OH, BIBI! SHARON IS BACK

UNSETTLING NOTE IN TRIUMPHANT TUNE

...BUT SO DID CONGRESS AND THE PENTAGON BRASS

GOP LEADERS ARE SINGING THE UNION BLUES

SUSAN MOLINARI'S CHARM CAN'T FIX THE GOP SPLIT

A CANDIDATE WHO'S TOO HONEST TO HAVE A CHANCE

CUT CAPITAL GAINS TO FIGHT CRIME? IT'LL MURDER D.C.

JACK KEMP TAKES SNAP FROM DOLE

AN ODD COUPLE MAYSHAKE UP THE RACE


VEEP PICK'S KEY TO CITIES

A HANDSOME SUITOR TO WOO URBAN DEMS


GOP TRIES OPEN DOOR

PLATFORM DIVING STIRS FEW WAVES

COLIN TAKES GOP OUT OF DOLEDRUMS

IMAGES, NOT WORDS, KEY TO GOP SHOW

HE'S BACK - THE OLD BOB DOLE

STRING OF BARBS SOUNDS LIKE PAT


BOB'S GIMMICK WILL BE BIG HIT

BOB DOLE VS. THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

DOLE'S TAX PLAN IS STUFF LEGENDS WILL BE MADE OF

DOLE SOUNDS BETTER, BUT BOBS THE ISSUES

MONEY TALKS LOUDER THAN TRUTH

SHE ELICITS ONE HIL OF A RESPONSE

CUOMO TAKES A NASTY TURN

IF INK SMEARS, LOOK TO RUPERT

ATTACK ON PREZ EASY TO TRACE


FOOT FETISH TALE KICKS PREZ

PLAYING FOOTSIE WITH OUR FUTURE?

BILL'S STRIKE BLOWS UP BOB THEORY

POLITICS POLLUTES THE WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION

THE NUMBERS POLS SPIN DON'T ALWAYS ADD UP

AMERICA ALONE? BOB'S INVADING MILITARY REALITY

BOB DOLE HAS RIGHT STUFF BUT WRONG MESSAGE

CLINTON'S FOES ARE HALF-BAKED ON IRAQ POLICY

ALL OF A SUDDEN BOB DOLE IS DIRTY HARRY

MILITARY FAIRY TALES . . .

LINE-ITEM VETO WILL GIVE BILL THE POWER TO PUNISH

CONTRA-COKE TALE IS NOT WHAT IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE

PLAYING WITH DEADLY FIRE

CONGRESS WON'T RISK ALIEN-ATING BIG BUSINESS

BILL HAS A LOT ON HIS MIDEAST PLATE

BIBI & ARAFAT'S HANDSHAKE IS A NEW BEGINNING

IT'S BOB VS. BILL - AND BOB

AND A SOUR, DOUR BOB DOLE SHOWS US HIS TRUE SELF

WORLD'S LARGEST TAX HIKE? NOT FOR AVERAGE EARNERS

WORDFEST MISSING IN ACTION

AFL-CIO TO BEAR FRUITS OF NEWT'S ANTI-UNION LABORS

CLINTON AGENDA FOR SECOND TERM IS JUST NO BIG DEAL

THE DISGRACE IS BI-PARTISAN

DOLE HAS SHINE, BUT STILL CAN'T TARNISH CLINTON

NO HOPE & GLORY IN FINAL WORDS AT BATTLEGROUND

THE SHARPIES EYE SOCIAL SECURITY

MURDOCH'S NOT PAYING ANY TAXES ON POLS HE BUYS

CHANGE SYSTEM SO FAT CATS CAN'T FEED POLITICIANS

CIA-DRUG PROBE BLOCKED BY POL, SENATORS TOLD

HMOS CURING DOCTORS' HATE OF GOV'T INSURANCE

REAGAN-ERA U.S. WINKED AT ALLIES' DRUG SMUGGLING

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE IS LESSON BOB DIDN'T LEARN

POLS ARE REFUSING TO LET THE TRUTH GET IN THEIR WAY

DOLEFUL IMAGE COSTING BOB

ERA OF LOWERED EXPECTATIONS

FIRST, WE GET RID OF ALL THE POLITICAL CONSULTANTS . . .

POLS TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN

NEWT BECOMES PAIN IN THE ASSETS FOR REPUBLICANS

AMERICAN DREAM: HELP THE AFFLICTED GET OFF THE STREETS

ANCIENT FEUDS ARE MODERN BURDENS FOR U.S. LEADERS

A MOVE TO THE CENTER? DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH

A CONSERVATIVE GETS LIBERAL DOSE OF MEDICAL REALITY

DEMS WILL MISS BOB DORNAN, THE GOP'S JESTER

GOP PROBERS ARE OBSESSED BY ANTI-BILL BIAS

SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZATION IS A FOOLISH SCHEME

INDICT HILLARY? THERE'S NO WAY THAT WILL HAPPEN

KNIFE THAT SLASHES COST OF LIVING MAY NICK MANY ELDERLY

HEADING THE CIA IS REAL MISSION - IMPROBABLE

BRITISH MEDDLING COULD BE A SECRET DISSERVICE TO U.S.

WORKERS LOSING WHITE HOUSE ALLY AS REICH QUITS

LITTLE GUYS COUNTER CIA'S OUTDATED INTELLIGENCE WAYS

SOME STRANGE GUNFELLAS

BY WALKING OUT, NEWT'S LAWYER IS CRYING 'FIRE'

TRADE LESSONS U.S.ONCE TAUGHT NOW HAUNT US

IT'S HARD LABOR DEFENDING NEWT

NEWT SUNK BY OL' COLLEGE TRY

GINGRICH'S LOGIC THROWS THE LAW FOR A LOOPHOLE

NEWT IS MOVING, BUT IT'S JUST A BAIT AND SWITCH

WALL ST. IS JUST LICKING ITS CHOPS FOR SOC SEC PLAN

JUNGLE WARFARE KILLS TRUTH

CONSERVATIVES ARE SOLE WINNERS IN BIZARRE CASE

THE FINEST NEED TO ADVANCE INTO COMPUTER AGE

TALE OF TAPE STICKS DEMS

STEALER OF THE HOUSE

NARROW INTERESTS CAST WIDE SHADOW

SPEAKING OF POETIC JUSTICE

HOW POLITICIANS CAN NEWTRALIZE GINGRICH'S POISON

ROSY VIEW IS BLIND TO RUSSIANS' CRISIS

ENEMY LIST MAY HURT A LOTT

'CHECK' IT OUT, NEWT'S EXCUSES DO NOT ADD UP

POLS DON'T LEND AN EAR, THEY ONLY SELL IT FOR A PRICE

READY TO RUMBLE ON BUDGET, IMMIGS

STANDING ON BACKS OF RETIREES NO WAY TO BALANCE BUDGET

ON THE FEDERAL DOLE - BUT STILL GOING ON VACATION

CONGRESS TAKES A STAND - AS IN STANDUP COMEDY

TAKE MY TAXES, PLEASE, AND I'LL SAVE THE WORLD

WHITEWATER DOESN'T PAN OUT

TO UNDERSTAND NATO GROWTH, FOLLOW THE MONEY

HE'S LOST ANY SHINE IN THIS REVERSAL

CONGRESS EVADES ITS GIFT BAN WITH A LOTT OF CYNICISM

STARR-CROSSED CONNECTION

WHY GOP SHEDS NO TEARS OVER ITS BUDGET DEFEAT

POLS TAKE LOOT IN 1 HAND, POINT FINGER AT CLINTON WITH OTHER

PROBE OF LAKE HITS NEW DEPTHS

MR. CONFLICT OF INTEREST

HARD TRUTH: 'SOFT' POLITICAL MONEY IS THE REAL SCANDAL

RISING GOP STAR MCCAIN BUCKS RIGHT ON FUNDS

BILL BLOODHOUND HAS HIS OWN PAWS IN THE COOKIE JAR

AS 2000 NEARS, COST-OF-LIVING TIFF RILES DEMS

DEMS' GREED THE FINAL STRAW FOR TONY LAKE

A GOV'T SADDLED BY GOP PROBES CAN HARDLY MOVE

REDUCED TO RUBLES

IN RUSSIA, THE HAMMER AND SICKLE HAVE GIVEN WAY TO CRIME AND CORRUPTION


WHITMAN STARS IN THE GOP'S FISCAL FOLLIES

CHINESE KNOW U.S. IS FOR SALE AT BARGAIN PRICES

FORGET WHAT LAW SAYS, CONGRESS STILL SPARES ITSELF

BROADCASTERS MUST PUT SERVICE BEFORE PROFITS

THE MEDIA RISE TO STARR'S BAIT- AGAIN AND AGAIN

THE SHADOWY CASE AGAINST CHEMICAL TREATY

BEYOND NEWT, GOP SEEMS AT A LOSS FOR LEADER

THE REAL BUDGET KILLER? FIGHTER JETS

THIS IS WELFARE FOR CORPORATIONS, NOT A TAX BREAK

RENO'S RULING ON FUND-RAISING DOES CLINTON NO FAVORS

ABRACADABRA! SPEAKER PULLS HAT TRICK

NETWORKING IN WASHINGTON

SUNDAY MORNING TALK SHOWS FIND THEIR THRILL ON CAPITOL HILL


SPEECH IS FREE - BUT BIG MONEY DROWNS IT OUT

NAFTA'S GROWTH WOULD ONLY ADD TO BROKEN PROMISES

NEWT'S A FINE CHAMELEON

UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: IT'S BAAACK

WACKOS - ALWAYS WITH US, BUT NOW MORE POWERFUL

FREE TRADE CAN COME WITH A HIGH SOCIAL PRICE

FEDS TAKE STEPS TOWARD ASSURING KIDS' HEALTH CARE

PREZ TROUNCES GOP IN BATTLE OF THE BUDGET

CHURCH-STATE FLAG WAVERS ARE DOING IT AGAIN

SWISS GOLD HUNT DEVALUES HORROR OF NAZI CRIMES

PENTAGON WAGES WAR IN DEFENSE OF PORK BARREL

DESPITE JITTERS, MCCARTHY'S GOT LOOK OF SURVIVOR

CHECK BALANCES NEWT MISDEEDS

BUMPY RIDE OVER SEN. POTHOLE

PREZ' UNHEALTHY OBSESSION WITH BUDGET DEFICIT

HER LAWYERS FIND JOY IN MUDVILLE

MIDDLE-CLASS EXODUS JUST FINE WITH GIULIANI

NEWT IS LEANING ON THE FBI

CIVILIANS SHARE BLAME FOR WASTED DEFENSE DOLLARS

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

BILL'S FAIR GAME, SO IS PAULA'S CLAIM

HALF OF U.S. KIDS MISS THE BOAT ON CHILD-TAX CREDIT

RIGHT-WINGER HAS SECOND THOUGHTS

TAX BILL SCHEME PUTS A CONTRACT ON U.S. WORKERS

WATERGATE'S WATERED DOWN

DYSFUNCTIONAL CONGRESS WON'T TALK ANYMORE

TIME TO REIN IN THE BIG SPENDERS AT THE PENTAGON

WHY THE U.S. TOLERATES CHINA ABUSES: $300

FALLING STARR'S VERY LAST RESORT: SEX ON HIS MIND

OPENING NATO TO EASTERN BLOC A TACTICAL ERROR

SENATE'S CURE FOR MEDICARE IS A REAL KILLER

PUSH TO EXPAND NATO MAY SHOVE U.S. INTO A WAR

HEARING SHOWS MONEYGRUBBING IS BI-PARTISAN

BASHING CLINTON, AND THE TRUTH

JOE CAMEL'S DEADLY AD-VENTURE

SELLING NATO: YOU JUST FOLLOW THE DOLLAR SIGN

NET THAT TRAPPED HUANG COULD CATCH MURDOCH

IS THE SPY SPIN A GOP FANTASY?

WITH ENEMIES LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS FRIENDS?

GOP TAX PLAN IS GREAT FOR YOU, IF YOU'RE WELL OFF

THE INTERNET IS GOING TO GET A REALITY CHECK

YALTA 'BETRAYAL' - AN OLD WHINE IN A NEW BOTTLE

TROUBLE FOR CLINTONITES, FOR REAL

BLOWING WHISTLE HAS ITS REWARDS - AND ITS PERILS

KEEPING THE WRONG PROMISES

POLITICOS' GIFT TO THEMSELVES: DOUBLE STANDARD

IN THIS BIZ, 1 PICTURE WORTH THOUSAND SLURS

HOW TO HELP PART-TIME WORKERS

AS TUITIONS SOAR, SO DOES APPEAL OF PUBLIC COLLEGES

ADAMS IS READY TO GIVE TO GET

SORRY, AL'S OX IS YET TO BE GORED

ALL THAT HYPE ON IMMIGRATION HAS HOLLOW RING

AN ALTERNATIVE TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS WHEN THEY GO BAD

PARTISAN POLITICS KILLS ANY CHANGE FOR REAL REFORM

PAULA JONES ISN'T SEEKING JUSTICE, SHE WANTS BLOOD

WHY DID CIA MIX INTO DEM FUND-RAISING?

COLIN POWELL & THE 'GLORY' STORY

SCANDAL MAY BE CIA'S CONDUCT

NEWT CANNOT BE IGNORED BUT CAN'T BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

AN RX FOR HMOS THAT COULD CURE THE WORST ABUSES

GOP CROCODILE TEARS FOR UNIONS

GOP HYPOCRISY: DESIGN TAX CODE, THEN DENOUNCE IT

NET IS SPREAD TO SELL SLEAZE, MAKE PROFITS

SENATORS LASH THE SYSTEM WHILE THEY EXPLOIT IT

SENATORS CLUTCH AT COFFEE, IGNORE THE REAL SCANDAL

DEMOCRACY, YES, BUT NATION'S STILL RUN FOR THE ELITE

CLINTON VETO NOT A STRAIGHT LINE

IF PREZ IS GUILTY, ENTIRE CONGRESS SHOULD GO TO JAIL

EASY TO BEAT UP ON THE IRS, BUT WHAT REPLACES IT?

DOUBLE STANDARD MARS U.S. POLICY ON IMMIGRATION

GLOBAL WARMING MAY BE PUT ON ICE BY AUTO FUEL CELL

U.S. IS PUSHING CHINA'S PREZ - BUT ONLY SO FAR

TALES OF THE TAPES

SECRET '60'S WHITE HOUSE RECORDINGS, JUT OUT AS BOOKS, BOOST JFK'S REPUTATION, BUT TARNISH LBJ'S


DOW DIPS EXPOSE SOC SEC SCAM

FUEL FOR NATO GROWTH IS GREED

WEAPONS HYPE MEETS THE TRUTH OF REAL COMBAT

RUDY EYES FUTURE, GOP EYES HIM

HANG CLINTON NOW, EVIDENCE CAN COME LATER

U.S. TECHNOLOGY GOING TO CHINA VIA ISRAEL. WHY?

FAST TRACK IS NO PRIZE PACKAGE

AMERICA'S IN A BIND CREATED BY SADDAM

TOO MUCH POWER FOR UNIONS? NO, IT'S A GOP MYTH

IRAQ IS EXPLOITING U.S. MISTAKES . . .

THIS ARLINGTON STORY IS PLOTLESS

MEDICAL REFORM TIDE RUNS STRONG, THANKS TO HMOS

DESPITE A LOSS, DIVERSITY THRIVES

FOR D.C. COMMISH, N.Y.'S KELLY

INTELLIGENT IDEA TO REFORM CIA: JUST ABOLISH IT

PULL IN THE NET - IT'S A DANGER TO OUR CHILDREN

BUCKING JANET IS FREEH-BIE FOR GOP

FBI CHIEF FREEH SHOULD PUT UP OR SHUT UP ON PROBE

NO PLACE AMONG HEROES

STEVE FORBES IS READY TO BUY THE PRESIDENCY

FREEH AT LAST, TO GOP'S SHAME

CUTTING THROUGH FOG SURROUNDING GLOBAL WARMING

THERE'S NOTHING 'INDEPENDENT' ABOUT THESE GUYS

GOP STRATEGY: TIE DEMOCRATS IN LEGAL KNOTS

PROPPING UP ASIA ON BACKS OF U.S. WORKERS

GORE SHOULD KEEP GOD OUT OF IT

CNN SPRINGBOARD TO HILL

A GROWING PUSH TO LET DOCTORS GOUGE SENIORS

AN UNHEALTHY ATTACK ON PREZ' MEDICARE PLAN

TWO SETS OF POLS, TWO SETS OF RULES IN WASHINGTON

DEMOCRACY IS KILLING THE DEMS

THE POPE'S VISIT MAY SAVE CUBA FROM CASTRO

PAULA'S OFFER IS A SHAKEDOWN, PLAIN AND SIMPLE

TIMES ARE GOOD SO CAMPAIGNS WILL GET NASTY

BIBI MEETS FALWELL, TO SPITE BILL

CLINTON'S COOKED IF IT'S FIRE, NOT JUST SMOKE

PROBE HAS PREZ SEEING STARRS

$70M FOR A NAVY PLANE THAT WON'T EVEN FLY RIGHT

HEY, DOESN'T THE PREZ GET IT?

...ON HOW SEX AND LIES CAN TOPPLE A PRESIDENCY

THE FLAW OF THE HOUSE OF STARR

RUN FOR OFFICE & YOUR PRIVATE LIFE WILL BE TRASHED

KENNETH STARR'S BULLY-BOY TACTICS ARE OVER THE LINE

BETTER SCHOOLS MEAN PAYING TEACHERS BETTER

KEN'S THE STAR OF THIS SLEAZY SHOW

BILL CLINTON IS LUCKY TO HAVE THESE ENEMIES

KENNETH STARR'S LEAKY BOAT LOOKS LIKE IT'S SINKING

GETTING AHEAD IN THE CIA: JUST MAKE THINGS UP

PREZ LIMITS GOAL, BUT IRAQ IS STILL NOT A SLAM DUNK

WHAT, NO ROSES? OR WHY PAULA'S LAWSUIT MAY FAIL

IT'S A STARR-GAZING WHITE HOUSE STAFF

RED CHINA HAS A POWERFUL ALLY: RUPERT MURDOCH

THE BOTTOM LINE ON NATO IS, WELL, THE BOTTOM LINE

KEN STARR HAS MY NAME - I'VE GOT HIS NUMBER

PREZ WILL SURVIVE GOP & STARR

NEWT THE NASTY'S IN FULL RANT AGAIN

DOGGING THE PREZ IS SLIMY GAME

WILLEY'S TESTIMONY VS. WILLEY'S BEHAVIOR . . .

POLS ARE PLAYING SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS GAME

CLINTON DEFENDS HIMSELF? HOW DARE THE MAN!

RUSSIA WILL SURVIVE YELTSIN'S PURGE

NOTHING RUMORED, NOTHING GAINED

THE HOUSE GOP HAS NOW BECOME A HOUSE DIVIDED

NEWT THROTTLES ELECTION REFORM AND DEMOCRACY

A BATTLE ENDS, BUT DIRTY WAR GOES ON

CLINTON FOE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH

HMO SPENDING MAKES PENTAGON LOOK LIKE A PIKER

HISTORY ON THE MARCH

AS A REPORTER IN THE 1960S SOUTH, DAVID HALBERSTAM COVERED THE CIVIL-RIGHTS STRUGGLE. NOW HE TELLS THE STORY IN A BOOK


NEWT'S BOOK IS NEW, BUT STORY IS AN OLD ONE

WATCH OUT, FOLKS, TOBACCO LOBBY IS STILL SMOKING

STARR'S PROBE IS BECOMING BURNT-OUT CASE

LIKE A BAD PENNY, PAULA'S BACK

SETBACKS WON'T STOP THEM FROM DOGGING THE PREZ

PAT BUCHANAN, WELFARE LIBERAL

A WACKY POLITICO INVADES PRIVACY TO GET AT CLINTON

CONGRESS HITS BOTTOM & IT'S FOUL

STARR SUBPOENAS THREATEN SAFETY OF OUR PRESIDENTS

PULLING NEWT'S PUPPET STRINGS ON ANTI-CIG BILL

A BIGGER NATO IS ONE SCHEME WE CAN'T AFFORD

BILL CLINTON & KEN STARR: MEN BEHAVING BADLY

BIBI WALKS AWAY, LEAVING ARAFAT THE MODERATE

WHITEWATER'S OVER, HOW COME NO ONE NOTICED?

DEM PROSPECTS LOOKING GOOD, THANKS TO NEWT

FOR KEN STARR, MCDOUGAL TRIAL MAY BE BAD NEWS

NEW DELHI'S MESSAGE: DON'T DIS US

DON'T EXCLUDE INDIA, EMBRACE IT

INVEST IN TROOPS, NOT TANKS

MICROSOFT'S THUGS CAN'T DUCK JUSTICE

CLINTON + CHINA + CAMPAIGN $$$ = A BIG SMEAR

TRUTH IS CASUALTY OF CHINA TALE

NEWT'S OVER THE LINE ON ISRAEL

INDIA & PAKISTAN NEED A HOTLINE TO HELP KEEP COOL

STARR'S TACTICS PUT BASIC RIGHTS UNDER THE GUN

U.S. SHOULD BE PROUD OF DRUG BUST - NOT SORRY

UN CONSPIRACY BUFFS: IT'S NOT A PARK, IT'S A PLOT

BEFORE IT'S DONE, CHINA MISSILE SAGA WILL TURN ON MONEY

IN CHINA TRADE, MONEY TALKS, OUR VALUES WALK

SOCIAL SECURITY 'FIX' COULD HURT MANY WOMEN

THERE'S NOTHING LEGAL ABOUT STARR'S LEAKS

BIG TOBACCO HUFFS, PUFFS & WINS

THE PRESS TAKES A HIT AND CRIES FOUL

PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS IS DOA

INTERNET GAMBLING A BAD BET FOR KIDS

TRIPP'S TAKING US FOR ANOTHER RIDE ON RUMOR MILL

STARR'S THEORIES ARE SCARY EVEN TO FEDERAL JUDGES

CNN'S BLUNDER ANOTHER PAINFUL LESSON FOR MEDIA

HDTV ISN'T FULLY CRYSTAL CLEAR

EVEN THE GOP IS GETTING BEHIND HMO REGULATION

THE WEST'S AID TO RUSSIA IS GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD

NO SAFETY FROM THE GOSSIP SNIPES

GET-THE-NAZIS BILL IS MISGUIDED

THIS MEDIA KING IS JUST ANOTHER WELFARE TAKER

SECRET SERVICE PROBES COULD BACKFIRE ON GOP

NEWT HAS A CURE FOR HMOS THAT LOOKS PRETTY SICK

PREZ OUGHT TO CALL STARR'S BLUFF

BILL'S A GONER . . . OR MAYBE NOT

NEWT'S SNEAK ATTACK ON SOC SEC

HERE'S AN RX FOR HANDLING HMO DOCTORS

RUSSIANS FED UP WITH U.S. ADVICE - AND SHOULD BE

GOP PLAYS POLITICS WITH JUSTICE

'I'M SORRY' FOR 1ST TIME SLAP BRINGS PREZ BACK TO REALITY

CLINTON 'BOOM' IS JUST AN ILLUSION FOR MOST WORKERS

PROSECUTOR & POLS PUSH NATION INTO THE UNKNOWN

PROBER HAS DUG UP DIRT, BUT IT'S JUST SEX, STUPID

VILE DRAMA - AND HE'S THE STARR

PREZ CAN'T LOOK TO THIS CONGRESS FOR ANY FAIRNESS

RUSSIAN BOSS' FIRST TASK: FEED STARVING MASSES

PREZ' CRIMES ARE STARR'S CREATION

...OLD RULES ARE GONE, NOW EVERYTHING'S PUBLIC

NO WAY FARCE SPELLS IMPEACH

KEN'S BEST SHOT WAS THE TAPE - AND HE MISSED

IN CHASING BILL, NEWT & CO. RISK GOING OVER EDGE

NEWT'S CUTE ABOUT MONEY AGAIN

WEAKENED BILL IS A PREZ WHO JUST CAN'T SAY NO

GOP IN REAL QUANDARY OVER IMPEACHMENT . . .

SAD, HELPLESS MONICA SHOWS SADISTIC STREAK

BILL IS MOST VULNERABLE ON BRIBERY ISSUE IF HE OFFERED MONICA JOBS

GOP ON CONSTITUTION: GET ME REWRITE . . .

GOP MAY END UP BEING SHAMED BY TOUCHY-FEELY TESTIMONY IN HOUSE

STARR HIMSELF IS A LAWBREAKER

THE HIGH COST OF 'ANYTHING GOES'

LIFE'S AN OPEN BOOK IF YOU RUN FOR PREZ

GOP FUNDS CRONIES, NOT REFORMS

DIRTY DEALING WITH KEN STARR TAINTS MEDIA

HOW STARR TRAPPED CLINTON

ISRAEL SPY HURT U.S. JEWS

IMPEACHMENT'S OFF THE BOOKS

PROFITS, POLITICS, PROSELYTIZING: IT'S THE AM-WAY

PAT ROBERTSON'S PHONY AGONY

THE LONELINESS OF JOHN MCCAIN

DEM STANS-OFF A BLOW TO GOP GOP IS TAUGHT LESSON ABOUT ATTACKING BILL

NEWT HAS NEW TROUBLE

GOP HAS IDEAS, JUST BAD ONES

NEWT WAS A WHINE WHO LOST HIS CORK

TURNABOUT TIME - STARR IS GOING ON THE GRIDDLE

IMPEACHMENT FEVER STARTS WITH GUILTY VERDICT

BOMBS AWAY ON SADDAM?

NO, IT HAS NO PREDICTABLE RESULT


GOP GIVES ITSELF A NEW FACE

BILL RESISTS CHEAP SCORE IN POPULAR WAR

THE MONICA TAPES: PUNISHMENT ENOUGH

KEN'S CASE HAS STRETCH MARKS

SAM DASH'S TARDY 'PRINCIPLE'

SAM DASH'S TARDY 'PRINCIPLE'

RENO GOT IT RIGHT - SPECIAL PROBES ARE NIGHTMARES

LET'S BUY THE RUSSIAN ARMY

IMPEACH PROBE AT A NEW STAGE: IT'S NOW A CIRCUS

RASH PROSECUTORS ARE THE REAL CRIME

KEEP WALL ST. OUT OF SOC SEC

HEADLESS HOUSE HURTLES TOWARD A BAD DECISION

HOUSE JUSTICE: VERDICT FIRST, THEN THE TRIAL

IT'S ABOUT POWER NOW, NOT REPENTANCE

POLITICAL JUJITSU: BILL MISBEHAVES, GOP TAKES FALL

THE GOP PRINCIPLE IS POLITICAL

SOME GOPERS SACRIFICING NATIONAL SECURITY TO PARTISAN GOALS

IMPEACHERS TOY WITH DYNAMITE

GOP BETTING THE HOUSE ON A ROLL OF THE DICE

AT CLINTON'S TRIAL, THE FIX IS IN

CONSPIRACY NUTS HIT NEW LOW WITH THE BODY COUNT

GOP'S IN HOLE BUT KEEPS DIGGING

THE TRIAL BEGINS HARDLY FIT TO SIT & JUDGE

STARR BULLIES ANOTHER WOMAN

THEIR FLIMSY HOUSE OF CARDS

THE TRIAL OF THE PRESIDENT

RIGHT WING DRIVES THE GOP


PATRIOTISM LOST IN FRENZY

BILL STANDS TALL AS PERSECUTORS GROVEL

CLINTON RISES AS GOP SINKS . . .

REPUBLICANS REFUSING TO SEE AN EASY WAY OUT OF THIS MESS

A GOP HOPEFUL WITH REAGAN'S GIFT FOR FANTASY

TAX BREAK FOR WALL ST. HOTSHOTS

GOP MANAGERS ARE INDULGING IN WITNESS FANTASY

FEEL-GOOD IRAQ POLICY DOOMED

KEN STARR DESERVES TO BE FIRED

STAR WARS DEFENSE: STILL A BOMB

TV MISSES OUT ON EX-INTERN'S MANHANDLING OF HOUSE TEAM

HUSSEIN WAS KING OF COURAGE

KEYSTONE KOPS TAKE OVER PROBE

SYSTEM'S FLAWS ARE EXPOSED

HE CAN'T IGNORE 'GUILTY' VOTES OF GOP MODERATES

PARTY'S OVER; TAKE THE HINT, KENNETH STARR

MONICAGATE PALES IN THE FACE OF REAL THING - WATERGATE

KEN STARR ABUSES HIS POWER AGAIN - TO SHIELD HIMSELF

GOP HOPEFULS FACING GAUNTLET

STAY OFF THE SHUTTLE, HILLARY

John Singer Sargent exhibition opens at National Gallery

A SINISTER HAND PUTS KEN STARR BEYOND THE LAW

INTERVIEW REVEALS MONICA'S FEARS BETWEEN GIGGLES

HOW THEY COULD'VE NAILED BILL

BUCHANAN'S MYTHICAL AMERICA

CIA HAS BLOOD ON ITS HANDS IN POOR GUATEMALA

LITTLE GEORGE PLAYS HARDBALL

CHINA SPY TALE IS BUM RAP ON BILL

GOP IS PUSHING TAX CUTS BECAUSE IT'S OUT OF IDEAS

EXPOSING LITTLE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

HOLD THE BOMBS, BILL - KOSOVO IS ANOTHER VIETNAM

IN KOSOVO WAR, WINNING DOESN'T MEAN VICTORY

NO END GAME IN THE BALKANS QUAGMIRE

THE BOMBS JUST RAISE MILOSEVIC'S POPULARITY POLLS

BOMBS WILL NOT STOP THE SERBS

THROWING THE BOOK AT BILL

A REPORTER FINDS HIM 'PSYCHOLOGICALLY DISTURBED' WHEN IT COMES TO SEX


A CALL TO ARMS FROM A REAL HERO

JOHN MCCAIN STANDS TALL IN THE KOSOVO SHAMBLES


SERBS AREN'T NEW TO TERRORISM

KOSOVO IS NOT THE HOLOCAUST

FIERCEST BATTLE IS ON HOME FRONT

KEN STARR REACHES A LOW POINT

NO BUSINESS LIKE NATO BUSINESS

DOLLAR BILL MAKES HIS MOVE

TO OUTFAKE GORE, THE EX-KNICK NEEDS TO STEP UP HIS GAME


THE AIR FORCE'S MAD BOMBER

DESPITE HYPE, CHINA SPY STORY DOESN'T HOLD UP

IN TROUBLE? DIAL NATO 911

CHARLTON HESTON S SOLUTION

NATO now appears to be a European 911 number

CHINA SPY PLOT: LESS THAN WHAT MEETS THE EYE

THE ROLE OF COPS IS CHANGING

PEACE IN OUR TIME SLOBO AND BILL ARE BOTH READY TO DEAL

IN WASHINGTON, SHAME IS DEAD

GARDENS ARE GREEN, MAYOR'S RED

EMERGENCY, 1999: DIAL 911 AND PRAY

PUSHING CHINA SPY PLOT IS JUST A SCARE TACTIC

TV TALK STOOPS TO CONQUER

NOW, ARAFAT S ON THE SPOT THE CHOREOGRAPHY WITH BARAK WON T BE AS EASY AS DANCING AROUND BIBI

NEW RED SCARE ON CHINA

BUSH STUMBLES OVER HIS DAD'S CHINA RECORD

GUESS WHAT'S BACK: THE OLD YELLOW PERIL

U.S. BOMBING IS A CRIME

GOP'S FRACTURED FAITHFUL

NOW COMES THE HARD PART

INVENTOR PROUD OF HIS AIRPLANE, NOT OF THIS WAR

BILL CAN CROW OVER KOSOVO PLAN

HOW TO HANDLE GUNS IN WASHINGTON ...

WITH ENEMIES LIKE KEN STARR, HILLARY WINS

NRA PLAYS A SHELL GAME ON GUNS

IT'S AL BORE... ER... GORE VS. BUSH FAMILY VALUES

GLOBAL POLICE IS NOT A ROLE U.S. CAN PLAY

GUN CONTROL COULD BECOME BRADLEY'S ACE

TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE GOOD RIDDANCE TO STARR AND THE SUPER-SNOOPS

CLINTON'S RX FOR SENIORS GOOD FOR THE REAL WORLD

UGLY TRUTH ABOUT STARR

BUSH VS. MCCAIN: TORTURER VS. THE TORTURED

DON'T SPEND SURPLUS UNTIL IT'S IN THE BANK

BUSH SMEARS ARE LOW

GUYS AND DOLLS FORGET ABOUT IDEOLOGY OR GEOGRAPHY. THE SENATE RACE WILL BE A BATTLE OF THE SEXES.

GOP'S COVER GETS BLOWN

GOP TAX CUTS JUST A VEIL FOR REAGANOMICS

THE GOP PRESCRIBES PATIENT'S BILL OF WRONGS

A HERITAGE OF RISK-TAKING

BACK TO FUTURE TO CLEAN UP H'WOOD'S ACT

THE PERFECT FIGHTER PLANE FOR OUR WAR WITH SWEDEN

THE EVOLUTION OF COWARDICE

BUSH REVEALS HIS WISE GUY, FRAT BOY SIDE

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THOSE KIDS ON THE GRATES?

SPY TALE GOES UP IN SMOKE

GARY BAUER'S FAITH MATTERS

IN THAT VIETNAMESE CELL WITH GOD & JOHN MCCAIN

THE FBI'S DOUBLE STANDARD

AL GORE HAS A CREDIT GAP

LET'S FACE IT: WE HELPED THE RUSSIANS LOOT RUSSIA

THE $9 MILLION MADNESS

BIG MONEY POISONS POLITICS

HE AIN'T HEAVY, HE'S MY HUSBAND HILLARY STRUGGLES WITH THE WIGHT OF HER THOUGHTS AND THE PRESIDENT'S DEEDS

HATE IS BREEDING ONLINE

A VOTE FOR CLEANER ELECTIONS

CAN PITCHFORK PAT REFORM? THE POPULIST ARCHCONSERVATIVE HAS AS MUCH IN COMMON WITH VENTURA & PEROT AS HE DOES WITH WARREN BEATTY

WHY BRADLEY'S RIDING HIGH

FBI CHIEF PLAYS BOTH SIDES

ELLIOT NESSKY, RUSSIA'S MOST WANTED MAN

MCCAIN'S WAR ON FAT CATS

RUNNING ON HEALTHY ISSUES

GEORGE W.'S MONEY TALKS, BUT WHAT DOES IT SAY?

FROM AN ACTOR, HARD TRUTHS

PLAYING POLITICS WITH A TREATY

GEORGE W., THE DRAGON TAMER THE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE TRIES TO POKE THE RIGHT WING BACK TOWARD THE CENTER

SHADES OF WALTER MONDALE

GOP THROWS TANTRUM OVER TEST-BAN TREATY

ENQUIRING MINDS ASK: DEMI & RICHARD JEWELL?

STARR FOLLOWER COULD TURN INTO A RAY OF HOPE

IN THIS RACE, MONEY KNOCKS CONTENDERS OUT

THAT KOSOVO 'GENOCIDE'- THE NUMBERS DON'T ADD UP

PAT LEFT A FEW THINGS OUT

REAL LIFE TAKES CENTER STAGE

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING HILLARY WITH THE SENATE ARITHMETIC RUNNING AGAINST HER, SHE MAY BE FACING A YEAR-LONG DEATH MARCH

MCCAIN GETS MAD? SO WHAT?

A BILL THAT AIMS AT DRUGLORDS BUT WOUNDS RIGHTS

FORGET MR. VAJPAYEE - SOME REAL QUERIES FOR W.

ELECTION LAWS IN N.Y. MAY FOIL MCCAIN'S RUN

A HARLEM STOP FOR (SURPRISE!) PAT BUCHANAN

HILLARY'S 'BLOOD LIBEL' - AND THE POST'S, TOO

CHINA TRADE DEAL COULD GIVE DEMS REAL LABOR PAINS

IS CHINA PACT A GOOD DEAL? IT MAY KILL KEY N.Y. INDUSTRY

FRISKY CONSERVATIVES & THOSE DREAD VOUCHERS

BUSH MAKES POLICY BY ROTE

THOSE CHECHENS CAN WIND UP BITING US, TOO

THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE FOR DEMOCRACY

BUSH TAX PLAN: REAGAN REDUX

THE LITTLE MAN WHO'S REALLY THERE

GOP REVEALS A WACKY SIDE

PAT MOYNIHAN'S STARTLING IDEA: JUNK NEW DEAL

MCCAIN WALKS THE WALK

U.S. SECURITY MAY BE ON TRIAL IN LOS ALAMOS

THAT MUTTERING MAN? WHY, IT'S OUR MAYOR

MONEY COLLIDES WITH PRINCIPLE, AND MONEY WINS

BROTHERS LIFTED THE CENTURY

YELTSIN'S EXIT IS HIS TRIUMPH FOR ONCE, NO CATASTROPHE IN RUSSIA AS LEADER QUITS

BORIS' LEGACY:WHAT, WE WORRY?

QUICK AS A NEW YORK CENTURY In the 1901 World Almanac, discover a w orld just beyond grasp

RUSSIA'S RIGHT - CHECHEN REBELS ARE MAJOR THREAT

FAMILY VALUES GONE AWRY

A FEW GOOD MEN IN THE BUNKER

ONE MAN'S PLAN GIVES MEDICARE SHOT IN THE ARM

STATE GOP FEARS DEMOCRACY

A DEVILISH TAX PLAN TO TORTURE GUESS WHO

DIXIE FLAG FLIES FOR LOSERS

IOWA RACE MAKES NO SENSE

GOPERS ASSUME FETAL POSITION

NO IOWA SURPRISE IS NO SURPRISE

BUSH'S FLAWS ARE SHOWING

BRADLEY STINGS GORE IN DEBATE

LOONY WAY TO PICK PRESIDENT

BRADLEY'S BEETLE TRIES THE COLD UPHILL CLIMB

LAST STAND - OR LAUNCH PAD Underdogs McCain and Bradley will have to leave New Hampshire as upset winners - or pack it in

DEMOCRACY BECOMES A DYNASTY

THE DARK HORSE ALTERS THE RACE

TIDE IS TURNING FOR MCCAIN

GEORGE W. HUMPTY DUMPTY He has run a campaign that is remarkably to ne deaf

BUSH REFORMS ARE A CHARADE

UNDER RUDY'S DIRECT-MAIL LIES A LIBERAL

MCCAIN & THE TAME FAT CATS At his big fund-raiser in Washington, sle ek lobbyists wore stickers reading McCAIN VOTED AGAINST MY BILL

BAD MIX: POLITICS, STAR WARS

A STATE LOOKS AT BUSH & SEES A HOLLOW MAN

GEORGE'S PYRRHIC WIN

CHRISTIAN RIGHT TREATING MCCAIN LIKE BILL CLINTON

THE REAL BUSH: DEEP DOWN, HE'S SHALLOW

THOSE CORE BUSHIES ARE EX-DEMS

CHRISTIAN RIGHT KEEPS TAINTING GOP NOMINEE

GOP ON THE COUCH: DEATH WISH

VEEP TO REAP FRUITS OF BITTER GOP BATTLE

BUSH A UNITER? LET HIM START WITH THE GOP

GIULIANI IS NOT 'THE GENTLEMAN FROM NEW YORK'

WHEN KOSOVO PLAYS WAR, U.S. FEELS THE HEAT

A CANDIDATE WHO LEARNS - AND FORGETS - NOTHING

GOP FAT CATS PUT PROFITS ABOVE PARTY

BILL EMERGES AS THE WORLD'S PEACE BROKER

THE CANDIDATES SHOOT TO KILL Instead of targeting each other, Hillary & Rudy seem to be hurting themselves

AL GORE GETS EDGE (WELL, SORT OF) ON CAMPAIGN REFORM

RUSSIA'S PREZ CAN'T GO BACK TO OLD SYSTEM

WHY AL GORE IS SMILING Republicans are trying to place scandal polit ics yet again

IT'S ABOUT TIME LAW CAME DOWN ON MICROSOFT

BILL'S CABINET CORRUPT? LAY THAT LIE TO REST

GORE'S GRAB FOR VOTES, ER, ELIAN By any measure, the vice president' s position makes no sense What Gore is doing is neither politics nor prin ciple

KOREAN PEACE? HEY, THEY CAN'T DO THAT TO US!

PREZ CAMPAIGN IS ON HIGH ROAD, FOR TIME BEING

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE ... The exiles who want to keep Elian here look a lot like the enemy they despise The Miami Cubans have adopted Co mmunist tactics in their desire to keep Elian

STOCK MARKET IS NO SURE BET FOR SOC SEC

IN ELIAN RULING, RIGHT'S VALUES FLY OUT WINDOW

STAR WARS II: THE PHANTOM DEFENSE Clinton is going along with mis sile defense for cynical reasons

WOMAN OF STEEL STOOD UP FOR LAW

POLITICS ACCOUNTS FOR THE NEW RUDY

U.S. POLS SPAR OVER ELIAN CASE - AND CASTRO WINS

BUSH STOKING NUCLEAR RUN-IN WITH RUSSIA

THE MADNESS OF KEN STARR Even a sympathetic book proves Clinton's sp ecial prosecutor was clueless

POLS ARE GOING OVERBOARD ON VISA PROGRAM

GORE INVENTED INTERNET? HEY, HE'S GOT A CASE

MISSILE MADNESS Star Wars II: A bad defense that makes a good offense for the presidential candidates

SENATOR'S 'SUPPORT' GIVEN WITH EYE ON '04

THE BIG AIR WAR IN KOSOVO WAS COSTLY SCANDAL

HOLLOW THE LEADER Dubya has solutions, but they don't fit the problems

BUSH'S SCHEME FOR SOC SOC IS LOBBYIST DREAM

LIVING ANSWER TO ALABAMA'S RACIST BOMBERS

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? Once Rudy stood up to moral decay. Now it's in t he eye of the beholder

LAZIO JOINS FRAY WITH SHOT AT HILLARY A NON-RUDY HAS AN EDGE

CHINA 'SCANDAL' FALLS APART, BUT DAMAGE IS DONE

ELIAN RULING A TRIUMPH OF U.S. SYSTEM

KISS SOCIAL SECURITY GOODBYE For many Americans, retiring at 70 wi ll mean never seeing a dime.

COLOR OF SKIN CAN BE FATAL IN TEXAS COURTS

LEGAL SYSTEM TOLERATES BIAS IN SENTENCING

MICROSOFT CUT DOWN TO SIZE Judge strikes a blow for competition

DEMS BETTING THE HOUSE ON LABOR'SLOYALTY

BOMB RUSSIA? HEY, WE'VE GOT THE MISSILES

A RAY OF HOPE IN KOREA OUR ENTIRE DEFENSE BUDGET IS BASED ON THE ID EA THAT NORTH KOREA IS A SERIOUS THREAT It is too early to pocket a peace d ividend

AL GORE HAS THE BEST PLAN FOR ALLRETIREES

SECURITY LAPSE WAS MINOR BUT OH, THE OUTRAGE

TOMORROW, THE WORLD On foreign policy, Bush and Gore are both mainst ream - but questions remain George W. is less experienced

GAS PRICES ONLY A BUSH COULD LOVE

A MISSILE PLAN HAWKS & DOVES CAN BOTH HATE

NADER THE CRUSADER HE RAISES URGENT ISSUES THE MAINSTREAM CANDIDAT ES HAPPILY IGNORE

A MISSILE TEST RIGHT OUT OF MONTY PYTHON

ITALIAN-AMERICAN CURSE COMES HOME TO RUDY Even if innocent, you're guilty - by distant association

IS CHENEY RIGHT MAN FOR JOB? HE'S AN EXCELLENT CHOICE

DICK CHENEY'S HARD LINE PUT WOMEN AT RISK

FAKING IT IN PHILLY The GOP's lineup looks more colorful than the No . 7 train - but it's all for show

HOW BUSH CAN GET BALLOT EDGE

A GORE-KERRY TICKET COULD SHAKE THINGS UP

PIT BULL POL TURNS INTO A LAP DOG

REPUBLICAN DYE JOB IS JUST A WHITEWASH

IF BUSH IS FOR REAL, U.S. COULD END RACIAL DIVIDE

PICK WON'T COST GORE Anti-Semites not likely to pull lever for Al, any way

JEWISH DEBATE ON LIEBERMAN NOT SO SIMPLE

AL GORE'S MOMENT TO LEAVE BILL'S SHADOW No natural, the vice president has to ride the boom

THE FAILURES OF LIBERALISM ARE ON DISPLAY

GORE'S TOUGHEST JOB: CLEANING UP HIS IMAGE

AL COULD LEARN FROM '94 BUSH VICTIM

LIEBERMAN'S BULLETPROOF TO GOP FIRE

AL GORE MUST MAKE AMERICA LIKE HIM, NOT JUST RESPECT HIM

GORE FINDS THE RIGHT RHYTHM, RIGHT VOICE

A PARTY OF ONE THE OUTGOING SENATOR IS IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF

And they're off Gore and Bush both have advantages - and worries AND THEY'RE OFF Gore and Bush both have advantages - and worries

BUSH'S PAY HIKE PROMISE: I CALL IT VOTE BUYING

BUSH HAS A GAFFE PROBLEM PRESS IS LYING IN WAIT FOR NEXT VERBAL STUMBL E

MEET AL GORE, FIGHTING MODERATE He defends some New Democrat goals and departs from others

LAW'S CLEAR - RELIGION AND POLITICS DON'T MIX

EVIDENCE DOESN'T MATTER IT'S LEGAL TO EXECUTE A PERSON WHO MAY BE INNOCENT

ARMED TO THE TEETH With a $300 billion defense budget, we're ready - but for what? Small-scale conflicts are more likely than major wars

BUSH'S WISE-GUY SIDE IS SHOWING

BUSH'S STRATEGY: AIM LOW HE HAS A HISTORY OF BEING TIMID ABOUT DEBATE S

SNAKE OIL The public's fed up with HMOs, but they're a key part of the Bush drug plan

SHACKLED BY JUSTICE GONE AMISS

DID LAZIO OVERDO HIS ATTACKS ON FIRST LADY?

THE AX WOULD BE FITTING JUSTICE FOR RENO & FREEH

WITCH HUNT The Wen Ho Lee case was McCarthyism at the hands of a libe ral Democratic administration

RICK'S FULL OF CHARM, NOT ANSWERS

SPEAKING OF DEBATES, THEY'RE OVERRATED . . .

WHITEWATER TURNS TO MUD BEGRUDGING REPORT LEAVES CLOUD OVER FIRST COUP LE

NOT BEST OF TIMES AS PAPER CONFESSES

SPY PANIC IS THE BIGGEST SECURITY BREACH OF ALL

GREAT DEBATE The debates may tax Americans' patience, but they are be tter than a presidential Oprah-kissing contest

SHARON HAS KNACK FOR DISTURBING THE PEACE

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FOR NADER, BUCHANAN

VEEP SCORES BIG ON FACTS but gov had a winning style

CHENEY'S MISSED OPPORTUNITY

SEARCH FOR FAIR QUESTIONS A TRICKY BIZ

MIDEAST DOES THE TRICK OF DIVIDING HILLARY, BILL

GOP TICKET JUST LOVES CORPORATE WELFARE

BUSH SHOWS PERFECT EXECUTION

CRISIS CAN LIFT A PREZ

CHANGING THE PROFILE At Customs, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly ha s ended racial profiling, and drug seizures have gone up

VEEP COMES OFF THE FLOOR TO SCORE HIS GREATEST DEBATE

YOU'RE NOT IN IRAN, JOE LIEBERMAN'S VOLATILE MIX OF RELIGION AND POLIT ICS

CLINTON LUCKS INTO BRILLIANT FOREIGN POLICY

BUSH'S WORDS TAX HIS CREDIBILITY

NADER'S 'SUCCESS' WILL COST HIS BACKERS HEAVY PRICE

CLOSE CALL

CONGRESS' SECRECY BILL LOWERS IRON CURTAIN

FOR BUSH, CONSERVATIVES HAVE LOWERED THE BAR

VOTE RESULTS COULD PUT U.S. TO TEST

HIL'S THE ONE GOPERS WILL LOVE TO HATE

W. MAY GET BIG CHANCE TO BE UNITER

WHAT AFFLICTS THIS SYSTEM HAS NO CURE

DUBYA'S WONDERFUL LIFE With a little help from family and friends, Bus h has always managed to fail upwards to Yale, to wealth, and probably the White House

RUNOFF WOULD BE VOTERS' HAPPY HOUR

FLA. VOTE CHIEF'S IN W. COLUMN

HER VOTE WILL COUNT THE MOST

ROCKY FINISH WILL RATTLE US FOR LONG TIME

TAKING WHITE HOUSE BY FORCE

WINNER OR NOT, HE'LL GRAB CROWN

BALLOT FIGHT'S LIKE SCRAP IN SCHOOLYARD

AGAIN, WE'RE LEFT OUT OF FIGHT FOR PRESIDENCY





08/28/1995
ADS A VISA TO JOB WORKERS

WASHINGTON If you read the help wanted ads, as so many of us have done recently, you will see some puzzling and disturbing job opportunities:

Financial analyst with a master's degree in mathematics and fluency in Chinese, $ 33,600 a year.

Accountant with master's degree, fluent in both Mandarin and Taiwanese Chinese, $ 30,300 a year.

Export manager, bachelor's degree or M.B.A., fluent in Farsi (the language of Iran), $ 32,000 a year.

Operations analyst, bachelor's degree, fluent in Japanese, $ 36,000 a year.

Go to college, go to graduate school, master a foreign language and you'd be better off driving a bus.

What's going on here?

The ads are part of a national charade aimed at giving immigration visas to foreign citizens on the ground that no Americans or resident aliens have the skills needed by U.S. employers at least not at the wages being offered.

There's not much point in even applying for these jobs. They are already filled. The prospective employer has a preferred candidate, living abroad or in this country on a temporary visa.

The employer is merely going through the legal motions needed to get U.S. Labor Department certification for a permanent visa.

All the jobs described above were advertised by state labor departments in New York, New Jersey or California.

When no suitable legal resident turns up, the state reports to the U.S. Labor Department that the job is unfilled, and the Labor Department certifies to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that it may issue one of the 140,000 work-related permanent visas it grants each year.

And so the global marketplace now hits the American middle class. Cheap foreign labor was once a threat only to industrial workers, field hands, gardeners and the like.

Now, skilled, educated American professionals software programers, architects, financial analysts, accountants, academics are watching foreign competitors drive pay scales down.

High-tech firms are particularly aggressive about using immigrant labor.

Larry Richards, a freelance computer programer in Austin, Tex., has seen his salary drop from $ 45 to $ 30 an hour as his former clients, including IBM, have contracted out work to firms that hire non-U.S. programers on temporary visas.

In theory, any immigrant on a work visa is supposed to be paid the prevailing wage for the job, but many of these jobs are so uniquely described that it is impossible to say what the prevailing wage is.

The state labor departments try to work out a fair wage, but even in the best of cases, says Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, "The labor-certification wage becomes a ceiling above which the wage never rises."

The dangers in this system go beyond the threat to wage levels. Why should American technological industries invest heavily in educating or retraining American workers if they can simply skim the cream of foreign universities?

Why should they take a chance on dealing with what some consider a possibly troublesome American work force, including minorities and union activists, if they can import eager foreign workers on demand?

The Republican-controlled Congress will take up legislation next month to remedy some of these abuses, but the Republican Party is badly split.

Presidential hopefuls Pat Buchanan and Gov. Pete Wilson of California want immigration sharply restricted. But the party's traditional sources of money the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the high-tech industries all insist that they need the freedom to import the best foreign talent if they are to compete in the world.

This would be a fine thing; foreign talent is always welcome in America provided that it rises to our wage levels, instead of driving U.S. wages down to a Third World level.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
top



08/30/1995
PETE WILSON: LOST AT SEA ON FAMILY VALUES

WHEN THE HECKLERS got on him down at the Battery on Monday, California's Gov. Pete Wilson tried to bark back with defiant outrage. But what came out was more like helpless, frustrated fury, and Wilson wound up looking uncannily like Wilmer, the hapless, baby-faced gunman in "The Maltese Falcon," after Humphrey Bogart strips him of his pistols and taunts, "This is going to put you in solid with your boss."

Not an auspicious announcement of Wilson's candidacy for President of the United States. Not a single New York Republican stood up beside him, not so much as an alderman from Poughkeepsie. Thanks to Sen. Al D'Amato, the entire New York Republican establishment with the sole exception of Mayor Giuliani is behind Sen. Bob Dole. The only endorsement Wilson got was the silent presence of the Statue of Liberty, standing behind him in New York Harbor. And if you looked closely you might have detected a faint air of disgust on her face.

Wilson is running as a defender of family values and an opponent of illegal immigration. And by the way, the lovely blond woman to his left was Gayle, his second wife. His first wife, Betty Hosie, the one he separated from in 1981, is the one Wilson blames for hiring an illegal Mexican immigrant as a maid in the '70s.

In today's GOP, divorce dumping the awkward first wife does not disqualify a candidate from defending traditional family values. Dole, Sen. Phil Gramm and House Speaker Newt Gingrich all have high-achiever trophy wives and pose as defenders of the family.

And in Wilson's case, his own effort to ease immigration controls does not embarrass him about denouncing illegal immigration. In 1985, as a U.S. senator, Wilson led the floor fight to allow 350,000 illegal-alien farmworkers to remain in the country if they could prove that they had worked in agriculture. His fellow Republican, Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, warned that Wilson's plan "would legalize the status quo of illegal labor in agriculture," but the California growers behind Wilson insisted on maintaining their supply of cheap labor.

Now Wilson complains that illegal immigrants are costing California too much in social services. No kidding.

In his announcement speech, Wilson also denounced the tyranny of the bloated federal government. This has become stock fare on the Republican campaign circuit, but which bloated federal government is Wilson complaining about?

Whose bloat?

The bloated federal government that sent Wilson, an upper-middle-class prep school kid, to Yale on an all-expense Navy ROTC scholarship? The bloated federal government that puts about one-fourth of America's defense contracts into California and accounts for 18% of California's Gross Domestic Product? The bloated federal government that supplies low-cost water to California farmers so they can grow alfalfa and even rice in a desert? The bloated federal government that sells $ 70 million of subsidized electricity every year to its largest single customer, Wilson's state capital, Sacramento?

And, all in all, Wilson is not a bad guy. He simply suffers the misfortune of being a moderate fighting for recognition in a crowded Republican primary. He tries to convince the conservatives he's conservative and the moderates that he's moderate, and inevitably he winds up talking out of both sides of his mouth. He can do better.

E.R. Shipp has the week off.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/01/1995
FURY OF THE MUSLIMS NOW THREAT TO PEACE

WASHINGTON NATO warplanes finally answered four years of Muslim prayers by battering the Bosnian Serbs this week.

But now the West may have to put a gun to the head of the Bosnian Muslims as well.

The joy that erupted in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, as the NATO airplanes roared overhead contains one of the greatest threats to a peace settlement.

After four years of suffering from Serb aggression, genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass rapes and territorial conquest, the Muslim-led Bosnian government could easily decide that now is not the time for peace, but for revenge.

Instead of sitting down to negotiations that would give the hated Serbs 49% of their state, "The Muslims could easily say, 'What have we got to lose? Let's go for broke,' " said William Hyland, a former CIA, State Department and White House expert on Eastern Europe. "We're going to have to put pressure on both sides now to continue the peace process."

This will be tough for the Bosnian Muslims to swallow. The outside world has agreed that their Serb enemies are not merely aggressors but war criminals.

Now the Bosnian Serbs are suddenly on the ropes. A surprise Croatian offensive drove the Serbs out of the Krajina. The Bosnian Serbs' chief instigator, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, seems to have tired of the endless fighting and is pushing for a peace settlement. The Bosnian Serb leaders are squabbling among themselves. Finally, NATO and the United Nations, long mocked as helpless and ineffectual, have proven they will take swift, hard military action to defend the Muslims. The temptation to reconquer their lands and avenge their losses might prove irresistible.

On the positive side, President Clinton and U.S. European allies were finally able to carry out a meaningful exercise in "collective security" an elusive dream since the days of President Woodrow Wilson.

"The attacks you're seeing now are what was agreed upon in London at the end of July, when the President was calling [British Prime Minister John] Major, [French President Jacques] Chirac and [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin," a White House official said.

"We all agreed then that we had to retaliate if there was another outrage like the shelling of the marketplace," the official said. "We put the decision making on autopilot and the idiots [the Serbs] were stupid enough to do something. I guess they didn't believe us. On the other hand, up to now, there has been no reason why they should believe us."

Clinton himself kept an unusually low profile at first, but last night, on his arrival in Hawaii, credited the U.S. for taking the lead in pulling the alliance together. White House and Pentagon officials have been more comfortable letting NATO and UN spokesmen explain the air raids. There is no reason to put America out front as a target for possible Serb terrorism or to undermine the U.S. role as a negotiator between the Serbs and the Muslims now that a peace settlement finally seems possible.

"The real question is whether the Bosnian parties have had enough of the fighting," said Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the ranking Democrat on the House foreign affairs panel. "This could be the last best chance for Bosnia. In the best of circumstances, it will be a very fragile state, but it could survive simply because the West is willing to help it."

"We may not have ended 600 years of Serbian dreams for a Greater Serbia," the White House official agreed, "but we have proven that the Serbs will not be allowed to drive the Muslims into the sea."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/05/1995
WORKERS OF THE WORLD, BE OUR GUESTS

WASHINGTON What's a fair wage for a computer programer? Try $ 4.75 an hour. If that's all you want to pay, the U.S. Labor Department will let you bring in temporary workers from India.

Larry Richards, a freelance programer from Austin, Tex., found this out when he decided to test the system. He asked permission to bring in 40 foreign temps at rock-bottom wages, and, as required by law, the Labor Department approved within the prescribed seven days.

Furthermore, an employer who does not want to pay the going rate $ 30 to $ 40 an hour for its freelance programers can dump them and import low-wage foreign programers on temporary visas.

The latest victims of this growing practice include 30 programers at the National Association of Security Dealers, in Rockville, Md. Their contracts were terminated when NASD signed a deal with Tata Consultancy Services, which is bringing in 30 replacements from India.

"NASD was paying the American programers about $ 50,000 a year plus benefits," says a source at the association. "The contract with Tata is $ 1 million a year for five years. You figure it out: $ 1 million divided by 30 programers is $ 33,000 each, assuming the programers and not Tata get the money. The executives were bragging that they could get Ph.D.s in Bombay for $ 15 an hour."

NASD spokesman Marc Beauchamp insists the temps will be paid about the same as Americans. But as they are trained, he said, about half of them will be returned to India, where they will work on NASD projects for Indian wages. In a computerized world, it is increasingly easy to ship such jobs overseas insurance-claim processing to Ireland, financial printing to Taiwan, import-export paper work to the Philippines.

But there is a special humiliation in the abuse of the

H1-B visa program, which allows 65,000 foreign guest workers into this country each year. It was intended to provide U.S. employers with foreign workers who possess special skills not simply cheap labor to replace Americans.

Linda Kilcrease, who lost her job at insurance giant AIG in Livingston, N.J., when Indian computer specialists were brought in, says the temps have no special skills. "The company just threw us away to save a buck. We had the humiliation of having to train our own replacements. Some of them had only two weeks' training in Cobol [a computer language] when they got here."

Labor Secretary Robert Reich complained over the phone that abuse of the H1-B visa program was "the most aggravating thing in the world." But every time he has tried to crack down, he said, he runs afoul of the U.S. business community. "The National Association of Manufacturers sued us last April when we sought the power to investigate abuses without a complaint," Reich said. "There's no doubt in my mind that this law is being abused. There is no excuse for an employer to fire a skilled American worker and bring in a skilled foreign worker to replace him at a lower wage. That violates the spirit of the law."

Reich will try to persuade the Republican-controlled Congress later this month to let him tighten up on visa abuse. But Republicans are split between those who want to crack down on immigration abuses and those who defend the right of U.S. corporations to scour the world for the lowest-wage employes. "We'll see," Reich said, "whether the Republicans are on the side of American business or the American worker."

Jim Sleeper is on vacation.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/06/1995
FALSE ASSERTIONS ARE JUST LEGION IN WORLD OF BOB DOLE

WASHINGTON Politicians don't often give hints that the speech they are about to deliver is pure blather, but there is one surefire clue: when they put on an American Legion cap. For some reason, it always brings out the worst.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole slipped on his Legion cap before delivering a campaign speech at the veterans convention in Indianapolis on Labor Day. He proceeded to describe the scary world in which we live:

"Despite our protests, Russia is selling nuclear arms to Iran," Dole said. "Iraq is manufacturing gruesome biological and chemical weapons. North Korea will soon have nuclear capability. China is arming Pakistan with nuclear missiles."

Four dire threats to our national security and not one of them is true. Russia is selling civilian nuclear technology to Iran, not weapons. There is a concern that Iran might derive some military knowledge from the equipment, but no nuclear weapons are being sold.

As for Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs, "That should be past tense," says Jack Mendelsohn of the Arms Control Association, which monitors weapons development around the world. The schemes have been exposed and, the experts say, halted.

In North Korea, the Clinton administration bought off a nuclear-weapons program by agreeing to supply light-water reactors and oil to Pyongyang. North Korea could reverse course yet again, but for the moment its weapons buildup has been stopped.

And the Chinese "nuclear missiles" are in fact nonnuclear ballistic missiles. Pakistan may have developed its own nuclear device, but it would be too big to put on the Chinese missiles.

Sure it's only a campaign speech. But Dole is running for commander-in-chief on the strength of his supposedly superior experience and leadership. A high school student who described America's national security challenges the way Dole did would fail a current events test.

Enemies list

In addition to enemies abroad, Dole found enemies at home: flag-burning, Japanese-loving, liberal elitist academics; gangsta rappers and Hollywood producers who are embarrassed by America, disdain George Washington and want to speak foreign languages in the schools and courts.

Aren't campaign consultants wonderful? They tell a candidate to go forth with the slogan that only he can unite Americans into a happy family.

And at the same time, they hand him the poll-tested wedge issues flag-burning, affirmative action, pointy-headed intellectuals guaranteed to split the voters to rally a majority of "us" against the evil and oppressive minority of "them." As with his hyped warning about nuclear weapons, Dole took trivial domestic nuisances revisionist scholars rewriting history books or questioning Hiroshima, noisy advocates of multi-culturalism and diversity and magnified them into threats against the very fabric of American civilization.

Dole is a better man than this speech would suggest, but over the years he has a well-worn excuse for concealing his own humanity and his own real political goals, assuming he has any.

First he had to defend Richard Nixon out of party loyalty. Then he had to enact Ronald Reagan's agenda, and then defend George Bush's. Now the excuse for his pandering to the right is that he is running for the Republican nomination in a party dominated by conservative activists.

True, but at this stage of his life, it's a little dispiriting to watch Dole seek the presidency of the United States with simpleminded slogans like Speak English. Respect George Washington. Don't Burn Flags.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/07/1995
DEFEAT FINALLY CREEPS UP ON HIM

WASHINGTON As his world was crumbling around him, Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) stood obliviously on the Senate floor yesterday, reflecting on his days at New York University Law School and what he described as the disaster of the city's well-intentioned public housing projects.

Packwood was in the pose that served him well over the years: The thoughtful, compassionate, moderate statesman certainly not a drunken lecher who repeatedly thrust himself upon women over the years, groping and kissing and then blustering his denials.

But as he spoke, six of his colleagues, meeting behind closed doors, voted a stunning repudiation: Packwood should be expelled from the Senate, a penalty not inflicted in that amiable club since New Jersey's Sen. Harrison Williams was kicked out in the early 1980s after conviction in the Abscam bribery case.

Indignant, Packwood demanded a right to confront his accusers, including one who was 17 when approached, who have described his unwanted sexual advances. He denounced the Senate ethics committee as worse than the Spanish Inquisition. He vowed to fight but he must have realized that the battle he has waged for more than two years is over.

Up to now, Packwood has talked his way out of trouble. He persuaded The Washington Post not to run the initial charges from two dozen women just before his 1992 reelection. His own constituents in Oregon rebelled when the story broke just after the election, but Packwood found defenders among fellow Senate Republicans.

But the Senate ethics committee is staffed by three conservative Republicans Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Robert Smith of New Hampshire and Larry Craig of Idaho. The three Democrats are Richard Bryan of Nevada, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. None defended him.

Some key Republicans have been after Packwood to quit since 1993. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) said at the time that his resistance to the charges including allegations that he'd altered his diaries after they had been subpoenaed put him "at war with the ethics committee." Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) declared that Packwood could no longer be effective.

But Packwood ducked that bullet, as well as a Democratic effort, led by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, to hold public hearings. Then, after his Republican colleagues aided by New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Moynihan, a long-time personal friend rejected public hearings, Packwood demanded them. That left the Senate high and dry, facing the spectacle of lurid public accusations.

Ironically, Packwood's departure from the Senate could hurt the liberals who led the fight against him far more than conservatives. As chairman of the Finance Committee, Packwood has resisted the supply-side tax schemes of conservative House Republicans. He is a staunch supporter of Israel, voted for the Brady Law to restrict handgun purchases and is among the most prominent pro-choice Republicans in a party increasingly dominated by abortion foes.

In the old days, Packwood would have been carefully protected. The Senate he entered in 1968 was an old boys club, in which drinking, flirting and finding jobs for relatives were commonplace. Women who were harassed were either bought off or intimidated into silence.

Last night, even the staunchest, most partisan Republicans like New York's Sen. Alfonse D'Amato were turning against Packwood. He may have done a lot of good as a statesman, but it was dawning on the Senate that the gentleman from Oregon, as he was customarily called, is in fact a creep.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/08/1995
COMING SOON: KIDS SLEEPING ON HOT-AIR GRATES

WASHINGTON Into the middle of the Senate debate on welfare reform, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan brought a treasured memento, a pen handed to him in 1963 by President John Kennedy.

To Moynihan, the pen is both a reminder of one of the nation's worst social disasters dumping the mentally ill into the streets and a predicter that Republican-sponsored welfare reform will repeat that mistake on a far vaster scale. Only this time the derelicts will be children.

Since both Republicans and Democrats respect Moynihan as the nation's institutional memory on social issues, it is worth listening to his tale. "President Kennedy used this pen at his last public bill signing," Moynihan explained in an interview yesterday. The law called for the construction of research centers and facilities to treat the mentally ill as outpatients, rather than keeping them in hospitals.

The theory was perfectly well-intentioned. It was humane. It supposedly would save money. The result, Moynihan recalled: "the appearance on our streets of homeless persons sleeping in doorways, sleeping in bus stations."

The government found that it could easily empty the mental hospitals but it never got around to building the community treatment facilities. The parallel with welfare is clear: It is easy to cut off welfare payments. It will be easier still for governors to do nothing to provide benefits, jobs, education or child care to the poor. Just dump them into the streets.

The poor, you see, are not entitled to any assistance. States are not required to do anything to help them. "The only entitlement in welfare is that a state that does something to help its poor is entitled to assistance from the federal government," Moynihan said. "Break that state entitlement to a federal sharing of the burden, and the whole thing begins to collapse."

To the nation's 30 Republican governors, the GOP plan looks like a good deal: The feds simply hand over billions of dollars with no strings, except, perhaps, time limits on welfare and a ban on cash grants to teenage mothers.

But the burdens on cities are overwhelming. In New York, 39% of the children are on welfare at some point during the year. In Chicago, 46%; in Detroit, 67%. And the governors are under no obligation to spend a dime on them. Some will; others will find that they can score big points in the suburbs by letting the cities suffer and spending the money on prisons.

Using a meat ax to cut welfare spending will be politically popular. But Moynihan predicts this consequence: "I estimate a five-year time limit [on welfare benefits] might put half a million children on the streets of New York in 10 years' time," he said. "We will wonder where they came from. We will say, 'Why are these children sleeping on grates? Why are they being picked up in the morning frozen? Why are they scrambling? Why are they horrible to each other, a menace to all, most importantly to themselves?' "

The chief difference from the mental health debacle is scale: There were only 1 million people in the mental hospitals; there are 15 million people on welfare.

Moynihan thinks he is fighting a losing battle. The Senate is eager to prove it is tough on the poor; the Clinton White House probably will sign a GOP bill with minor changes. It will seem like a great thing, until you start stepping over those little bodies on the hot-air grates.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/11/1995
IMMIGRATION KEEPING BLACKS ON BOTTOM RUNG

WASHINGTON In this era of bitter partisanship, one issue has managed to unite Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, union members and union haters: immigration.

From Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who wants to build a fence across the Mexican border, to liberal Democrat Barbara Jordan, who fears that immigrants are holding down wages for America's poor, the entire American political spectrum has rallied as one.

Here are two statistics that help to explain the near-unanimous furor:

As a result of an upsurge in immigration over the past 20 years, one in 11 Americans or a total of 22 million of us was born abroad. In California, 25% of the population is foreign-born, and in New York, 16%. These are the highest ratios since World War II.

Now for an eye-opener: Because so many of the immigrants now come from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, 75% of new immigrants are entitled to affirmative action preferences, minority set-asides, diversity-based university admissions and other protections virtually as soon as they land.

Breaks for millionaires

The major victims of this curious and apparently unintended anomaly are American blacks, for whom affirmative action was designed as a remedy for 300 years of slavery and economic oppression.

Under the law, a millionaire investor from Hong Kong is considered a minority just as entitled to government preference as an impoverished African-American half a generation removed from sharecropping.

The consequences have been ludicrous. According to a report by Jim Robb for The Social Contract, a social-studies research group, in the late 1980s, 60% of minority set-aside construction contracts in Washington, a predominantly black city, went to three firms owned by Jose and Francisco Rodriguez who qualified as Hispanic minorities because they came from Portugal.

In Ohio, when Asian Indians were classified as an Oriental minority, they quickly began winning set-aside contracts under a program that had been instituted to benefit black Americans. Asian Indians, by the way, rank second in education and income of all ethnic groups in America. Whites rank sixth; blacks rank 10th.

Middle-class competition

Unlike the immigration flows around the turn of the century, which chiefly brought in industrial workers, the new immigrants are entering professions that touch middle-class and upper-income Americans: computer programers, doctors, university professors.

America's universities are graduating more foreign-born blacks with Ph.D.s than native-born African-Americans. "This is a noninvestment in our own people," complains Frank Morris, dean of graduate studies at historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Instead of working to upgrade skills of native-born Americans, universities find it easier to deal with foreign-born middle-class students all the while claiming they are meeting affirmative-action goals.

The new influx of immigrants, Morris and others argue, is keeping native-born blacks away from skilled jobs and university programs just as the influx of European immigrants at the end of the 19th century kept former slaves from taking industrial jobs in the North.

It is all too easy to denounce opponents of current immigration laws as bigots, like the Know-Nothings of the 19th century. But there is a real problem here, with real victims.

If we are lucky, the politicians will solve it without appealing to our worst instincts.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/13/1995
IF POWELL RUNS, HE COULD BE A REAL DYNAMO

Washington -You know that Colin Powell -without organization, money or ideology -can't win the presidency. So here's how he can:

His book, "My American Journey," which appears this week, becomes a runaway bestseller. Excerpts in the current Time magazine prove Powell to be not only an attractive figure but -like Ronald Reagan -a magnificent story-teller. He can conjure up tears of pride and patriotism and then detonate a little joke that will have you laughing through the tears.

While gracefully beating his own drum, he shows that his head is screwed on straight. His iconoclastic thoughts on the Vietnam war are penetrating; his criticism of the ugliness of American political life is damning. He has a commanding presence, a righteous moral vision -and a sense of humor. He manages to be both imposing and unthreatening at the same time, the big tough friendly guy on your side.

At the end of his book tour next month he will meet with his family to talk about the presidency. Charles Kelly Jr., a Washington businessman who has organized an arm's length, unauthorized Powell for Presidency campaign, believes he will decide to run, and as a Republican.

Some Republican pros -like Charles Black, campaign strategist for Texas Sen. Phil Gramm -believe a Powell candidacy would be doomed, simply for lack of money. The primary schedule is so compressed that any candidate must be active in all the major states at once, and that takes cash.

"It's really too late for him or anyone else to contemplate starting a race," Black says. "By the time of the Iowa caucuses, in five months, (Kansas Sen. Bob) Dole and Gramm will have $ 30 million apiece. You can't raise that in contributions of less than $ 1,000 apiece (the federally-permitted maximum) starting today -I don't care who you are."

To which Kelly replies: "Gramm has raised $ 16 million and spent $ 11 million and what has it bought him? We're going to win in New Hampshire, win in Arizona and win in Georgia (the first three major primaries) and then the game is over."

Powell is not an easy fit in today's Republican party, which is increasingly dominated by anti-abortion activists and supply-side conservatives who want to privatize everything from the Washington Monument to Social Security. He is pro-choice and completely a product of the public sector, from New York City schools to the U.S. Army.

But he offers a pro-business, centrist posture that could win broad support for middle-of-the-road solutions to some urgent questions:

Gun control: He's a gun-owner for reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.

Welfare reform: He could fix the system without the taint of racism that now mars some of the Republican efforts.

Campaign finance reform: It needs a strong moral leader to push it through the stalemate between Republicans and Democrats who have both learned how to milk the corrupt, current system.

Education reform: He knows what good public schools can be like, even in inner cities.

Tax reform: There is a good centrist proposal -the Nunn-Domenici plan to exempt saving from taxation -that has no special interests behind it, and thus needs a powerful booster.

Yes, there is a strong element of political fantasy in all this. While we're at it, how about a Colin Powell-Cal Ripken ticket? But behind the fantasy is a whidespread yearning to take politics back from the insider money brokers, image hucksters, poll-worshipping campaign consultants, poisonous soun-bite concocters, wedge-issue experts and screeching special pleaders who now own the process. Just by taking on that monstrous army, Powell could be a liberator.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/15/1995
REPUBLICANS' MEDICARE PLAN IS A SICK JOKE

WASHINGTON The Republican scheme to "save" Medicare has the classic earmarks of a confidence trick: glib promoters, a promise of big pay-offs for no investment and a high-pressure threat to act fast today! or you might lose out.

The outline released yesterday suggested Republicans could save the entire Medicare system $ 270 billion in savings by increasing retirees' premiums by a mere $ 7 a month and cutting FWAB (fraud, waste and abuse).

It sounds great. You can't see the details just yet because, well, there are no details just yet. And when the proposals and figures do come out, perhaps next week, there will not be a lot of time to study them. Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is proposing to hold just one day of hearings before bringing this massive reform to the House floor.

"This is just a fraud on the American public," said Cathy Hurwit, a health care analyst for Citizen Action, a public interest group. "This is going to be voted on without any chance for public review."

The move to HMOs

Concealed in the Republican plan are an estimated $ 110 billion in unspecified savings that will come from doctors and hospitals. There will be higher premiums for affluent retirees.

And more savings are projected by moving as many retirees as possible into health maintenance organizations, the for-profit health networks that make their money by taking in as many patients and then giving them as little care as possible.

Well-run HMOs can be very fine institutions, but their profit depends on a perverse incentive: denying care.

Just this week, the Daily News reported how New York City HMOs used a variety of loopholes to avoid paying medical bills. The HMOs stiffed mothers in labor who failed to contact their primary physician before rushing to the emergency room. Some refused to authorize payments to specialists. One refused to pay for lung cancer treatments because death was "inevitable."

The Republican plan is based on a rosy fiction about the free market. In theory, the nation's retirees are all canny medical-care shoppers who will search around for the best deal. They won't fall for fly-by-night, fine-print health coverage that somehow never pays off. And they will always, always contact their primary-care, gatekeeper physician before rushing off to a specialist or the emergency room.

Saving for a tax cut

The Republicans claim to be working for the benefit of the retirees and not the insurance companies, hospital chains and health care providers that have donated $ 18 million to them over the past six years. But the $ 270 billion they want to save is more than needed to rescue Medicare. The excess is destined for a tax cut primarily benefiting investors.

Furthermore, one of their proposals on Medicaid reform would eliminate national quality standards for nursing homes. Who do you suppose demanded that, the nursing home patients or the nursing home operators?

There is good reason to move swiftly on Medicare reform. A prolonged process lets the vested interests who profit from the current mess protect their own little pieces of the pie, killing any hope of reform.

But this closed-door, insider-driven process imitates all the worst mistakes of the Hillary Clinton-Ira Magaziner health reform of 1993: secrecy, complexity and an affection for managed care. The biggest difference is that instead of Clinton's regional health purchasing alliances, Republicans are going to turn a big chunk of taxpayer money to private health corporations and hope for the best.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/17/1995
COLIN'S FANTASTIC VOYAGE

COLIN POWELL's American journey is the most astonishing trip ever taken by anybody, anywhere. From the tough streets of the South Bronx, he struggles through City College, fights and maneuvers his way through the Army, rises to top jobs in the White House and the Pentagon, is knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

And there he is, at the height of his glories, standing in the back of an airplane with black congressmen Ron Dellums of California and Kweisi Mfume of Maryland singing a doo-wop version of "In the Still of the Night."

Powell made it to the top without forgetting the word, the music or the people he started with.

Cast your cynicism aside: Powell's autobiography is a moving, inspiring story that shows America at its best.

Powell is wholly a product of the American system, the Harlem-born son of hardworking Jamaican immigrants who was educated by the public schools, City College and the U.S. Army.

Enthusiasts who want him to run for President may be disappointed. He says he does not feel a call for public office.

Republicans, especially conservatives, will be chagrined. Powell has affection for Ronald Reagan, George Bush, a strong defense and low taxes. But he resents the meanness of the Willie Horton commercials, questions those who believe God has handed them a legislative agenda, and, while critical of Democrats' spending, defends liberalism.

"I was born a New Deal, Depression-era kid," he writes. "Franklin Roosevelt was a hero in my boyhood home. Government helped my parents by providing cheap public subway systems so that they could get to work, and public schools for their children and protection under the law so that their labor was not exploited. My mother's International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, with its right to bargain collectively, secured by law, also protected her. Social Security allowed my parents to live in dignified retirement. . . . I received a free college education because New York taxed its citizens to make this investment in the sons and daughters of immigrants and the working class."

Can you imagine those words drawing applause at the 1996 Republican convention? In that paragraph alone Powell may have written off a Republican presidential nomination.

With the help of writer Joseph Persico, Powell draws a deft picture of the world that made him: his calypso-loving family in the Bronx and Queens; saving up 10 cents for an egg cream; riding the A train with his college girlfriend, and discovering discipline and dignity in the City College ROTC and then fulfillment in the U.S. Army, which was so far ahead of the rest of the country in giving a black man an even break.

It is not all a pretty story: As a military adviser in Vietnam, Powell torched peasant huts with his Zippo. Some of his upward movement through the military smacks of oily politicking. And okay, a little cynicism he somehow managed to keep his hands clean throughout the Iran-Contra scandal and the military fiasco in Somalia.

If Powell does want to run for President, perhaps as an independent, he has produced an overwhelmingly impressive resume. None of the current crop of candidates can match his experience in the military, in top-level, high-stakes diplomacy or in inside-the-room, executive branch experience.

NOT ONLY has Powell served at the top of government, as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, he knows how the government really works. Name-dropping is all too common in most autobiographies, but Powell pulls off a switch: He drops the names of the midlevel people who make the system run, the old-hand secretaries and administrators who hand out the parking permits, get airplane tickets at the last minute and solve all the really insoluble problems.

And with it all, he has a sense of humor. The typical Washington memoir is filled with acronyms and abbreviations PRG, NORAD, SIOP, NATO. Powell has all those and one other: Arfo do PZs. That's a Filipino band in the officers' club, trying to sing "I Fall to Pieces."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/18/1995
NEWT HAS RIGHT MIRROR IMAGE

Washington Running through Newt Gingrich's mind these days is the most powerfully seductive thought that tempts men to run for the presidency: I'm better than these other bozos.

No politician who has this thought ever quarrels with himself. The truth is so apparent, especially to Gingrich: First Republican speaker of the House in more than 40 years, author of a best-selling work of political philosophy, internationally hailed visionary of the future, gifted public speaker, brilliant legislative strategist, constantly blinded by flashbulbs and deafened by chants of "Newt! Newt!"

And who does he see, out on the campaign trail, seeking supreme political power? Men he knows to be his inferiors, men without an idea in their heads, men incapable of mobilizing the nation for the conservative revolution that will rescue American civilization from the abyss.

Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader? A man of the past, eager to preserve the status quo or modify it around the edges. Gov. Pete Wilson of California? Please. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas? Successful insofar as he clones Gingrich's ideas, but basically a sourpuss imitation of the real thing.

In his heart, Gingrich thinks, "I can take them all."

Gingrich opened a window into these thoughts last week. The biggest factor in whether he seeks the presidency, he said, is whether the current candidates are capable of winning the 1996 national debate on which way to take America whether to continue the conservative revolution or compromise with government of the past.

"You've got to win this debate [in] the two or three months in which two different visions of America's future are outlined, and I think there's a feeling that none of the candidates has yet done that very well," he said. "There's a market out there, an interest in having a candidate who's very clear and who communicates."

Gingrich said he would not run if Colin Powell entered the race but that was just before Powell's new autobiography hit the bookstands.

Powell's moral stature and military record are attractive to millions of conservatives, but his book makes it absolutely clear that he is not a Gingrichian revolutionary or Christian Coalition conservative. His defenses of the need for welfare, public schools, affirmative action, gun control and legal abortion put Powell well to the left of most Republican primary voters.

The GOP has become so conservative that Gingrich, in all seriousness, described Richard Nixon as a "center-left" President.

Conservatives could struggle along for four more years under President Clinton, Gingrich said, but ultimately there would have to be a Republican President to enact his vision of America: better schools, a revived work ethic, more entrepreneurship, stronger families.

Gingrich does not have to make any decisions before the Dec. 15 filing deadline for the New Hampshire presidential primary. He can run, he said, while keeping his House seat. Money is not a worry.

So, as he gets up each day and looks in the mirror and as conservatives take a hard look at what a Powell presidency would really mean, and as Dole, Wilson and Gramm go nowhere Gingrich will find himself more and more attractive.

The logic is inexorable. He will run.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/22/1995
POLS WHO TALK NICE AND ACT NAUGHTY

Washington Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) came to the Senate floor with a look of sad concern on his face. He was deeply troubled, he said, at the vulgar, morally repugnant content of the new TV season.

"We are lowering the standards of what is acceptable in our society and we are sending a message to our children," he said. He denounced an "acceptance of rude language, foul imagery and gross behavior in the entertainment mainstream."

Then, warning parents who might be watching on C-SPAN to move their little children away from the TV sets, Lieberman cited a few of the outrages:

On ABC's "Wilde Again," a character asks to be called "Daddy's little whore." Another ABC program showed an upraised middle finger. CBS' "Bless This House" used the phrase "little hooters" in reference to a girl's breasts. "Profoundly disturbing," Lieberman intoned. "Sophomoric."

Funny thing: The previous morning, Lieberman had been a guest, as is his regular custom, on the Don Imus radio show on WFAN, a program that seems to get the bulk of its yuks from penis references.

If you have never heard the Imus show, listen in. It is a cross between an endless infomercial and a bunch of 8-year-olds telling doo-doo jokes into a tape recorder. It is rescued only by increasingly rare moments of inspired, hilarious brilliance.

Tune in any morning and you'll hear Imus or one of his sidekicks joking about having "lipstick on the dipstick" and much worse. This is nationwide morning radio.

Lieberman worries, on the Senate floor, that the increasing vulgarity of network TV "is lowering the standards of what we accept on television, particularly in what used to be family programing hours."

But he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. This week's moments of supposed humor on Imus, broadcast at an hour when children are rising for school, included a reference to Attorney General Janet Reno in crotchless pantyhose, an interview with Screw Magazine's Al Goldstein and a drunken woman saying "s---" over the air. Teehee.

Lieberman is alarmed that some child watching an 8 p.m. TV show might hear the word "hooters." Yet he legitimizes, by his regular presence, a radio show that will fill the child's ears with far more vulgarity, sly racist jokes, gay-baiting and all-around bad taste than the child is ever likely to hear on TV.

Why jump into this sewer? Votes. Imus is free media. His audience consists mainly of those 18-to-34-year-old males who are so hard for a politician to reach.

The temptation is overwhelming. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) will in one breath deplore the coarsening of our national discourse and the state of race relations, then appear on Imus where the idea of a neat joke is to suggest a black football player might be a carjacker.

Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) righteously denounces Hollywood for its raunchy movies and then joins the gang on Imus for a little friendly guy banter.

You can't blame Imus for being what he is. He even serves the positive purpose of making current events entertaining. His parodies only make sense if you have been paying attention to the world around you.

But for Lieberman there is no excuse. One moment he joins the sniggering on Imus, the next he's on the Senate floor as the pious defender of family virtue against encroaching vulgarity.

By all means, Lieberman, Bradley, Dole and the rest should go on Imus. But if they do, spare us the sanctimonious sermons about the vulgarity of modern broadcasting.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/25/1995
WORKING U.S. CITIZENS OUT OF THEIR JOBS

HELP wanted: Dentist, Staten Island, 45-hour week. Salary: $ 52,400 a year.

Sound enticing? Not to too many dentists. Which is exactly the point. "That is really not comparable compensation," says Mitchell Kuhn of New York's First District Dental Society. "Not after going through four years of college, dental school and then maybe a residency."

The national average net income for a dentist these days is $ 119,000 a year, according to the American Dental Association. This ad has been published in the hope no dentist will respond.

Who places an intentionally doomed ad? The reply address is 1 Main St., Brooklyn the Alien Certification Office of the New York State Department of Labor. It is acting on behalf of an unnamed employer who is seeking to bring a dentist from overseas on an immigrant visa and who first must advertise to make sure no American citizens or permanent residents are available.

When no qualified dentist responds, the state certifies to the U.S. Department of Labor that there is a shortage of dentists on Staten Island, and the Labor Department then can authorize an immigration visa on the grounds that the U.S. has an urgent need for this critical skill.

"I can't conceive how there could be a shortage of dentists on Staten Island," Kuhn mused.

The dentist ad is another example of how wacky our immigration laws have become. The help-wanted pages are filled these days with ads for bagel bakers, Italian-style cooks, sewing instructors, auditors, systems analysts, medical professionals all placed by that same Alien Certification Office and all for skills that are supposedly in short supply.

Here's one for a medical biologist in the Bronx: must have an M.D. or Ph.D. degree, $ 33,000 a year. Here's one for a diesel mechanic, Brooklyn, also $ 33,000 a year a good wage, but do we really have a shortage of diesel mechanics?

Officials at the office say they do their best to establish a realistic prevailing wage for the jobs, but common sense tells you that in the New York area in 1995 you are not going to hire a dentist for $ 52,000 a year or an M.D. for $ 33,000.

One effect of this program is to skew the labor market and suppress wages. By running the ads, the government agrees that an employer who refuses to pay more than, say, $ 36,000 a year for a pharmaceutical research chemist does not have to raise the offer to attract a suitable employe. Instead, he can recruit a chemist from overseas who is willing to work for the lower wage.

"The current labor certification process is almost humorous," Dan Stein, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, testified before a Senate committee. "Today we find such venerable American employers as Hardees trying to petition [for] short-order cooks and calling them gourmet chefs."

And under the law, each new immigrant then can petition for admission of his wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters who then have a right to petition for their wives, children, etc.

As Congress begins to look at some of these practices over the next couple of weeks, you can already hear howls from the lawyers who have drilled loopholes into immigration laws. The system is perfectly fine, they say. It is certainly fine for them and for employers who want to pay bottom dollar for first-class skilled labor. It's not fine for skilled Americans and permanent residents who watch their own government help to underbid their wages.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/26/1995
BILL'S GOOD NEWS

DATELINE: WASHINGTON Cheer up, America President Clinton says you're not in a "funk" anymore.

Clinton yesterday back-pedaled from remarks last Friday that he was "trying to get people out of their funk" over coping with change economic, technological and otherwise. "'It was no doubt a poor choice of words," the President told a group of reporters.

And, he said, "it was more a characterization of how people felt a year ago" when a GOP landslide captured Congress "than they do now."

Clinton said he was trying to explain how people responded to "apparently contradictory events" for example, when the stock market and corporate profits are up but the median wage is down. "'I think it will be difficult to convince people that I am advocating the politics of a national funk," the President said. "I'm saying that what we have to do is to be optimistic about the future, but we still have to understand we live in a good news/bad news time."

In any case, Clinton said, a funk is not as bad as a "malaise" President Jimmy Carter's politically unwise description of a sour national mood back in 1979. The difference, Clinton said, is that you can bounce back quickly from a funk. Clinton's definitions are at some variance with Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. It defines funk as "a depressed state of mind" or "a state of paralyzing fear" and malaise as "a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being" or "an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illnesss."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/26/1995
BILL HITS BACK AT NEWT

DATELINE: WASHINGTON President Clinton warned House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) yesterday not to try to "blackmail" him into accepting steeper budget cuts by threatening a default on the U.S. national debt.

"We're not going to have a unilaterally dictated budget," the President told a group of reporters. "We can make this work.

"But blackmail is not the way to do it, and I'm not going to be blackmailed. I'm just not going to sign a budget that I know will put people out of nursing homes. . . "

In a speech last week, Gingrich had threatened that, as speaker, he could single-handedly refuse to schedule a House vote next month to raise the national debt ceiling if Clinton did not accept the GOP plan to balance the budget in seven years.

Gingrich's threat raised the specter that a single member of Congress could halt U.S. interest payments to creditors at home and abroad. Failure to lift the debt ceiling could leave the Treasury short of funds to pay off interest on outstanding bonds, causing a default for the first time in 200 years. Treasury bonds are normally considered among the safest investments in the world.

In the speech Sunday, Gingrich said, "We are not going to back down" from a "historic opportunity . . . to insist on a balanced budget."

Clintonsaid Gingrich's strategy was irresponsible and self-defeating. A default on Treasury notes, the President said, ultimately would raise interest rates, "and that would make it harder to balance the budget."

During the hour-long lunch, Clinton also praised Gen. Colin Powell for speaking out in favor of gun control, affirmative action and a woman's right to abortion. Powell's remarks, he said, helped bring the national political debate back toward the center.

The President voiced support for modest restrictions on immigration a bill is now going through the House as a way to tighten the job market and therefore raise wages.

In private remarks after the lunch, he warned that the fears of Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) of "children sleeping on grates" could come true if Congress enacts both radical welfare reform which Clinton accepts and steep Medicaid cuts, which he opposes. In setting spending priorities, Clinton predicted, states would put poor children last.

As he begins his reelection campaign, he said, he has detected a decline in voters' personal hostility.

But he said business interests were refusing to support his reelection because he had raised tax rates on the wealthy.

"I ask them, even with the higher taxes, whether they have more money, and they say yes," the President grinned. "I rest my case but it makes no difference."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/27/1995
HERE'S ONE PROMISE THAT NEWT GINGRICH MUST NEVER KEEP

Washington King Newton the Rootin' Tootin' Gingrich is giving new meaning to the word conservative. In speeches last week and this, he has claimed the right, unilaterally, to force America to default on its national debt.

If President Clinton does not accept his budget cuts, Gingrich says he will refuse to schedule a House vote to raise the debt limit in November.

The Treasury would then be unable to pay interest on outstanding bonds.

This would be the first U.S. default in 200 years. It would throw world financial markets into turmoil, raise interest rates and cast long-term doubt on America's reliability as a safe investment.

Some financial analysts think Gingrich's threat is mere political posturing. But that's beside the point. Even if he backs down, Gingrich has already exposed an unsettling weakness in our political system: America's ability to pay its bills is at the mercy of one wild-eyed congressman from East Yahoo, Ga. Give him his way or he'll stop the federal government dead in its tracks.

Gingrich's threat is not merely a unique grab for power, but a revelation of his true political philosophy. He's not a conservative by any standard definition. Conservatives play by democracy's rules, honor tradition, act responsibly, keep a sharp eye out for the stability of financial markets, pay their bills. Gingrich is a revolutionary, ready to cast out stability and fiscal responsibility for short-term victory.

Can he get away with it? Absolutely. Under House rules, Gingrich has extraordinary powers. He can refuse to schedule votes barring even his fellow Republicans from voting. He can refuse to recognize congressmen seeking the floor.

"Now that Gingrich has consolidated his powers and has a unified Republican Party behind him, he can take on even more power," says Thomas Mann, the Brookings Institution's director of government studies. "But it's a new meaning of 'conservative.' "

Gingrich can only be reined in by a rebellion within Republican ranks, and these new House Republicans are not the old-school conservatives with one ear turned toward Wall Street and the other toward their hometown banker. They are small-business, populist Republicans from the South and West who owe their very being to Newt Gingrich.

They spent 40 years in the minority, making mischief and obstructing Democrats, and that's the only world they know. Actually running things responsibly is a little beyond them.

Gingrich knows he has a strong hand. He has previously claimed he could unilaterally wipe out the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by refusing to recognize any motion to continue its federal funding. And he has exercised his unilateral power before, refusing to recognize Democrats who tried to strip a $ 12 million tax break from Rupert Murdoch (publisher of his book, "Renewing American Civilization.")

Even some of Gingrich's fellow radicals are aghast at his threat to force a default. Publisher Malcolm Forbes, who is seeking the Republican nomination as the true heir to Reaganomics, warns that a default on U.S. bonds "would mean higher interest rates, which would hurt people's pensions, would hurt the housing market, it would hurt the deficit. It would hurt everything."

Forbes and other financial sophisticates are consoling themselves that Gingrich is just bluffing and that in the end he will be too financially and politically responsible to throw the nation into default. Judging from the glint in Gingrich's eye, this does not look like the world's safest bet. Notes: Illustration by Mickey Hackman not available electronically.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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09/29/1995
A FUNKY WAY OF LOOKING AT U.S. 'GROWTH'

WASHINGTON If the economy is growing, as all the economists tell us, why are Americans in such a foul mood? This is the question that undermined Reaganomics, defeated President George Bush and has President Clinton muttering about a national funk.

And now we have an answer, both simple and blindingly clear. The people are not wrong. The economists are. What they measure as growth in the Gross Domestic Product is merely increased spending not what that spending actually buys.

Under the currently accepted definition of growth, if you sit stuck every day in a traffic jam, burning gasoline and wasting your time, you are contributing to growth. If you spend more and more money, $ 65 billion a year, to protect yourself against crime locks, insurance policies, replacement of stolen goods that's growth.

The GDP does not care whether the money is spent for useful purposes or for decay. Spending on food and pornography rank equally. Divorce is a major contributor to our "economic growth," since it piles up lawyers' fees, the cost of a second home and counseling.

And the GDP assigns no value to intangibles like air pollution or the loss of leisure time. If you're too busy to cook or read stories for your children and so you buy them prepared meals and leave them in front of a VCR, that's counted as pure economic growth.

This flash of insight is spelled out in the October Atlantic Monthly by Clifford Cobb, Ted Halstead and Jonathan Rowe. "By the curious standard of the GDP," they write, "the nation's economic hero is a terminal cancer patient who is going through a costly divorce. The happiest event is an earthquake or a hurricane. The most desirable habitat is a multi-billion-dollar Superfund site. All these add to the GDP because they cause money to change hands."

The most bizarre example is the $ 32 billion diet industry. "[The GDP] counts the food that people wish they didn't eat and then the billions they spend to lose the added pounds that result."

Instead of GDP, the authors propose a different measure a Genuine Progress Indicator that would total up the nation's expenditures (including intangibles like the value of parenting) and then subtract the obviously negative components: costs of crime, family breakdown, loss of leisure time, commuting, automobile accidents, pollution and evironmental damage.

Lo and behold, they come up with figures debatable, to be sure indicating that in terms of genuine progress we have not come very far since 1950. We have an abundance of gadgets, but the costs in family breakdown, safe neighborhoods, good public schools, jobs that let a single earner raise a family have offset the technological gains.

The "growth" myth has been a terrific weapon in persuading Americans to accept a worse quality of life. NAFTA, the Mexican trade agreement, is good for us because it will add to "growth" never mind what it does to a community that loses a factory. Cutting down old-growth forests adds to growth. The gambling industry is growth. Gangsta rap is growth. "Showgirls" is growth. The millions spent on the O.J. Simpson trial it all adds to our economic "growth."

What the three authors have figured out is that we spend so much of our incomes not to add to our quality of life but merely to insulate ourselves from a world that has grown less civil. We work harder, spend more, have less time, and the economists tell us we are growing. No wonder there's a funk.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/02/1995
LET THE GOP MEDICAID RX RUN ITS COURSE

WASHINGTON When Republicans look for reasons to cut Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, they point to New York in their eyes a sinkhole of fraud, waste, misguided generosity and damn-the-cost liberalism.

And they're right.

New York provides an abundance of Medicaid horror stories: drug addicts obtaining taxpayer-supplied narcotics, phantom psychiatry for nonexistent patients, sharpie lawyers maneuvering wealthy retirees into nursing homes at taxpayer expense. Nursing homes are the biggest expense and probably the biggest abuse.

"New York is a particularly litigious state," says Josh Wiener of the Brookings Institution. "It pioneered the 'just say no' strategy. Just say that you don't want to pay for your nursing home care, and you'll probably get away with it. New York lets people go on Medicaid with more assets than they would be allowed to keep in other states."

No reform, just cuts

The only thing wrong with the Republican criticism is this: Nothing in their proposed crackdown on Medicaid is aimed at correcting the abuses. Instead of using their new political power to reform the national health care system, the Republicans are simply giving the states less money and assuming that somehow the fraud, waste and abuse will vanish.

Fat chance. In New York, the bulk of Medicaid spending goes not for poor children but for nursing home care. Cut the spending, and guess who comes out better, the children or the nursing home operators?

"These nursing home guys own both political parties in all states," says a prominent New York State Republican who asks not to be identified. "These guys are making fortunes, and they're going to keep on making fortunes. In New York, we'll continue to help the poor, but in the states that have abandoned them Mississippi, Texas they're not going to start helping them now."

Before they go blaming the Republicans for cruelty to the poor, the Democrats who created these much-abused programs ought to take a hard look at themselves. Some are.

"The original liberal intention was to help the poor," says one of President Clinton's domestic strategists, "and unfortunately we accepted that the money diverted to the crooked operators and the scam artists was part of the price we had to pay. A liberalism that cannot limit itself is going to be limited by someone else."

The chainsaw massacre

It is a sad history: Instead of policing the institutions they created public schools, libraries, parks, welfare, health care liberals let them either decay or run amuck. Then the conservatives come in with a chainsaw to cut everything, good and bad, and either pocket the money or spend it on their own boondoggles like Star Wars and the B-2 bomber.

In the case of Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, the irony is especially painful.

Both programs are ripped off by the nonpoor doctors, lawyers, accountants but when the blind cuts come, the penalty will fall upon the poor and the honest.

Is this the end of liberalism? Hardly. The Republicans have the advantage at the moment that their hard-headed rhetoric sounds a lot more attractive than the reality of Democratic programs and a lot more realistic than traditional bleeding-heart Democratic rhetoric.

Let the Republicans govern for a while, and there will be a fair comparison: Republican programs vs. Democratic programs.

Then the public can judge: Did the Republicans fix the mess of welfare and health care, or did they just hand themselves a tax cut and walk away?

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/05/1995
NEWT'S A MAN OF (CHANGING) PRINCIPLE

WASHINGTON House Speaker Newt Gingrich poses as a man of principles, but he changes them (to borrow from Pat Moynihan) with a rapidity that has been known to cause catatonia in rats.

Gingrich's principle du jour is to dump federal obligations for nursing homes, welfare and low-income health care onto the states. He wants no more big government in Washington dictating solutions to onscene officials. Just give the states the money in block grants with few or no strings attached, and state officials will solve social problems more humanely, efficiently and cheaply.

"We think as a general principle that local elected officials are better safeguards than Washington bureaucrats," Gingrich said Sunday.

Funny, in 1993, when President Clinton was proposing to send block grants to the cities, Gingrich was on the other side: "What I cannot defend is sending a blank check to local authorities across the country for them to decide how to spend," he said. Local officials, he said, would squander the money on midnight basketball, folk dancing and swimming pools.

Then last year, Gingrich opposed a Clinton crime bill that would have helped cities hire more police officers. Instead of earmarking the money for cops, he said, it should be turned over to the cities without any strings.

And this is the Gingrich who declared in 1989 that any federal aid sent to New York merely subsidized the Cosa Nostra. This is the Gingrich who said last month that New York embodied a "culture of waste" in its city and state governments. Now he wants to give the state a fixed amount of money and entrust it with the federal burden of aiding the poor, the disabled elderly and AIDS patients.

In fact, states might run some welfare and health programs more efficiently than the feds. How do we know? Because some already do. "We have 20 or 30 states with federal waivers to make changes in welfare," says former Gov. Mario Cuomo. "We changed welfare in New York. Women who refuse to take jobs can be knocked off the rolls. We won't give a young girl new money for an apartment just so she can get out of her mother's house by getting pregnant. The states can do it better, they are doing it better so why change the system? It's just an excuse for cutting the program."

"Programs that affect people's lives should be administered at the state or local level," says Richard Nathan, director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

At least that's the theory. But Nathan goes on, "What are they [the states] doing to get ready for their new burdens? Not very much. This is an opportunity for fundamental reforms, and most are not prepared for it."

State legislatures, which are generally dominated by rural, part-time politicians, will receive billions from Washington with no requirement to help all poor children or all disabled elderly. The entitlement all who qualify get benefits has been abolished.

This means that poor children in inner-city Chicago, for example, will be at the mercy of state legislators in Springfield. AIDS patients in New York will have to wring money out of the Senate and Assembly in Albany. And when it comes time to close hospitals, rural clinics will undoubtedly survive while the Medicaid-dependent inner-city hospitals will die.

"The states are not any more enlightened than the federal government," Mayor Norman Rice of Seattle told a seminar here on Tuesday. "This [shifting of the burden to the states] is just passing the buck without assuming any responsibility for the changes."

Spending taxpayer money without responsibility? That's Gingrich's latest principle.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/06/1995
O.J. VERDICT IS BUCHANAN FODDER FOR THE RIGHT WING

WASHINGTON In the era of the Angry White Voter, the O.J. Simpson acquittal is yet another source of rage, says Republican political genius Frank Luntz. The immediate beneficiary: Republican presidential contender Pat Buchanan, who said yesterday he was astonished at the verdict. "I don't believe justice was done," Buchanan added, and promised an additional statement later.

Buchanan's political targets working-class, white, male swing voters with little faith in government followed the trial daily, says Luntz, who conducted focus-group studies of them. None of the target voters he interviewed, he said, could imagine an acquittal.

"These people's rage is going to boil over," Luntz predicted yesterday. "They're probably going to vote for Buchanan. He has tapped into all that anger, and his answer is more anger not hope, not seeking common ground. You're going to find people saying, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm voting for Buchanan.' "

Luntz must be heeded because he has a peculiar knack for tapping into voter sentiment. He was behind the polling that produced the Republican Contract with America, cornerstone for the stunning Republican takeover of Congress last November. He is also smart enough to realize that voters were not embracing a conservative Republican agenda; in their anger and disgust, they were rejecting a Democratic status quo.

Anger now creates fertile soil for Buchanan's fascinating, anti-establishment campaign. Just as blacks distrust the police system, Luntz said, whites now distrust the courts, perhaps the most powerful branch of government. In a current poll, Luntz said, only 43% of his respondents said they believed the legal system still works and 51% said they might feel forced to disobey the law to protect their constitutional rights.

Buchanan, of all the candidates, is running both as a strict authoritarian and a revolutionary against the status quo. Not only is he opposed to President Clinton and the Democrats, he's also fighting the NAFTA and GATT treaties that were supported by other Republicans. He wants to wipe out political action committees, corporate political contributions, congressional pensions, political gift-giving, abortion and gun control.

He declared war on the corrupt revolving door by which bright young men and women become congressional staffers so they can learn the ropes of legislation and then cash in by quitting the government to work as lobbyists.

Buchanan's appeal is a combination of a rigid, Catholic-based moral code with economic populism and flag-waving nationalism. As a newspaper columnist over the years, his writings have incurred accusations that he is anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Semitic. His belligerent speech to the '92 Republican convention, in which he talked of retaking Los Angeles block by block with armed force, was widely blamed by fellow Republicans for making their party seem bigoted.

Though he is not taken seriously as a presidential contender by most of the experts, Buchanan is running a strong second or third in polling for the 1996 New Hampshire primary, the same vote in which he nearly upset President George Bush in 1992. His leading opponent, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, is losing support almost by the day.

It's unlikely that Buchanan will win the nomination. But he's clearly the vehicle if disgusted white voters want to emulate the Simpson jury and cast a wrong-headed vote just to send America a message.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/09/1995
MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR GRANNY ABUSE

WASHINGTON For their latest dumb trick equal in stupidity to attacking the school lunch program and public TV's Big Bird congressional Republicans now want to repeal federal standards that bar nursing homes from lashing old people to filthy beds and filling them full of dope.

The rules were enacted in 1987 and signed by President Ronald Reagan after horrendous tales of abuse in unregulated nursing homes.

"Grandmothers and grandfathers were tied to wheelchairs and beds under conditions that would not be tolerated in any prison in America," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) recalled the other day. "Deliberate abuse and violence were used against helpless senior citizens by callous or sadistic attendants. Patients had been scalded to death in hot baths and showers, sedated to the point of unconsciousness and isolated from all aspects of a normal life by fly-by-night nursing home operators bent on profiteering from the misery of their patients."

But now both the House and Senate are moving to hand regulation back to the states whose inadequate supervision led to the abuses in the first place.

This does not appear, on the surface, to be a matter of money. Abolishing federal standards does not reduce the deficit. And nursing home operators themselves claim they are not pushing for repeal. "The [Nursing Home Reform] Act's requirements are not a burden or an inconvenience," nursing home owner Morris Kaplan of Lansdale, Pa., told Senate Democrats on Friday. "They are not over-regulation."

Unless . . . Unless the Republicans also enact their proposed $ 180 billion worth of cuts in Medicaid spending, the bulk of which goes to nursing homes. In that case, with less federal money, the nursing home operators who now charge $ 50,000 to $ 60,000 a year per patient will be forced to hire cheaper help, sedate patients and stop changing the sheets.

The threat is clear: Give us the money or we'll have to tie Grandma to her bed. And the Republicans reply: "Tie her up. We need the money for a tax cut."

To justify the spending cuts, House Speaker Newt Gingrich has told of aged millionaires who conceal assets and enter nursing homes as Medicaid patients. But these tales are not the widespread abuse that Gingrich implies. America simply does not have that many rich families eager to send aged parents into Medicaid-financed nursing homes.

The only direct study of the problem, conducted in Massachusetts, indicated that 12% of the patients in eight nursing homes had tried to hide assets, and in half of those instances, Medicaid eligibility was denied.

Another Republican "reform" would let states bill adult children for the nursing home care given to impoverished parents. If Mom or Dad is living on Social Security and has to enter a nursing home, the state could garnish your wages. And the Republicans would also revive rules that compelled aged couples to divorce or face impoverishment because of one spouse's nursing home bills.

What drives this political madness? Pure right-wing ideology. Having won spectacular political power last November, the Republicans seem eager to squander it on zany goals. Obedient to its ideologues, the supposed law-and-order party has so far voted to make the world safer for stock cheats, water polluters, negligent corporations and malpracticing doctors. Now it is intent on defending fly-by-night nursing home operators.

Many of these Republicans are young pink-cheeked, 30-year-old lawyers whose eyes shine with love for Newt. They have no memory that these laws to protect Americans were enacted for a reason.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/11/1995
A BUDGET SHELL GAME TO TRICK THE ELDERLY

Washington Your gimlet-eyed Congress has discovered a way to raise taxes and cut spending without lifting a finger. Just trim the Consumer Price Index and (Look, Ma! No hands!) there is an easy $ 600 billion in Social Security cuts and new income taxes over the next 10 years.

It would come from the Social Security checks of retirees a $ 6,000-per-person hit over 10 years and higher income taxes as working people lose a little protection from "bracket creep," the penalty paid as inflation pushes them into higher tax brackets.

The leading proponent of this neat solution is Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who is appalled at how government entitlements grow beyond control.

The problem, he says, is that the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, overstates the true rate of inflation. When retirees receive cost of living adjustments based on the CPI, they receive a windfall: Their retirement checks rise more than their real costs.

"The CPI always overstates the rise in the cost of living," Moynihan wrote in The Washington Post the other day. "And not just a little. A lot. At least by a third; possibly by half."

Well, maybe not. Moynihan based his argument and a call for a 1% reduction in cost of living adjustments on a debatable report by five economists, chosen by the Senate after all of them agreed that the CPI was too generous. This was exactly the result the Senate wanted to hear.

In fact, when it comes to retirees, the CPI may be too stingy rather than too generous. It does not measure, for example, such costs as growing too frail to mow your own lawn or shovel the snow or drive a car. It measures increases or decreases in the price of medicine but not the fact that as you grow older you are likely to use more of it. It includes price drops in goods that seniors may not buy in great numbers, like computers.

In response to Moynihan's arguments, the American Association of Retired Persons commissioned a study by Joel Popkin, former assistant commissioner for prices and living standards at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His opinion on the accuracy of the CPI was disarmingly clear: He had no idea if it was high, low or roughly accurate. His best estimate: It may be 0.15% too high.

"These judgments depend on who asks the questions," Popkin said. And also on who is paying for the research. The Senate asks five economists, and they say the CPI is too generous. The AARP asks Popkin; he says no. Popkin is indisputably right when he says, "These conclusions are no basis for making public policy."

That is, before the Congress trims Social Security checks it might do a little further research, or perhaps look elsewhere to save money like corporate welfare.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported yesterday that Congress has barely touched the business boondoggles financed by the U.S. Treasury. Although the House has cut some outright subsidies, it has opened up so many new tax loopholes for business that they are spared any real pain from budget cutting.

Out of more than $ 700 billion in corporate subsidies, the House has managed to kill only $ 6 billion over seven years. "We're seeing an exercise of raw political power by very powerful industry groups," says Rob Shapiro of the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic-allied think tank. "The Congress is making $ 300 billion in cuts for the poor and only $ 6 billion in cuts for our largest and most powerful industries. It shocks the conscience."

The amounts that could be saved are nearly equal: $ 600 billion from trimming the CPI vs. $ 700 billion from slashing corporate welfare. But this Congress would rather chisel the elderly than confront the corporations.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/13/1995
LET'S CURE THE HEALTH-CARE GOTCHAS

WASHINGTON Health insurance companies have devised a new and cruel form of gambling: chest-pain roulette. You can only play if you're scared and in pain. And if you win, you lose.

Here's how it works: You get a stabbing sensation in your chest in the middle of the night. It may be a heart attack; it may be severe indigestion; it may be a relatively harmless internal sore known as "the devil's grip." You go to the emergency room. They run all the tests, and good news! you're fine.

Bad news: Your insurance company decides after the fact that your condition was not life-threatening. Therefore, you did not really need to visit the emergency room. Therefore, it will not pay the bills.

As Republicans pushed their Medicare reform bill through the House Ways and Means Committee this week, Democrats proposed an amendment to protect seniors against this game of Gotcha!

Insurers would be forbidden to require pre-approval for emergency-room care. They could not deny coverage to anyone who called an ambulance using the 911 system. Insurers would have to reimburse emergency room doctors for any care they provided to a patient who, by law, could not be turned away. A solid block of Republicans voted No. Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) tried again.

"We've all heard horror stories in which someone has been denied payment because it turned out his chest pains weren't actually a heart attack," he said. His bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.) would have compelled insurers to pay for emergency treatment of any pain that a layperson would reasonably suspect to be dangerous. This would end chest-pain roulette.

The Republican majority made it clear the bill would not pass, and Cardin withdrew it. Fortunately, on the Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa), a physician, slipped through an identical amendment on a voice vote. But it is not certain that Ganske's bill will survive when the legislation reaches the House floor.

"We have solid support on the Democratic side but only grudging support over here," a Republican staffer said. "We can only hope."

Republicans are also defending another cruel form of health-care Gotcha! Their Medicare savings assume that millions of seniors will join preferred-provider networks, which are health insurance plans that offer a choice of approved doctors. Problem: The list keeps changing without notice. The doctor you picked six months ago may have been dropped from the network and if you see him again, you are not covered by insurance.

For example, Alliance PPO Inc. of Maryland tells its members in fine print, "You must check with your provider each time you request health care services. If you use a provider listed here who has stopped participating or does not participate in the network, you will be responsible for the provider's full fee. . . . "

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) told of one health network that published a list of doctors, signed up patients and then fired two-thirds of the doctors on its own list.Elderly patients who forget to check that their doctor is still in the network could be left holding the bag for the full cost of their care.

These Gotcha! games are a dirty trick to play on anyone, but especially on ailing retirees. Health coverage for the elderly shouldn't be a contest of wits or a combination of Hide-and-Go-Seek and Musical Chairs, with the losers sheepishly thinking how they have been fooled. These are our parents. Surely we owe them an honest deal.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/16/1995
GLOCK PISTOL MAY BE A LOOSE CANNON

COPS WHO PUT their lives on the line every day ought to be allowed to choose their own weapons.

But evidence keeps mounting that one of their favorites the Glock auto-loading pistol is a menace to themselves and to the public.

Cops like it because it is lightweight just over 20 ounces and a smooth-shooting weapon that can fire 15 rounds without a reload. But the Glock has figured in shooting mishaps across the country; the latest was the accidental shooting of New York Police Officer Keith Prunty by fellow officers last week.

A hail of gunfire

Prunty was hit by two of 36 bullets fired in a bodega shootout, and all the bullets came from police-issue Glocks. An accidental discharge from a Glock was blamed for the fatal shooting of Yong Xin Huang of Brooklyn earlier this year. In a shootout in Queens with a crazed gunman, police officers armed with Glocks fired an incredible 247 shots to bring down their target and killed a bystander as well.

Across the country, police have accidentally shot themselves simply trying to holster the Glocks and have killed or wounded suspects and bystanders with unintentional shots.

The Austrian-made Glock's quirk is not merely that it has no external safety catch. More dangerously, it has an extremely short trigger pull less than half an inch.

In conventional double-action revolvers or in double-action-only semi-automatic pistols like some Berettas, Rugers, Smith and Wessons, and Sig-Sauers the trigger must be pulled back an inch or more, against increasing resistance, to cock the hammer and fire each shot. To fire a second shot takes the same amount of effort; the shooter is aware that his trigger finger is moving back and forth just like the cap pistols you may have fired as a kid.

With the Glock, the pistol is always about 70% cocked. Squeezing the trigger moves it back an imperceptibly short distance, against no resistance. Then the finger encounters pressure from a spring 4 to 8 pounds or more, depending on the setting and the gun goes off. And, too often, goes off and goes off and goes off as tense officers empty their magazines with virtually no effort.

Police officers are trained not to place their fingers on the trigger before they intend to shoot. But, especially for policemen who were originally trained to shoot old-fashioned revolvers, the training often doesn't take.

"If Mad Dog McCree is waiting for you at the end of a dark alley, all your intuition tells you to put your finger on that trigger or you're going to be as dead as Mussolini's girl friend," says a retired firearms instructor for the National Rifle Association. "In a high-stress situation, I don't care how high the trigger weight is eight pounds or 80 that short trigger pull means the gun is liable to go off unintentionally."

Ironically, the danger of accidental discharge has led police across the country to forbid officers to thumb-cock old-style revolvers before firing. Then along comes the Glock, which is always partially cocked and ready to go off with a short trigger pull.

Glock won a phenomenal market share in police departments across the nation by aggressive promotion including job offers to police firearms specialists. And on a shooting range, it is a magnificent weapon.

"It's a very dangerous gun," counters Josh Horwitz of the Educational Fund to End Handgun Violence. "I'm a consultant in 30 Glock cases right now unintentional trigger pulls, accidental discharges, blowups. By far, we see more cases involving the Glock. They really are the worst."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/18/1995
FARRAKHAN PREACHED A POSITIVE MESSAGE . . .

WASHINGTON It's too easy to laugh at Louis Farrakhan. His rap on the meaning of "atonement" was pure dizziness: "What is the A-tone? In music, A equals 440 vibrations. How long have we been in America? Four hundred forty years. Well, in the 440th year from the one God, the Aton, will come the A-tone. And all of us got to tune up our lives by the sound of the A-tone."

All this was delivered in such a rhythmic chant that he could easily have said "the A-tone connected to the head bone" without missing a beat.

It's also too easy too denounce Farrakhan's bigotry. His remarks about Jews are vicious and uncivilized. And he surrounds himself with black-shirt, Gestapo wanna-be bodyguards and thugs like Khalid Abdul Muhammad and the foam-spewing Alton Maddox, who seem eager for a race war. But I come today neither to mock Farrakhan nor to denounce him. Yes, some of his pitch is baffling or cryptic. Other people's religions tend to be.

Double standard

And, yes, his outrageous anti-Semitic remarks blight his message. But some of those who complain most piously like Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich eagerly grovel before the Christian Coalition's the Rev. Pat Robertson, whose book, "The New World Order," retails every anti-Jewish conspiracy theory ever devised. Why is Farrakhan beyond the pale while Robertson is acceptable?

Many people will not be able to overlook Farrakhan's very real flaws. But in judging the Million Man March and Farrakhan's rambling two-hour speech, the essential question is this:

What did those men hear that they will absorb and take away with them and act upon Farrakhan's wacky numerological mysticism about the number 19 or his appeal to respect their women, clean up their communities and build their own lives through their own efforts? Did Farrakhan win a million converts to his idiosyncratic view of Islam or did he persuade a million black men to be better fathers, fight the filth and degradation of pop culture and renounce drugs and drug values?

Did he tell them to hate Jews as members of a "gutter religion" and fight Asians as economic oppressors or did he ask them to imitate Jews and Asians as industrious members of proud, cohesive and mutually supportive communities?

The answers are clear. When you consider what might have happened and what might have been said, it is a remarkable achievement that this massive demonstration was not hijacked by the lunatics. It only takes a dozen rowdies to seize the spotlight beat photographers, terrorize bystanders, run rampaging through the streets. That didn't happen. This was a peaceful event.

And it takes only a single outrageous speaker to snatch the focus of attention from the event organizers: Just look at Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican convention. In Washington, the hate-filled wackos Khalid Abdul Muhammad, Alton Maddox and others were kept on the sidelines. Farrakhan himself was on his best behavior. Many whites and blacks may hate to admit it, but Farrakhan, on this day, before his biggest audience ever, delivered a positive message to millions of people who were yearning to hear one.

Nobody says you have to like him or trust him, vote for him or worship with him. He may be an unlikely source and a flawed and untrustworthy messenger, but there is no escaping the bottom line: This march was good for America black, brown, yellow, red, white and blue.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/20/1995
'BORROWING' FROM SOC SEC TO AID THE RICH

WASHINGTON See that Social Security deduction on your paycheck? It's the key to the Republican plan to "balance" the federal budget while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

In 2002, the year Republicans have been promising a balanced budget, they will in fact come up $ 108 billion short, according to the House Budget Committee's report. The Republican plan makes up the difference by "borrowing" the late Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) called it "embezzling" from the Social Security trust fund.

By law, Social Security deductions are supposed to be earmarked to pay benefits for future retirees. But for the past dozen years the Social Security surplus has been used to mask the real size of the federal deficit.

The Republican plan continues the embezzlement. In pure accounting terms, the Republicans are right: If the amount of money the government collects in a given year equals the amount that it pays out, the budget is in balance. But borrowing from the trust fund to cover current operating costs means raising taxes on the next generation our children to pay back the debt to the trust fund.

In addition, using Social Security deductions to balance the budget means that working people, who cannot escape that FICA deduction on their paychecks, make up the shortfall caused by tax breaks for the wealthy and for business.

"It's the largest transfer of wealth from labor to capital in our history," Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. "We are using a 15% payroll tax [the combined burden on employer and employe] to pay the interest on Treasury bonds, which are generally not owned by blue-collar workers."

"These guys [the Republicans] don't have any intention of balancing the budget," agreed Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.). "All they want to do is to get credit for it, make room for a big tax cut and destroy the government."

Republican budget plans are still something of a moving target, with many details being worked out behind closed doors, often in consultation with business lobbyists. "You're really not supposed to understand this until it's too late," one of the lobbyists confessed with a grin yesterday.

But the general outline is clear. The budget plans call for increasing taxes on the lowest-income Americans those earning under $ 30,000 a year primarily by curtailing the Earned Income Tax Credit for working people.

The way the tax cuts are skewed, the wealthiest 12% of Americans share $ 53 billion in tax breaks; the remaining 88% of taxpayers share $ 49 billion. Federal spending cuts also hit the low-earners harder than they do upper-income families.

More bad news: En route to their supposedly "balanced budget," the Republicans run annual deficits that will add another $ 1 trillion to the national debt. That means that in 2002, interest costs now running at nearly $ 1 billion a day will eat up even more of the federal budget, leaving less money for spending on everything else.

Moynihan tried yesterday to strike $ 245 billion in GOP tax cuts and use the money to reduce the deficit, preserve the EITC and spare some of the proposed cuts in Medicare. He was defeated.

"This is simply the wrong time to cut taxes," Moynihan argued. Republicans did not listen.

As Ronald Reagan's conscience-stricken budget director, David Stockman, observed in identical circumstances just over a dozen years ago, "Now the hogs are really feeding."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/23/1995
GOP'S HUGE CUTS MAY COST THEM IN '96

WASHINGTON A shadow hangs over Republicans as they celebrate their congressional victories on upper-income tax cuts, tax hikes for the poor, reduced Medicare and welfare spending. The shadow is the American people.

The Republicans persuaded themselves that the public gave them a mandate last November for a radical, sweeping agenda: from term limits (which failed) to assaults on environmental regulations, student loans, school lunches, Medicare, nursing home standards, the Earned Income Tax Credit and public broadcasting, all of which have passed in one form or another.

It was a mistake. An angry public voted against Democrats in November 1994, not in favor of a Republican ideological wish list of capital gains tax cuts and mysterious business boondoggles such as "neutral cost recovery."

A vote against Bill and Hillary Clinton's complicated and high-handed health plan is not necessarily a vote to let business loot pension funds or open the Tongass forest to clear-cutting by timber companies.

And so, amid the Republican high fives and mutual backslapping, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) asks a penetrating question: "Why do you think the Republicans' most promising presidential candidate is an undeclared independent who has already rejected most of their platform?"

Gephardt's answer: Americans are looking to Colin Powell because the Republican congressional agenda has gone far beyond what mainstream America wanted.

With their stunning congressional victories, Republicans may have gotten themselves into a lose-lose situation: If their cuts take effect, they will have to run for reelection and nominate a candidate to the White House next year at a time when their budget cuts are forcing hospitals to close, when student loans become more costly, when the elderly fear being forced into health maintenance organizations.

"They have given us an embarrassment of riches to use against them," says White House adviser George Stephanopoulos. "Unsafe nursing homes, raising taxes on working people, gutting environmental protections, student loans all to pay for a tax cut for the rich."

Even if President Clinton vetoes the harshest of the Republican measures as he has promised to do Democrats will be able to use the Republicans' votes against them.

In addition, Democrats now have the juicy political target of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has negative ratings approaching 75% in some parts of the country.

Republican congressmen across the country, especially moderates in swing districts, can be targeted with the simple slogan: "A vote for Rep. X is a vote for Newt."

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, warns his colleagues against trying to exploit resentment against affirmative action and the poor. "To the extent that we enter a meanspirited contest as to who will be the most Draconian," he said, "that's when you could say we've lost it."

Even the Republicans' main hope for success that business-oriented tax cuts will lead to an explosion of economic growth runs up against the reality of the Federal Reserve, which raises interest rates to choke off growth if the economy rises any faster than it is doing at the moment.

But the Republicans have a number of factors working for them. The people they are hurting most the poor tend not to vote. Many of the GOP cuts are postponed into the future so the pain may not be apparent. And perhaps the greatest asset: The only threat to Republican political dominance comes from, ha ha, Democrats. They generally find some way to blow it.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/25/1995
GOP HATES CRIME BUT ITS MEDICARE REFORMS INVITE IT

WASHINGTON House Republicans like to pose as hard-liners on crime, but in one area they are proving to be pussycats: health care fraud.

As Newt Gingrich and his fellow free-marketeers propose to slash the growth in Medicare spending, they are simultaneously opening the door to some of the most blatant thievery and costliest abuses in the retirees' health program.

Nothing makes seniors angrier than being ripped off by Medicare providers especially when they complain and are told, "Don't worry, you're not paying for it."

But tucked away in the fine print of the GOP's massive Medicare reform bill are provisions that would make it much harder to win criminal prosecutions against illegal kickback arrangements among doctors, hospitals and labs and to halt overbilling by doctors and hospitals for services never rendered.

In addition, the House bill entices seniors into blowing the whistle on Medicare fraud but then does nothing to beef up the government's already overwhelmed anti-fraud investigators.

"This invitation for complaints could bring the entire system grinding to a halt," says a government health-fraud specialist. U.S. attorneys and other government officials are now so overburdened with Medicare fraud complaints an $ 18 billion-a-year problem that they won't even look into frauds of less than $ 100,000.

"The seniors are going to call in with real stories of abuse and then find out that we can't afford to listen to them," this official said.

In one odd provision of its bill, the GOP seems to want to privatize health-fraud detection while adding no funds to prosecute crimes that are uncovered. The House bill creates a multi-billion-dollar fund that would pay private contractors to look for health-care fraud and abuse but the FBI, by contrast, would get no additional money for enforcement.

The Department of Justice "has several concerns about this fund for private anti-fraud activities," Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois complained. "The bill provides funding for private entities but no funding for law enforcement agencies."

Sen. Bill Cohen (R-Maine), a long-time crusader against health fraud, complained that his House Republican colleagues "actually weaken current law and could make it easier for unscrupulous individuals to defraud the system. . . . The House bill dilutes important prohibitions on kickbacks, weakens civil monetary penalties and repeals protections limiting doctors from referring patients to labs or other services in which they have financial interests."

Current rules require health care providers to show "reasonable diligence" that their bills are accurate. But under the House GOP plan, that requirement is lifted, and the doctors and hospitals would be prosecutable for overbilling only if the government could prove they intended to defraud the system or acted recklessly.

"For the vast majority of present-day kickback schemes, the proposed [law] would place an insurmountable burden of proof on the government," June Gibbs Brown, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote to Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).

Cohen thinks he can strengthen the anti-fraud provisions when the Senate confers with the House to come up with a single bill. But those conferences generally are held behind closed doors, in the dead of night, when the sharpies have the best chance to prevail.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/27/1995
KERREY TO GOP: GO TO HEALTH - COVER EVERYBODY

WASHINGTON Perched on Sen. Bob Kerrey's desk, facing visitors, is a plaque containing 10 Pablum-like rules for business success: "The only constant is change. Be patriotic. Manage by walking around."

But hidden on the other side of the plaque, facing the boyish and mischievous Nebraska Democrat, are activist Saul Alinsky's 13 rules for radicals. They include: "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy."

As his fellow Democrats fight a defensive struggle to preserve Medicare and other social programs from Republican cuts, Kerrey is going on the attack, raising the stakes and devising a radical proposal to guarantee health care not just to seniors, but to everyone in America.

"Title I of the bill would say, 'Abolish Medicare and Medicaid,' " he said in his office. "Title II would say, 'Everybody in the country is eligible for health care, regardless of age.' Title III would say, 'You pay according to your capacity to pay.' "

An unachieved goal

Universal medical coverage was one of the goals of President Clinton's health program, but it disappeared from view when the Clinton plan collapsed even though universal coverage was endorsed by the American Medical Association and the health insurance industry.

"Everybody has backed off it, but I think the public still wants it," Kerrey said. "Back in 1965, it made sense to cover only people over 65. Back then, you could buy health insurance for $ 10 a month, and in 1965 you had one job and stayed with it until you retired. Under my idea, if you're a legal resident, you would be eligible for health care. We would cover all ages."

How would Kerrey, a budget hawk who's concerned about the cost of government entitlement programs, pay for universal coverage?

"We already spend $ 400 billion a year on government health programs Medicare, Medicaid, the [health care] tax deduction, the military system and the veterans," Kerrey said. "We spend 30% of your income tax on health care even though we don't dedicate it and we don't tell the people what we're doing. I would put all that money into the pot, plus what people are already paying for private insurance. I think all employers should pay something and all employes should pay something."

Kerrey sees the ideological opening for his plan in the Republicans' current claim that they really want to preserve and strengthen Medicare. "As soon as they say that, they are agreeing that sometimes the free market doesn't work and will not provide people with coverage. There are times when the government ought to build and operate a hospital."

An end to gouging

The financial advantage of universal coverage is that it deters cost shifting the practice whereby doctors and hospitals gouge insured patients to make up for income lost in treating the poor and elderly. If everyone is covered, there is no need to shift costs. But Kerrey would preserve private health care to retain the cost-saving benefits of competition.

What motivates him to do this now, just at the moment of anti-government Republican triumph and when fellow Democratic moderates like Sens. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Sam Nunn of Georgia are dropping out of the fight?

First, Kerrey has open contempt for the right-wing, soak-the-poor schemes of conservative politicians who earn more on the public payroll than they could in a true free market. Second, the answer may lie in two more of those rules for radicals that he sees every day: "Keep the pressure on. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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10/30/1995
GOP MAPPING AN AGENDA THAT GOES NOWHERE

WASHINGTON As House Republicans scored the biggest victory of their political lives, their leader, Rep. Dick Armey (R-Tex.), stood up and told America what this current GOP leadership is all about. "For 60 years, the ship of state has sailed consistently in the wrong direction, to the left," Armey said. "With this vote today, we'll crank this ship around to the right."

Breathtaking! Sixty years of consistent "leftism" takes in Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

It includes Social Security, minimum-wage laws, farm subsidies, the interstate highway system, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, federally subsidized mortgages and veterans benefits all leftist mistakes.

On the House floor, Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky.) seemed to blame anti-poverty programs for causing poverty: "$ 5 trillion has been spent, and what have we got? We have more in poverty. We have more welfare, we have more illegitimacy, lower education, higher crime, more drugs."

The Republican conclusion: Cut spending on poverty and we'll have less crime, less poverty and less drug addiction. Anybody want to bet?

For all the whooping and hollering about the House Republican victory, it is the first step on a road to nowhere. Even as the House Republicans voted to eliminate federal nursing home standards, for example, Senate Republicans voted to keep them. The free-market ideologues in the House voted to let corporations milk their pension funds; the Senate voted no, 94 to 5. The House wanted to let states dun children for their parents' Medicaid bills; the Senate said no.

If the House and Senate Republicans get together on these differences plus divergences over welfare, Medicaid reform and tax cuts President Clinton has promised to veto their handiwork and negotiate a more moderate approach to a balanced federal budget. So don't be terrified by the scare stories just yet.

But the Republican victory has already had one graphic result: It shows how this Congress operates, who it cares about, what its priorities are. Speaker Newt Gingrich, who promised that Republican control of Congress would empower ordinary citizens, did just the opposite. He weakened the congressional committee system increasing his own power and then let lobbyists in to write the laws. Congressional hearings and congressional committee votes were irrelevant; the nation's business was done behind closed doors by Gingrich and his immediate aides.

The way to get a law to your liking: Make a campaign contribution. Get yourself a meeting with Newt. Such wacky proposals as ending nursing-home standards or requiring the taxpayer to reimburse corporations for cleaning up their own pollution or allowing companies to loot pension funds did not enter the GOP bills as the result of grassroots demands from the American people.

Some of the Republican revolution will stick. You can bank on a $ 500 per child tax cut for middle-income families. Welfare programs will be turned over to states. Medicare costs will rise, seniors will be pushed into health maintenance organizations. After that, not much is certain.

Political revolutions generally get most of their achievements in the first year. Then people conclude they have been seeing more politics than revolution, and the politicians lose that precious benefit of the doubt.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/01/1995
...BUT CAN HE SURVIVE THE GOP THOUGHT POLICE?

WASHINGTON What! A Republican presidential candidate who once helped to legalize abortion, who favors gun control, who opposes organized school prayer and who would allow gays and lesbians to teach in public schools.

Sorry, Ronald Reagan. You would have no place in today's Republican Party. You would fail the ideological tests. You're too liberal.

And you, too, Jack Kemp, with your kind words for affirmative action and gun control. You're out of the Republican mainstream, along with Gerry Ford, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller and Thomas Dewey.

Now the GOP's self-appointed, right-wing thought police are desperately trying to discourage Colin Powell from thinking that he could ever be accepted in today's party. Powell is pro-choice on abortion, favors gun control, believes government can help people fulfill their potential. He believes the Contract with America is a little too harsh, and he would like to see corporate welfare kings take a hit at least as hard as ghetto welfare queens.

"He is a Bill Clintonite on those issues," says Pat Buchanan. If Powell runs as a Republican, Buchanan says, he will be "walking away from the heart and soul of the party." Buchanan and his fellow right-wingers might bolt, or sit out the election.

The basic flaw in this argument is that the party's real hearts and souls the voters are more eager to walk with Powell than with Buchanan. A Dartmouth College poll in New Hampshire, site of the first 1996 presidential primary, shows Powell leading the field with 33% among Republican voters. Sen. Bob Dole trails with 18%, and Buchanan ties Malcolm Forbes Jr. for third at 5%.

"You have to understand Pat's fear of Powell," says a high-ranking Republican. "The Republican primary almost always becomes a two-man race, and right now Buchanan can claim to be second in New Hampshire behind Dole. If Powell gets in, the two-man race is Powell-Dole, and Dole, not Buchanan, becomes the conservative candidate."

Right now, the party's conservatives have all the candidates but most graphically Dole groveling toward them and their litmus tests. Though a minority in the party most Republicans, for example, are pro-choice on abortion the conservatives have been able to call most of the shots for the past 15 years.

The Powell threat

The conservatives can preserve their ideological control with a fellow conservative as President or even in opposition with Bill Clinton as President. But Powell, as a Republican leader with a broad popular mandate, would set his own agenda. The only way they survive as the party's dominant force is by discrediting Powell as a genuine Republican.

Thus, they seize on Powell's remark that he is a "Rockefeller Republican," i.e., a moderate. "It's as if he had said he was a Leon Trotsky Republican," muses Herbert Stein, who was Nixon's chief economic adviser. "In fact, all the Republican Presidents of the past 66 years have been Rockefeller Republicans."

Thus, Gary Bauer of the conservative Family Research Council argues that Powell's views disqualify him from the GOP nomination. Thus, columnist George Will poses 22 ideological questions for Powell that read like a mirror-image parody of the entry exam for Stalin's Komsomol.

It is surely true that the country and the Republican Party have moved to the right but not as far to the right as the ideologues thought. Powell's popularity slaps them right in the puss. There is still room in the party for an Eisenhower.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/03/1995
CIA-KGB SCAM IS STILL COSTING US

WASHINGTON All through the 1980s, the CIA and the Pentagon tried to terrify the American public about Soviet military strength. Now we learn that they had a willing collaborator: the KGB.

Together, the two enemies Soviet and U.S. ran a scam against the American people.

Did these mortal foes in fact have a common agenda? "I don't know how else you could look at it," says Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Here's the scam: As communism was collapsing, the Kremlin was eager to persuade America that it was in fact stronger than ever, that all its weapons systems worked, that it could maintain a military buildup indefinitely, regardless of the cost.

Aided by CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, Moscow conveyed this bluff to the United States through double agents. The CIA then passed it on to the White House and to Congress.

So far this is the usual farce, the Spy vs. Spy bluff and double bluff, that characterizes intelligence. The scandal as we now learn from the CIA's internal damage assessment of the Ames case is that at least some CIA officials knew that they were peddling phony information.

"We in the Pentagon have a natural proclivity to overstate military threats because that validates our own weapons programs," says a defense official. "When this information came through, it served our agenda. The CIA knew it was phony but they said, '---it, we'll pass it on anyway."'

Moynihan, who has seen the damage assessment, said, "It helps me understand some things that I found inexplicable in the mid-1980s when the Soviet Union was falling apart and we were still talking about holding the Communists back at, where was it?, Harlingen, Tex. Did the CIA need the USSR for its own survival?"

"You cannot say, yet, that the disinformation caused us to spend money on weapons we didn't need," says an intelligence official. "We were in a mood then to spend a lot of money on defense anyway. But the general tenor was to put a really good face on Soviet capabilities, to give us an impression that they were stronger than they were at a time when they were collapsing."

Other officials cited the YF-22 fighter, designed to counter advanced Soviet radar, and the Seawolf submarine as weapons systems that might not have proceeded if it had been clear that the CIA and KGB were in a de facto alliance to hype the Soviet military threat.

Well, okay, now that we know that the Soviet Union has vanished, that its weapons systems were not the fearsome technological achievements portrayed by the CIA, and that the Red Navy is rusting in port, can we perhaps do away with the YF-22 and the Seawolf?

"Not on your life," says an Air Force official. "It would murder the subcontractors. The YF-22 accounts for 15,000 jobs directly and perhaps 100,000 indirectly. How do you turn something like that off? Or the B-2 bomber? Or the Seawolf?"

Don't count on either President Clinton or congressional Republicans to blow the whistle. Both sides need the votes at Electric Boat in Connecticut and at Northrop and at Lockheed and all their subcontractors deliberately scattered in virtually every congressional district in the country.

These weapons systems have become jobs programs. All across America skilled machinists, opticians, airframe builders, metallurgists, shipwrights the most talented hands and brains we have are beavering away on useless products, earning good paychecks and raising beautiful families, thanks to a KGB-CIA scam. What a waste.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/05/1995
POWELL KNOWS ABOUT SLINGS & ARROWS - AND THE RIGHT STUFF

WASHINGTON Colin Powell knows that he will put his life, his reputation and his family at risk if he runs for President, but the first blows from Republican conservatives have turned out to be a hilariously awful political farce that might be called "Attack of the Killer Pygmies."

Strange. Most Americans neither know nor care where Powell stands on specific issues. His military record, his Presidential bearing, his smile, his character, his life story are all they need.

But one clue of what a Powell presidency might mean for America is that the Republican right wing is already panicking far more than the Democrats.

"He's too cautious to be commander-in-chief," declares Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, who spent the Vietnam War fighting communism from behind civilian typewriters in Milwaukee and Washington. "He's like the admiral who became Ruler of the Queen's Navee by polishing the handle on the big front door."

"No one who calls himself a Rockefeller Republican should ever be nominated for President by the Republican Party," said a statement from the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly, who went on to describe Rockefeller both as a man "who hurled outrageous smears at other Republicans" and "a conspicuous adulterer."

"He opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative [Star Wars]," says former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney, who has made a career of trying to preserve Cold War defense budgets for the benefit of military contractors.

Others chimed in: the Rev. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, the American Conservative Union, the National Right to Life Committee and a variety of tax-oriented pressure groups that want to cut the top rates for investors.

Powell's most immediate threat is to the hammerlock this coalition has been able to maintain over the Republican Party for the past 15 years. Even though most Republicans are pro-choice on abortion, for example, anti-abortion activists have managed to control the party platform, judicial nominations and legislation. Powell is a pro-choice Republican.

Republicans insist that government is inherently inefficient and costly; Powell is wholly a product of government, from New York City public schools to the Pentagon.

On affirmative action, free trade, school choice, gun control, school prayer Powell appears to be in the mainstream of the country passionately believing neither one way nor the other. He is not on the ideological battlements and he has not bothered to kiss the toes of those who are. He is not a supply-sider in economics, a hangman on crime control or a company goon against labor unions and minimum-wage laws.

Powell comes on the political scene just as the two major parties are in gridlock the Republicans blindly trying to shrink the size of government and the Democrats trying, equally blindly, to preserve the biggest and costliest programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

In theory, a President Powell, with a sweeping mandate, could chart a middle way, just as Dwight Eisenhower charted a middle way between the activism of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and business-oriented Republican policies. Ike catered to business but also used the federal government to build the interstate highway system, a vaster project than Roosevelt attempted.

THIS MIDDLE WAY would interrupt the Republican revolution begun by Ronald Reagan and continued by Newt Gingrich. It would destroy the conservatives' illusion that the electoral victories they have won are popular mandates for a corporate agenda of privatization and high-end tax cuts.

The Powell road might be politically attractive, but to travel it, a) Powell would have to believe in it, which we really don't know, b) he would have to decide to run for President, c) he would have to win.

At the moment, at the peak of public adulation, he barely leads Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in the polls. That's an impressive performance for an undeclared candidate, but it's a long way from victory.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/06/1995
AFTER THE ASSASSINATION RABIN WAS LEADER FOR THORNY PATH

WASHINGTON In a world of mere politicians, Yitzhak Rabin had the style and bearing of an Old Testament prophet, a Jewish warrior-king. He spoke with a somber, throbbing voice like a cello playing the Kol Nidre, and when he spoke it was often poetry.

Or it was brutally tough. "Break the bones of the Palestinians," he once ordered his soldiers. He made peace, he explained, because he was tired of going to funerals, tired of looking into the weeping eyes of Jewish mothers, tired of killing young Palestinians.

As a warrior, he knew that Israel's survival could no longer be assured by war, and, as a warrior, he was not afraid to make peace.

This was no ordinary man who was gunned down after the Sabbath on Saturday night. Rabin was uniquely capable of leading Israelis toward the risks of peace, and his loss casts a shadow on the future of peace talks with the Arab states.

Up to now, the rules of the game have been clear: Israel will not make peace until it feels secure enough to make peace. This theory has justified 20 years of massive U.S. military aid to Israel. With his record as a soldier and unparalleled links to U.S. governments, Democratic and Republican, Rabin gave Israelis a unique sense of security.

He first appeared in the Jewish consciousness in the dark days after World War II, when Jews were trying to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust, as a figure reborn after 2,000 years: the Jewish fighter. He was among that extraordinary group of men and women Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Ezer Weizmann and Ariel Sharon were others who gave a new image to the word "Jew": a lean, tanned, fearless warrior who won stunning victories against overwhelming odds.

Rabin, born in Israel, was unscarred by the Holocaust. His conservative rivals, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, could not conceive of making peace with the Arabs. To Begin, the Palestinians were Nazis and the Palestinian National Covenant was "Mein Kampf." To Shamir, Yasser Arafat was another Hitler.

Rabin saw Arabs as enemies, but not some nightmare from the past. He could negotiate with them; he could live with them. Former Secretary of State James Baker recalls Rabin assuring him that Israel and the U.S. could rely on the word of Syrian leader Hafez el-Assad, perhaps Israel's fiercest enemy.

With his death, the future of the peace process depends on: a) Yasser Arafat's ability to control Palestinians, so no terror campaign undoes the agreements already achieved, and b) Israeli internal politics. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is not trusted on security issues the way Rabin was; the leading Likud candidate for prime minister in next November's elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, opposes trading land for peace.

The great unknown is which way Israel goes: along the risky path Rabin charted or the seemingly safer rejectionist road of the Likud and its allies. Rabin's death may shock Israeli society into realizing the real costs of unending hatred.

"You have to emphasize how much damage the right wing has done to Israel with its violent invective," says Menachem Rosensaft, former leader of the pro-peace Labor Zionist Alliance. "Everyone who joined in calling Rabin a traitor has blood on his hands."

And if Rabin's death ends the peace process, it could mean more blood than anyone imagines.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/08/1995
LESSON OF RABIN'S FUNERAL: PEACE IS POSSIBLE . . . BUT FIRST PEOPLE MUST CONFRONT THE HATE WITHIN

WASHINGTON Let Louis Farrakhan call Jews "bloodsuckers," and Abraham Foxman is the first to rise up in arms.

If you want to know about the Aryan Nation or the Michigan Militia or any of a hundred groups of fringe loonies and racists, Foxman, the national director of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, is the man to turn to.

And last summer, Foxman resigned from his synagogue, B'nai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., in public protest against the outrageous extremism within his own faith. His rabbi, Steven Pruzansky, had been denouncing Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the equivalent of a Nazi stooge, a member of the Judenrat, the Jewish councils that collaborated with the Holocaust.

"I can no longer pray in a synagogue with a rabbi who spouts such hate-filled rhetoric," Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, wrote in Teaneck's Jewish Standard. To non-Jews, this was an unnoticed family quarrel, none of their business. And now Rabin is dead, murdered by a Jewish fanatic whose defenders coldly and shamelessly explain that Rabin was a traitor to the Jews and his killing was justified by Jewish law.

Rabin's murder was a long time coming. For years Jews closed their eyes to the fringe of murderers in their midst, the thugs who would murder Arabs and then serve only a year or so in prison. A year ago, after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Arabs in the West Bank town of Hebron, the ADL issued its first report on Jewish extremism, describing the followers of the late Meir Kahane. Its conclusion: The extremists are indefensible, but the numbers are small.

With Rabin's murder, however, Jews are looking around and seeing to their horror and shame how common the extremist rhetoric has grown and how they had ignored the danger. Leah Rabin recalled yesterday how her husband was besieged every Friday by Jewish demonstrators threatening to kill him and the threats were just dismissed as the rough-and-tumble of colorful Israeli politics.

"We're the ones who said the words came before the bricks of Auschwitz," observed ADL spokesman Myrna Shinbaum. "It's the same as Crown Heights. The words come first. People start yelling, 'Kill the Jew,' and somebody finds a Jew and kills him."

"In the Jewish community we didn't take this stuff seriously enough," says Rabbi James Rudin, who has studied right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups for the American Jewish Committee. "We heard all the threats and we thought, 'That's just verbal abuse by nice Jewish boys.' Jews are supposed to be sophisticated, but we were all wide-eyed after the murder, wondering how this could have happened."

Same scale for all

Rudin paused for a second and reflected. "We get angry when Farrakhan calls Jews 'bloodsuckers,' but we didn't pay attention to what some of our own people were saying. Well, the Bible says you don't have a different scale for the stranger than you have for yourself."

Both Shinbaum and Rudin dismiss the fanatics' claim that God's law condones the murder. "That's no different from the Ayatollah [Ruhollah] Khomeini hiding behind the Koran," Shinbaum said.

"Halakhah [religious law] is so vast that you can take anything out of it you want," Rudin said. "But this is really stretching it. Not only can the Devil quote Scriptures, but people of God can twist the Halakhah. We cannot give them a free pass anymore. All of us have been guilty in that we did not realize that words can kill. We should have known it from what the Nazis did."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/09/1995
COLIN SOUNDS THE RETREAT POLITICAL WEB CAN'T SNARE A SANE MAN

WASHINGTON Colin Powell got caught up in the Catch-22 of American politics: You have to be a little bit nuts to run for President, and Powell's best asset is that he is utterly sane.

The very calmness and rationality that could have made him a great President told him, "Don't do it." It is the stuff of Greek tragedy or an O. Henry story, and who are we to quarrel with such ironic and ironclad logic?

And so Powell stood beside his wife Alma yesterday telling us what a great country we have, but if you want somebody to run it, choose one of these full-time politicians who lie awake nights wondering what to believe that might win them an election, or a vote or maybe a campaign contribution.

Powell has better things to do than kiss the rings of 50,000-watt preachers, plead for checks from big-time polluters, work seven-day weeks, host state dinners for the Prince of Pompadoodle, trade witticisms with Newt Gingrich, put on a bullet-proof vest before throwing out the first baseball and feel his heart sink every time his daughter Linda announces she has a part in a new stage play that is going to open in Yahoo, Ga., in a theater without metal detectors.

President Clinton is eager to keep this zany job. Bob Dole wants it, though what he would actually do with it is by no means clear. But with Powell out of the race, Clinton wins again, easily.

"The giant whooshing sound you heard is the White House breathing a sigh of relief," said former Clinton adviser Paul Begala.

"I think Clinton would have beaten Powell in the end. But when Powell chooses not even to run, it cements the image of the Republican Party as the wholly owned subsidiary of the radical right."

According to current polling, only Powell would have beaten Clinton in 1996 either running against him head to head or in a three-way race with Dole.

With Powell out, Clinton handily defeats Dole, and the rest of the Republican field doesn't even come close.

Powell was the greatest threat both to Clinton and to House Speaker Gingrich's radical revolution to transform the government.

With Powell as his President, Gingrich would have had to trim his sails, especially on the easily demagogued issues like affirmative action and gun control.

Now the 1996 election shapes up as an easy one for Clinton: He can run as the only check against raw, untempered Gingrichism.

"Only I," Clinton will say, "stand between you and the barbarians of the right who would throw your grandmother out of a nursing home and steal your child's school lunch."

Powell's decision caused perhaps the greatest disappointment among the Jack Kemp school of Republicans with Heart: advocates of smaller government, free markets, low taxes and civil rights.

"I'm bummed," said John Buckley, spokesman for Kemp's 1988 campaign. "Powell would have been the nominee and then he would have been the President. I was hoping for a Colin Powell to deliver me from cynicism. He could have rallied so many positive forces because he was a candidate of addition and not subtraction."

BUT TEX McCRARY, the legendary New York public relations man who had put Powell into the public eye as a presidential possible, was not giving up.

"It took me three tries to get Ike to run," the 85-year-old McCrary recalled yesterday. "Hell, yes, he'll run for President. He'll run in the millennium year [2000] and he'll win."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/10/1995
THEY'RE GOOD 'PROVIDERS' - FOR THEMSELVES

WASHINGTON As "Mr. A" struggled through his testimony in a Senate hearing room, it was painfully clear that he could barely read. But he sure could steal.

In just 17 months of operating as a provider of home health care, he hit the Medicare system for $ 2.5 million. It was so easy, he said.

"You can say your name is John Doe, and they say okay and give you a provider number," he explained. "They don't ask your Social Security number or for any identification. You just send in the bills." Medicare pays.

Even when he obeyed the law, Mr. A had a good thing going. He could pay health aides $ 16 for a visit to an ailing senior and bill Medicare for $ 86. It was perfectly legal. But he got greedy. "I billed $ 20,000 for treating five dead people," he said. He leased a Rolls-Royce and a Mercedes-Benz 500SL. And, by rare accident, he got caught. Rarer still, he may actually go to prison.

As Republicans try to control the cost of Medicare and Democrats try to protect its benefits, Mr. A's testimony is a painful reminder that for all the good it does, the Medicare system stinks of corruption, fraud, apathy, greed and waste.

The typical defense is that most Medicare providers are honest and that only a few bad apples rip off the system. Hardly. Medicare fraud is estimated to cost $ 16 billion a year i.e., it's as big as the furniture or tobacco industry.

For example, Kristina Brambila, who has just been released from federal prison, worked up a scam in which she went to nursing homes and offered to bill Medicare for "forgotten" charges and then share the proceeds with the home. Her specialty: Charging $ 5 to $ 7 for surgical dressings that cost less than a penny.

"Every nursing home with which we dealt gleefully took the money," she said. "No one questioned anything. It's not a question of whether fraud is being committed in some facilities. It's how much fraud there is in each facility."

Sen. Bill Cohen (R-Maine), who ran this dispiriting hearing, has fought almost a single-handed battle against health care fraud. The horror stories he elicits year after year are mind-boggling.

Medicare gets bills for $ 600 an hour for nursing-home therapy even though the therapist is paid only $ 20. Cost: $ 3 billion a year. Medicare will pay up to $ 211 for home blood-glucose monitors when you can buy them in a drugstore for $ 50. Medicare will unquestioningly reimburse psychiatrists who bill for 24 one-hour therapy sessions per day.

How does this happen? Sally Jaggar of the General Accounting Office explained: Medicare spends less than 0.25% of its outlays to check for erroneous or unnecessary payments. Crooked providers know how to beat computer checks.

Instead of jacking up the Medicare premiums, shutting down hospitals and trimming back services to the elderly, Congress could wage an all-out war on fraud. Every dollar Medicare spends on enforcement, Jaggar said, brings in $ 11.

It's such an obvious target, why not go after it? Perhaps Brambila had the answer: Maybe it's not just a few bad apples. Maybe it's a lot of perfectly respectable people with medical degrees and law degrees, all chiseling a little bit because the system invites it.

Congress doesn't seem to care. The proposed House reforms of Medicare make the problem even worse. To convict a scam artist, federal prosecutors would have to prove deliberate intent. When Mr. A got caught billing for dead people, he simply said that he had made a mistake and was allowed to go on sending in bills.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/13/1995
GOP SHUTS DOWN COMMON SENSE

WASHINGTON Train wreck? This childish bickering that threatens to shut down the federal government is more like a crash on the Toonerville Trolley, except that there is no grownup Katrinka to come to the rescue with her "Hokay, skipper. I fix."

The plot in a nutshell: Republicans control Congress. Congress is supposed to produce spending bills to fund the government. The Republicans, new to actually running the Congress, missed their deadline on Oct. 1.

They spent 100 days on passing their Contract with America. They held endless hearings on the Waco massacre and Ruby Ridge and Whitewater. And they forgot to do their real job: Keep the government running.

So Congress must authorize both more borrowing by raising the federal debt limit and the temporary continuation of spending at existing levels. Otherwise the government shuts down.

Normally, these are technical votes, easily approved and signed by the President. House Republicans, however, loaded their temporary borrow-and-spend bills with an extraneous ideological wish list, in hopes that the President would be forced to accept their agenda rather than shut down the government or default on Treasury bonds.

It was one of the silliest exercises this capital has ever seen. The Republicans demanded, for example, the abolition of the Department of Commerce. Why Commerce? There was surely no grass-roots demand. Angry white voters, supposedly the chief driving force behind the Republican resurgence, do not lie awake nights gritting their teeth and demanding the closure of Commerce.

"It was just a symbol," says a Republican staffer with an embarrassed laugh. "The Republican freshmen [first-termers] were committed to making government smaller and wanted to eliminate a cabinet department. Commerce seemed like one agency they could dismantle."

Then the House Republicans wanted to stop the Red Cross, the National Council of Senior Citizens and other nonprofit organizations that receive government funds from lobbying Congress.

Delaying tactic?

This was truly ludicrous. This Congress has invited corporate lobbyists to come in and actually write laws yet it is terrified of lobbying by senior citizens. Drafting this zany piece of legislation delayed the legislative process for 53 days, says Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), and that delay is another reason for the threatened government shutdown.

Then the House tried to slip through regulatory reform a 200-page bill that would have made life easier for industrial polluters as part of the emergency spending bill.

President Clinton would have none of it. In the end, the Republicans yielded on Commerce and the lobbying ban, but insisted on increasing Medicare fees. In the process, however, they looked so disorganized, small-minded and silly that they invited Clinton to cast an easy veto, prove that he has backbone, and show the nation that he has stood up to the Republican ideologues like House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

No one comes out of this process looking good, but Clinton has the high ground. It was Congress that missed its deadlines, not Clinton. Gingrich complains that Clinton wouldn't negotiate with him but Clinton doesn't have to negotiate with the speaker of the House. Winning control of Congress carried a responsibility. It was up to Gingrich to produce the appropriations bills to fund the government. He failed. The first Republican Congress in 40 years was too scatterbrained to keep the government functioning.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/15/1995
NEW BATTLING BILL TAKES ON SAME OLD GOP ON BUDGET

WASHINGTON Just before President Clinton shut down the government Monday rather than accept a modest rise in Medicare premiums, congressional Republicans gave another one of those little clues as to where their interests really lie.

Meeting in closed conference, the Republicans agreed to give a $ 7 billion break to investors in the form of a tax cut on profits from the sale of stocks and other property.

Even though most of the benefits go to the rich, the GOP justifies the capital-gains tax cut by arguing that it will encourage investors to sell current holdings and use the profits to create new jobs.

GOP giveaway

But here's the rub: The Republicans proposed to make this cut retroactive to the first of the year. That is, they would take $ 7 billion out of the Treasury to reward investors for deals that have already been made.

That's not a tax incentive to encourage growth. It is a pure giveaway to some of the wealthiest people in the land at a time when we are all supposed to be tightening our belts to help balance the federal budget.

This little episode reveals why Clinton has been willing to shut down the government over seemingly trivial issues like the proposed $ 7 hike in Medicare premiums. The White House might agree to higher Medicare costs to balance the budget provided that the sacrifice is shared by everyone.

But the Republican budget priorities hit the poor, the elderly, the sick and spare the investors, the defense contractors and the big contributors.

As they agreed to the cut in the capital gains tax, for example, the Republicans agreed to a tax increase on the working poor by reducing the earned income tax credit that now goes to 17 million families. Clinton said the average hit would be $ 574.

"If you've got a breadwinner out there trying to feed two children on $ 12,000 or $ 13,000 a year, $ 574 is a lot of money," Clinton told the Democratic Leadership Council. "It is wrong, and I will fight it."

Right here, ears should perk up. When was the last time you ever heard Bill Clinton the notorious conciliator, healer, compromiser, the man without a backbone use the words "I" and "fight" in the same sentence? He just doesn't talk that way. Clinton would rather schmooze than fight.

A computerized search through his public statements as President confirms: The DLC speech was only the third time since he took office that he has vowed to fight for anything. In June 1993 he said he would fight to protect vulnerable people, and last September he promised to fight efforts to gut a mine safety bill.

At the DLC, however, Republican budget plans suddenly transformed Clinton into Winston ("We shall fight them on the beaches") Churchill: "As long as [the Republicans] insist on plunging ahead with a budget that violates our values, I will fight it.

"I am fighting it today. I will fight it tomorrow. I will fight it next week and next month. I will fight it until we get a budget that is fair to all Americans."

At last! Clinton can take on this fight and take the risk of shutting down the government because he knows the public that was in favor of abstract Republican budget-balancing rhetoric does not like the prospect of specific Republican cuts in real government services. And Americans especially do not like cuts in federal benefits if the savings simply go to a tax cut for Wall Street or a Star Wars missile defense system against nonexistent missiles.

"Republican leaders have put ideology ahead of common sense and shared values in their pursuit of a budget plan," Clinton said yesterday. That may be their political epitaph.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/16/1995
GINGRICH SHOWS PIQUE & VOLLEYS CRISIS REVEALS NEWT DEPTHS OF PETTINESS

WASHINGTON Across the breakfast table, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was doing a good imitation of Capt. Queeg at the end of "The Caine Mutiny" court-martial, slowly unraveling into resentment and self-pity.

He was fighting liars, he said. And disrespect. "Forget me, I'm only the speaker of the House," he said. Here was Newt Gingrich, leader of the Republican Revolution and defender of civilization on this planet, forced to sit for 25 hours in the back of Air Force One, waiting for President Clinton to stop by and negotiate a budget deal.

But Clinton never came back. So Gingrich, in his rage, drafted two resolutions that forced Clinton to bring the federal government to a grinding halt.

The extraordinary behind-the-scenes tale Gingrich told yesterday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast is either comedy or tragedy, or junior high school cafeteria intrigue, take your pick. It surely was not what you expect to hear from the stewards of your government.

Gingrich had been invited aboard Air Force One last week to fly to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. With a budget crisis pending, he expected Clinton would take time out during the flight to talk about a possible solution.

But Clinton, who seemed to be genuinely grieving over Rabin's death, stayed up front in a cabin with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush on both the outward-bound and return trips.

Then, when the plane landed at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole were asked to deplane by gasp! the rear door.

"This is petty," Gingrich confessed. "I'm going to say up front it's petty, but I think it's human. When you land at Andrews and you've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off by the back ramp . . . you just wonder, where is their sense of manners, where is their sense of courtesy?"

To Gingrich, the professor of history, this was one of the snubs of the century, ranking, he said, with the time Charles Evans Hughes stiffed Hiram Johnson of the California Progressive Party back in 1916, a slight that cost Hughes the California vote and the presidency. And it was this disrespect, Gingrich continued, that caused him to send the President two temporary financing and spending bills he knew that Clinton would have to veto thus shutting down the federal government.

As Gingrich spoke, feeling sorrier and sorrier for himself and Dole over their treatment aboard Air Force One, he realized that what he was saying did indeed sound petty. So he changed his tack. "This was not petty," he insisted. "This was an effort on our part to read the White House strategy. . . . It was clear to us coming off that airplane that they had made a decision because of their political calculation that they wanted a fight."

But then again, he wasn't sure. "Was it just a sign of utter incompetence or lack of consideration, or was it a deliberate strategy of insult?" he asked himself. "I don't know which it was."

Either way, the federal government is shut down, 800,000 employes are laid off, the Treasury is scrambling to honor payments on its bonds, the once-in-a-lifetime Johannes Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery of Art is padlocked, the Statue of Liberty is closed down for the duration and Gingrich, second in line for the presidency, walks around town seeing plots against his dignity.

Well, what about it, George Stephanopoulos? Did you intentionally snub the speaker of the House aboard Air Force One?

"I think the speaker needs a weekend off," Stephanopoulos said. "The President was in mourning for a friend. He had several briefings with the speaker, and the rules for Air Force One are that only the President goes out the front door."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/17/1995
A CRISIS OVER A NUMBER PICKED OFF THE CEILING

WASHINGTON Lost in the big hoo-ha over House Speaker Newt Gingrich's wounded pride was a revealing admission: The central stumbling block in his budget dispute with President Clinton is a purely arbitrary number, the seven-year schedule for balancing the federal budget.

Gingrich is willing to let the government go back to work provided Clinton accepts the seven-year schedule. Clinton says a seven-year path to a balanced budget would commit him to making Draconian cuts in health programs, education and the environment.

But Gingrich was asked at his now notorious press breakfast the other day, where did this seven-year time frame come from?

"Intuition," he replied promptly. Seven years, he said, was the longest period of time the American people could maintain the discipline of cutting federal spending. At least, that's his intuition.

"What do you think big decisions are based on?," Gingrich asked in surprise. "At an intuitive level we decided that . . . seven years is the right number. We had it engraved in stone."

That is, there is no economic basis for a seven-year timetable. There is no calculation that an eighth or ninth year of deficits will do irreparable damage to the economy. There is no economic or budgetary reason Gingrich could not meet Clinton, who has talked of a 10-year schedule for balancing the budget, midway. This has become a pure test of political strength, Gingrich vs. Clinton, over a number that has been plucked from the ceiling.

Clinton dug in his heels. To accept the Republican schedule, he said yesterday, would commit him to their cuts in projected Medicare and Medicaid for no good reason. "They make it plain that they started with their $ 245 billion tax cut and then decided, in a totally arbitrary way, how much they had to take out of Medicare and Medicaid and these other programs. . . ."

"This is no magic time line," Clinton said. "If we had 3% growth, the budget would be balanced more quickly than any of us calculate."

Also in the Republican budget plans are more money for Star Wars and the B-2 bomber program at the same time that the GOP proposes cutting money for student loans and other domestic programs. "Will the American people feel more secure with their children in college or with more B-2 bombers?" Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) asked yesterday as she unsuccessfully fought the attempt to buy more B-2s than the Pentagon wants.

Are these irreconcilable differences? Could the two sides reach a compromise? "If we could sit down as responsible adults, we're capable of doing it," said Sen. Bob Dole, the Republican majority leader.

But Gingrich is trapped by his own hot rhetoric. In his words, he is leading a radical revolution to save American civilization from the clutches of a corrupt liberal Democratic welfare state. And in that struggle, the worst possible thing has happened to him: 73 freshmen Republicans believed him. He does not dare depart now from the course he charted.

You can see the strain. Most of the American public believes Gingrich is on the wrong course, but his own troops will not let him deviate. He thought he had the unpopular Clinton in a corner, and Clinton is suddenly winning a public-relations battle. Gingrich is fighting for a number seven years that means nothing, but is engraved in stone. And he is losing. No wonder he feels sorry for himself.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/20/1995
GOP BUDGET DOESN'T BALANCE THE PAIN

Washington The bad news about the B-2 bomber is that it doesn't work; its radar can't distinguish between a mountain and a rain cloud.

The good news: It doesn't matter whether the B-2 works or not; there is no enemy to use it against.

The same sad joke applies to the Star Wars anti-missile system. It doesn't work either but no matter. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no longer a plausible nuclear-missile threat against the United States.

Yet as the Republican Congress tries to craft a future balanced budget for the U.S., it is spending an additional $ 3.4 billion next year on Star Wars and another $ 493 million as a down payment on a $ 32 billion program for more B-2s.

Shut down rural or inner-city hospitals but build more bombers. Reduce the earned income tax credit for the working poor but give a tax break to a stock trader.

Not fair trading

These are the trade-offs behind the bitter rhetoric over the Republican plan for a balanced budget.

Republicans can break your heart with their rhetoric about the need to balance the federal budget in seven years and spare future generations from crushing debt.

They demand sacrifice from the poor, from the elderly, from the sick, from the cities.

But then, having called for this sacrifice, look at what they do:

Their defense budget spends $ 7 billion more than the Pentagon has requested, almost all of it on indefensible pork-barrel projects requested by major campaign contributors.

The F-22 Stealth fighter, largely made in House Speaker Newt Gingrich's district in Georgia, will cost another $ 2.2 billion.

Their $ 245 billion tax cut halves the capital-gains tax rate for investors and reduces the alternative minimum tax, which requires loophole-rich businesses and individuals to pay at least some federal tax on their profits. And, by the way, remember the notion that you could cut taxes en route to a balanced budget? That was the Ronald Reagan economic theory that produced these monumental deficits in the first place.

Making the capital-gains cut retroactive has no economic purpose. "It is obviously impossible that a retroactive capital gains cut would spur investment," says John O'Hare, director of economic policy for Citizens for Tax Justice, a long-time fighter against corporate loopholes. "It merely gives a windfall for those who have already realized capital gains."

Cost: an estimated $ 10 billion to $ 15 billion, this year alone.

But what about the tax break for the middle class? According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 64% of American families will see either no change or higher taxes under the Republican plan.

The average cut for middle-income families would be $ 114 a year just over $ 2 a week while the cut for the top 1% would average $ 10,475.

According to a must-read article by John Judis in the Dec. 4 New Republic, the Republicans' Medicare changes reward the Golden Rule Insurance Co., which sells medical savings accounts, at a cost of $ 2.3 billion.

The GOP revision of the student loan program costs taxpayers and students more than $ 6 billion but rewards the commercial banks that belong to the American Banking Association.

In agriculture, the dairy producers were protected, and Florida's Fanjul family kept its high-price sugar program. Archer Daniels Midland, a major ethanol producer, retained its tax breaks.

This dispute is not over whether or not to balance the budget. It is over who pays for it, and how much. Republicans have managed to exempt their campaign contributors from most of the pain.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/22/1995
CRITICS PUSH BILL INTO CORNER OVER TROOPS IN BOSNIA

WASHINGTON Goaded by his critics as a weak world leader, taunted by his foes for his innocence in foreign policy, President Clinton has found himself trapped into ordering U.S. troops into Bosnia for a mission that is expanding even before it can be planned.

There is a military name for this: Nightmare.

Here is what "world leadership" requires: American troops supposedly enforcing a peace agreement will find themselves entering a war-torn land in which intermingled, indistinguishable combatants are seeking to recover their former homes, exact revenge for countless murders and rapes, expel religious rivals and rebuild their military strength.

U.S. troops, supposedly neutral, will be trying to hold Bosnian Serbs at bay while arming and training Bosnian Muslims.

Set aside, for a moment, the wonderful rhetoric about peace at last, free elections, an end to slaughter and which level of the new Bosnian government enjoys responsibility for foreign trade. Consider just one sentence in Clinton's announcement of a peace agreement: "Refugees will be allowed to return to their homes."

And who enforces that? This is what the Bosnian civil war is all about: a 700-year struggle among Roman Catholics, Serb Orthodox Catholics and Muslims over who has a right to claim the land as a home. This inter-ethnic battle of the centuries has not ended because three politicians signed a piece of paper in Dayton.

So who escorts displaced Bosnian Muslims back to homes now occupied by Bosnian Serbs and evicts the Serbs? Who decides which refugees can return and which cannot? Who stays and defends them from the angry evictees?

Who stops outraged Bosnians from lynching the captured Serb suspected of mass murder? Who enforces the arrest warrants for indicted war criminals?

And when U.S. forces come under attack as they inevitably will from sniper fire, mortar shells, land mines how do they determine who was responsible? Bosnian Muslims are already suspected of shelling their own people in hopes of turning world sympathy against the Serbs. Such a fiendish strategy: Shoot the nearby American and hope he blames your enemies.

The last major occupation force in Bosnia the German Army recorded this chaos in a historical study you can buy today at the U.S. Government Printing Office: "In some cases the Partisans [Communists] were given credit for Chetnik [Royalist] attacks against the occupation forces and their auxiliaries. On the other hand, the Chetniks were credited with successful Partisan forays. To complicate matters further, there were also guerrilla bands operating under no authority but their own." The names have changed; the confusion is identical.

What would work? Abandon the dream of rebuilding on this blood-soaked ground a multi-ethnic democracy in which Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims live side by side, forgiving and forgetting.

"The only way to forgive and forget is to draw firm dividing lines and partition the country," says William Hyland, a long-time U.S. government expert on Eastern Europe and former editor of Foreign Affairs. "My hunch is that this is all window-dressing for partition of the country."

But that's not what Clinton described. He's holding out the hope of a peaceful, multi-ethnic state enforced by U.S. troops in a short-term operation. As they said in Vietnam, Never happen, sir.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/27/1995
REPUBLICAN BILL PLAYING A DIRTY TRICK ON SENIORS

WASHINGTON In one of their zanier moments, House Republicans voted to abolish federal nursing home standards, the national rules that have helped bring dignity, cleanliness and compassion to our oldest and frailest fellow citizens.

Fortunately, Senate Republicans recognized that this was both cruel policy and the dumbest kind of politics, fulfilling the caricature of heartless conservatives paying off a major campaign contributor. In the Senate, the standards were retained.

But turn off the lights and look what happens: House and Senate Republicans met privately to reconcile their differing bills. Lo and behold, the nursing home standards have been gutted again!

Backsliding on standards

Training requirements for nurses and nurses' aides have been eliminated. Nursing homes will be able to extort extra payments from the families of Medicaid patients as the price for admitting their loved one. Enforcement of standards could be left to private organizations. Inspections need be held once every two years which means that neglect could go unnoticed for the average lifespan of a nursing home resident.

"It's an incredible backpedaling," says Jeff Eagan of the Long Term Care Campaign, an ally of the American Association of Retired Persons. "The moderates had the ground cut out from under them."

Why is this happening? The Republican plan for Medicaid, which funds the bulk of the nation's nursing home care, turns money over to the states in the form of block grants and trims $ 170 billion out of future budgets. Facing the prospect of less money (Newt Gingrich won't let you call this a cut), the states and especially the for-profit nursing home operators don't want to have to meet federal standards.

Sen. Bill Cohen (R-Maine), a moderate, complained about the House-Senate compromise: "There have been many so-called minor changes that could have a negative impact on many residents' quality of life."

Republican conservatives argue that they are merely dismantling the bureaucracy of an intrusive federal government so local authorities, closer to the people, can deliver services more efficiently. But how about another possible explanation? Pay-off.

The pols and their patrons

"This new plan opens the door to unscrupulous providers whose only motive is to warehouse vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals in return for Medicaid funds," says Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.).

This isn't the first time House Republicans have tried to pay off their campaign contributors at the expense of the general public.

When they went after public broadcasting earlier this year, for example, they posed as free-marketeers eager to serve the public better. In fact, if they had succeeded in cutting off public funding, many local public radio and TV stations would have gone broke and commercial broadcasters could have come in and bought their valuable licenses at fire-sale prices.

Money was also behind the GOP attack on the school lunch program. Ending federal funding would have ended federal nutrition standards. The junk food industry, now barred from most lunchrooms, is eager to peddle soda, pretzels and Krispy Kreme Kup Kakes to growing children who now at least have access to a subsidized milk and protein-rich diet, even if they don't always eat it.

The new nursing home rules are part of the big budget bill that President Clinton has promised to veto. But keep your eyes open. This greedy alliance between providers and politicians is like Dracula; it is an evil that works in the dark, and the only way to kill it is to drive a stake through its heart.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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11/29/1995
CLINTON'S NAIVE THRUST INTO BOSNIA MORASS

WASHINGTON Bosnia does not need peacekeepers; it needs zookeepers. The U.S. troops who will have the task of separating the Serbs, Croats and Muslims ought properly to be armed with nets and the kind of noose poles used against mad dogs.

Yes, U.S. troops will go to Bosnia. President Clinton is commander-in-chief, and Congress inevitably rolls over when it hears appeals to the need for U.S. global leadership.

But the troops have no idea what they are getting into, because the President who is sending them has no idea, either. They will enter a land of ancient religious hatreds rubbed raw by fresh memories of murder and rape and establish peace in a year.

Clinton is as naive in this time frame as former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was in warning Syria 12 years ago that it could not test the patience of Marines camped on the beach at Beirut. Damascus has been in the same place for 4,000 years; the Marines are withdrawn or dead.

In his televised speech Clinton talked of ending a massive slaughter of innocents on the scale of World War II. "Let us never forget a quarter of a million men, women and children have been shelled, shot and tortured to death," he said.

Well, probably not. According to Gen. Charles Boyd, retired deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, the actual Bosnia death toll, including soldiers on all sides, is less than 100,000 an appalling figure, but not surprising after 38 months of civil war. Other estimates, from disinterested European observers, range as low as 35,000.

The rate of violent deaths in the besieged capital of Sarajevo, Boyd wrote in Foreign Affairs Quarterly this fall, is "slightly lower than [in] Washington, D.C." If that constitutes genocide, we have a bigger problem at home.

Boyd makes it clear that this is one of history's most muddled conflicts with the combatants shooting everyone in sight, including themselves. "No seasoned observer in Sarajevo doubts for a moment that Muslim forces have found it in their interest to shell friendly targets," he writes. "In this case, the shelling usually closes the airport for a time, driving up the price of black-market goods that enter the city via routes controlled by Bosnian army commanders and government officials."

Clinton invites disaster when he threatens overwhelming U.S. retaliation against any attack on U.S. forces. In Bosnia it is often impossible to pinpoint blame for attacks. All sides would love to stage the provocation that draws U.S. strikes upon their enemies.

"They're all a bunch of murderers," says George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslav desk officer who resigned in protest against U.S. Bosnia policy. "The big mistake now would be to take sides" which is exactly what the nation we are protecting, Muslim-dominated Bosnia, wants us to do.

What are the prospects for avoiding disaster? "If this is like the separation of Greeks and Turks on Cyprus all the Greeks at one end of the island and all the Turks at the other it could work," says former Assistant Secretary of State Charles Maynes. "To the degree it resembles the West Bank, or Beirut or Northern Ireland, where the populations are mixed together, we're going to find that we don't have the stomach for it."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/01/1995
NEWT'S GOPAC FUNDS LOOK DIRTY

WASHINGTON A Kansas real estate executive sends Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) a check for $ 10,000 and complains about federal asbestos regulations. Gingrich sends back a thank-you note and adds, "Regarding the problematic asbestos regulations, I will look into it."

What do you call that? House Democrats were thundering yesterday about yet another "ethical violation" by Gingrich, and Gingrich was dismissing their complaints as "totally phony." For much of the morning, it was more of the same old "he said, she said" partisan squabbling on the House floor.

But this kind of quid pro quo is more than just an ethical problem.

"It sounds to me like a bribe," an interested Justice Department official said yesterday. "You're talking about someone who is not one of Gingrich's constituents offering him money in connection with a federal regulation."

News of the $ 10,000 check from Kansas developer Miller Nichols came from thousands of pages of documents filed by the Federal Election Commission as part of its complaint that Gingrich and his political action committee, GOPAC, violated federal campaign laws.

Nichols wrote to Gingrich in 1990, when the Georgia Republican was GOPAC chairman, enclosing the check and citing other contributions he had made to GOPAC, totaling $ 59,000. He complained that the asbestos regulations were costing him millions of dollars.

At the time, GOPAC theoretically was engaged in promoting the fortunes of state-level Republican candidates. It did not report the identities of its contributors or the amounts they gave.

Among its expenditures: It picked up many of the travel, hotel and food bills for Gingrich and his wife as they zipped across the nation on their political pursuits, especially in pleasant resorts such as Crested Butte, Colo., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and Williamsburg, Va.

"It was the speaker's personal slush fund," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said yesterday. "Helping Newt was GOPAC's single highest priority," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.).

GOPAC which was not legally registered under federal election laws also paid the travel, hotel and food bills of staff that Gingrich needed to have around him when he was running for reelection. All told, it funneled about $ 250,000 in unreported funds into his 1990 reelection race, which he won by 974 votes.

At the time of the Nichols letter, Republicans were a minority in the House, so Gingrich could not have rewritten any laws for his benefactor. But he could intervene with the Republican Bush administration.

In another case cited by the FEC, a GOPAC donor complained of unfair pricing by a Mexican cement company and enclosed a check for $ 10,000. Gingrich thereupon joined 35 colleagues in writing a letter to Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher in support of the complaint.

The Federal Election Commission is not a criminal law enforcement agency; it focused on violations of the federal election laws and did not pay attention to the possible criminal implications of the Nichols check. The only penalty the FEC seeks is a half-million-dollar civil fine.

It is true that criminal standards in Washington can be somewhat mushy, but in New York City which Gingrich delights in calling "corrupt" at every opportunity we would put elevator inspectors in jail for a lot less than this.

But don't expect the Democrats to file a criminal complaint.

As one of Gingrich's foes said, "This gets awfully close to the line, but when we raise funds, we often find ourselves promising to look into the problems of our contributors. I wouldn't go so far as to call that bribery."

It's business as usual.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/04/1995
WHY BOSNIANS COULD GO TO WAR OVER AN ALPHABET

WASHINGTON Ask Assistant Secretary of State Dick Holbrooke, who negotiated the Bosnia peace agreement, whether it will work and he gives, I am happy to report, an honest answer: He shrugs.

"This is one terrible place," he said the other day. "But that's what we're sending in IFOR [the 60,000-member force, with 20,000 American troops] for. Without that, it couldn't happen."

Even though its people are supposedly exhausted by mass killing and deportations, Bosnia is a place, Holbrooke reports, whose inhabitants would go back to war over the alphabet that is used in the public schools.

Although all parties speak the same language, Serbo-Croatian, the Serbs use the Russian-style Cyrillic alphabet and the Croats and Muslims use the Roman alphabet. "The issue of what written language, Cyrillic or our alphabet, is used in the Ilidza suburbs of Sarajevo is a fighting issue," Holbrooke said. If the Muslims don't let the Serbs use Cyrillic, "it doesn't matter what we do, they're going to go back to war."

While Holbrooke admits he cannot foresee the future, he is confident about some things. Most important, Bosnia will not become another Vietnam. Why not? Because Holbrooke served in Vietnam as a young Foreign Service officer; all the current members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served in Vietnam, and they are determined not to make the same mistakes.

There will be no "nation-building," no civic action projects, no acting as the palace guard for a corrupt government, no expansion of the mission beyond keeping the warring parties apart until they can hold an election. "The dirtiest words in the Joint Chiefs' vocabulary are 'mission creep,' " he said.

Mindful of the disastrous hunt for Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid, U.S. troops will not try to track down war criminals, although any who show up in U.S. lines will be arrested. Mindful of the Marines with unloaded rifles who were sitting ducks in Beirut, U.S. forces will "shoot first and ask questions later" if they're threatened.

Remember the battleship New Jersey? In retaliation for attacks on the U.S. Marines in Lebanon, it fired 16-inch shells into suspected terrorist positions above Beirut and missed. The resulting deaths of innocent Lebanese were later blamed for the hijacking of a TWA flight. Holbrooke dismisses, however, the prospect that Bosnia's Muslims would deliberately provoke a massive retaliation against the Serbs by attacking the U.S. forces under false colors.

Holbrooke tries to maintain optimism about Bosnia without crossing the line into illusion, but he's not about to guarantee success.

Although the U.S. goal is a peaceful multi-ethnic democracy, there has been no polling to determine whether the population of Bosnia wants that. Many Serbs regard the Muslims as "Turkish invaders"; some of the Muslims dream of imposing an Islamic republic. Although outsiders hail the days when Sarajevo was a model of brotherly love, it took the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and a Communist police state to enforce it. As soon as the lid came off, they were at each other's throats.

But the best news from Holbrooke and it is not wonderful is that U.S. goals appear to be modest and limited. We are not trying to create a peaceful democracy for the warring Croats, Serbs and Muslims. We are simply trying to put them into the equivalent of a padded cell in the hope that a year is time enough for them to come to their senses.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/06/1995
LEFT TURN FOR RIGHT-WINGER BUCHANAN

WASHINGTON There is a strangely familiar ring to Pat Buchanan's campaign speeches in Iowa: He denounces Wall Street, runaway corporations that shut down plants and kill American jobs, and the sprawling absentee-owned factory farms that put small family farmers out of business.

"When you see company towns become ghost towns, people thrown out of work for good, their families uprooted just so the factories can be moved around for the benefit of trans-national corporations, you have to ask yourself, what are we trying to conserve?" Buchanan said the other day. Where have Iowans heard this before? Aha, here it is: "Zenith, General Motors, Chrysler and General Electric have taken American jobs and shipped them to the Orient. Out here, Cargill and ConAgra can buy the grain cheap and take it to the elevators they own, subsidized by the government, and then while 600,000 family farmers are put out of business in this country, we import food from foreign countries, subsidized by the U.S. government."

Where are the Democrats?

That sure sounds like the new Buchanan. In fact, it is the old Jesse Jackson, campaigning in Iowa in 1988. Back then, Jackson was dismissed as the far-left fringe of the Democratic Party; today, his rhetoric has been adopted by the leading right-wing candidate in the Republican Party.

Listen to Buchanan today, and you can hear the same complaints that have long been made by left-wing Democrats: Corporate profits are soaring, but middle-class income is stagnating. Big business cares only for profit, not for communities. Global trade deals like NAFTA simply ship high-wage U.S. jobs to low-wage countries.

But the irony is not merely that Buchanan, a conservative Republican, is saying these things; it is also that no national Democrat is saying them. President Clinton walked away from the traditional Democratic defense of blue-collar workers and led the U.S. fight for the NAFTA and GATT treaties.

This basic Democratic constituency is now without a voice in the Democratic Party.

"Buchanan connects with a lot of our members on their gut issues," says David Saltz of the AFL-CIO. "But his dark side is the demagoguery and immigrant bashing."

The money flows up

Clinton's view shared by "modern" Democrats is that free trade will produce growth and prosperity. They may be right, statistically, but even if they are, their theory is undermined by an uncomfortable fact: All the income growth in this country over the past two decades has gone to the top 20% of families.

Only a handful of Democrats question the benefits of the global economy and unfettered free trade: Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. They are joined by Rep. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Ross Perot.

So the field is clear for Buchanan to play to the 80% of the public who see more threat than opportunity in the global market. On economic and trade issues, conservative writer David Frum says, "Buchanan has moved to the left of President Clinton. Hey, he's moved to the left of virtually every Democrat now holding national office."

For all his emotional appeal to blue-collar workers, Jesse Jackson's candidacy went nowhere in 1988, and Buchanan is not likely to do much better this time. There is not a lot of money to be made in politics by bashing corporations, and money is generally what wins drawn-out primary campaigns. So, safe in the knowledge that there will be no actual Buchanan presidency, I stand happily on the sidelines, cheering: "Go, Pat, go!" On this crucial issue of jobs, perhaps the most important in our lives, there is nobody else to cheer for.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/08/1995
CLINTON BRINGS CLASS WARFARE INTO THE OPEN

WASHINGTON Class warfare at last! With his veto of the Republican budget Wednesday, President Clinton killed all the corporate and high-earner tax breaks that Republicans had tried to slip into their attempt to balance the budget.

Then, yesterday, Clinton came back with middle-class tax breaks for kids, college and savings accounts.

Slain on the field of battle: a Republican plan to give a retroactive tax cut for sales of stock and other property. It would have put up to $ 17 billion into the hands of sellers for deals on which they already have pocketed their profits.

Also dead: proposals to reduce the alternative minimum tax, which hits companies that could use loopholes to escape taxation altogether; a Republican plan to let companies withdraw money from employes' pension funds; tax incentives that would have encouraged corporations to set up shop in off-shore tax havens.

Clinton also killed a Republican attempt to scale back the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income wage earners offset income and Social Security taxes.

An end to trickle down

Republicans call this veto class warfare, but if it is, at least now both sides are fighting. The past year has been pretty much a one-way attack on the Treasury, as corporate lobbyists colluded with a Republican Congress to revive the trickle-down tax policies of the Ronald Reagan years.

The theory: Give a tax break to an investor and he'll create a job for the average person.

But the final verdict on that was written last month, when the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, produced income figures for the years 1977 to 1992.

All the tax breaks of the Reagan era produced a 91% gain in the incomes of the top 1% of earners and virtually no gains for the bottom 80%.

You can argue that supply-side, high-end tax cuts are good for business, good for investors, good for the country and good for the perpetuation of civilized institutions on this planet.

But you can no longer argue that they will, as promised, raise incomes for the average citizen.

Clinton's plan is superior to the Republican alternative, a senior Treasury Department official argued, because it does not raise taxes on those earning less than $ 30,000 a year, it focuses its benefits on the middle class and it cracks down on corporate loopholes that the Republicans preserved and expanded.

Giving and taking

"When Head Start is being cut, it does not seem appropriate to give an average $ 90,000 tax cut to the top 1% of all estates," he said.

Clinton offers a $ 300 tax credit, rising to $ 500 in 1999, for each child under 13 in families earning less than $ 60,000 a year.

This is less generous than the Republican alternative. But he is far more generous than the Republicans in proposing a college-tuition tax deduction of $ 5,000, rising to $ 10,000 in 1999, for most families.

And he expands and eases withdrawal rules for Individual Retirement Accounts.

Now Clinton can go into budget negotiations versus the Republicans with the lines clearly drawn: Both sides claim to want to balance the budget in seven years, although both scenarios are a little phony.

The Republicans will demand to know why Clinton wants to spend more money on welfare, Medicare, education and cops.

Clinton can let the Republicans try to restore their supply-side tax breaks and corporate subsidies that were so easily inserted into the budget in the dark.

But unlike the closed-door Capitol Hill maneuverings of the past year, the battle now is public. You can watch the two sides fight their class warfare and figure out which one is on your side.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/11/1995
NEWT MAKES IT TOO EASY FOR DEMS

WASHINGTON Newt Gingrich's biggest threat to Democrats comes now, at the depths of his popularity. He gives them an excuse not to think.

With Gingrich's approval rating as low as 19%, retaking the House of Representatives from the Republicans will be so easy. Just run against Newt. Buy TV commercials that show your Republican opponent's face morphing into Newt's tiny-eyed, Pillsbury Doughboy jowls. Thunder about Newt's ethical lapses. Promise to defend Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, school lunch, Barney and Big Bird from the dreaded Newt.

But then what? Assuming they return to power, what solutions do the Democrats offer for an economy in which 80% of families that see themselves stagnating economically or losing ground?

"Newt Gingrich is certainly a horror, and that resonates with the voters," says Rep. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont. "But that still the begs the question of how do you deal with a $ 160 billion trade deficit? How do you force corporations to reinvest in this country instead of shipping jobs overseas? How do you stop the trend toward part-time jobs with no benefits? Right now, all the attention is on Gingrich. I don't see any Democratic proposals to deal with the most important issues facing this country."

Rep. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) tried at least to define those issues at a Capitol seminar the other day, focusing on the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in America. Of all the figures cited by a panel of economists, one set stands out:

From 1972 to 1992, the earnings of a 30-year-old male high school graduate declined continuously: from $ 29,429 in 1972, $ 22,500 in 1982 to the $ 20,700 earned by a typical 30-year-old today. Furthermore, the worker who earned $ 29,000 at age 30 in 1972 would have earned $ 28,000 in 1992 at age 50. Even with 20 years of experience, he would have lost ground. (Those are median figures and in 1992 dollars.)

During this period, the after-tax real income of the top 1% of families nearly doubled. "The effects of this disparity," said Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin told the seminar, "are alienation, anger, a tearing at the social fabric."

The Clinton administration has tried to focus on education as the key to higher wages. Don't bet on it. "Community colleges in Pittsburgh that tried to retrain steel workers were able to help only about 5% to 10% of the people who lost jobs," warned Louis Jacobson of Westat Inc.

And in this country, far too much education money is spent, according to Prof. Robert Frank of Cornell University, on "Wall Street wanna-bes crowding the educational system trying to get the credentials that will land an interview at [brokerage house] Goldman Sachs."

President Clinton would give those young strivers a $ 10,000 tax deduction for their education when the money might more profitably be spent on vocational training. Schumer came away from his seminar wondering if there was a better way to correct the mismatch between job opportunities and job training.

"Maybe the college system is only for a certain percentage, and we should give tax breaks to train people for the jobs that are out there," he said.

These are tough questions, and it's tempting not to answer them. Just bash Newt. Schumer, however, is looking beyond possible political victory to the problem of what the Democrats actually would do with power once they won it back: "In the long run, I don't think the Democrats are going to win just by being negative. We'll win by answering the questions that were raised at that seminar about wage inequality and jobs."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/13/1995
HOW COULD NEWT KNOW CONSERVATIVES WOULD BE SO GREEN?

WASHINGTON When U.S. industries sought to weaken the nation's clean air laws earlier this year, they knew they would find sympathy in the Republican Congress.

Sure enough, the corporate wish list reducing federal environmental controls, eliminating procedural burdens in the Clean Air Act, cutting back on pollution monitoring quickly found its way, almost verbatim, into legislation sponsored by Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.).

Ho hum, nothing new in that. By now it's hardly surprising that Congress takes marching orders from campaign contributors and corporate lobbyists.

But here's the twist: When it comes to the environment, the corporations showed more responsibility and moderation than the right-wing ideologues in Congress. The industrialists merely wanted to weaken environmental laws; some Republicans are willing to dump them altogether.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), for example, is trying to abolish the Clean Air Act of 1990, which cracked down on car exhausts, acid rain, toxic smog and industrial smoke. DeLay believes, as he said Monday, that the federal controls are unneeded regulations foisted on America by "environmental extremists and leftists."

This is a stance that has already begun to backfire. House Speaker Newt Gingrich conceded the other day that, "We mishandled the environment all through the spring and summer." GOP proposals to weaken environmental controls have caused the biggest defections in the generally solid bloc of House Republicans, with 91 of them refusing last month to restrict enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour insists the GOP only wants to make environmental protection more cost-effective. But in the next breath, he claims that acid rain is not a serious problem, that public lands can be cleared of downed and damaged timber with no adverse environmental effect and that changes to the Clean Water Act will not affect water quality.

He may be right; you can rent a scientist these days to prove whatever you want proven. But politically, he's in trouble. Fishermen and hunters the "hook and bullet crowd" are already complaining to the Sierra Club, the Interior Department and other environment protectors about renewed threats to lakes and forests.

"These are core Republican constituents," says the Interior Department's Paul Bledsoe. "They are the folks on and around military bases like Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, which are major wildlife habitats. They are the Tennessee bass fishermen who don't want to see their lakes poisoned, and the religious groups that view the environment as God's creation."

President Clinton has been quick to seize the opening. His political strategist, Dick Morris, conducted focus group surveys among Republican voters in the Richmond, Va., suburbs and found that concern about GOP environmental policies dwarfed unease about welfare or education.

"Since then, you've seen the President speak out about the environment," says the Sierra Club's Dan Becker. "The American people elected a Republican Congress to change business as usual in Washington not to repeal environment and safety laws."

Gingrich, DeLay and Barbour think they merely have a public relations problem that will go away once America understands what they are trying to do. It doesn't sink in that a lot of America's conservatives are also conservationists.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/15/1995
REPUBLICANS' SNEAK ATTACK ON MEDICARE

WASHINGTON Apart from the antics of Newt Gingrich, nothing has hurt Republicans worse than Democratic charges that they are dismantling Medicare to give the wealthy a tax break. So the GOP counter-attack has begun.

"The Democrats have waged the most dishonest, deceitful, deceptive campaign in my memory," says the affable Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "There is no practical difference in the amounts that President Clinton wants to spend on Medicare and that the Republicans will spend it's within 2%. When the American people find out the truth, senior citizens will resent the hell out of the fact that they have been terrified and there is no basis in fact for it."

It's surely true that some Democrats have demagogued on Medicare, but the Republicans let themselves in for it. Their chief presidential contender, Sen. Bob Dole, bragged that he voted against Medicare 30 years ago; Gingrich let slip the GOP intention of letting traditional Medicare "wither on the vine" as seniors turned to managed care.

But the differences between Republican and Democratic plans for Medicare are bigger than just money. The Republicans are offering two proposals that would radically change the structure of Medicare and threaten its survival as a national insurance policy for all seniors.

The first change is the notion of offering seniors vouchers that would let them choose private insurance in competition with Medicare, including health-maintenance organizations. The Republicans call this "choice" even though HMOs seldom let you choose your own doctor.

The threat to the Medicare system: Doctors in the private sector would be allowed to charge more than Medicare now compels them to accept. "You'll see physicians leave the Medicare system for private insurers that let them charge more," says Cathy Hurwit, health analyst at the consumer group Citizen Action. "If you want to follow your doctor, you'll have to pay more."

The second big threat is the Medical Savings Account, under which the government would finance health plans that let retirees buy catastrophic coverage with high deductibles up to $ 10,000 a year. It's a good deal for younger, healthier and wealthier retirees.

The danger: The Medical Savings Account milks the Medicare system of retirees in their healthier years, when they cost Medicare least and then lets them rejoin Medicare in their declining years, when they are sicker and can no longer afford those high deductibles. This undermines the basic concept of insurance that the pool of insured people should be as big as possible to spread costs, not composed only of those who are high risks.

Another threat is directly to seniors' purses. By encouraging private competition for seniors' health coverage, the Republicans open the door to expensive marketing, deceptive advertising and fine-print contracts that never pay off.

They know exactly what they're doing. Gingrich and his wife, Marianne, have a government-paid preferred-provider health plan requiring them to use certain doctors. "Have you ever had a claim turned down?" I asked him. "It happens all the time," he sighed. "It drives Marianne crazy."

So the Republicans are being more than a little deceptive when they claim that their plan protects Medicare because spending would increase from $ 4,800 to $ 6,700 per recipient over the next seven years. It's not just the money that counts; it's who gets it and for what and who gets left in the cold.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/18/1995
TIME TO MEASURE NEWT FOR CUFFS?

WASHINGTON Early this month, when the House Ethics Committee reached its mixed verdict on House Speaker Newt Gingrich's murky fund-raising techniques, Gingrich looked down at his wrists and smiled at what he saw. Whew! No handcuffs, not for a few minor ethical violations.

Now five House Democrats have accused the speaker of violating federal bribery statutes a felony. As before, he and his spokesmen denounce the new charges as phony and mere Democratic partisanship.

But I will tell you in two words why Gingrich had better keep an eye on his wrists: Mario Biaggi.

The bribery charge against Gingrich: A Missouri real estate developer named Miller Nichols sent him a letter with a $ 10,000 check made out to Gingrich's political action committee, GOPAC. In the letter, Nichols detailed a total of $ 59,000 in gifts to GOPAC and complained that federal asbestos regulations were costing him money.

Gingrich thanked Nichols for the contribution and promised to look into the asbestos regulations. He then wrote a letter on Nichols' behalf to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Two key details:

Nichols was not one of Gingrich's constituents.

GOPAC used its funds in part to pay for Gingrich's travel to luxury resorts and funneled $ 250,000 in unreported contributions to his 1990 reelection campaign.

Now consider the case of Rep. Mario Biaggi, a Democrat from the Bronx. In 1987, a federal court sentenced him to 30 months in prison for accepting an illegal gratuity, a $ 3,200 Florida vacation, paid for by former Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito. In return for this gift, Biaggi had sought to speed U.S. Navy payments to Coastal Dry Dock and Repair Corp., one of Esposito's clients.

There was nothing improper about the Navy payments. They were duly owed to Coastal Dry Dock. Don't take my word for it. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato now righteously leading the Senate Whitewater investigation into the Clintons' finances testified in Biaggi's behalf (even though he was called as a government witness) that he, too, had helped to expedite the Navy payments.

Biaggi could not believe he had done anything wrong by accepting the vacation. Esposito was his friend; Coastal Dry Dock had a legitimate beef against the government. But the jury found him guilty, and Judge Jack Weinstein said, "Members of Congress cannot be expected to be treated more leniently or differently than the general population." Biaggi went to jail. (He also went to prison in the later Wedtech scandal.)

A similar case: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) intervened with federal banking regulators in 1987 on behalf of fraud artist Charles Keating, who had contributed $ 112,000 to his campaign and given him free vacation flights to the Bahamas. But the contributions were duly reported, McCain eventually paid for the flights and Keating, an Arizona resident, was one of McCain's constituents. On those grounds, McCain a thoroughly honorable man was cleared of wrongdoing by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Gingrich has no such defenses. He accepted $ 10,000 from a stranger for a fund that he controlled and that was used in part for his personal benefit. He then interceded with a federal regulatory agency.

It was a straight cash deal: not friendship, not service to a home-district voter, just influence peddling.

Gingrich is a tragic figure, a visionary and a brilliant teacher who unfortunately seems to have zero moral sense when it comes to his own behavior. But his antics have gone beyond ethical lapses; this belongs in the criminal courts.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/19/1995
LEGEND OF THE FALL OLIVER STONE'S POIGNANT 'NIXON,' STARRING A POWERFUL AND CONVINCING ANTHONY HOPKINS, DWELLS IN THE SHADOWLANDS OF THE TRUTH

Lars-Erik Nelson, Washington columnist for the Daily News, covered the Senate Watergate hearings and the unraveling of the Nixon presidency in 1973 and 1974.

'NIXON' IS THE NIXon-lover's ultimate revenge.

At the end of his brilliant, anguished impersonation of our late President Richard Nixon, Anthony Hopkins drops to his knees and bawls, "What have I done wrong?" It's a good question, because this monumental three-hour film never makes it quite clear what the Watergate scandal was all about or why Nixon was forced to resign.

From the film, you would think Nixon merely had a bad shave, a foul mouth and a few personality problems alcoholism, resentfulness, paranoia, envy and that a cabal of picky-picky political enemies tormented him from office for no good reason.

Well, yes, there is passing reference to a burglary of the Democratic National Committee. Yes, the burglars had mysterious ties to the White House and the CIA. And, yes, the White House tried to distance itself from the event.

But in Oliver Stone's version of history, Nixon is chiefly a misunderstood, tragic figure, a bumbling amateur conspirator who watched events and his presidency run away from him. You have to watch really closely and have an independent memory to realize that this is a President who tried to steal an election that he was sure to win and then tried to use the FBI and CIA to cover up his crimes.

I hate to criticize this splendid film on grounds of historical inaccuracy. "Nixon" is a brilliant drama on its own terms. Hopkins invests Nixon with such humanity and reality that by the second hour, you can even accept that Nixon spoke with an Irish accent.

In one sense, this sympathetic portrayal may be a useful corrective to those images of Nixon as a one-dimensional, heartless and evil genius who single-handedly waged a criminal war against Vietnam.

But if Stone is a little too kind to the historical Nixon, he is also too hard on him. There is little hint of the brilliant mind and unexpected charm that won Nixon so many devoted followers.

Rather, it is suggested that he became President because a scheming claque of Texas oilmen who may have been, aha!, involved in the Kennedy assassination decided to back him.

There is also a suggestion unsubstantiated by historical evidence that the Watergate burglary was somehow related to Nixon's alleged role in masterminding an attempt on the life of Fidel Castro, which then backfired into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This deep scandal supposedly accounts for the desperate coverup of Watergate and Nixon's erasure of 18 minutes on key White House tape recordings. It is fiction and Stone was compelled to drop a key, fictional explanatory scene when former CIA Director Richard Helms threatened a libel suit.

"Nixon" only partly captures the Nixon White House staff as a mixture, in Stewart Alsop's immortal phrase, of the "phony tough and the crazy brave." The crazy brave guys, like Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, took insane risks and the phony tough guys (Nixon and his immediate aides) went along because they were too afraid to look chicken.

In Stone's history, Nixon aide John Ehrlichman who told a Senate committee that a President could order assassination on grounds of national security comes across as a sympathetic figure, disturbed that the White House has broken the law.

Aide H.R. (Bob) Haldeman is a loyalist and bigot he refers to Jew York City who is sacrificed for no real reason. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his aide, Clyde Tolson, are portrayed as homosexuals who live in opulent luxury.

Henry Kissinger is a flattering yes-man, ready to second Nixon in his rantings against the Eastern Establishment and his musings about dropping an atomic bomb in Indochina. Kissinger surely did have a tendency to ingratiate himself with his superiors, but he deserves better than this.

Alexander Haig, as Nixon's last chief of staff, is a heroic figure who finally hands him his letter of resignation and tells him his presidency is over. Haig certainly helped maneuver Nixon into accepting the inevitability of defeat, but it was not a one-man job.

Finally, the Nixon of this film is a flesh-and-blood human being with parents, a family that loved him, a drinking habit, a foul mouth, a false nervous smile (which Hopkins captures perfectly) and a truly monumental insecurity. The history may not be exactly accurate but the characterization is stunning. "Nixon" is Nixon's ultimate revenge

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/19/1995
A NIXON CHRONOLOGY

RICHARD M. NIXON is one of the most divisive subjects in U.S. history.

Born in 1913, he came to prominence in the late 1940s and earned the lasting hatred of many liberals as a Republican congressman on the House Un-American Activities Committee.

He was elected to the Senate in 1950 and then, starting in 1953, served two terms as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower. In 1960, he lost the presidential election to John F. Kennedy, in a close race that Nixon and his allies believed was stolen by big-city Democrats.

He lost a 1962 run for governor of California, but came back in 1968, with the country divided by the Vietnam War and racial unrest, and was elected President.

In 1972, he confounded his critics by visiting Communist China and relaxing tension with the Soviet Union.

But that same year, secret White House operatives burglarized the Democratic national headquarters in the Watergate hotel.

Nixon won reelection in 1972, but Oval Office tape recordings proved that he had tried to cover up the crime by bribing the burglars into silence. In August 1974, as he faced impeachment by the House of Representatives, he resigned the presidency.

He died in 1994.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/20/1995
WHITEWATER PROBE FINDS THE CLINTONS ARE IN THE CLEAR

WASHINGTON After a three-year nightmare and a two-year, $ 3.6 million investigation, Bill and Hillary Clinton have secretly secretly! been found innocent of any wrongdoing in the Whitewater affair.

Their vindication is contained in a confidential final report prepared for the government's Resolution Trust Corp. by the law firm of Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro. It was shown to the Daily News by congressional Democrats.

The investigation found that the Clintons were not involved in the day-to-day management of the failed Whitewater real estate venture, that they lost $ 42,000 and that their investment did not as charged cause the collapse of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Co.

Most important, the investigation demolishes the pretext for the continuing hunt for a White House coverup: According to the report, there was no wrongdoing to cover up, no incriminating documents to be stolen, no scandal.

This is a breathtaking result. For more than two years, right-wing Republicans, radio talk-show hosts and Wall Street Journal editorial writers have speculated that White House aide Vince Foster killed himself or was murdered because of the Whitewater "scandal."

Clinton's foes have charged that the Whitewater venture used Madison as a piggy bank and that their business dealings cost the taxpayers $ 60 million when Madison failed. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato is currently conducting a Senate investigation on the premise that there were incriminating Whitewater documents in Foster's office that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton or her aides tried to recover.

'Total vindication'

And now the secret! verdict is in: There was nothing for the Clintons to hide.

"It's a total vindication," said a senior White House aide.

"This was not written by any friend of the President," added spokesman Mark Fabiani. "Jay Stephens [the Republican former U.S. attorney who was hired to run the Pillsbury investigation] was diametrically politically opposed to this President and he has vindicated what the President has been saying all along."

Unfortunately for the star-crossed Clintons, however, the not-guilty verdict cannot be made public. It contains advice on how to prosecute other Arkansas figures, including their business partner James McDougal, and the government does not want that information to fall into the hands of defense attorneys.

So, in a bizarre reversal of those Stalin-era trials in which innocent people were convicted in secret, the President and First Lady have been publicly charged and secretly found innocent.

After discussing all the suspect dealings between the Madison bank and the Whitewater real-estate concern, the report says, "The evidence does not suggest that the Clintons played any role with respect to the transactions discussed above."

The report found no evidence to confirm a charge that Clinton pressured businessman David Hale to make an improper loan to McDougal, and it rebutted charges by RTC investigator Jean Lewis, Clinton's main and much-publicized accuser, that McDougal used Madison to operate a check-kiting scheme that looted the bank.

In theory, Clinton's pursuers should now call off their hunt, perhaps even apologize for treating the President and First Lady as elusive criminals. Not a chance. The Senate will vote today to force the Clintons into court in a dispute over lawyers' consultations. D'Amato has found cheap and unquestioning publicity in his pursuit of the First Lady and her aides.

To back off now would mean giving up all those headlines, all that leering innuendo, all those conspiracy theories, all those smears. With the presidential campaign starting, it's too much to ask.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/22/1995
BILL'S STOCKING FULL OF PREZENTS

WASHINGTON Bill Clinton looks pretty good this holiday season, big and vibrant and cheerful as he stands in a White House filled with Christmas trees, shaking hands with an endless line of guests. Hillary stands beaming beside him, and they look genuinely happy.

Current polls give the President a mixed verdict. A slight majority approves of the job he is doing. A larger majority would like to see someone new as President.

But when Clinton is paired against Republican rivals, he wins by 10 points against Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and by larger margins against other possible Republican nominees.

Clinton is blessed by a country at peace, with low unemployment, low inflation, a declining crime rate and a booming stock market.

In New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, the biggest issue is not jobs or crime or war but whether New Hampshire should continue to host the first presidential primary. Clinton faces no challenger for renomination.

If the President is blessed by the classic combination of peace and prosperity, he is also fortunate in his array of political enemies.

In the House of Representatives, the infant class of 73 Republicans has shut the government down, screaming, "We want our Maypo and we want it now!" They want a balanced budget in seven years or else no government at all.

Their self-righteousness is ludicrous. The budget is in such imbalance today because a dozen years ago a virtually identical group of Republican ideologues persuaded the country they could cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget.

In 1982, their hero, Ronald Reagan, ran national TV commercials showing a smiling mailman delivering Social Security checks containing a 7.4% cost-of-living increase. It was "morning in America," and we could have it all tax cuts, battleships, Star Wars, soaring government entitlements.

And yet today the same ideologues blame Democrats for the deficit and want to soak the poor to balance the budget by their arbitrary seven-year deadline.

Compared with the House freshmen, Speaker Newt Gingrich is a grownup, and Clinton, once derided as the boy President who did not deserve to fly on Air Force One, is a wise and grizzled elder statesman, our steadfast protector against the rash irresponsibility of the Newtniks.

In the Senate, an attack on the Clintons' integrity is being led by yikes! Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, trying hard to keep a straight face as he compares the failed Whitewater investment to the Watergate scandal that toppled former President Richard Nixon.

D'Amato knows there is nothing to Whitewater; he has been briefed on the Resolution Trust Corp. report that shows the Clintons did nothing wrong and that the Whitewater failure did not cause the collapse of the Madison Guaranty Bank.

The fundamental premise underlying the Whitewater "scandal" turns out to be untrue. Yet D'Amato desperately struggles to keep the witch hunt alive by moving into ever farther-fetched areas of inquiry.

The current beef: The Clintons may have made procedural errors in trying to defend themselves against a groundless allegation.

For all these annoyances, it is basically a good time for Clinton. The country finally accepts him for what he is, a good-hearted believer in government who gets up every morning and does his best to solve the nation's and the world's problems.

He is going broke from all these lawsuits and investigations mounted by pygmies, but this Christmas he is smiling. The man can still take a punch and come back with a grin.

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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12/25/1995
A SCARED KID IN '57 LITTLE ROCK HONORS HIS HERO

AS school began in September 1957, Ira Lipman was a scared 16-year-old Jewish kid in the middle of one of the most frightening battles in 20th century America.

Outside Little Rock Central High School, a crowd of bigots backed by the Arkansas National Guard kept black students from entering. Gov. Orval Faubus was defying President Dwight Eisenhower, and race war, even civil war, seemed a real prospect.

For Lipman, it was a special nightmare. "You have to imagine what it was like for a sensitive Jewish boy growing up in Little Rock right after World War II," he recalled the other night. "As time went on, there were more and more revelations about the Holocaust and how the Nazis tried to destroy an entire people my people not because of what they did but simply because of who they were.

"I couldn't understand how people could allow such things to happen, until I learned that . . . for the most part, the people didn't know. The Nazis cloaked their crimes in darkness and hid them with lies."

When the mob started screaming outside his school, Lipman saw a repeat of history, "But this time the lies were being told about blacks." Lipman determined not to let the lies succeed.

Out in the middle of the terrifying mob, he saw his salvation: NBC's gallant young correspondent, John Chancellor. Lipman learned the number of a pay phone near where Chancellor stood, called him and offered to be his secret source inside the high school, giving Chancellor scoop after scoop. Now the world would know exactly what was happening.

"In reality, I was just a scared kid making a desperate cry for help," Lipman recalls. "John Chancellor was my insurance policy, my protection against the world's inequities. Through his reporting, John Chancellor dispelled the lies and ignorance with light and truth. For the first time, the new age of television journalism enabled the world to see with sudden immediacy all the ugliness of racial hatred."

In the 38 years that followed, Chancellor went on to become one of American journalism's superstars: a dashing foreign correspondent, a network anchor and finally NBC's astute and graceful political commentator.

One of the black students enrolled in Central High School in those turbulent days, Ernie Green, who worked the locker room at a suburban country club, went on to become an assistant secretary of labor and an investment banker. Faubus, the governor who defied Eisenhower until Ike trumped him and the mob with the 101st Airborne Division, became a $ 60-a-week bank teller in the boondocks.

And Lipman, the scared kid? He became a millionaire, running Guardsmark, a security firm based in Memphis. On Dec. 14, he was reunited with Chancellor now a little stooped and gray, but gallant as ever at a dinner in Philadelphia.

Chancellor has a wonderfully boyish smile and it lit up the room as Lipman announced that he was establishing and funding the richest annual prize in the news business, the $ 25,000 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism.

"I often wonder what might have happened if a John Chancellor had known of Auschwitz or had even reported the rumors," Lipman explained as he announced the prize. "Perhaps Anne Frank would still be alive today. This award will inspire journalists everywhere . . . It is named for John Chancellor because he is my hero. He was my hero at age 16 in Little Rock and he is my hero today."

Copyright 1995 Daily News, L.P.
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01/03/1996
A LOOPHOLE IN GOP CONTRACT

WASHINGTON Item One on the Republican Contract with America even before it got around to crime, welfare and cutting capital-gains taxes was a pledge to subject Congress to the same laws and rules that apply to everyone else.

The pledge passed, amid much self-congratulation, on Day One of the first Republican-controlled House in 40 years. No longer would Congress be a privileged sanctuary, insulated from the burdens and petty harassments that government inflicts on the rest of the public.

Except that as you look at the federal government today, exactly one year later, it is shut down, with 780,000 federal employes either laid off or working for no pay.

And in this frozen wasteland of inactivity, amid the anguish of federal workers wondering how they will pay mortgages and heating bills, there still exists one insulated, privileged class of public servant: members of Congress, drawing their full paychecks even though they cannot or will not meet a payroll for rank-and-file federal employes.

Republicans argue that the pain of a shutdown is essential to force agreement on a balanced budget but they carefully insulate themselves from that pain. In the two weeks the government has been closed, members of Congress have pulled in at least $ 5,000 of their $ 133,600 salary.

Three times the Senate has voted to cut off congressional pay if the government shuts down, but the House Republican leaders who initiated the Contract with America won't hear of it.

Meals on Wheels for the elderly, Medicare claims-processing, national parks and passport offices may not be essential, but congressional paychecks are.

With his regular paycheck coming in, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) can smile, as he did on TV the other day, at how funny it is that all these federal workers are off the job and nobody misses them.

Suppose we delay paying the federal matching funds to finance his stalled presidential campaign and see how long he smiles.

Some Republicans are serious about reforming Congress.

Reps. Mark Sandford of South Carolina and Wayne Allard of Colorado have introduced a bill that would put Congress on the same footing as most other Americans.

Their Citizen Congress Act abolishes the pension system that gives members of Congress guaranteed life-time inflation-adjusted pensions that are far richer than most private-sector pension plans and more generous than pensions for ordinary federal employes.

Since so many of the Republicans want to privatize Social Security, let them start by entrusting their own retirement savings to a 28-year-old whiz kid in Singapore who has a hunch that Japanese interest rates will rise.

The Sanford-Allard bill also would end congressional franking privileges that enable members of Congress to fill your mailbox with postage-free propaganda in the guise of newsletters.

It would stop automatic pay raises, terminate special parking privileges at airports, take away frequent-flier miles accumulated on government-paid trips and bar congressional junketing on military aircraft.

(It took a protest by outraged State Department diplomats to shame dozens of representatives into canceling the traditional winter-break foreign shopping junkets they were planning to make while the government is shut down.)

And in a breathtaking triumph of principle, the Sanford-Allard bill would bar members of Congress from receiving free medical care at military facilities.

They already enjoy taxpayer-subsidized health insurance; let them use regular hospitals instead of the VIP sections at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Until this passes, these slash-the-government conservatives have it both ways: They can win elections by complaining that government is too big and then pocket all the perks and paychecks that a big and generous government can bestow.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/05/1996
FORBES' FLAT TAX: RICH WILL JUST GET FILTHY RICH

WASHINGTON On the surface, Steve Forbes' flat tax looks beautiful: a 17% tax rate for everyone, rich and poor, with no loopholes, no exclusions, no complicated forms to fill out, no chance for evasion.

You could fill out your tax return on a postcard and tell all the accountants and tax-shelter peddlers to get lost.

With this dramatic proposal, plus a couple of million dollars in TV ads, Forbes has vaulted to second place behind Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas in some polls leading up to the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.

But look again at the Forbes no-loopholes proposal and loopholes leap out at you:

Dividends would not be taxed. If you inherited a massive stock portfolio (like, er, Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes), you would not owe any federal tax on its income. Neither would you owe any inheritance tax, or any tax on sales of your stocks or other property, or on interest from your savings accounts or bonds. Those people once known as the idle rich would not pay a dime to the federal government.

Instantly, I begin to figure a way to convert my newspaper columnist's salary into an untaxed capital gain, or royalty, or business income from which I, as an independent contractor, could subtract all kinds of wonderful and ingenious expenses. This flat tax could be very, very good to me.

The average worker, however, would pay 17% on earned income, minus generous personal deductions. You also would be taxed on the cash value of your health insurance and other benefits, and could no longer take deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving or state and local taxes.

For many in the upper income brackets, this is a very good deal, though rarely so good a deal as it is for Steve Forbes, who would cut his own annual tax bill by between $ 174,000 and $ 312,000, according to calculations by the public-interest group Citizens for Tax Justice. And the flat tax is not a good deal for poorer Americans, homeowners or the U.S. Treasury.

Apart from adding $ 200 billion a year to the deficit, it would reduce current home values by $ 1.7 trillion, according to the National Association of Realtors, and crush the nest eggs of millions of Americans whose homes are their major retirement investment.

Aha, says Forbes. This is old-fashioned thinking. Cutting taxes for men of wealth and vision (like, er, Steve Forbes) will produce so much economic growth that tax revenues will increase. If this sounds familiar, it is because exactly the same dippy argument was made a dozen years ago by Ronald Reagan, except that Reagan, God bless him, was not trying to fatten his own wallet.

It is amazing that this warmed-over free lunch can be peddled again. Or perhaps Forbes appeals only to those greedy folks at the top end of the food chain who look only at the tax windfall they will receive and figure to hell with everybody else.

And Forbes is doing well in large part because, apart from Dole, the rest of the Republican field is equally strange. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, after a lifetime on the government payroll, is running against government. Former Washington insider Lamar Alexander has put on a plaid shirt and is running as an outsider. Pat Buchanan's economics are to the left of Bill Clinton's. The country could sleep soundly with Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar as President, but his problem is that it drifts off while he is still speaking.

So Forbes gets his moment to peddle the old quack medicine, in hopes that nobody remembers what happened last time we bought it.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/08/1996
THE BIG APPLE TEACHES U.S. HOW TO FIGHT CRIME

WASHINGTON Throughout Florida Attorney General Robert Butterworth's life, New York City has been identified with crime and smart people. He went to high school in Hollywood, Fla., with two kids named Lansky, as in Meyer Lansky, the New York mob's master of mathematics.

The father of another kid was found dead in a barrel. Two others were the children of a mob accountant. "Oh, they were smart," Butterworth remembers. "One of them was the valedictorian."

Now, suddenly, the combination of New York, crime and smart people has a different connotation for Butterworth and law-enforcement professionals across the country. The city is teaching the nation how to outsmart criminals.

Butterworth was in Washington for release of a report, "The State of Violent Crime in America," which is for the most part the same old sorry, scary story. Until the end: "New York City and Houston have enjoyed truly phenomenal drops in serious crimes, including murder."

The report, prepared by the bi-partisan Council on Crime in America, does not attribute this drop to the aging of the at-risk criminal population (i.e., fewer young goons) or to other sociological and demographic phenomena.

It credits Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton with tackling the country's most vexing problem and actually making a difference.

Here's the New York model as reported by the council: "Police have been directed to crack down on public drinking, graffiti, vandalism and other public disorders. The NYPD has followed a six-prong strategy: Getting guns off the streets. Curbing school violence. Driving out drug dealers. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Reclaiming public spaces. Reducing auto-related crime."

"Stopping the squeegee men, taking the guns off the streets, that makes a difference," said Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, who has visited the city to learn its secrets. "I don't care if you don't arrest them; they just get probation anyway. But taking away those guns works. And I like that Midtown Community Court with a judge on the bench 24 hours a day. If you're a drifter or with fake I.D., and you get caught for some offense, bam! right to jail or community service, not out the door and maybe come back in a year for trial. I want that in Philadelphia."

Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who has sent police officers from his relatively peaceful city to see what they can learn from New York methods, reports: "New York is sending out two messages that have national significance. First, the perception of safety in public spaces is critically important, because quality-of-life crime the squeegee men, public urination sets the stage for more serious crime. Second, Commissioner Bratton has a strategic approach of calling in his commanders and looking at where the high crime numbers are and responding accordingly. His police management is driven by research and planning."

Butterworth, the Florida attorney general, credits both NYPD strategies and the construction of more prison space for the decline in crime. "Cops on the street makes a big difference," he said. "New York has added, what, 7,000 police officers. That's a huge increase."

"The news from New York is good," said former Education Secretary William Bennett. "Start spreading the word."

In nearly a quarter century of covering Washington, this is the first praise I have ever heard for the City of New York.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/10/1996
GOP ATTACK ADS ARE GOING ON THE (VERY) OFFENSIVE

WASHINGTON Ugly starts early this election year. In Sen. Phil Gramm's kick-off TV ad for 1996, the screen shows cops running, criminals being handcuffed, desolate scenes of a burned-out city. Gunshots are heard.

The voice-over doesn't talk about crime, however. That's not ugly enough. The narrative to these nightmares of urban terror says:

"Welfare. Five trillion dollars worth of welfare. Washington is paying millions who could work not to work, not to marry, to have more illegitimate children. . . ."

Get it? Welfare breeds crime in fact, equals crime. We have spent $ 5 trillion just to support an underworld of muggers and stickup men.

This is sure-fire political wizardry. You have to congratulate the geniuses in the Gramm campaign. They know how to win a modern election. The ad concludes with the words: "Phil Gramm. President. Common sense. Uncommon courage."

As though it takes guts to beat up on welfare mothers in a Republican primary. For courage, you could look at quiet Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) telling a crowd of South Carolina conservatives over the weekend that his record includes supporting both federal loan guarantees for New York City and a ban on assault weapons. That's political courage.

But Gramm is utterly shameless. In one of his stock speeches he claims to have won the Cold War by writing Ronald Reagan's defense budget. He brags that his mama raised him without federal handouts but then opposes the federal minimum wage laws that let his mother proudly earn her $ 28 a week in a textile mill.

Another shrill Gramm ad targets Bob Dole, the front-runner, as "Senator Straddle" a label cooked up by George Bush's 1988 campaign advisers for allegedly "caving in" to the White House in talks aimed at balancing the federal budget.

Whoops. Gramm just picked on the wrong guy. Dole's campaign fired back with a sly allusion to Gramm's five Vietnam-era draft deferments: "It's cowardly but typical to have Phil Gramm dodge the war and then protest Bob Dole's front-line leadership," said Dole spokesman Nelson Warfield.

And this, folks, is how these statesmen talk about each other, their alleged friends and fellow Republicans. Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment "Thou shalt speak no ill of a fellow Republican" is ancient history.

Take a peek at the 1996 GOP primary and you will see a desperate little group of men, pawing and crawling over one another, trying to winkle a place in the spotlight by dragging their leaders down and climbing over the fallen bodies.

Alan Keyes, the former diplomat, accuses Dole of lacking guts. Steve Forbes, the millionaire publisher, accuses Dole of spending taxpayers' money on ski resorts. Pat Buchanan, who finds himself trailing both Dole and Forbes, says Forbes missed an event because his polo ponies were sick and complains that Dole is not a fighter. Lamar Alexander suggests with respect, mind you that Dole is too old to be President.

What accounts for the shrillness? President Clinton is suddenly starting to look beatable again. The budget haggling has taken its toll. New, ever-more incomprehensible Whitewater allegations continue to haunt him and the First Lady. Paula Jones has come up from the woodwork again with new life in her sex-harassment suit. Clinton's poll ratings have dipped again.

The GOP nomination could be worth having, and the way to win a GOP primary is to run ugly. In that kind of contest, you can't count out Phil Gramm.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/12/1996
D'AMATO ATTACKS ON FIRST LADY: SLEAZY DOES IT

WASHINGTON Few people in public life have been tormented more than Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. Few have been as victimized by that terrible cynicism of modern politics, the presumption of guilt.

The toll on D'Amato and his family has been heavy. When his daughter, Lorraine, was 16 she came to him in tears and asked if he was connected to the Mafia. The trial of his brother Armand which ended in exoneration deeply embittered him.

D'Amato knows the damage that can be done by unfounded accusations, by the repetition of groundless charges, by insinuating questions, by use of that classic, unanswerable, weasel-worded formula: "These actions raise questions about the appearance of possible improprieties."

And now D'Amato is putting his experience and knowledge to use: He is going after Hillary Clinton with exactly the same sleazy techniques he protested so righteously and correctly when they were used against him. D'Amato's Whitewater hearings are a classic Washington show trial, worthy of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, although a good deal less interesting.

Rush to judgment

D'Amato pronounced his verdict on Whitewater, the Clintons' failed real estate venture, long before he began hearing testimony. "This is worse than Watergate," he said nearly two years ago.

He has been unable to find any evidence to back up that judgment, so he has resorted to the next best thing, an unending series of questions and constant allusions to bombshells and smoking guns none of which ever materialize.

D'Amato currently pronounces Hillary Clinton guilty of "tremendous discrepancies" in her testimony about how much legal work she did for Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. She said her work was minimal. Billing records show a total of 60 hours of work over 15 months, less than an hour a week on average. This is the "tremendous discrepancy," and D'Amato spent a full day on chewing it over yesterday at a hearing of his Senate Whitewater Committee.

It was dreary, inconclusive testimony, but it will be pure gold for D'Amato: TV anchormen could begin the evening news by saying: "More questions today for Hillary Clinton."

That achieves D'Amato's purpose. He needs questions, not answers; doubts about the Clintons, not clarity. And he knows the press will help him. "Journalists all too often behave like a pack of vultures," he noted in his autobiography, "Power, Pasta and Politics."

Going on the offensive

There is no secret to Whitewater. William Kristol, perhaps the leading Republican political thinker, spells out the party's best strategy for beating President Clinton in November: The country has begun to reject Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution. Polls show most Americans now want Democrats to control Congress. So the election must be won not by selling a positive message, but by attacking Clinton personally.

"Clinton needs to be forced onto defense," Kristol writes in Rupert Murdoch's magazine The Weekly Standard. "This means the Republican presidential candidate must not fear the accusation that he is running a negative campaign. He must be willing to make Clinton the issue, rather than primarily defending the Republican Congress."

And who will be the Republican presidential candidate? Most likely Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. Who is co-chairman of Dole's campaign committee? Sen. Alfonse D'Amato.

You would think that a man who has suffered so much from leering innuendo and unjust accusations might have some qualms about hurting the innocent for purely political reasons. D'Amato has none. It's his turn to be persecutor, and he has seized it, literally, with a vengeance.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/15/1996
WHITE HOUSE RUN CAN ALWAYS FETCH A HELPING HAND-OUT

WASHINGTON In 1981, Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee the fellow now campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in a workingman's red flannel shirt put up $ 1 with some plugged-in friends for an option to buy the Knoxville Journal newspaper. In 1987, he sold the option for $ 620,000.

In the late 1980s, Alexander wrote a $ 10,000 check to a friend for four shares of stock in Whittle Communications. The friend forgot to cash the check and then bought the stock back for $ 330,000.

In 1990, Alexander bought a house in Knoxville for $ 570,000 and, a year later, as he was about to take up his job as President George Bush's education secretary, sold it to a business partner and financial backer for nearly double.

In total, through the 1980s, Alexander invested $ 20,000 with his friends and reaped profits of $ 1.9 million.

This delicious tale of how professional politicians manage to enrich themselves with a little help from their friends is told in "The Buying of the President," a just-published book by Charles Lewis of Washington's Center for Public Integrity. This is the inside story of the very guts of modern politics: a listing of the financial angels, corporate lobbyists and special pleaders behind each of the leading candidates for President.

Can the presidency be bought? It sure looks that way to some of the politicians and their contributors. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas has even put a price tag on it: $ 44 million is what it would take to defeat Clinton, Gramm tells contributors.

Then he passes the hat. His main backers: the National Rifle Association and Texas oil interests.

Some of the book's highlights:

Alexander, the self-styled "outsider," appears to have tapped the most sources of easy money: a series of sure-thing, insider investments; a no-show $ 295,000-a-year job with a Washington law firm; a personal foundation to which friends could contribute to his travel and living costs as he tried to make a name for himself; a directorship with a defense contractor that paid off in $ 236,000 in severance pay after just a couple of years' service.

Of all the major candidates, President Clinton is the poorest, with a negative net worth of $ 250,000 because of his legal bills. But Lewis blasts Clinton for coddling up to fat-cat contributors both in Arkansas and in Washington and then helping them with their agendas.

Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas has seen his net worth grow by close to $ 1 million in the past 10 years of full-time Senate service. Perhaps more interesting: Though Dole advertises himself as representing small-town Kansas, 79% of his campaign contributions come from out of state.

In his 1990 Senate campaign, Gramm put his wife, Wendy, then the chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, on the stump for him and raised nearly half a million dollars from agricultural interests that were subject to her regulation.

Of the leading candidates, Pat Buchanan looks the cleanest. He has made all of his money in the public eye, and his bashing of Wall Street, runaway corporations and free trade have not won him any contributions from the K Street lobbyists in Washington who have a hammerlock on both political parties.

But that's the problem: Without groveling for that money, neither Buchanan nor any other honest man can run for President and win.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/17/1996
BUDGET NO LONGER SCRATCHES NEWT'S SEVEN-YEAR ITCH

WASHINGTON President Clinton waves in his hand, like a white flag of surrender, a letter from the Congressional Budget Office. It certifies that he has finally made cuts deep enough to meet the Republican demand to balance the budget in seven years.

Clinton drastically slashes domestic spending, trims the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, puts the brakes on welfare and even cuts taxes. Much against his original instinct, he also meets the number that Republicans admit is totally arbitrary, the seven-year deadline for a balanced budget.

For the past year, this has been the bottom-line Republican demand, repeated over and over again: a balanced budget in seven years, as calculated by the Republican-run Congressional Budget Office. It's all they wanted.

And suddenly the Republicans aren't buying it.

What's the beef? House Speaker Newt Gingrich has moved the goal posts. In the stalled budget talks, Gingrich has been demanding not merely a balanced budget but White House acceptance of a health insurance plan, known as the Medical Savings Account, that would let healthy seniors opt out of the Medicare system.

The MSA, by funny coincidence, is the brainchild of one of Gingrich's biggest campaign contributors, Patrick Rooney, whose Golden Rule Insurance Co. could win billions of dollars in federally financed insurance for the elderly.

Rooney and his colleagues at Golden Rule have given more than $ 200,000 to Gingrich and his various subsidiaries, plus more than $ 500,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Under the MSA plan, the federal government would give retirees a lump sum of several thousand dollars a year and let them put part of it in a savings account and use the rest to buy catastrophic coverage.

If they don't spend the savings account on health care, they keep the money.

Critics claim it would loot the Medicare system. Billions of dollars of tax money that now buys health care would be sitting instead in savings accounts or be diverted to Golden Rule and other insurance companies to buy catastrophic-only policies. Medicare could swiftly go broke.

"The speaker feels very strongly about those accounts," White House chief of staff Leon Panetta said yesterday. "We're prepared to test them, but we have a fear that they could basically weaken Medicare."

Republicans also are insisting, Panetta said, on more than $ 200 billion in tax cuts, including breaks for investors.

Clinton offers only $ 87 billion in tax cuts, all aimed at middle-income families.

Worse, for the Republicans, Clinton closes $ 60 billion in corporate loopholes and giveaways which Republicans count as a tax increase.

The bottom line should be that Clinton finally has produced a balanced budget without raising taxes on average citizens. He has incurred the wrath of his own supporters the elderly, the welfare advocates, big-city liberals to meet the Republican demand.

"If this is about a balanced budget, we're there," Panetta said. "We've gone to seven years, we've gone to CBO scoring. Isn't that what this whole dispute was all about?"

Apparently not. As Gingrich threatens to shut down the federal government yet again unless his demands are met, his goal is no longer a balanced budget. That has been achieved, and on his explicit terms.

Gingrich now is fighting for a budget that pays off his financial backers with your tax dollars. And he calls this "saving Medicare."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/19/1996
GOP TAX PROPOSAL FLATLY DOESN'T WORK

Washington Each year the Internal Revenue Service makes a lame effort to put on a friendly face as it sends out its tax forms. But there is no escaping those dread words that put a chill into even the stoutest heart: "Gather your records."

Across America, millions of intimidated taxpayers hunt through shoe boxes for receipts, payment stubs, canceled checks, dog-eared carbons.

For many, this is the source of rage and frustration at the IRS; it's not the tax, it's the set of hoops the government makes you jump through as you pay.

No wonder, then, at the popularity of the seemingly simpler "flat tax" proposals now being offered by the Republicans. In place of the current array of rates, from 15% to 39.8%, they promise a single one, say 17%, for all taxpayers rich and poor.

Can't find the receipts to back up your deductions? Don't worry. Under a plan offered by Rep. Dick Armey (R-Tex.) you wouldn't have any deductions, not even for your mortgage or state and local taxes or charity. Lost the report of your dividend earnings? Forget it. Under Republican candidate Steve Forbes' plan you wouldn't owe any income tax on dividends, savings interest or capital gains.

All the plans would dramatically cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. What they offer poor and middle-income taxpayers supposedly is simplicity. But look a little closer, and even the simplicity vanishes.

For one thing, the tax code has already been so simplified that 20 million Americans can file and get refunds just by pushing the buttons on their telephones. More than half of all taxpayers can file using Form 1040EZ. For most Americans, the tax code is not a complicated blizzard of forms.

The nightmare chiefly hits the self-employed, the small businessmen, people who work out of their homes. But nothing in these "simple" flat tax plans makes their life any easier.

Take the Armey plan, which is supposed to be so simple you could fill it out on a postcard. A small businessman would pay a flat tax on income minus expenses. But what's income and what's an expense? The IRS would still need evidence that all income was reported and all deductions are legitimate.

"The home-office rules would still be the same," Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said yesterday. "You'd have to figure which rooms can be counted as office space, does anybody sleep in them, what's the company car and what's your car. People think the IRS is intrusive, but the most intrusive rules go to the meaning of what income is, and they would still be there."

Right now, the flat tax is more slogan than concept because the various Republican sponsors cannot agree among themselves on a system that would be both simpler and, just as important, fairer than the current tax code.

Forbes would not tax dividend income. Pat Buchanan jeers at him for working his plan out at the yacht basin.

Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) would allow no deductions for state and local taxes because he doesn't want to "subsidize" government. That means a Texan would pay less federal tax than a New Yorker with the same income.

But Jack Kemp would allow state and local tax deductions because he doesn't think we should pay taxes on taxes. Gramm and Kemp would keep the home mortgage deduction; Forbes and Armey would not.

The Republicans may be better off without a specific flat tax plan. The mere slogan flat tax is so appealing that most Americans already say they favor it. As soon as you fill in the details, you see that in some of its guises, it's just another rip-off.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/21/1996
AT&T CALLING UP FOREIGN HELP

WASHINGTON AT&T employes hadn't finished tossing out their Christmas trees when the company hit them with news on Jan. 2: 40,000 jobs would be cut across the board, including management, middle management, unionized and unskilled.

For top management in that once-happy family, it was a hard decision to cut so many jobs but the corporation's leaders cried all the way to the bank: AT&T stock went up by $ 6 billion as Wall Street applauded yet another corporate downsizing.

That same week in January, as it was shedding American workers in the name of efficiency, AT&T filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for 16 immigrant visas so that it could import foreign employes to fill jobs.

AT&T went abroad to hire electrical engineers, computer engineers, software developers, programers and a statistician to work at its Bell Laboratories facilities in New Jersey. Under the H1B visa program, it had no obligation to test the U.S. market to see if any Americans or resident aliens were available to fill the openings.

"I'm just flabbergasted," says Joel Snyder, U.S. chairman of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. "New Jersey is a hotbed of communications specialists. It brags that it leads the world in communications experts, and now to have a major employer lay off so many people and then apply for H1B visas . . . it's in poor taste."

In AT&T's defense, this hiring of foreigners at the same time that Americans are laid off is, to some extent, a case of apples and oranges. Many of those being let go are craftsmen and semi-skilled workers who could not fill the high-tech jobs earmarked for the immigrant workers.

"Retraining is useful," said AT&T spokeswoman Virginia Gold, "but with all the retraining in the world, you cannot retrain craftsmen for some of these highly specialized jobs. We are continuing to hire and we have always looked worldwide for highly specialized workers."

But there are highly trained and unemployed American engineers out there as the Defense Department downsizes and other high-tech companies trim their payrolls. The American electronics industry insists, however, on its right to bring in foreigners often at bargain wages without searching to find if comparable help is available in this country.

"That raises one of the questions we're concerned about," said Morton Bahr, head of the Communications Workers of America. "Are these same qualifications really not available in this country?"

Bahr's union, it turns out, doesn't come off as badly as he initially feared. "I thought we were going to lose 16,000 jobs, and now it looks like closer to 5,000," he said.

But if AT&T is still hiring computer and communications professionals and if many of those 40,000 lay-offs turn out to be not lay-offs at all, what was the point of the big announcement on Jan. 2? Or was it mainly meant to scare workers and boost the stock price?

"You said it," Bahr replied. "Not me."

Welcome, once again, to corporate America.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/22/1996
GRAMM COTTONS TO SOME STRANGE IDEAS

WASHINGTON Sen. Phil Gramm deserves to be taken seriously as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination even though nobody likes him, he looks like the turtle in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon and he talks like the comic sidekick in a Gene Autry Western. You could easily picture Gramm in Hollywood cowboy gear, riding on a mule, and demanding, "Git on up thar, Clarabelle, gosh darn ye."

But this image is somewhat deceiving. Gramm, the Texas Republican, is a serious thinker by Washington standards, a major political fund-raiser and a proven vote-getter. Though everything about him appears to scream "Loser!," the same could be said of all of his rivals, including, potentially, President Clinton.

Gramm could well be President, and as he runs for the White House, we must pay attention to his various schemes and visions for the future prosperity of our nation. Elect him, he said the other day, and he will deliver, in just eight years, a $ 12,000 raise for the average family, tax cuts for everyone, a balanced federal budget, a 4% mortgage rate, a 3.5% prime lending rate and 22 million new jobs.

Among Gramm's keys to this astonishing burst of American prosperity: Cotton. Let others talk of their post-industrial Third Wave, computer-based visions of the future; Gramm's feet are planted firmly in the red clay of his native Georgia, and his eye is focused on the votes of Texas, largest cotton-producing state in the country. "Half the world does not know the joys of wearing cotton underwear," Gramm explained to the libertarian Cato Foundation as he suggested a vast new market for U.S. cotton exports.

How's that again?

This came as a surprise to the National Cotton Council of America, based in Memphis. "That's hard to imagine," said spokesman Fred Middleton. "There's a ton of cotton underwear out there Southeast Asia, China, Europe."

It is true that cotton could help to solve many of our national problems. ("Did he propose making welfare recipients pick it?" inquires my friend Michael Daly.) History teaches us that exporting cotton underwear greatly boosted the economy of 13th century Italy and was the source of several medieval fortunes.

Gramm is confident that cotton remains a growth export market. To promote it, this self-professed foe of virtually all government spending wants to fund research into better cotton seeds as well as other exportable crops. As President, he said, he will make agriculture the flagship of American trade policies. And you thought the future was in high-wage, high-tech industries!

To help with farm exports, Mr. Less Government also wants to rebuild the locks on the Mississippi River i.e., refurbish one of the greatest, costliest public works projects in the history of mankind, built by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the New Deal. "It [the lock system] was built in the '30s," he said. "It's going to take a 25-year program to rebuild and modernize that system."

Gramm has another idea for the future: Forcing prisoners to work in profit-making industries. This is an idea that has been thoroughly tested in Soviet Russia and in China. You can read all about it in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago." Now that the Cold War is over, if the Russians and Chinese have a good idea, we can adopt it here.

But we should be grateful to Gramm for at least thinking about these problems. Lesser candidates, upon learning that half the world has no knowledge of cotton underwear, might have simply said, "Let them wear silk."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/24/1996
ARMEY'S TAKING THE BUDGET WAR TO DANGEROUS BRINK

WASHINGTON Republicans have generally been smart enough in their revolution not to threaten Social Security checks. They'll attack generalities big government, the welfare state, entitlements, Medicaid but they are too intelligent to imperil the lifeline for America's elderly.

Except for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.). Over the weekend, Armey said Republicans would refuse to raise the federal debt limit, which expires Feb. 29.

That sounds like more budget skirmishing except that this time the Republicans are skirmishing with nuclear weapons.

Failure to raise the debt ceiling means that no Social Security checks could be mailed March 1. No Medicare bills could be paid. The government would default on its Treasury bonds.

"If people thought that fooling around with shutting down the government was a problem, they ain't seen nothing yet," says White House chief of staff Leon Panetta.

Inability to borrow more money to pay current bills would not merely create turmoil in the financial markets; it would affect millions of retirees across the country.

House Budget Chairman John Kasich, sharpest of the Republican budget hawks, knows the irresponsibility of defaulting on the national debt, and he had predicted a week ago that Republicans would not use this atomic bomb to advance their agenda.

Then along came Armey. A former professor at North Texas State University, Armey is so far to the right he makes Speaker Newt Gingrich look like Eleanor Roosevelt.

What is so stunning about his threat is that he couples it with the most trivial of demands. He would be willing to raise the debt ceiling, he said, if President Clinton terminated the Commerce Department.

This is a mismatch so bizarre as to defy belief. For some reason, the Commerce Department has taken on symbolic importance to conservative Republicans looking for some easy way to downsize the federal government.

Loss of perspective

Threatening Social Security checks to achieve this tactical, symbolic, meaningless victory suggests that Armey, at least, has no sense of proportion.

It may have made strategic sense to shut down the government late last year to force Clinton to agree to a balanced budget in seven years although Republicans like Gingrich now acknowledge it was a political mistake.

Instead of learning from that blunder, however, they now propose using a howitzer to kill a gnat.

Worse, they have gone from the broad, populist goals of their 1994 revolution to narrow, incomprehensible, special-interest objectives.

During last month's government shutdown, for example, Gingrich suggested that it could be reopened if Clinton agreed to soften the estate tax which affects only 25,000 people a year. That is, he was willing to shut down government for all the people so that a tiny percentage could get a tax break.

Republican advisers are telling party leaders that punishing the general public to cater to special interests puts them on dangerous ground.

On the environment, for example, where the House wants reduced federal enforcement of pollution laws, "Our party is out of sync with mainstream American opinion," warns GOP pollster Linda Divall.

Armey seems to think the public will blame Clinton if the government grinds to a halt again and the Treasury defaults on its bills. Maybe.

Long memories

The public also might remember that Social Security checks have been paid monthly for nearly 60 years, under Republican and Democratic Presidents, until Armey and his fellow ideologues came to power and had no idea how to exercise it.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/26/1996
HILLARY'S NOT GETTING A FAIR SHAKE

WASHINGTON As Hillary Clinton prepared the other day to testify before a federal grand jury about missing attorney's bills, a group of Republican congressmen started to complain angrily about political persecutions, show trials, runaway grand juries and overzealous prosecutors.

The Republicans were furious that what was at worst sloppy record-keeping in the White House could be elevated to a major federal offense.

They were outraged at the endless repetition of groundless accusations. They were indignant at the misuse of federal power to harass the innocent. They were concerned at the backbreaking legal bills imposed on innocent people just to clear their names.

With Mrs. Clinton bracing for her unprecedented inquisition by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a former prosecutor, complained at a hearing of the House Government Oversight Committee that an overzealous U.S. attorney could persuade a grand jury "to indict a ham sandwich."

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), a former college professor, invoked comparison with Stalin-era political show trials.

No, these Republicans weren't defending Mrs. Clinton from her pursuers. They were outraged at the firing of seven employes of the White House travel office and the prosecution of one of them, Billy Dale, on trumped-up charges of embezzlement.

The travel office firings represent one of the cruelest and grossest abuses of political power Washington has seen since the McCarthy-era witch hunts. Dale and his six colleagues all honest, hardworking men were unceremoniously dumped to make way for Clinton cronies who thought they could skim some money off the charter airplanes used to carry the press on presidential trips.

To add insult to injury, the Clinton White House accused the seven of financial mismanagement. Dale was prosecuted for embezzlement and instantly acquitted by a jury. To this day, White House allies suggest with no evidence that travel office employes colluded in smuggling.

The Republican congressmen were absolutely right to be outraged at the treatment of Dale and Co. And Mrs. Clinton deserves some of the rage. She pressed to get rid of these career government employes without even bothering to see whether the accusations against them made by her profit-seeking cronies were accurate.

The only thing wrong with the Republicans' outrage is that they see nothing wrong in the persecution, harassment and groundless accusations being made against Mrs. Clinton for partisan political purposes.

On present performance, the Republicans have only one route to defeating Bill Clinton for reelection: attacking his character, over and over, with every weapon and every ally they have. Hillary is an easy target: She seems a little arrogant, a little uppity, an unelected busybody especially to the angry white men the Republicans are trying to mobilize.

So the First Lady is being treated like a criminal on the basis of zero evidence. She is being asked to defend perfectly legitimate law bills that go back 10 years and more.

Whenever she answers questions, she is hit with more questions. Whenever she provides records, more records are demanded. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) recycles the same suspicions over and over, seeking not clarity but confusion.

And with every inquiry, the law bills mount. The Clintons are technically insolvent, owing far more in legal bills than the President has earned in salary in his three years in the White House.

The sudden appearance of missing billing records in the White House residence now raises the stakes. Even though they support her version that she did minimal legal work for a Whitewater-related project, Mrs. Clinton is in fact in deep trouble.

The records she must testify about innocent as they are could not be found while they were under subpoena, and you can go to jail for hiding a ham sandwich, if it was under subpoena. The fact that, at bottom, there was no wrongdoing to conceal is no defense against a zealous and partisan prosecutor.

Given the Clintons' brutal treatment of the travel office staff, there may be some poetic justice in giving the First Lady a taste of the fear and cost that Billy Dale suffered.

But it is not genuine justice. It was not for Dale and it is not for Mrs. Clinton.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/27/1996
GOP CREATING MODERN JOAN OF ARC?

WASHINGTON Hillary Clinton showed up for her inquisition on a raw gray day, wearing a long black cloak-like coat and a brave smile.

As an image, it could not have been better. She was a latter-day Joan of Arc, steeling herself to be interrogated about her mannish behavior and sins of pride by the 22 canons of Rouen. Damned clever, these video-age politicians.

This may seem like much ado about nothing but it is high-stakes Russian roulette for somebody.

Walking into a grand-jury room is an intimidating experience, even for the innocent. Clinton now knows that this Whitewater investigation has gone beyond intellectual jousting with her political foes.

If her answers to the 23-person grand jury are suspicious, she and President Clinton conceivably risk federal prosecution for concealing documents her Rose Law Firm billing records that were under subpoena for two years.

That could mean no second term, and perhaps an early end to the first one. It does not matter that the missing documents unlike President Richard Nixon's Oval Office tape with the 18-minute gap eventually appeared.

It does not matter, either, that the missing records support her contention that she did limited work on Whitewater matters.

But for the Republicans Sen. Bob Dole, the leading presidential contender; Senate Whitewater Committee Chairman Alfonse D'Amato and the politically ambitious special prosecutor Kenneth Starr there is an even bigger risk that Hillary Clinton will be seen as a martyr to their political machinations.

The Republicans have raised suspicions about the Clintons' involvement in Whitewater and the suicide of their aide, Vincent Foster, for more than two years.

"All they've got is dry holes, and when they come up dry again, it's going to hurt them," said White House adviser George Stephanopoulos.

The biggest problem the Republicans have is persuading the general public that the Clintons did something specific for which they can be pursued. Much of their inquiry revolves around conflicting memories of 10-year-old phone calls and smacks of political persecution.

But the big problem for the Clintons is that Republicans have indeed persuaded much of the public that there is some undescribed wrongdoing in Whitewater, even if no one can quite say what it is.

The biggest threat to Clinton's reelection is public doubt about his character, and the Republicans are playing that card for all it's worth.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/29/1996
THE GOP'S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS

WASHINGTON Acid rain is a myth, says Republican National Chairman Hailey Barbour.

This will come as a surprise to anyone who has seen the flattened evergreen forests of northern Czechoslovakia, the ravaged outdoor statues of Rome or the dying lakes of the Adirondacks.

But Barbour is insistent. The United States spends billions of dollars to reduce acid rain in a policy that is "based on popular myths and half-baked theories," he says. Citing a 10-year study, he added, "We now know that acid rain has had no significant environmental effect on trees or forests in the United States."

Barbour's party line dominated the first year of a Republican Congress: Efforts to protect the air, water or endangered species are merely the meddling of liberal do-good fanatics who care not what damage they inflict on U.S. business in their pursuit of ecological purity.

But just as Barbour shocks environmentalists with his denial of acid rain damage, he also shocks Rep. Jerry Solomon one of the GOP's most conservative members. "I resent being called an environmentalist," Solomon, an upstate New Yorker, growled the other day. "But I'm a conservationist, a hunter and a fisherman. It has been proven without question that there is an acid rain problem in upstate New York. I've been to Prague. I've seen what acid rain has done to the buildings, let alone the forests. I can't believe Hailey said that."

No issue, apart from abortion, splits the Republican Party like the environment, and no issue has done more damage to the Republicans' popularity.

President Clinton's scored his sharpest jabs at the GOP in his generally conciliatory State of the Union speech when he said, "Lobbyists for the polluters have been allowed to write their own loopholes into bills to weaken laws that protect the health and safety of our children."

Republican pollster Linda Divall warned last month that "55% of all Republicans do not trust their party when it comes to protecting the environment." While voters tend to agree with the general Republican claim that there is too much government regulation, they do not want to weaken environmental rules, she said.

Last week, 30 Republican congressmen, led by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of Utica, N.Y., called on Speaker Newt Gingrich not to force severe cuts in environmental enforcement budgets.

Noting that the GOP had taken a public relations beating on the environment, they wrote: "If the party is to resuscitate its reputation in this important area, we cannot be seen as using the budget crisis as an excuse to emasculate environmental protection."

And Solomon, who says acid rain damage in the Adirondacks has reached "a crisis level," is trying for even tougher new federal standards on the emission of pollutants, but he has been stymied so far by his own party.

"You have some Republicans who are against all regulations, and you have some from areas like the Ohio Valley [source of much of the smokestack emissions] who are opposed to it because it affects business in their region," he said.

Unlike other divisive issues within the GOP, this is not a split between conservatives and moderates. Solomon is as conservative as any of the hardliners in his party and tougher-minded than virtually all of them. And Gingrich himself is split down the middle; he wants to placate business, but deep in his heart there is a childhood love for wildlife.

More important, all of them want to be reelected. And Divall warned that a heavy plurality of voters say they would not vote again for a congressman who tried to gut the environmental protection laws.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/31/1996
THE FLAT TAX: NOT QUITE THE MIRACLE FORBES CLAIMS

WASHINGTON Publisher Steve Forbes is peddling his flat-tax like Grandma's Lye Soap "Good for aches and pains and dirty dishes." And his pitch works; it has catapulted him into position as the main challenger to Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas for the Republican nomination.

What a stunning indictment of the Republican Party that after three years of bashing President Clinton and one year of controlling Congress, its most exciting candidate comes out of nowhere with a no-pain gimmick for solving all our problems and the voters fall for it once again.

It sounds so fine: Instead of tightening our belts to balance the federal budget and pay off the debts run up over the past 16 years, we can all have a tax cut and the budget will balance itself.

In addition, Forbes has claimed that his flat tax will increase home ownership, make college more affordable, increase racial harmony and his latest claim destroy the entrenched Washington culture that has taken control of government away from us.

With a flat tax, he says, Congress would no longer be able to dispense tax loopholes. Lobbyists would have no one to lobby. We would enter an age of honest government.

Unflat and unfair

We have already seen that Forbes' flat tax is not really flat. It has two rates: 17% for your wages, zero per cent for his dividends, interest and capital gains. Anybody who complains that this is unfair, he says, is waging class warfare. That is, anyone who wants Malcolm Forbes Jr. to pay his share of federal taxes is a Bolshevik.

He was not always this way. In a 1985 column in Forbes Magazine, Forbes wrote that he favored lower tax rates. He added, "But no body, profitable corporate or decently incomed human, will or should get away with paying nothing."

Under Forbes' flat tax, investors would pay no taxes on their corporate dividends on the theory that the corporation has already paid tax on them. Back in the tax-cutting '80s, however, it was commonly argued that corporations don't really pay tax at all; they simply passed the burden onto consumers in the form of higher prices. For an explanation, you could turn, once again, to Forbes Magazine, Aug. 13, 1984. So if corporations don't pay taxes and investors don't pay taxes, who does? Your mirror holds the answer.

Not so simple

In addition to being unflat, we have also seen that the Forbes' flat tax is not simple. Nothing in his plan would relieve small businessmen and the self-employed, for example, of the burden of figuring out their taxable incomes and legitimate business expenses, which are the main source of complexity in the tax code.

Heaven knows the Washington lobbyist culture that Forbes complains about needs to be destroyed but his tax plan doesn't do that either. Simply setting a single, 17% rate on taxes will not stop the oil industry from lobbying Congress to include that hardy perennial, "intangible drilling costs," as a legitimate business expense.

The oyster shell industry will still want a depletion allowance for oyster shells. Life insurance companies will make campaign contributions to preserve their mysterious breaks. And all the other non-tax lobbying, donating, wining and dining by defense contractors, health maintenance organizations, funeral directors, yacht builders, trial lawyers, doctors will continue as before.

The source of corruption in Washington is not the tax code; it is campaign financing.

People who want to run for office must raise money; that's why even the best of them are forced to work for special interests instead of the general good. Forbes does have a solution for that problem: Inherit a fortune and pay for your own campaign.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/02/1996
GOPERS UNBALANCED ON BUDGET

Washington Bill Archer of Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, threatened the nation the other day with this piece of blackmail: Pass a capital-gains tax cut or every Social Security check in America will bounce on March 1.

House Republicans, Archer told lobbyists, will not approve raising the federal debt ceiling unless they can attach some special-interest goodies he specifically mentioned a capital-gains cut to the bill.

Without an increase in the debt ceiling, the Treasury cannot sell more bonds at the end of this month.

Without the revenue from those bonds, a chain reaction begins. Social Security checks, which must be mailed out on Feb. 26, would bounce on March 1. So would veterans benefits, disability checks, military pay, Medicare and Medicaid payments and interest payments on outstanding Treasury bills.

State pension funds, which are heavily invested in Treasury bills, might miss payments. Interest rates on home-equity loans and adjustable-rate mortgages which are pegged to the Treasury rate would rise.

Worst of all, the world's confidence in the security of U.S. Treasury bills as the Rock of Gibraltar of investments would be shaken. This is a voyage into the unknown; never in its history has the U.S. defaulted on its debt.

Some sober Republicans Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich of Ohio and Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa have warned their colleagues not to fool around with the credit of the U.S.

But the leadership Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and Archer seemsto think that President Clinton will either blink and accept their demands or be blamed when the checks bounce. They accuse Clinton of demagoguery and scaring seniors about the consequences of default.

Even granting them this point, after the public-relations disaster the Republicans suffered from shutting down the government twice, they ought to have learned they are not going to win a blame game against this President.

But set political gamesmanship aside: It is unconscionable even to raise the threat that a U.S. Treasury check might bounce because of trivial political squabbles. This is roulette with people's lives.

Perhaps the truth is dawning. Archer yesterday said he would support a short-term bill that would allow Social Security payments to clear. But that does not ease the other consequences of failure to raise the debt ceiling: the bounced veterans and disability checks and default on Treasury payments.

To default on the debt, investment banker James Lebenthal told a hearing run by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn), is "flag-burning by those who have sworn to uphold the flag. . . . Governments, sovereigns have to pay their debts not just for reasons of morality and the legal obligation to pay. They have to pay their debts because they have to borrow again."

When they were in the minority for 40 years, conservative Republicans could pose as defenders of the public purse who refused on principle to add to the nation's debt. Let the Democrats pay the bills and take the blame for deficit spending.

But now the Republicans are in charge of the nation's finances. And the fact is that every one of their own budgets for the next six years will require an annual increase in the debt ceiling.

For all their talk about balanced budgets, the Republicans are not actually proposing a balanced budget until 2002. Until then, they have to keep borrowing, like it or not.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/04/1996
MINE KILLS G.I. WILL DEATH HAUNT BILL?

WASHINGTON It has taken President Clinton three years to persuade Americans that he is fit to be commander in chief; now the death of a G.I. in Bosnia gives his critics a new pretext to raise doubts about his competence and his policies.

Clinton currently enjoys a 52% approval rating for his handling of foreign policy, according to one current poll. After a debacle in Somalia at the start of his presidency, he has had a remarkable series of cost-free successes: Middle East peace negotiations, intervention in Haiti and, until now, the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.

But Republicans, especially in the House of Representatives, have been deeply opposed to the Bosnia mission, and now with the 1996 presidential campaign heating up, they are looking for any weapon to defeat the President.

His most likely opponent, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), supported sending troops to Bosnia. But others on the campaign trail most notably Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and commentator Pat Buchanan have made the Bosnia deployment one of their sharpest campaign issues.

Neither of them, however, has any greater foreign or military experience than the President.

It may seem far-fetched for anyone to challenge a President's foreign policy on the basis of a single death, but there is a kind of precedent.

The John Birch Society was named for a U.S. intelligence officer killed by Chinese Communists at the end of World War II.

Birch, in death, became a symbol of anti-communism.

Clinton knew going into Bosnia that U.S. troops faced two deadly risks: mines and snipers.

One of the Pentagon's basic intelligence guides to Yugoslavia written on the basis of interviews with German officers who were fought to a standstill in World War II warned of the damage that these two hidden killers could do to foreign troops.

THERE IS NO way to mount a 100% defense against either, and no way to fight back. On the plus side, that means that a death by land mine is not likely to lure U.S. forces into retaliatory strikes that could escalate their mission. The mistake the Germans made was to kill the nearest Yugoslavs in revenge. U.S. troops are hardly likely to do that.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/05/1996
COMMUNICATIONS BILL SENDS MIXED SIGNALS

WASHINGTON There's a pay telephone by the side of a highway in New Jersey that might make you stop and think twice about all the rosy promises contained in the new telecommunications bill that passed Congress last week.

The act, which President Clinton has promised to sign, supposedly expands consumer choice, promotes competition, lowers prices and paves the way for a technological revolution. Congressmen and lobbyists were slapping each other on the back when it was finally approved.

Now for that pay phone: If you happen to get stuck on the highway, you will find the phone and make a two-minute collect call to your home, a mile away. Then, a month later, you will find in your phone bill a $ 12 charge from a phone company you never heard of. It owns that phone. Under existing deregulation rules, it can charge pretty much what it pleases. If you like, you can complain to the Federal Communications Commission, before House Speaker Newt Gingrich KOs it.

Breaking up the telephone monopoly was supposed to spur competition and lower prices. It has worked both ways.

Many rates are indeed lower, but the deregulated competition has allowed a lot of gouge artists into the marketplace, and there's no telling when you find yourself at their mercy.

Similarly with the new telecommunications bill: Long distance rates may go down, but local rates will probably go up. Cable TV companies can raise their rates. In theory, phone companies will be able to compete with them, but don't hold your breath.

All this deregulation is supposed to create thousands of new jobs as competition heats up. But to prepare for that competition, ATT began the year by announcing the lay-offs of 40,000 employes.

Deregulation will supposedly give consumers more choice.

But listen to media mogul Rupert Murdoch as he explained how he would force his proposed all-news television channel onto crowded cable systems around the country: "I don't think people will want to lose the 49ers or Cowboys on Fox [Murdoch's TV network] for the sake of telling us they don't have capacity."

Murdoch's idea of "choice:" Either run his newscasts or he'll yank Fox, with its exclusive rights to National Football League games, off the cable system. The new bill permits even more of the monopoly concentration that allows Murdoch to make such a threat.

Then there's the $ 70 billion giveaway of digital frequencies to broadcasters. "That's corporate welfare," says Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who voted against the bill. "Try giving $ 70 billion to the poor and middle class and see how far you get."

Language in the bill appears to ban discussion of abortion and perhaps anything "indecent" on the Internet. The much touted V-chip would bar programs showing sex and violence, but it is not independently programable. Switch it on, and your set will not receive any matter that a national censorship board has decreed to be indecent or violent.

What else is in the bill? Only the lobbyists know for sure.

Their handiwork nearly 300 pages was presented to Congress at 8 a.m. Thursday, and the bill was approved, almost unanimously, by the House and Senate the same day.

Deregulation is good, says Nadler, and competition is great. "But this can also lead to re-monopolization. None of this is justifiable unless you have vigorous enforcement of the anti-trust laws, which you're not going to have."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/07/1996
D'AMATO CHANGES HIS TUNE TO CROON OVER WHITEWATER

WASHINGTON On Feb. 6, 1996, the lightning-fast Federal News Service, which provides instant transcripts of serious events in Washington, was still laboring on page 240 of Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's Jan. 31 hearing into Whitewater.

Let it be recorded that D'Amato and his bloodhounds were deeply engrossed in witnesses' varying recollections of an October 1985 telephone call about a sewer connection for an Arkansas real-estate project called Castle Grande.

If the sewer connection can be tied to the Rose Law Firm, D'Amato might be able to show that Hillary Clinton was more involved in the Castle Grande project than she has indicated. And if he can prove that she was more involved, why then obviously he has proved . . . not much of anything, really. But it keeps Whitewater alive, though only semi-conscious, one more day.

As the testimony droned on, a sharp, high voice of reproach pierced through the years, warning against exactly this kind of belated rummaging through the savings and loans scandals of the 1980s. "Do not keep tens of thousands of honest, decent people on the hook," the voice said. "If we cannot, within a three-year period of time, determine which people have made mistakes, that is pretty sad. . . . To continue on and on, ad infinitum, with the possibility of exposing them to litigation because they may be successful is just not right."

The indignant senator

The voice belongs to Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, speaking on May 13, 1993, against a proposal to extend the statute of limitations on lawsuits involving Whitewater-type failures.

D'Amato was indignant that federal investigators might be able to rake over ancient history in pursuit of a negligent bank officer or accountant say, someone like Neil Bush, the former President's son whose Silverado bank went bust to the tune of $ 1 billion. "They can go right through to 1995 for something he may have done 10 years back?" he asked in outrage.

D'Amato was all for going after bank insiders who had enriched themselves by committing fraud but not the outside directors, lawyers and accountants whose worst offense might have been indifference to the embezzlements that were going on. "Let us not continue in those cases that are doubtful and often have little validity," he said.

Oh, he was in high dudgeon at this abuse of the investigative power. And then he discovered Whitewater. Bill and Hillary Clinton had a business partnership with James McDougal, who owned the failed Madison Guaranty savings and loan. D'Amato instantly changed sides. The statute of limitations must be extended, he said.

Missing in action

This reversal dumfounded former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who had fought D'Amato to keep the cases alive. "Where were you when I needed you?" Metzenbaum demanded of D'Amato on Feb. 3, 1994. "What caused this complete conversion?"

Metzenbaum is long gone from the Senate, but D'Amato drones on, subpoenaing witnesses, combing records, devising ever more obscure questions for the Clintons to answer. It appears to be part of a general strategy to tie the Clintons up in litigation: House and Senate Whitewater hearings, a special prosecutor who will now get to cross-examine the President in the second McDougal trial and the conservative-funded sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones.

Say, wasn't it the Republicans who complained there were too many lawsuits in America? Wasn't it D'Amato who worried on the Senate floor (May 13, 1993) about the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills that reckless investigators could inflict by endlessly pursuing people who had committed no crime? Yes and yes. Are they at all embarrassed? Ha!

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/09/1996
GOPERS BRINGING OUT THE NEGATIVE

DES MOINES Lamar Alexander is one of Them, says the low, serpentlike voice on the radio. "He'll fit right in."

Wait a few moments and an equally sinister voice replies, "Malcolm, the Mudslinger." Splat, goes the sound effect of mud hitting something solid.

Bob Dole lies about taxes. Malcolm (Steve) Forbes wants to dismantle Social Security. Phil Gramm shills for the oil industry. And Alexander is a Them, a member of the dreaded Washington insider Establishment, posing as one of Us.

It's the War of the Sneering Announcers, also known as the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses. The leading candidates are happily destroying each other's records, characters and reputations with a nonstop barrage of negative commercials.

Negative ads are part of most campaigns, but no one is playing this dirty game harder than Forbes, who has flooded the airwaves with attacks on his rivals. On the surface, it seems utterly out of character, contrary to the Forbes message. Forbes portrays himself as the innocent outsider, the nonpolitician, the optimist with a smile and a vibrant, positive message. He is certainly not one of Them. And yet his commercials are relentlessly nasty and negative. But there is a method to this madness.

Negative commercials alienate the voters, especially women. This is why so many Iowa voters more than 40% according to one poll are undecided just days before the political caucuses. That may work to Forbes' advantage even though he is poisoning the airwaves.

"It's a rule of thumb in elections that undecided and alienated voters break by two or three to one to the fresh face in the race, the outsider," says a Republican media strategist. "Forbes already has enough name recognition; if he gets any more specific about the issues, he'll start to lose people. He has to stay vague about himself and run negative spots to drive up the number of the undecided." They then vote for Forbes because he is the fresh face.

Operators for political telephone banks report four out of five voters they call each night demand the politicians stop bothering them. They don't want any part of these meanspirited politicians. Give them a choice, and they'll vote for that old perennial favorite, "somebody new."

Ah, if only these political masterminds could run a country or a company as cleverly as they run a campaign.

The Forbes candidacy with its $ 15 million media blitz, its flat tax proposal and its neo-Reaganite optimism has been a stunning success. Alexander has been eclipsed. Dole has been pushed to the defensive, with a campaign that now brags, in effect, "Vote for Dole. He doesn't have any risky ideas."

Sen. Richard Lugar and Pat Buchanan are both putting out positive messages i.e., explanations of what they believe and why. But Lugar complains that his ads get drowned in the blizzard of negative commercials from Forbes. It is really extraordinary that after three years of the Clinton administration, the main Republican challengers would spend so much of their hard cash to tell the voters what rascals the other Republicans are.

But in the end, somebody is supposed to be the nominee against President Clinton, someone who is not a lying, two-timing, decrepit, tax-raising, spoiled-rich-brat insider hypocrite. If there is such a person in the current field, you wouldn't know it from listening to the campaign.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/11/1996
IN IOWA, KVETCH, LIES AND VIDEO TAPE

PELLA, Iowa "You know the story about Bob Dole's war wound is a phony, don't you?" the aging vet confided. "The guys who were over in Italy with him tell me he really got hurt in grenade training. He froze and held onto the grenade too long. The shoulder wound in Italy came later."

But if Dole lost the use of his right hand in training, how did he ever get over to Italy?

"All I know is what the guys tell me," the vet insisted. "I'm voting for Pat Buchanan."

And so on the basis of utter nonsense, one sturdy citizen of Iowa helps to select the next Republican candidate for President. Democracy is at work, and this year it is remarkable for a campaign that is filled with misinformation, smears, rumors, character assassination and lies.

Pella is a beautiful little town, founded and still inhabited by thrifty, hard-working Dutch. It is home to the De Snoepwinkel coffee shop, the Int'veld Bologna store, the Vander Ploeg and Jaarsma bakeries and two factories, Pella windows and Vermeer farm machinery, that are both working double shifts.

These are prosperous times in Pella. What Pellans know as they head for the Iowa presidential caucuses tomorrow night is that while life at home is good, the outside world is full of thieves, liars and crooked politicians. At least that's all they hear on the airwaves.

Over the Common Sense Coalition network, Brent Johnson of Freedom Bound assures radio listeners that, under the "common law," they have no legal obligation to pay income taxes because all federal taxes go to the International Monetary Fund. On commercial radio, Rush Limbaugh repeats nonstop President Clinton is a liar.

On the TV channels, the competing candidates whose strongest issue is Clinton's character throw it away by smearing each other with negative commercials.

In addition, there is the rumor mill. Phil Gramm's campaign feels it was burned by gossip about his wife, Wendy, who is of Korean descent. Steve Forbes complains that somebody is stirring up Christian conservatives by suggesting that he supports homosexual lifestyles. And if even Dole's war wound is open to question, whom can a citizen trust?

"People came in here after Clinton's State of the Union speech, saying, 'More lies from Bill,' " says Barry Johnson, editor of the Pella Chronicle. "But they thought Dole's reply was no better. They look at Washington and they don't see a reflection of their values. They see Clinton as a womanizer and Hillary as a liar."

They also see the federal government as the enemy a thought that makes Mike Krezek, owner of the Ben Franklin department store, smile.

"These farmers are all Republicans, but they sure want their federal farm aid," he said. "Around here, Democrats have always been considered the scum of the Earth."

Rural Iowans manage to hate the federal government even though, in many counties, federal spending Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, veterans benefits and farm programs is twice what the Iowans pay in federal taxes. They hate welfare but the new farm bill, touted by Dole and other Republicans, would pay farmers even if they don't plant anything at all.

In many ways, the Iowa caucus seems divorced from reality. Phil Gramm is suddenly running a tough-on-crime campaign in a state that has one of the nation's lowest crime rates. Pat Buchanan is campaigning against free trade in a state whose farmers depend on food exports. Lamar Alexander wants to let congressmen work part-time for outside employers.

Dole, the likeliest winner, talks much about his experience, i.e., the past, and not much about the future. Friday night, in Oskaloosa, he announced that he was in favor of "hope, growth and opportunity, as some say." His vision for the future is so dim he even had to borrow a cliche about it from someone else.

Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Calif.), who is technically a candidate, predicts that out of all this dreariness, confusion and misinformation, Dole will win.

Said Dornan: "The Republican party picks its candidates like that cough syrup commercial, the one where the guy says, 'Ne-e-e-ext.' It's his turn. That's why Dole gets it. Ne-e-e-ext."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/12/1996
OH STEVE, BELL MAY BE ABOUT TO DOLE FOR THEE

IOWA FALLS, IOWA Alan Schoonveld, 29, greeted Steve Forbes in the Elks Hall with standing applause and an adoring smile on his round, Dutch-boy face. He sat eagerly through Forbes' message of lower taxes, smaller government and moral revival.

Forbes was exactly what Schoonveld was looking for: a nonpolitician who would bring some common sense to Washington, shrink the federal government and put more trust in the people to run their own lives.

Schoonveld had only one question for his new idol, and this being an Iowa presidential campaign, he got to ask it:

"I'm going to vote for you Monday and hopefully in November," he said. "But tell me, Why are you willing to spend upwards of $ 20 million of your own funds to run for President? Those numbers are mind-boggling."

Forbes, the nonpolitician, looked at Schoonveld's young, open, honest face and stiffed him. "I entered the race late," he said briefly. "I have to get my message of hope, growth and opportunity to the voters, and Phil Gramm and Bob Dole have spent even more."

Schoonveld politely sat down, a little crestfallen. "My question was 'Why?' " he told a reporter after Forbes had left. "To spend that kind of money he has to be either a little bit crazy or the next George Washington. But it was like he has a canned answer, and he regurgitated it. We're not stupid people out here."

This skyrocketing Forbes campaign does not long survive the light of day or even a friendly question. It is driven by his inherited fortune, his smears of his opponents, his promises of tax cuts for all and, for any questions, canned answers. The canned answers are generally good that's why they were canned. But after a while even eager Forbes supporters realize that some things just don't add up.

"Forbes is dropping like a rock," said Mike Murphy, an adviser to rival candidate Lamar Alexander. "That campaign was always little more than a scam."

Forbes is an unlikely candidate. He enters a room shyly and runs through his spiel without varying a phrase. He sounds like one of those fast-talking get-rich-quick artists who hold seminars on no-money-down real estate speculation in the bare ballrooms of strip-mall motels. He sure doesn't look slick and he's inspirational but hang on to your checkbook.

Forbes has plastered Iowa with print ads demonstrating that his 17% flat tax would save a family of four with a $ 75,000 annual income $ 4,796 in federal income taxes. If you read the fine print, you discover that he is talking about a $ 75,000 family that takes the standard deduction i.e., no deductions for state and local taxes, mortgage interest or charity. Forbes eliminates those deductions. The ad doesn't mention that his tax system would end employer-paid health insurance, which would add $ 5,000 or more to the average family's expenses. Count that as a tax hike.

If anyone questions his tax plan, Forbes has a canned answer: The questioner is part of the entrenched, corrupt Washington Establishment that is afraid of growth, hope and opportunity.

Forbes was soaring in the polls just a couple of days ago, threatening to defeat Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in the first serious contest of the presidential campaign. But Iowans apparently will spare the gritty, hardscrabble Dole, who lost the 1988 nomination to George Bush, the cruelty of another defeat at the hands of a preppie dilettante with an inherited fortune.

SO the Republican race moves to New Hampshire. Forbes, for all his weaknesses, may do very well there. Every four years a candidate goes to New Hampshire with a solution to all the world's problems a tax cut that will preserve all government programs, cut the deficit and put more money in people's pockets. And every four years the voters of New Hampshire slap their foreheads in wonder at this brilliant insight. Give that man a job.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/13/1996
DOLE'S FEELING A PAT ON BACK REPUBLICANS FEAR A LOOSE BUCANNON

DES MOINES Pat Buchanan pushed himself into contention for the Republican presidential nomination last night, but his personal victory is a potential disaster for the Republican Party.

By finishing so close behind Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in the Iowa caucuses, Buchanan guarantees that he once again gets the chance to address the Republican national convention in San Diego in August. His belligerent, red-hot convention speech in Houston four years ago was widely blamed for costing President George Bush his reelection.

In addition, Dole now will have Buchanan nipping at his heels at least through the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday, challenging Dole's credentials as a true conservative and energizing the activists who mistrust Dole as an inside-the-Beltway Washington compromiser.

If Dole self-destructs, as he has done in the past, and the party rank and file decides that Buchanan is too divisive to be electable, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, who also finished strongly, could emerge as the party's most viable challenger to President Clinton.

Buchanan came roaring out of nowhere with a simple, powerful jihad against the false prophets of secular humanism and the false profits of Wall Street.

But there is no one he frightens more than his fellow Republicans. Buchanan is hot stuff in a Republican primary, but he is a sure-fire loser in a general election.

The same in-your-face belligerence that wins him passionate support also turns off nearly two-thirds of the voters, according to one recent poll. With his pugnacious, street-tough manner, Buchanan looks as if he spent his youth standing outside yeshivas and tormenting the Hebrew students by playing salugi with their yarmulkes.

Buchanan changes the rules of modern politics. His political world is no longer divided between left and right, liberal and conservative; he splits the electorate horizontally, between the elites and the non-elites and cuts right across the traditional political spectrum.

He poses as the champion of the little guy whose job is threatened by international trade and whose morals are under attack by moneyed sophisticates who glorify free sex, gay rights, atheism, drug use and crime.

Buchanan's enemies are the NAFTA and GATT trade agreements, which were supported by both Republicans and Democrats; the New York banking houses, which contribute to both political parties; the gay community, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, and the broadcasting and entertainment industries, whose leaders include right-wing media moguls and New York or Hollywood ultra-liberals.

"We see a cultural war going on for the soul of America," he told a rally at the First Federated Church here the other night.

"We see the God of the Bible expelled from our public schools and replaced by the all the false gods of secular humanism. Easter is out, but we can celebrate Earth Day. We can now worship dirt."

Buchanan did well in Iowa in part because, in comparison with his rivals, his message was crystal clear. In a Buchanan crowd you see a lot of young married couples, the father still wearing a sateen jacket with his high school name on the back and the mother dragging along a toddler. They're worried about jobs, crime and their kids' moral upbringing, and of all the candidates in either party, including Clinton, Buchanan talks straight to their concerns.

Buchanan's success may be only short-lived, but it should be a lesson to other politicians out there, especially Democrats. There are a lot of frightened people in America, and many of their fears are legitimate. They turned to Buchanan because they had no one else.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/16/1996
EEK! HERE'S HOW ALEXANDER CAN WIN PRESIDENCY

MILFORD, N.H. Lamar Alexander stands bareheaded in a driving blizzard, conducting an outdoor press conference in 14-degree weather. But this is not his worst idea of the day.

As President, he says, he would terminate federal programs for the poor. He would then hand $ 50 billion in welfare and food stamp money to community activists, because they are closer to the truly needy and can spend the money without a lot of federal red tape.

Hmm. Minister Louis Farrakhan is a community activist, and he is extremely close to the truly needy. David Koresh was a community activist in his fortress in Waco, Tex. That swami who ran the free-love commune out in Antelope, Ore., was a community activist. The Rev. Al Sharpton is a community activist.

Think what such folks could do with their chunk of that federal $ 50 billion. If Alexander becomes President, invest in Cadillac futures.

In 1993, congressional Republicans voted down federal aid to the cities on grounds that they didn't want to give local politicians slush funds to spend without adequate oversight. And here comes Alexander with a scheme to rain your tax dollars on the unelected and self-appointed.

But even this is not Alexander's worst idea of the day. He proposes to cut the pay of Congress and send members home for half the year. Naturally, they would have to earn their living at some other line of work. What might they possibly do?

Alexander's own career stands as an example. Your part-time congressmen would be free to enter into sweetheart deals with their financial backers, perhaps like Alexander's sure-thing 1979 investment in Tennessee land where a federal highway was about to be built. Alexander put up a buck for an insider option to buy the Knoxville, Tenn., Journal and sold the option for $ 620,000. He bought $ 10,000 in stock from a friend and sold it back to him for $ 330,000.

This proposal of a part-time Congress sounds good to the yahoos, but its effect would be to put the entire Congress up for sale to the highest bidder. The lucky ones could get jobs like the one Alexander now holds: $ 295,000 a year for not showing up at a Washington law firm.

Yet this gentleman, who does not have sense enough to come in out of a New Hampshire blizzard, could be our next President. Here is how it could happen:

Pat Buchanan will win the New Hampshire primary as Sen. Bob Dole, Alexander, publisher Steve Forbes and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar split the moderate vote among themselves. Buchanan goes on to win the next important races in South Carolina and Arizona, because he is dynamite in the South.

The Republican Party establishment panics, turns away from Dole as a loser against President Clinton, makes one last desperate appeal to Colin Powell and then coalesces behind Alexander as the Anybody but Buchanan candidate.

Money will flow to him. Buchanan will be attacked from all sides. Alexander will be anointed at a rowdy Republican convention, with Buchanan screaming from the sidelines that he was robbed.

Alexander may have gimmicky, ill-considered ideas, but he knows how to hit Clinton's biggest weakness: Voters' belief that the President is not a fit moral leader for the country.

No matter that Alexander's insider financial deals make the Clintons look like Cub Scouts. There is enough anger at the President, especially in the West and South, so that any Republican candidate who does not absolutely terrify voters stands a chance against Clinton by winning a majority in the electoral college even if Clinton wins the popular vote. You read it here first.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/18/1996
FORBES IS PREZ' STALKING-HORSE CLINTON, DEMS HAVE A REAL TARGET

NASHUA, N.H. Steve Forbes strides through the pretty villages of New Hampshire, wreaking $ 25 million worth of destruction on the Republican Party, its candidates and its ideas. If he were a Democratic secret agent he could not have done a better job of helping President Clinton.

Forbes claims he has had to spend his private fortune to advance his ideas, but he has spent a good deal of his money to advance the ideas that Sen. Bob Dole is a has-been and that former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander is a fast-buck scam artist.

Forbes not only destroys the reputations of the likeliest contenders against Clinton this November. He has also helped to demolish two proposals that Republicans had hoped to run on: the flat tax and medical savings accounts.

His flat tax, which exempts investors and stock speculators from federal income tax, is so extreme that it has already been denounced as "nonsense" by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and as "yacht-basin" economics by Pat Buchanan.

"If they try to propose a flat tax in the general election, we've got a library filled with video clips of Republicans tearing it to pieces," says a happy Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Forbes' latest bright idea is even more suicidal for Republicans. He proposes a medical savings account that, even according to conservative Republicans, would drain Medicare of billions of dollars. Here's how Forbes explained it at a candidates' debate in Manchester with his innocent smile and unblinking, birdlike gaze:

"Under Medicare each beneficiary would have $ 1,500 to $ 2,000 a year for routine expenses. If they're blessed with good health, they get to keep the money."

Keep the money? All it takes is simple arithmetic to see what this scheme would do to a system that is already going broke. Medicare now spends an average of just under $ 5,000 a year on its nearly 40 million enrollees. But a large number of them maybe 10 million of the younger ones don't cost the system anything in a given year. Under Forbes' plan, every beneficiary would cost Medicare at least $ 1,500 a year. That's a drain of $ 15 billion to $ 20 billion right there.

And if the retirees don't get sick, they can take this taxpayer money deducted from your paycheck on the premise that it is providing health care to the elderly and spend it on a condo down payment, a Florida vacation or perhaps a hot new stock that is being touted in Forbes magazine.

Conservatives like Forbes say they oppose "redistributionist" taxation taxing the wealthy to give money to the poor. But the Forbes medical savings plan would impose Medicare taxes on young, working families and then hand a good chunk of the money to retirees, whether they need it or not. This makes even his conservative allies cringe.

"I just find that idea offensive," says one of Washington's leading conservative voices on medical reform, who does not want to get into a public debate with Forbes. "Medicare is very heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. Under his plan, I'd be paying a payroll tax and the retiree could put that money into a savings account or a condo down payment. It becomes a kind of loophole in Medicare."

The second fatal flaw in the Forbes Medicare reform is the notion that retirees will be able to buy unlimited catastrophic hospitalization coverage for $ 3,000 a year. This might be possible for the young, working population, but no insurance company in America is going to guarantee full coverage, as Medicare now does, to an 85-year-old or any other elderly person for $ 3,000 a year.

"Patrick Rooney of Golden Rule [Insurance Co.], who pioneered the medical savings account concept, is saying he wouldn't actually offer a catastrophic plan under that kind of arrangement," says the health-care expert. "He's opposed to price controls."

So Clinton owes Forbes an enormous debt of gratitude. The President and his fellow Democrats are often accused of not knowing what they stand for. But Forbes, like Gingrich and the House Republican freshmen, give Clinton and the Democrats the next best thing: a crystal clear target that they can run against.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/19/1996
BUCHANAN'S FIRE BURNS GOP

NASHUA, N.H. Tom Szarzynski dragged his two small kids to a mobbed Pat Buchanan rally in a stuffy hotel ballroom yesterday, and stood patiently at the back to hear one of the best campaigns the Democratic Party never ran.

Buchanan was in full cry, denouncing his own Republican Party, Wall Street bankers, the Fortune 500, Washington's K St. lobbyists ("the fellas who put the money in the envelopes"), conservative commentator George Will, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the bi-partisan Washington Establishment and even House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a hero to many conservatives.

"Hollow men . . . headpiece filled with straw," Buchanan said, quoting T.S. Eliot to a roaring crowd.

"He certainly speaks what we feel out here, the fear for our jobs and our economic security and putting America first," Szarzynski said. "My company lives on a quarterly basis and I could lose my job as soon as those quarterly numbers go down. There's no more loyalty to the working people."

The Democratic answer for Szarzynski is job retraining, but he is already highly educated. He supervises eight engineers in a scientific-instrument plant. What scares him is sudden lay-offs by the likes of IBM and AT&T and of all the candidates, only Buchanan is taking on the Big Boys whose only loyalty is to the bottom line.

"What is my party doing, hauling all that water for the fat cats on K St.?" Buchanan demanded yesterday. "Big business controls too much of the decision-making in my party."

To Buchanan, Gingrich is "Mr. Newt," who colluded with Dole in securing passage of the NAFTA trade agreement and therefore costs hundreds of thousands of American workers their jobs.

Gingrich, Buchanan noted, is not a standup guy. The speaker dumped historian Christina Jeffrey as soon as she was accused, inaccurately, of advocating more favorable treatment of Nazis in a history curriculum.

Buchanan, by contrast, is sticking with Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, who spoke at white supremacist rallies. Why not? Dumping Pratt won't win Buchanan many liberal votes; and the loyalty solidifies his image as not just another politician ready to toss a friend over the side.

On ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" yesterday, Buchanan fought the left, right and center of the Washington talking-head Establishment to a standstill, taking on commentator George Will "yapping at me like a little poodle," Buchanan said later Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.

Buchanan's self-righteous beliefs will eventually cost him victory, but say this for him: He defends them with a rock-like, unapologetic solidity.

With President Clinton firmly defending the NAFTA and GATT trade pacts, Buchanan has no rival for the populist vote that was once natural Democratic territory.

A random sampling of those who came to hear Buchanan speak indicates that many, like Tom Szarzynski, are moved by his populist economics; they either do not care about or are willing to overlook his proposals to outlaw abortion, put prayer and creationism in the schools and kick gays out of the military.

Buchanan posed as the common man's defender against the suspendered sharpies on Wall Street who will shut down a thriving plant in the blink of an eye, just to watch the stock price rise. His listeners are scared. Even the ones with good jobs are scared. If AT&T, once known as the employer for life, can lay off 40,000 people in profitable times, nobody's job is safe.

But whatever the reason, the crowds at Buchanan rallies are far larger and more enthusiastic than the people who show up for any of his Republican rivals in tomorrow's primary election.

ALTHOUGH he is tied with Dole in the polls, that passion could deliver Buchanan a victory, especially if it snows.

"Look around you," said Martin Cameron, a retired Air Force man attending a jammed Buchanan rally in Portsmouth. "The Buchanan people will get to the polls if they have to walk."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/21/1996
BUCHANAN PULLS PAT TRICK IN N.H. OUT-OF-TOUCH DOLE A BLAST FROM PAST

CONCORD, N.H. Question: Has Bob Dole run the absolute worst and most cliche-driven and uninspired campaign in U.S. presidential history?

No. George Bush "Message: I care" has retired that trophy forever.

But for pure political haplessness, Dole, the gallant old warrior, comes close.

He could yet win the Republican presidential nomination after last night's dismal performance in New Hampshire, but it will not be pretty.

Dole only kept himself in contention through old-fashioned political muscle, using the support of the state party machine to offset the sudden enthusiasm for Pat Buchanan and Lamar Alexander.

Dole has broken one of the fundamental rules of American politics: Republican voters almost invariably reward the senior man in the party hierarchy, the one who has "earned" the nomination through hard service. They went for Richard Nixon in 1960, Gerald Ford in 1976 and Bush in 1988 without any particular enthusiasm.

On the stump, Dole has been little short of pathetic.

"I didn't realize that jobs and trade and what makes America work would become a big issue in the last few days of this campaign," he confessed the other day. To which Buchanan promptly snapped: "That just shows that the Washington Beltway Republicans are almost clueless about what is going on in America."

Dole's campaign is not merely vague and content free; it is wholly about the past.

He comes awkwardly onstage at a campaign rally in Exeter, N.H., with the public-address system booming out some deafening, hard-rock, heavy-metal number that seems totally incongruous for a candidate from the age of the Andrews Sisters. This is a man whose idea of a perfect evening at home is tuning in to the American Movie Classics network, on which color films are a rarity.

Dole's greatest asset is his gritty life story, but he is incapable of talking about it.

"Like everybody else in this room, I was born," he solemnly explained at a rally in Milford, N.H. "Born in Russell, Kan."

He talks uncomfortably about his youth, his military service, his grievous wound, his government service and his experience.

But even when he talks about the future, it is about the past: As President, he will return things to the way they once were hand federal power back to the states, give control of schools back to the parents, repeal various and sundry laws that have been enacted, often with his help.

With the voters terrified about job security, Dole talks nonstop about how the Founding Fathers drafted the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing powers to the states.

Dole was partially rescued from himself in New Hampshire by the state's strong Republican political organization, from Gov. Steve Merrill on down. That's how Bush beat Dole in 1988, and Dole learned his lesson.

"He had the endorsements of law enforcement, the firefighters, the sheriffs and the chiefs of police, and they're out working for him," said Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-N.H.), a Dole ally. "My wife is going around the state with Robin Dole [the senator's daughter]. We made sure all the nursing homes got absentee ballots. We've got our best-known people standing at the polls with Dole signs, so that voters will see that somebody they know and respect is out there backing Dole. You can't buy that kind of organization with money."

But you can't buy enthusiasm with organization. To commentator Bob Beckel, who ran Walter Mondale's losing 1984 presidential campaign, Dole's performance struck a familiar chord.

"This is so like the 1984 election it scares me," he said as he stood outside a polling site in Manchester, N.H. "You have two Midwestern senators who have a hard time talking about themselves. Neither one of them is good on TV. They both had all the organization and all the big-name endorsements. They both said, 'I know Washington and I can work with Congress.' Mondale had to fight off Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson; Dole's got Lamar Alexander and Pat Buchanan in almost identical roles."

HART, THE upstart, beat Mondale in New Hampshire in 1984.

With his superior national organization, Mondale went on to win the nomination through overwhelming political force. He then lost the presidential election, 49 states to one, to Ronald Reagan, the likeable guy in the White House with the smile and the vision.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/23/1996
...HE MAY BE A LOSER, BUT WORKERS STILL NEED A VOICE

WASHINGTON Oh, Pat Buchanan will be stopped before he gets too close to the White House; don't you worry about that. You can't antagonize all the rich people in the country and get very far in American politics.

But while he still runs, it is entertaining to watch Buchanan rip the fig leaf off the cynical political strategy that Republicans have used to win power for the past 30 years from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich.

The strategy is this: Run a veiled racist, Willie Horton campaign, wave the American flag, talk about guns, God and family values and then when you win, claim that your victory was a mandate to cut capital gains taxes, gut environmental laws and enact the rest of corporate America's wish list.

Once you win, you can stiff the poor fools who voted for you to protect their jobs and incomes. Then, at the next election, you can run TV ads about the Pledge of Allegiance.

This has been the big switcheroo that conservative Republicans keep pulling on the electorate, and the voters never catch on. But Buchanan ruins it.

He can thump the Bible as well as any preacher and rouse the gun owners better than John Wayne. From his war-movie rhetoric "lock and load!" you'd never suspect that his combat experience was limited to sucker-punching a Washington, D.C., cop.

Buchanan draws in the stone-eyed white guys who ride around in rusty Toronados with a tattered vinyl roof and a Confederate decal on the back bumper. He appeals to the church ladies tormented by abortion, the two-job young fathers terrified of lay-offs, the bewildered Middle West meat packers who find themselves competing for $ 7-an-hour jobs with immigrants from Central America.

But having mastered the message that conservatives have used to draw in the poor, the scared and the hardworking, Buchanan at least in his campaign doesn't then betray those same voters by shilling for the corporations. His notion of patriotism extends beyond flag commercials to corporate America; it has no loyalty, he says, to American workers or their families, only to profits.

That is a breath of fresh air in the Republican Party that keeps talking about "family values" and keeps defending mindless, family-wrenching lay-offs as part of the free market's wonderful "creative destruction." Wonderful for Wall Street, perhaps, not for working people watching their jobs vanish abroad.

Stark contrast

Buchanan bashes corporate executives who lay off tens of thousands of workers and then reap millions when their stock price goes up. In contrast, the Newt Gingrich, Contract With America Republicans want to give those same job-killing executives a tax cut or impose no taxes at all on their blood-money profits.

Buchanan has too many political drawbacks to win the presidency. He scares a lot of women. To Jews and blacks, he is exactly the face you don't want to see when you run out of gas in a dark neighborhood and have to walk into the local bar to make a phone call.

And worst of all, in a land run by elites, he threatens all the elites, left, right and center.

So Buchanan will be defeated before long. It will be no great loss but it will be a tragedy if the elites who beat him, whether Democrat or Republican, use his defeat as an excuse to forget about all those decent, scared, hardworking, voiceless people who were drawn to Buchanan because in all America, he was the only one who spoke for them.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/26/1996
BUCHANAN, AS SEEN BY JESSE . . .

WASHINGTON In a world of tone-deaf politicians, Pat Buchanan has perfect pitch.

On the night of his stunning victory in New Hampshire, facing a series of Southern primaries with no money and no organization, he bellowed to his followers, "Do not wait for orders from headquarters. Mount up and ride to the sound of the guns!"

In case you missed the allusion, these are the words of Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart, cherished by every Southern schoolboy who ever thrilled to the lost cause of the Old South.

Buchanan, the one-time speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, knows how to push every emotional button in the American political psyche. He makes up in pure talent what he lacks in campaign contributions, and against the stultifying Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander, he'll sweep through the South like Stuart's cavalry.

No, I don't think Buchanan will be stopped just yet. It is an old rule in politics that you can't beat somebody with nobody. Dole is certainly somebody, but he is unable to say exactly who or what he is, and Alexander walks around in a red checked shirt because if he wore a suit, people would say, "Look at the empty suit."

The secret to Buchanan's popular appeal and the reason he instills so much fear in the Republican Establishment is that he is leading a mutiny, not a revolution.

Here's the difference: House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republican "Revolution" merely substituted Republican special interests for Democratic ones, turning the halls of Congress over to corporate lobbyists in place of various Democratic interest groups.

Buchanan's mutiny is far more dangerous to the established order. A mutiny is what the enlisted men do when they decide that their own officers in this case, America's political, corporate and cultural leaders are the real enemy. Buchanan fans this flame by suggesting that America's leaders are betraying U.S. workers to enrich a few people at the top.

Jesse Jackson, who perfected this populist appeal in 1988, watches with more than a little contempt as Buchanan takes up the cause. There is no rainbow coalition behind Buchanan's pitch to the white working class, and Jackson points to a flaw in Buchanan's logic: 'Buchanan can't have it both ways: He can't blame corporate greed and ruthless downsizing and then say, therefore, let's attack the victims of the greed and the downsizing, the women, the Mexicans, the black and the brown. His message is driven by fear; mine was driven by hope."

With all his flaws his defenses of Nazi war criminals, his bullying manner, his eagerness to brand others as outsiders, his intemperate speech the Republicans are not going to make Buchanan their nominee. But the country already owes him an enormous debt.

Over the past week, opinion pages across America have been filled with astonishing bursts of eloquence about the plight of the American workers who have been left behind by the global economy.

Newsweek ran a cover story on the corporate chieftains who profit millions of dollars in stock options as a reward for laying off workers. Dole is newly sensitive to the problems of the unemployed. ("That's because, at the rate he's going, he'll soon be one of them," sniffs Jackson.)

Jackson, progressive economists, Bolshie columnists and a couple of populists in Congress have been talking about these problems for a dozen years without managing to terrify the corporate elites in the slightest. It took a blow upside the head from Buchanan to catch the country's attention, and for that alone, my hat's off to him.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/26/1996
POLS WILL BLUSTER BUT WON'T HURT CASTRO

WASHINGTON Fidel Castro is a master at making U.S. politicians huff and puff and then do nothing.

By shooting down two unarmed planes off Cuba, the Cuban strongman has injected into yet another U.S. presidential campaign one of this nation's hollowest political competitions: Who will promise to be toughest on Castro?

With a Florida primary in two weeks, Republican contender Pat Buchanan rose to Castro's bait, vowing that if he were in the White House, he would send warplanes to shoot down any Cuban military aircraft that threatened civilian planes over international waters.

Buchanan said, however, that he would not try to invade Cuba because it would cost too much in Cuban and U.S. blood.

Sen. Bob Dole, still the likeliest Republican nominee, accused President Clinton of "siding with Castro" in opposing tighter U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba. Dole wants secondary boycotts to punish foreign firms for trading with Castro. And Arizona's Sen. John McCain, a Dole backer, said the U.S. should begin to look at ways to remove Castro "as quickly as possible."

Cuban exiles have tried for 35 years to provoke a confrontation to bring U.S. forces to liberate their island. But ever since John Kennedy was lured into demonstrating his toughness by authorizing the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, all the exiles have gotten for their pains is bellicose rhetoric.

For his part, Clinton voiced the necessary outrage and decided to turn the issue over to the United Nations, which is a guarantee of more rhetoric and no action.

The problem for politicians of both parties is that Castro is probably within his rights in shooting down mischief-making, exile-operated planes in his air space, even though they posed no deadly threat to his tottering regime.

The action may seem cruel, brutal and unnecessary, but it probably was legal. The aircraft were deliberately flirting with the Cuban security zone. They had been warned about entering the Cuban air identification zone, and at least one of them and possibly all three had flown into Cuban air space, U.S. officials say.

Even though Castro can anger and outrage the U.S. public, no American political figure, left, right or center, wants to risk U.S. lives simply to speed the inevitable day when the 69-year-old dictator, now deprived of his Soviet support, falls from power or dies.

Buchanan danced neatly on this pinhead: "I'm not recommending an invasion, but I am recommending the kind of overall pressure and plan diplomatic, political and otherwise which would remove Mr. Castro from power as rapidly as possible," he told CBS News' Bob Schieffer. No date was set for the ouster.

The downing of the two planes along with the two deadly terrorist explosions in Israel was a sudden reminder in the generally idea-free 1996 presidential campaign that foreign challenges are the severest test of a President.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the one Republican contender with real foreign policy expertise, has drawn almost no attention from voters. Other candidates have charged that Clinton has been a weak President who has cost this country much prestige abroad but they have not campaigned vigorously against his handling of international affairs.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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02/28/1996
PAT BUCHANAN REMINDS DEMS WHO THEY ARE

WASHINGTON While President Clinton was cleverly stealing Republican themes balanced budget, less government, tougher welfare laws for his State of the Union speech, Pat Buchanan was picking Clinton's own pockets.

On the campaign trail, Buchanan was bashing corporate America, lamenting lost jobs and deploring stagnant wages. And now some Democrats are grateful for Buchanan's theft. They hope it will force Clinton to return to the bread-and-butter issues jobs, wages, pensions, health care that are of vital concern to traditionally Democratic voters.

"Dear Pat: Thank you very much for focusing on this constituency that I should have focused on a long time ago," former Gov. Mario Cuomo says in a mock "open letter" from Clinton to Buchanan. "Thank you also for coming up with such rotten solutions to their problems. I am sending you two tickets to my second inauguration."

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) also credits Buchanan with reminding both Republicans and Democrats of the real concerns of ordinary Americans.

"Candidate Buchanan is really forged of our own failures," Gephardt said in a speech yesterday to the Economic Strategy Institute, a Washington think tank, "for he has at least recognized the crisis of falling wages and incomes. He has at least acknowledged what hardworking families go through to raise their children and put food on the table."

Gephardt promptly seized the spotlight that Buchanan has focused on job insecurity and filled the gap that Buchanan leaves empty Gephardt actually offered some solutions.

Most radical among them: "We should stop giving huge tax subsidies to companies that send jobs and factories overseas. [We should eliminate] tax breaks to corporations when their CEOs and executives personally profit from lay-offs. I can't think of a worse signal to send to the hardworking Americans whose jobs are being lost."

Such Democratic activism might once have been denounced as leftist class warfare. But Buchanan, the old right-winger, gives Democrats all the political cover they need to take on corporate greed.

Labor Secretary Robert Reich reports that corporate executives have been calling him ever since Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary, and they are "quite nervous about the body politic." They hear the sound of Buchanan's "peasants with pitchforks," and they don't like it a bit. Perhaps a Democratic White House is their best bet.

"It's fascinating that Republicans have suddenly discovered wage issues," Reich says dryly.

So Clinton is scheduling a conference with corporate executives, an administration source said, to discuss whether they feel any responsibility to show loyalty to their employes and whether they see any drawbacks in simply dumping their workers for a quick hit on the stock price. In reality, there's not much Clinton can do beyond trying to shame them into treating employes decently.

Buchanan a dynamite debater is unlikely to be the Republican nominee, and no other Republican will even try to duplicate Buchanan's appeal to the scared, working-class voters whose fears he has so adroitly exploited.

That gives Clinton a clear shot at recapturing a basic Democratic constituency working people just by showing that he understands their concerns. For which he should say: Thank you, Pat.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/03/1996
IN DOLE COUNTRY, SOME SEE ISLAND OF SUPPORT FOR BUCHANAN

FROM A Bavarian-style chalet high up on Staten Island's Emerson Hill, Frank Mulvihill looks out on one of the most magnificent views in the civilized world: the sweeping panorama of New York Harbor from the docks of New Jersey to the Manhattan skyline, the towers and graceful arc of the Verrazano Bridge and out to sea as far as the eye can carry.

The house's previous owner, a man named Koehler, used this breathtaking vantage point to observe World War II convoys assembling for their transatlantic voyages. And as the ships left the harbor, he radioed their positions to German submarines waiting just outside the Lower Bay.

"The ships were sunk right over there," Mulvihill said, pointing toward the open sea.

Below Emerson Hill, at his feet, lies one of the most unusual and most overlooked parts of New York, the County of Richmond. It is a mix of gritty commercial strips and picturesque, hidden duck ponds, flanked by architect-designed cottages and willows now wearing the year's first blush of green. It has beautiful homes like Mulvihill's, a former industrial area known as Linoleumville and the world's largest sanitary landfill. Rich and poor, beautiful and seedy all are thrown together, higgledy-piggledy, within sight of the World Trade Center towers.

Staten Island is a conservative bastion in a generally liberal city, a home to middle-class city workers who hate the backbreaking taxes that pay their salaries, a place where populism takes the form of secession fever.

It is the fifth most affluent county in New York State and ranks 20th in the country in growth of families with incomes exceeding $ 50,000 a year. Roughly the same size as the most populous borough, Brooklyn, Staten Island has only about 5% of the city's population.

"To most New Yorkers, it is Mystery Country," says Prof. Larry Nachman of the City University's Staten Island branch. "You should see the maps that leave us off."

And of all the congressional districts within New York City, it was the first in which Pat Buchanan, the conservative insurgent, could gather enough signatures to get on the ballot for Thursday's Republican primary. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato had blocked Buchanan from much of the state by insuring that the state party organization gathered nominating signatures only for Sen. Bob Dole.

Never mind that in 1988, when Dole was similarly kept off many New York primary ballots by a state Republican organization backing George Bush, D'Amato complained, "This is not the Soviet Union where you just keep people out of the contest because you don't like them or where party bosses can just tell people who to vote for." That was then.

Getting on the ballot doesn't guarantee that Buchanan will do well in Staten Island, but his appeal is strong enough to make Borough President Guy Molinari, a Dole supporter, nervous.

Buchanan's base of support is the Right to Life Party, which though vocal and active, has been thumpingly defeated in congressional elections by Molinari's daughter, Rep. Susan Molinari, a pro-choice conservative who carries her district with 70% of the vote. Both Molinaris are supporting Dole, and when voters go to the polls, they will see Susan's name on the ballot as the Dole delegate.

On the surface, everything looks good for Dole. But . . .

"We've been doing some tracking polls, and the numbers show very strong support for Dole," Guy Molinari said. "But the numbers can be misleading. Everybody says they're going to vote, but you're more apt to see the Buchanan voters actually turn out on Election Day. So far we haven't seen any sign of Buchanan activity. They say they're out ringing doorbells and passing literature, but I have not received any intelligence that that is actually happening. Still, this could be subliminal, coming in under the radar."

In contrast to the highly publicized primary elections elsewhere, there are no bumper stickers or lawn signs to be seen for any political candidate, no blizzard of commercials. With much of the state apparently sewed up for Dole, it makes no sense for the Kansas senator or any of his challengers to spend a lot of money on TV advertising.

Buchanan benefits mostly from "free media" the abundance of publicity that has been showered on him by TV, newspapers and radio talk show hosts since his upset win in New Hampshire.

"Is he like the one that held up the shotgun?" asked Brian Moffett, a Staten Islander who works as a trackman for the Transit Authority. "That's my man."

Buchanan is probably better known than Dole in the city. In many ways he is identical to those Irish-American New Yorkers who grew up in the 1950s, reading the Journal-American, watching the anti-Communist Bishop Fulton Sheen on TV every Tuesday night, cheering for Sen. Joseph McCarthy and celebrating when the Rosenbergs were executed.

"But even the Catholic Church has changed since the days of Fulton Sheen," said Prof. Nachman. "Any given member of the Catholic clergy is as likely to be running guns to rebels in Central America as issuing invocations against the left wing."

Nachman, who describes himself as a Reagan conservative, is turned off by Buchanan. "He's our Jesse Jackson," Nachman says. "He thinks anyone who disagrees with him is immoral. That's not the way democracies function."

Buchanan is also known to New Yorkers through his now-suspended newspaper column in the New York Post, which, oddly enough, let him voice to the largest Jewish population in America his doubts about the Holocaust and his defenses of accused Nazi war criminals.

His Holocaust revisionism has won him no friends in the Jewish community, but that may not hurt him in the Republican primary. A sampling at the Jewish Community Center on Victory Blvd. Marvin Treach, Ira Cohen, Edmund Keisman and Leonard Kraus revealed a good deal of hostility toward Buchanan, but all four men were registered as Democrats.

Although Buchanan has scored well in other states by speaking to fears about job losses to free trade and immigration, Staten Islanders are a slightly different audience.

"These are mostly civil servants, not factory workers," says former Gov. Mario Cuomo. "They're cops, firemen, people who work for New York City. Some of them are very anti-abortion, anti-immigrant or very negative. They have been there for 20 years and now they have a voice in Pat Buchanan. The difference is going to be that the Molinaris are pushing for Dole."

Mulvihill, an electrical contractor who appeared to be leaning toward Dole, predicted Buchanan would do well on Staten Island's middle-class south shore. "He really comes across as the working man's candidate," Mulvihill said.

And Guy Molinari, though he is confident he can mobilize his voters for Dole, has been around politics long enough to gauge his opponent's real threats. "There's no question his message will have appeal to a lot of Staten Islanders," he said. "A lot of the people at a Young Republicans rally told me their fathers and mothers were going to vote for Buchanan. There could be something out there that we're not seeing. He is certainly a better political stump speaker than virtually any of the others. You just hope that the voters look at the total picture and not just the sound bite."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/04/1996
SEN. POTHOLE'S BOTTOMLESS PIT

WASHINGTON If Senate Democrats had any sense at all, they would let Sen. Alfonse D'Amato run his Whitewater hearings forever. Every minute of air time the man gets is another disaster for the Republican Party.

Poor D'Amato. He was once known as the senator who delivers the goods. Now he arrives with two stinking fish in his hands: his Whitewater fiasco and the Bob Dole for President campaign, of which he is a national co-chairman.

D'Amato's oh-so-clever scheme to keep everyone but the staggering Dole off the ballot in the New York State Republican primary has exploded in his face. Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan both of whom have enthusiastic followers in New York have fought their way into the election over D'Amato's resistance.

D'Amato comes out of this clumsy battle looking like Yuri Solovyov, the former Leningrad Communist boss who once ran unopposed and lost when Russians flocked to the polls just to cross his name off the ballot.

Worse for D'Amato: He employed his strong-arm tactics tactics even he once denounced as smacking of Nazi Germany not against liberals or Democrats but against his fellow conservative Republicans.

Now his Whitewater hearings are a national joke. He has run out of time and money and produced nothing at all beyond his repeated complaints that President and Mrs. Clinton have been slow to produce documents.

Slow? Among the things D'Amato has demanded are the records of every single telephone call from anyone in the White House to anyone in the 501 (Arkansas) area code over a seven-month period. The White House has released 45,000 pages of documents, and D'Amato wants more.

The hearings themselves have been marked by senators and staff badgering hapless secretaries and receptionists who are publicly mocked because they cannot remember details of decade-old telephone calls.

Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.), hardly a liberal, complained that the public watching the hearings sees "mean-looking lawyers peering down as if they were judges . . . at these people, kind of like the Christians in the lion's den in Rome." No wonder the public hates Washington, Exon said.

Ironically, testimony at the hearings has produced exactly the reverse of the result D'Amato intended.

A government-hired law firm, Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, has examined all available evidence including D'Amato's inquisitions and again concluded that the Clintons were guilty of no wrongdoing in the Whitewater affair, that Hillary Clinton's legal work for the failed Madison Guaranty Bank was perfectly proper (and would have earned her about $ 40 a month) and that there is no point in pursuing the Clintons further.

When a previous Pillsbury report also exonerated the Clintons, D'Amato dismissed it as incomplete.

Hillary Clinton's billing records at the Rose Law Firm had not been found, and he insinuated that she was more deeply involved in Arkansas chicanery than she had testified.

But now the mysterious records have been studied, and the Pillsbury report's final verdict is still innocent: "The evidence taken as a whole does not amount to convincing proof that the Rose Law Firm knowingly aided and abetted a fraud."

Still, D'Amato is threatening to keep the Whitewater hearings alive indefinitely, even though most Americans have concluded, correctly, that it is a partisan charade. The only people D'Amato hurts with this browbeating is himself and, of course, the innocent people he drags before his lights and cameras. But this is Washington. Who cares about the people?

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/06/1996
DOLE STILL HAS UPHILL CAMPAIGN TRAIL AHEAD

WASHINGTON With last night's convincing victories, Sen. Bob Dole can finally begin to look forward to running against President Clinton in November.

But Dole's long-sought "one last mission" for his country is turning out to be only slightly less bloody than his first one a headlong World War II charge across a minefield toward a German machine-gun nest. And it's not over yet.

The Republican nomination, when and if he gets it, may not be worth the cost.

The Kansas senator has been battered through the first series of primaries as too old, too out of touch, too much of a compromiser, too liberal, too elitist, too unimaginative and too inarticulate. And those are the judgments of his fellow Republicans, i.e., people who know him and claim to like him.

Significantly, Dole was challenged for the nomination by two of his own Senate colleagues Phil Gramm of Texas and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Neither of them is stupid, both knew that Dole had seniority on them, and both concluded they had a better chance of beating Clinton than Dole does. You have to ask yourself: What do they know that the voters don't?

In addition, Dole has been blistered as an old-fashioned political hack in millions of dollars' worth of negative ads run by candidate Steve Forbes. He has been subjected to the withering sarcasm of Pat Buchanan, and Lamar Alexander, his third major opponent, has been only slightly more polite, saying that Dole, at 72, is "not the man to lead America into the 21st century."

Against this assault, Dole has been forced to spend so much money to defend himself that he will probably run out of cash before the California primary on March 26. And it is highly possible that even with last night's wins and expected victories in New York and Texas, he could show up at the Republican convention in San Diego this August without the 996-delegate absolute majority he needs for nomination.

That would mean another nasty intra-Republican fight on nationwide, live television with his chief gadfly, Buchanan, fighting him down to the wire, demanding an anti-abortion vice presidential candidate on the ticket and talking of walkouts.

In the best of circumstances, Dole has yet to find a vision to compete with Clinton's, and must find a way of generating the kind of voter enthusiasm that propelled Clinton to victory four years ago. Dole will be saddled, moreover, with the burden of defending House Speaker Newt Gingrich one of the least popular political figures in the country and Gingrich's stalled Contract with America.

"In 1994, the country was open-minded and willing to consider Republican answers to their problems," says John Marttila, a Boston-based political pollster. "But now, 15 months into that change, the people aren't buying it. The Republican proposals are not only not popular, they have proven very costly to the party."

GIVEN CLINTON'S relative unpopularity and the quirks in the Electoral College, any Republican nominee stands a chance of ousting him. And behind Dole's tongue-tied, forbidding exterior, there exists an engaging, intelligent human being of warmth and empathy. If the voters can discover that, he has a shot. But in his whole life, nothing has ever come easy for him, and this race is running true to form.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/06/1996
BOMBS SNARL PEACE POLITICS . . .

WASHINGTON A day after a terrorist bomb killed 14 Israelis, the streets of Tel Aviv were filled with outraged Jews screaming, "Death to the Arabs."

That day, yesterday, Israeli troops swept into Palestinian towns to seal the houses of suspected terrorists. That day, the Jerusalem Post ridiculed the U.S.-sponsored peace process that had exposed Jews to such deadly risks.

And that day, yesterday, Israel and Jordan announced the start of direct air service between Amman and Tel Aviv. The flight will take just 14 minutes.

In their rage and grief, many Israelis may be tempted to try to stop the Middle East peace process and withdraw once again into a Fortress Israel, ringed by militant Jewish settlements and propped up by endless American aid.

But abandoning peace is not an alternative. Yitzhak Rabin did not opt for peace because of weakness of intellect or lack of courage; he saw that in a region of 14-minute international flights, his country had no choice.

Now Rabin is dead, and in a classic Middle Eastern irony, one of the politicians blamed for abetting the anti-peace mood that resulted in his assassination, may become his successor. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition Likud Party and a relentless critic of the peace negotiations, has drawn even in the polls with Labor Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Elections are scheduled for May 29.

Likud and Netanyahu, in particular, have a history of driving U.S. officials crazy. Prime Minister Menachem Begin seemed to agree to Palestinian autonomy and a halt to Israeli settlements at the Camp David talks in 1978 and then said he was misunderstood.

Likud Gen. Ariel Sharon, claiming he got a "green light" from the Ronald Reagan administration, led Israeli troops into Beirut, and eventually embroiled U.S. Marines in a peacekeeping operation that left 245 dead. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was known during the George Bush administration for repudiating peace proposals that he himself had put forward.

And Netanyahu, with his fiery eyes and flamboyant rhetoric, was banned from the State Department by former Secretary of State Jim Baker after charging that U.S. policy toward Israel was based on "distortion and lies."

"We don't permit that kind of comment from our adversaries," Baker said yesterday. "We surely cannot have it from our allies."

Begin, Sharon, Shamir and Netanyahu shared a delusion that they can conduct their expansionist policies in defiance of U.S. policy and use Israel's clout in the U.S. Congress to keep the aid coming. George Bush and Jim Baker proved them wrong, forcing a brutal confrontation over $ 10 billion in loan guarantees. The strain in U.S.-Israeli relations drove Shamir from power and didn't help Bush when he lost his bid for reelection in 1992.

The lesson for President Clinton is clear: If Netanyahu comes to office, the only way to preserve the peace process which is still a vital U.S. interest is to confront him with reality. That means renewed strains between the United States and Israel, and a tough political challenge for Clinton.

Netanyahu's weakness, says a top U.S. official, is that while he is glib about the need to preserve Israel's security, he's never spelled out any realistic ideas to guarantee it. "I don't think he has thought it through," the official said. "He knows what he's against, but not what he is for. We've had three years of a really close relationship with Israel. If Netanyahu wins, I'm afraid we're in for a difficult time."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/08/1996
DOLE'S DEFINITELY NOT HIS OWN BEST FRIEND

WASHINGTON With the Republican presidential nomination seemingly assured, a happy, triumphant Bob Dole now faces an eight-month struggle against his most dangerous political opponent: a surly, snarly, treacherously unpredictable curmudgeon named Bob Dole.

The bad Bob Dole can appear without warning and utter a couple of words that demolish both the good Bob Dole and anyone standing near him. It was the bad Bob Dole who, in a 1976 vice presidential debate against Walter Mondale, described World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam as "all Democrat wars."

It was the bad Bob Dole who grumbled in his 1988 campaign against George Bush that Bob Dole never went to prep school and didn't have any rich uncles helping him out in life. Then he demanded on live TV that Bush "quit lying about my record." His bitter anger against Bush was justified, but the outburst was undisciplined and unnerving.

And it was the bad Bob Dole who confessed in New Hampshire last month that he had no idea voters were worried about job security.

Even at his best, Dole is a disastrous stump candidate. The surest way to deflate a Dole for President rally is to let Dole speak at it. Voters who have turned up eager for inspiration and leadership slump visibly when Dole mouths his standard banalities: "America is headed for the future, no doubt about it." Or, "It's about jobs, it's about families, it's about values, it's about experience. Thank you and God bless America."

So the Republicans have their likely nominee. Now how do they hide him?

"Dole can get elected if he's a member of a crowd," says Republican strategist John Sears. "Even Dole admits that when he speaks on the stump, it is not the brightest light he has ever been seen in. But he can win if he is seen as the leader of a Republican uprising. A majority of congressional districts now have Republican incumbents who can work for him."

"Another strength is the number of Republican governors who have good statewide political organizations," chimes in former GOP Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf.

"March across the key battleground states New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, California and we have strong Republican governors in all those states," adds former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.).

Usually the top of the ticket is expected to pull in governors and congressmen behind him. The "reverse coattails" effect sometimes works. But just because the Staten Island ferry drags in a lot of sea gulls when it pulls into the slip doesn't mean sea gulls can return the favor and pull in the Staten Island ferry.

Curtis Wilkie, in The Boston Globe, has already compared the Dole campaign to El Cid, the Spanish knight whose henchmen strapped his dead body to his horse in hopes of terrifying the Moors.

Dole can also be protected from himself by assigning the party's grownups to keep watch over him. "When Dole gets tired, he gets testy," says former aide David Keene, who is now chairman of the American Conservative Union. "He has been out there without any adults, and he needs somebody of stature alongside him who can tell him, 'Don't do it. Just shut up and smile.' "

Thus, in some recent appearances, Dole has been escorted by Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah, a temperamentally solid, professional public relations man, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a rock of common sense and stability. But between now and November, Republicans will need the nerves of a bomb-disposal unit. To know Dole is to like and respect him and to be aware that he can explode in your face at any time.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/11/1996
'PITCHFORK PEASANTS' HAVE POINT

WASHINGTON The lesson Congress has drawn from the Pat Buchanan campaign is that there is no lesson from the Pat Buchanan campaign. Buchanan and the hard-pressed, insecure working people who flocked to him are losers. They may make a lot of noise, but they don't vote in large numbers and they don't make $ 1,000 campaign contributions, so they can all drop dead.

First and clearest sign of this comes from the Senate, where business lobbyists have won a battle to let U.S. employers lay off their workers and bring in low-paid foreign temps as replacements.

Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) had tried to ban this increasingly outrageous practice, but last week he surrendered to the lobbyists who have a stranglehold over the Republican Party. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said he would urge President Clinton to veto any bill that doesn't protect U.S. workers but even a veto would preserve current law, which has allowed this unconscionable abuse to thrive.

When it comes to drawing a lesson from the Buchanan phenomenon an outpouring of largely Democratic blue-collar workers legitimately scared about their economic future in a global trading system Clinton may be only slightly less deaf than the Republican-controlled Congress.

"His head is nowhere near where it ought to be on this," says a Clinton ally. "He thinks he has a communications problem, that people don't know how good they've got it. He meets with [Federal Reserve Chairman] Alan Greenspan, [economic adviser] Laura Tyson and [Treasury Secretary] Bob Rubin, and they tell him he's got the best economy in 30 years. But you can't put a PR spin on the economy. People live in it. You can't tell them they are really better off than they think. George Bush tried that and lost big."

Clinton was a master in 1992 at feeling voters' economic fears and pains. But it's going to be much harder for him to sense grass-roots concerns now that he lives inside the fortified cocoon of the White House, where a young working mom living in fear of a mindless lay-off has far less chance of penetrating than a free-trade economist with a lot of rosy statistics that the President can brag about.

Reich is probably the most sympathetic member of the administration when it comes to the economic issues raised by Buchanan, but even he has to say, "There are no easy answers."

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) has come up with some tough ones: Give tax breaks and government contracts to corporations that treat workers fairly and avoid lay-offs. Get rid of tax breaks that reward companies for moving jobs overseas. Tighten the anti-trust laws and eliminate tax deductions for mergers that result in massive lay-offs. Reduce red tape for small business and raise the minimum wage to $ 5.15 an hour. Avoid trade deals that force Americans to compete with sweatshop wages. Make it illegal for employers to lay off Americans and then fill their jobs by bringing in workers from overseas.

Hmm, says the White House. Interesting, but not very. Let's not frighten corporate America; we need their campaign contributions.

Buchanan's defeats will tempt Republicans and Democrats to ignore the fears he has exploited. But the basic question he has raised will not go away:

Whose side is your government on? Whose concerns does it heed? Does it listen to the public that pays it nearly a trillion dollars in income taxes or does it really work for the sharpy who can orchestrate $ 1,000 campaign contributions? There are a lot of Buchanan's "peasants with pitchforks" out there waiting for the answer.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/13/1996
STOP INVASION OF JOB-SNATCHERS

WASHINGTON Julie Cairns-Rubin figured that computers were the wave of the future, so she took a computer course and won a job running financial programs at Sea-Land Corp., the great shipping company. Then she upgraded her skills by going to college at night.

Then she was fired.

"I was replaced by temps from overseas," she explained yesterday. "Foreign workers who don't receive any benefits. They put them up in group houses and transport them to work in vans."

Cairns-Rubin, of Somerset, N.J., is the victim of a U.S. government program intended to allow employers to import foreign workers on temporary visas for jobs they cannot fill with Americans. Supposedly, the foreigners provide skills that are in short supply.

But Cairns-Rubin undermines the theory: Sea-Land had found an American for the job, Julie Cairns-Rubin. And she not only had the necessary skills, but her replacement did not have them.

"If I was short of skills, how come I was qualified to train the replacement to do my job?" she asked. And then she answers: "It's pure greed. Pure greed is what's driving this practice."

You may have previously read in this space of the abuses in the employment-related immigration system: the phony help-wanted ads for $ 32,000-a-year doctors, the labor contractors who entice employers to dump loyal workers and contract their jobs out to sweatshop temps on short-term visas, the American computer programers whose contracts are abruptly terminated and farmed out to foreign temps who take the jobs overseas.

What's interesting about Cairns-Rubin's story is where she told it: standing in a Senate hearing room alongside Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has taken up this worthy fight with the old Kennedy vigah.

"With a quarter of American workers now dependent upon temporary jobs for their survival, it is unconscionable that employers are not required to recruit U.S. workers first," Kennedy thundered.

Kennedy is preparing to take this battle to the Senate floor that is, fight it out in public.

He has five proposals: Make it illegal to lay off qualified Americans and replace them with foreigners. Require employers to look for Americans first, before bringing in foreign workers. Compel employers who use foreign temps to contribute to a training fund for American workers. Add 200 additional Labor Department inspectors to seek out sweatshops. And reduce the length of temporary work visas from six years to three years.

Naturally, the business community insists that such restrictions would cripple its ability to bring in the best and brightest foreign scientific and technical workers. But nearly three-quarters of immigrants on temporary work visas earn less than $ 50,000 a year. "These are not the Einsteins," Kennedy said.

Phyllis Eisen of the National Association of Manufacturers argues, correctly, that the numbers involved are not large. Only 65,000 temporary visas are granted each year, she notes. But if each worker can stay up to six years, that's nearly 400,000 jobs right there.

Labor Secretary Robert Reich says the issue is really fairness. "Do we protect workers or unfair employers?" he asks. "It's unfair to fire American workers and bring in skilled foreign workers at less cost."

Will congressional Republicans agree? Kennedy recalls that many of them opposed the notification requirements of the plant-closing law until the public spotlight focused on it. "It's amazing," he said, "how they get the message, once they get the message."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/15/1996
MILITARY POLICY ON GAYS: DON'T ASK, DO HARASS

WASHINGTON Drunken American soldiers attack a female MP in a barracks in South Korea. She yells, "Rape!" They whisper, "Lesbian."

Guess who winds up being court-martialed.

Pfc. Shannon Emery, the MP, finally beat this rap, but it took her 10 months of fighting before she was cleared and allowed to continue her career.

It was too much to expect that President Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, instituted in 1993, would resolve the difficult issues of homosexuality in the armed forces. But the Emery case makes it clear that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has not even halted the age-old military practice of using false charges of homosexuality to harass and expel perfectly straight heterosexuals.

"Women are particularly vulnerable to false claims [of lesbianism] as a means of sexual harassment," says a report issued by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "For example, when a female servicemember rebuffs the sexual advances of men, reprimands a male subordinate for inferior performance or simply competes against men for a job opening, she often finds herself accused of 'lesbian conduct' in retaliation."

This sort of harassment is not unique to the military or to women. You perhaps know of the football star who was labeled "gay" because he preferred to study economics textbooks rather than chase cocktail waitresses. You may know of the awkward spinster who is dubbed a lesbian because she is big and gawky and has never married. I could tell you of an FBI agent, a gifted artist, who had to paint in secret lest J. Edgar Hoover of all people! find out about his "artiness" and brand him a homosexual.

The difference is that in today's military, false accusations of homosexuality still carry a potential penalty of discharge.

Under the three-year-old policy, the armed forces are not supposed to hunt down homosexuals or inquire into the sexual practices of servicemen and women. The official policy was most clearly stated by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell: "We won't witch-hunt. We won't chase. We will not seek to learn orientation."

It has not worked out that way in practice. Servicemen and women are still vulnerable to denunciation and rumor. And at least some officers still have the mindset of the Keystone Kops in the Naval Investigative Service who tried to blame the disastrous 1989 explosion aboard the battleship Iowa on a fictitious homosexual love affair gone awry.

"We still have a double-whammy," says Michelle Benecke, a lawyer and former Army captain who co-wrote the report. "The men try to prove they're straight by making advances toward the women or even harassing them. Then the women have a choice: They can be either seen as very promiscuous or lesbians."

What the report makes clear is that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, if properly implemented, does not simply protect gays and lesbians in military service. It also protects the quiet sailor who would rather read his Bible than visit brothels on shore leave and who then gets dubbed "faggot" by carousing shipmates. It protects the tough female officer who pulls a unit into shape or the adventurous 23-year-old like Shannon Emery from being denounced as dykes then discharged on the basis of pure spite.

President Clinton took a lot of heat for defending "gays in the military," but the reality is that his policy, if honored, protects everyone in the service, the straight no less than the gay.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/18/1996
POWELL FOR VEEP? BLEEP!

WASHINGTON Picking a vice presidential nominee is always an exercise in cynicism. (Remember the strategic geniuses who calculated Dan Quayle's looks would win the women's vote?) But this talk about offering the No. 2 slot on the Republican ticket to Colin Powell deserves a special prize for hypocrisy.

After pandering to practically every right-wing nut group in the country including those yahoo patriots who insist on flying the Confederate flag over public buildings; after years of attacking affirmative action, labor unions, Medicare, Medicaid, gun-control laws and public education, some of these Republican heavyweights now want to turn to Powell and say:

"Excuse us. We cannot win a presidential election on the basis of our own beliefs, our own record and our own hideous personalities. Please join the Republican ticket and bail us out."

Powell, in case you missed it, A) said he would not be a candidate this year, and B) is pro-choice on abortion, favors gun control and believes in such government activism as affirmative action, public transportation and taxation for top-quality public schools without organized prayer in them.

Powell is no flaming liberal, but he opposes nearly everything this Republican primary campaign has stressed. Even Bob Dole, the apparent nominee and a relative moderate, has been yanking the 10th Amendment to the Constitution out of his pocket at nearly every campaign stop, promising to return government powers to the states.

But to Powell, who remembers when he couldn't use toilets in the South, "states rights" is a transparent argument for resisting the federal civil rights laws that made him and his family full-fledged Americans.

The Republicans don't want Powell on the ticket for his beliefs. They only need his name and reputation to make themselves seem more moderate and their agenda more palatable. They want him as a shill.

This would be the reality: Dole as President can be counted on to enact Newt Gingrich's Republican Revolution. That's Dole's record of leadership: Find out what the party wants and lead the parade meanwhile grumbling about "having to carry all that water." Powell, as vice president, would be in no position to fight Gingrich and his ideologues. He could either join the team, quit or lapse into silence.

What could Dole promise Powell? A joint job as vice president and secretary of state? Great. That way, Powell could be sent off to twice as many foreign funerals to keep him from doing any damage.

"Worse, what would Dole have to promise Pat Buchanan and the Christian Coalition as the price for not walking out if Powell is on the ticket?" wonders Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) "He might have to say, 'Just be quiet and I'll sign anything you want.' "

Yes, there is a small group of Powell fans like the legendary promoter Tex McCrary who want to see Powell on the ticket, even as vice president, in hopes that he would then inevitably step up to the presidency and save the Republican Party from itself. "One of them either the party or Powell would have to change," McCrary says, "and the Republican Party is going to have to change if it wants to survive."

That was and is a good argument for Powell as Republican presidential nominee: He could bring the party of Abraham Lincoln back to its roots and possibly unite America in a way we have never seen. Powell for President was a great slogan. Powell for vice president is as phony as a game of three-card monte and has exactly the same intent: It's a swindle.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/20/1996
ARMEY OCCUPIES HOUSE

Washington After four months of uncharacteristic and perhaps sheepish silence, House Speaker Newt Gingrich is back, and in a slightly subdued role.

For the rest of this election year he will shun the day-to-day drudgery of running the House of Representatives, i.e., the job for which we pay him. Instead, he will be a strategic visionary and thinker, a teacher of morality, a communicator of inspirational messages and a Republican fund-raiser.

"He is becoming the crazy uncle in the basement," suggests an unfriendly Democrat, who suspects that Gingrich's negative ratings somewhere around 60% have persuaded the Republicans to hide him.

"Not at all," says Gingrich's spokesman, Tony Blankley. "We have noticed that this is an election year, and Newt thought this was the best way to allocate his time. You'll be seeing a lot more of him in coming weeks."

With Gingrich way up there in strategic visionary land, the job of controlling the House has been handed to Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.).

If you thought Gingrich was a right-winger, wait until you see Armey in action. He is an ideologue so rigid that even his fellow Republicans despair of ever trying to change his mind.

Armey is a pure free marketeer who believes investors should pay no income tax on their profits, who opposes both immigration restrictions and minimum-wage laws, who proposed a tax reform that would end employer-paid health insurance and who once said that in a free world he would have no part of Medicare. He seems to take President Clinton's vetoes of Republican legislation as a personal insult. Plus, he has a thuggish manner: Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) described him as a schoolyard bully after Armey referred to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as Barney Fag.

"He hates New York and he hates labor unions," confides one of his Republican colleagues. "It's just visceral with him. He doesn't understand that a conservative from the Northeast might look at things a little differently than a conservative from Texas."

Armey has won from Gingrich a powerful mandate, formally spelled out in a "House Republican National Strategic Plan for 1996." Armey will manage the House's legislative schedule, control committees, co-ordinate with the Senate and "lead the leadership."

Though Gingrich will be the strategic thinker, on some key issues disabilities, the environment, education, military reform, campaign reform, ethnic groups and women he will find himself "reporting to Armey," according to the formal division of labor.

That sounds suspiciously as if Gingrich has suddenly become a subordinate to Armey, but Blankley insists Gingrich is still in charge.

We'll see. Gingrich has irked his House Republicans on two fronts. Many were outraged in November when he complained of his treatment aboard Air Force One, and some suspect him of having been overly captivated by Clinton in budget negotiations.

Armey is more trusted by the hard-line ideologues, especially among the House freshmen. But it adds up to a weird political strategy. Polls show a majority of Americans believe the House Republicans under Gingrich moved too far to the right. But instead of trying to battle back to the center, they put the pugnacious Armey out front as their most visible day-to-day leader.

"Maybe it hasn't dawned on them that the public is fickle and they might not be reelected," says a puzzled House Democratic staffer. "We were just as arrogant, and it sure as hell never dawned on us."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/22/1996
POLS WON'T ALIEN-ATE EMPLOYERS

WASHINGTON Proof that we truly have a professional Congress i.e., one that works for money came this week in the debate over how to control illegal immigration.

The House had a couple of options. It could crack down on the employers who knowingly exploit illegal aliens as cheap labor. Or it could vote to throw 6-year-old aliens out of kindergarten. Which do you suppose it chose?

The 6-year-olds never had a chance. By a vote of 257 to 163, the House voted to let individual states deny public education to the foreign-born children of illegal aliens. In California, this would toss 335,000 children out of school and onto the streets. In New York City, the number of illegals is unknown; the city schools take all comers which makes the House decision even more disastrous. Here's why:

Under the House bill, each state could decide for itself whether or not to educate illegal aliens. New York will certainly continue to accept the children of illegals; it's better to have them in school than begging in the subways.

But suppose, say, New Jersey decides to bar illegal alien children from its schools. Their parents would be tempted to move to New York, increasing the burden on city schools.

Illegal aliens, ideally, should be deported along with their alien children. But until they're caught, their kids obviously should be in school rather than on the streets. Not according to the tough guys in this Congress.

The toughness vanished when it came to dealing with employers. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) proposed a pilot project under which employers in five states with the largest illegal alien populations could call a toll-free number to check whether a would-be employe is a legal U.S. resident.

Sure, it's a federal bureaucracy, but it would have been good for American job-seekers. The phone check would make it harder for an illegal alien to compete and underbid a legal resident for the same job.

This was opposed by an odd coalition: liberal black and Hispanic congressmen, the small business community, the right-wing militia lobby all arguing about a Big Brother federal government, violations of privacy, the possibility of bureaucratic error.

Then the money talked. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) listed the organizations that want no federal barriers to their supply of cheap, illegal, nonunion, nonminimum-wage labor: the American Association of Nurserymen, the American Hotel and Motel Association, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, Associated General Contractors, the College and University Personnel Association, the National Federation of Independent Business . . . the list goes on.

What do the organizations have in common? No, it's not a concern for the privacy rights of average Americans. Look, instead, at their employes the stooped gardeners and stonemasons with constant fear in their eyes, the motel chambermaids ready to jump out windows at the sight of anyone in uniform, the computer drones laboring for a tuition break in the back offices of university administration buildings.

"A lot of businesses, unfortunately, like to hire people who are here illegally," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). "They find them easily exploitable."

From the right, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) agreed: "There are those who do not want us to be able to enforce our immigration law."

The House killed the 1-800 telephone check by a vote of 331 to 86. The exploiters have lobbyists. The kindergartners do not.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/25/1996
HIS DREAM IS OUR NIGHTMARE

WASHINGTON With his Tweety Bird necktie and the manic glint in his eye, Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is an always refreshing relief from the hard-eyed zombies who make up the House Republican leadership. He has a natural buoyancy, an effervescence, an optimism, an enthusiasm to brighten the gloomiest day.

Or, he could be nutty as a fruitcake.

Kasich envisions a revolution in America that makes Speaker Newt Gingrich's futuristic meanderings seem dull and pedestrian.

He wants to dismantle the federal government and return as much power as possible to the people, down in the neighborhoods.

Breaking up the federal bureaucracy, he confided, is the goal behind the GOP drive for a balanced budget.

Take welfare. "Frankly, I don't even think welfare programs should be run by government," Kasich said the other day. "I want it to go back to the way it was run before we turned it over to the government. You design a system that's truly compassionate in the neighorhoods where we live."

Kasich conjures up Reaganesque memories of small-town America, with each community taking care of its own poor far more humanely than any government bureaucrat could.

Liberals, he charged, simply don't trust the good people of America to solve their own problems.

True and for good reason. Often the problems are overwhelming. Scarsdale might be able to handle its welfare cases without outside help, but Brooklyn, with a 60% illegitimacy rate, surely cannot.

California, in the Great Depression, might have been able to deal with its own unemployed, but it could not, without federal help, cope with the influx of Okies and Arkies from the Dust Bowl.

You think those days are gone forever? California, even today, is begging for federal help to handle the burden of its illegal immigrants.

And often notwithstanding Kasich's words about the "good people" of America communities will not spend the money to help their poor unless the federal government orders them to.

It was not so long ago that the South's idea of helping poor people was to hand them a bus ticket to New York City, Detroit or Chicago.

The current welfare system may indeed be a disaster, but the continued federal role is New York's best if limited defense against an influx of the nation's poorest people.

Funny, conservatives usually pride themselves on being hard-headed realists about human nature.

But on welfare, Kasich and some of his conservative colleagues are shinyeyed Utopians much like Ronald Reagan in his descriptions of a help-one-another America he remembered from 1930s Hollywood movies.

"Kasich is a good person, but things have gone too far to have the federal government drop out of this," says Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.). "Sit down with Catholic Charities and they'll tell you in horror, 'No, we can't handle it.' If you end the federal role, and put time limits on welfare, in the year 2002 you'll have 3.5 million children on the streets. You will have chaos in your cities children without support systems. This problem is much worse than we imagine."

Some critics, including in the Clinton administration, accuse Moynihan of exaggerating.

But ask yourself, if the federal government hands welfare back to local officials, which vision sounds more realistic: Moynihan's prediction of breakdown and squalor, or Kasich's world of happy villages, each handling its own problems honestly, humanely and efficiently and never seeking any help from Washington?

This is not an idle question. They are playing with dynamite.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/27/1996
STATES' WRONGS THE REAL DANGER IN DOLE'S SLOGAN

WASHINGTON With House Republicans cheering him on, Sen. Bob Dole has begun running for President on the slogan of "God Bless the Separated States of America."

Dole, who has spent most of his adult life as a federal legislator, now believes the states are far more efficient at providing governmental services.

It is truly an amazing reversal. Eight years ago, when George Bush was running for President, the states were sinkholes of corruption and despair. The Bush campaign held up Michael Dukakis' Massachusetts and Mario Cuomo's New York as examples of what might befall America if it made a governor President.

Then Bill Clinton would do for America what he had done for benighted, crony-ridden Arkansas, home to the Whitewater scandal, polluted rivers, hookworm, vitamin deficiencies, universal tooth decay and first-cousin marriage.

Today, the federal government is the disaster and the states suddenly have become laboratories of creativity, innovation and excellence. At least that's what Dole and the Republican-controlled Congress say as they propose turning over to the states the money and responsibility for welfare and the Medicaid health program for the poor and nursing home residents.

Not so fast

It sounds good and in some states certainly would make sense. But one major group of players is looking dubiously at this sudden Republican faith in our states: the nation's mayors. Give federal welfare money to the rural-dominated state governments, some mayors suspect, and you may never see much of it reach the cities.

"There's a precedent: In 1986, the federal government passed an anti-drug abuse act that handed money to the states for enforcement, treatment and prevention," says Laura Waxman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "A year later we did a survey of the mayors, and no one had seen any money. The states got it, but none went to the cities."

When the money did arrive, it came with state conditions. Houston, for example, wanted to spend its anti-drug funds on street-level enforcement; but the State of Texas insisted the money be spent on interdiction at Hobby Airport.

Now, some governors including Gov. Pataki are talking about taking the federal welfare grants and making block grants to individual counties to run welfare programs. But with no federal minimum standards in force, the amount each county gets would become a political decision within each state capital. Historically, the cities get shortchanged in such situations.

Negative competition

Such fracturing of the welfare system also invites a race to the bottom, with each county carefully trying to be no more generous than its neighbors for fear of attracting all their poor people. The indigent may not move from state to state in search of higher welfare benefits, but they are far more likely, the mayors fear, to cross county lines.

Brad Johnson, New York State's former Washington representative, agrees with Dole and the Republicans that the federal government has no monopoly on wisdom. But he warns that the governors are inviting disaster if they insist on taking control of Medicaid.

"It's a ticket out of office," Johnson says. "They are asking for a fixed amount of money to deal with a growing problem. And they're going to learn that you can't simply downsize your poor and your elderly. They're there."

By the way, Republican love for the wisdom of the states stops when it comes to such issues as abortion, capital punishment, school prayer and assault weapons. There they want the federal government to overrule community sentiment and impose conservative standards from Washington.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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03/29/1996
CONGRESS VETOES CHECKS & BALANCES IN LINE-ITEM VOTE

WASHINGTON "We are like Nebuchadnezzar dethroned," Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) chided his Senate colleagues: "bereft of reason and eating grass like an ox."

This was a moment to sit up and take notice. With near-frivolous unconcern, the Senate, followed yesterday by the House, granted future Presidents a power that destroys the carefully contrived balance of power that has kept American democracy functioning for two centuries.

Forget what you learned in school about the checks and balances of the federal government or the separation of powers. Starting next January, the President will be able to veto individual items in the federal budget.

Supposedly, this line-item veto would let a President slash the pork-barrel spending that Congress traditionally slips into appropriations bills. But a President could veto whatever he liked essential, nonessential, rural, urban. A liberal in the White House could kill Star Wars; a conservative could single-handedly nullify all federal gun-control laws by vetoing the enforcement budget for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Far more important than the fate of any individual spending project is the shift in the balance of power. With a line-item veto, a President would have a lethal weapon to intimidate any congressman or senator who disagreed with him. Defy the President on a major issue, and he could kill the defense project, courthouse or highway construction in your district. Each member would have to determine whether a vote, say, on abortion or sending troops to Bosnia was worth losing a couple hundred federal jobs in his district.

"In the hands of a vindictive President, the line-item veto could be absolutely brutal," said Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.).

"The one thing we should not do is elect a vindictive President," answered Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

It is a lame and revealing reply: For 200 years our democracy has not had to base its survival on the good nature of the man in the White House. Now, Dole is agreeing that we are about to hand to the President the powers of a dictator. We can only pray that future Presidents will be benevolent.

President Clinton was eager for this misguided transfer of power. But it is a time bomb. Clinton probably would use the line-item veto wisely and with restraint; so would Dole. After its eight-year trial period, the Congress would conclude that no disaster had occurred and make it permanent a potential dictatorial weapon for the first unscrupulous demagogue who chose to employ it.

In theory, Congress could overrule the veto. In reality, all a President needs is 34 senators agreeing with him to make a veto stick.

Would it stop Congress from voting for pork-barrel spending? Just the reverse. Congress now will be free to vote for every project a campaign contributor or local constituent demanded and then leave it to the President to veto the pork if he chose. Congressmen hate to say no to spending; now they'll never have to.

Fortunately, said Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.), the line-item veto is undoubtedly unconstitutional. The Congress has no right to abdicate its constitutionally assigned powers and surrender them to the President.

So, once again, the senators and congressmen had another freebie. They could cast a dangerous and irresponsible but crowd-pleasing vote for a line-item veto, knowing that the Supreme Court would save them from the consequences of their own irresponsibility.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/01/1996
WAGERING ON MINIMUM

WASHINGTON Raising the minimum wage only hurts poor people. Employers will simply stop hiring the poor if they have to pay them, say, $ 5 an hour. Therefore, an increased minimum wage will result in massive lay-offs of young black men and women trying to get a start in life.

Those who would help the poor by raising their wages are in fact the worst enemies of the poor. The way to help the poor is to have no minimum wage at all. Let each employe negotiate the best deal he can in a free market. Then there will be jobs galore, the economy will boom, unemployment will vanish.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke. Congressional conservatives are trotting out these age-old arguments once again as they attempt to beat back Democratic efforts to increase the minimum wage from $ 4.25 an hour to $ 5.15.

It is a successful struggle for the moment, but a sorry sight. The Republican intransigence, especially in the Newt Gingrich-run House, simply confirms House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's devastating jibe: "A Democrat thinks low wages are a problem. A Republican thinks they're the solution."

The minimum wage was last raised in 1989, with overwhelming Republican support. Since then its purchasing power has eroded to a 40-year low. While the real worth of the minimum wage has sunk, and while most middle-class wages have stayed flat, top executive salaries have risen by an average of 9% over the same time span.

But what happened to the Republicans? Historically, going back to Franklin Roosevelt's first wage and hour act in 1938, they have never been enthusiastic about minimum wage laws. But in 1989, President George Bush was willing to sign a 90-cent increase in the minimum wage to $ 4.25. Then, Sen. Bob Dole declared on the Senate floor, "As a Republican I am not going to stand here and say you can live on $ 3.25 an hour or $ 4.55 an hour."

Today, Dole is feverishly twisting Senate rules to avoid another vote on raising the minimum wage, even though several of his long-time colleagues including Sen. Alfonse D'Amato favor it. In the House, Speaker Newt Gingrich similarly won't let the minimum wage increase come to a vote.

One big reason for the GOP shift: Congressional Republicans, once the allies of big business, are increasingly captive to the small-business community, especially the strip-mall capitalists who run fast-food outlets and other low-wage franchise operations. They hate the idea of minimum wage increases or providing health insurance and Congress listens.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses and the National Restaurant Association both associations of low-wage employers provided over $ 1 million in congressional campaign contributions during the last election cycle, the overwhelming majority of it to Republicans. According to The Wall Street Journal, the National Republican Congressional Committee tripled its receipts to $ 26 million by focusing on small-business donations.

For Dole, the minimum wage is an interesting, if painful, test of what his presidential campaign will be like. Sen. Edward Kennedy reminded him on the floor last week that he had once supported the kind of increases he is now resisting.

Now that Dole has the Republican nomination in hand, he is theoretically free after a lifetime of loyally carrying out other people's agendas to set the pragmatic, humane, Republican agenda he has often hinted at. Or he could be the front man for the fast-taco and fried-chicken lobby. We'll see.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/03/1996
U.S. BUSINESSES STILL VICTIMS OF JAPANIMOSITY

WASHINGTON Spectacular news from U.S. trade representative Mickey Kantor: As a result of tough U.S. negotiations, American auto sales to Japan soared 83% last year.

Well, maybe not so spectacular. We started out with .85% of the Japanese car market, and now we have not counting exports to Japan of U.S.-built Japanese cars maybe 1.5%. And this, mind you, is after correcting so many of the flaws that supposedly kept our cars out of the Japanese market: high gas consumption, sloppy construction, steering wheels on the wrong side.

In supercomputers, the U.S. won only one of 11 contracts awarded by the Japanese government. In medical technology, mysterious trade barriers held U.S. suppliers to only 21% of the Japanese market as opposed to the 52% market share American firms enjoy worldwide.

You wonder why the boom on Wall Street and the apparent economic recovery do not translate into higher wages for American workers? Kantor's annual report on foreign trade barriers gives some of the answers.

Though Americans have shifted to the manufacture of world-class, high-technology, highwage products, Japan still manages to restrict U.S. imports through tariffs, bureaucracy, "buy-Japanese" collusive policies and hypnotic gestures borrowed from Mandrake the Magician.

U.S. industrial suppliers, for example, have managed to find customers in Japan and have even wonder of wonders! accepted the just-in-time theory of parts deliveries. But their hopes are frustrated when Japanese customs officials delay air-freight clearances for two or three days as opposed to the 30-minute standard for Japanese goods arriving in America.

Kantor reports that Japan still restricts patent protection so that American innovators get less or even no reward for their breakthroughs. On top of that, Japan is reluctant to punish piracy of U.S. computer software.

Japan is not alone in using contortions to restrict imports of U.S. products, but it is the biggest offender, matched only by China. Between them, they accounted for the vast bulk of last year's $ 111 billion U.S. trade deficit.

How does that deficit hold down wages? Normally, in an economic recovery, people have more money and buy more goods. This increased demand has a ripple effect that leads to increased production and higher wages.

But if the spending goes for imported goods cars, electronics, shoes, clothing "There's no ripple effect," says Mark Anderson, an AFL-CIO economist. "The new phrase is 'leakage.' " Corporations might make record profits, but the wealth doesn't trickle down. It trickles away.

Pat Buchanan momentarily profited from worker anger over some of the injustices of foreign trade. But he had no real answer to the problems and his campaign collapsed.

Judging from Kantor's report, President Clinton has no real answer either. He has negotiated, as have his predecessors, trade deal after trade deal, but in two of our biggest trading partners Japan and China the same obstacles remain.

Clinton and his allies preach that America's hope for high wages and prosperity in a global economy must rest on exports of high-wage products and intellectual breakthroughs. But Kantor's report suggests that even if we do everything right re-educate ourselves, retool our factories, tolerate zero defects, use the metric system, produce world-class products we are still banging our heads against a brick wall.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/05/1996
BROWN A MASTER OF MANY WORLDS

WASHINGTON It is a measure of Ron Brown's spectacular life that his death shocked everyone in Washington from the President to the bicycle messengers. He was more than a man of the world; he was a man of all worlds, with a grin and an inside joke for you, no matter who you are.

Strange to think in 1996 that we still have pioneers among us, and that they are so young; Brown's life was a series of breakthroughs for black people, in college, in politics and ultimately in government. He won every time, and he won with grace, elegance and humor.

But for me there is something bittersweet about Brown's career. He personified the modern transformation of liberal politics. He entered a Democratic Party that was driven by the civil rights struggle and opposition to the Vietnam War; he died in the company of corporate executives and campaign contributors upon whom today's Democrats depend for survival.

Brown quickly learned that Democrats could not win elections without major financial support. As head of the Democratic National Committee, he was slapped down by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) when he risked offending business by opposing cuts in the capital gains tax. He ran afoul of Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and Finance Committee chairman Lloyd Bentsen when the DNC urged giving working people a break by cutting the Social Security taxes that were being used to mask budget deficits.

By 1992, Brown's third year as chairman of the DNC, political analyst Bill Greider could write in his masterful "Who Will Tell the People?": "The Democratic Party no longer performs the basic functions of a political party. . . . It functions mainly as a mail drop for political money."

It was a cold-blooded strategy but it worked. Brown delivered a prosperous, united party unriven by nasty ideological fights over what Democrats should actually stand for to Bill Clinton at the 1992 convention.

Along the way, Brown thrived on both sides of the street. I recall a stirring speech he delivered in 1992, charging that President Bush was out of touch with "everyday working people, working men and women and working families in America . . . worried about the economy and jobs and economic insecurity." At the time, Brown was a member of the high-powered Washington lobbying firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow, which both represented major Japanese manufacturers and hosted scores of political fund-raisers among fat-cat lobbyists.

He was by no means unique in taking the Democratic Party where the money was. Insiders like Bob Strauss, party chairman during the Jimmy Carter years, had blazed that trail, and former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) specialized in persuading businessmen that, for a price, they too could have a friend in the party.

Brown continued to court big business as commerce secretary, leading corporate executives (and potential contributors) on trade missions around the world. He did this, he insisted, to help American workers by opening markets for their goods. But it was not always clear that the executives he helped were interested in creating jobs for U.S. workers. In some cases notably China they seem more interested in opening factories there, rather than selling U.S.-made products. Brown's Commerce Department will tell you the dollar value of the deals, not whether they create or kill jobs in America.

Brown maneuvered through these worlds with such grace and charm that it was impossible not to gape in admiration, just for his sheer style. He played the political game as he found it, and he won. But given his overwhelming talents, I am tempted to think that he could have changed the game.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/08/1996
BIGGEST BUCKS NOW END UP IN DEM COFFERS

WASHINGTON May I have the cash-filled envelopes, please? And the winner is . . . the Democrats!

Democrats like to pose as champions of the little guy, but when it comes to raising money from deep-pocketed contributors they beat the Republicans hands down. According to a survey in the April Mother Jones magazine, of the top 20 individual campaign contributors in the country, 15 give all or most of their money to Democrats.

Of the top 400 givers, more than half are listed as Democrats. Republicans do very well, mind you, raking in millions from political action committees and small-business givers. But Democrats are even more dependent than Republicans on extremely wealthy individuals.

The No. 1 giver Fred Lennon, a manufacturer of pipe fittings is a conservative Republican who donated $ 524,000 to his party and individual candidates over the past 21/2 years. Lennon magnifies his clout by "suggesting" that his 74 distributors also make contributions to selected Republican candidates.

But after Lennon, the next eight donors are major backers of Democrats. They are California class-action lawsuit king William Lerach, a major backer of President Clinton; soybean magnate Dwayne Andreas, a supporter of Republican Sen. Bob Dole who nevertheless gives the bulk of his contributions to the Democratic party; Chiquita bananas' Carl Lindner, who gives mostly to Democrats; California oilman Marvin Davis; New York's Dirk Ziff, of the Ziff-Davis publishing empire; New York's defense-industry mogul, Bernard Schwartz; William Rollnick of Coral Gables, Fla., and Pittsburgh's John Connelly, an investor in riverboat casinos.

Ranking No. 13 is music producer David Geffen, who donated $ 268,000 to Democrats. He is followed by Walter Shorenstein, a San Francisco real estate investor, New York's Denise Rich (estranged wife of Marc Rich, who fled indictments for racketeering and tax evasion); Los Angeles businessman Sidney Sheinberg; Indianapolis shopping mall owner Herbert Simon, and movie producer Steven Spielberg.

Why would wealthy people, who bore the brunt of Democratic-backed tax increases, give to Democrats? Pure idealism, surely. But former Republican Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota adds: "Big business doesn't really mind a lot of what's in the Democratic agenda. It can live with affirmative action and even regards it as a business asset. It doesn't mind federal regulations; it would rather see one set of regulations than 50 different ones. And the big construction companies know how to live with federal mandates like the Davis-Bacon law [which sets wage floors on federal contracts]."

The profile of the contributors is a variation of the new political split in the country; it is no longer left/right, it is elite/nonelite. Solicitous, urbane Democrats like the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown can get a friendly hearing from well-educated corporate executives who live in the same neighborhoods and attended the same schools. They have so much in common culturally that their political differences are manageable.

The new breed of Republicans, meanwhile, sneers at the Fortune 500 country-club set who support things like public broadcasting and gun control. Today's GOP looks out, instead, for the retired Army sergeant who has put his life savings into a Blimpie sandwich franchise and loves his semi-automatic rifle. Both groups contribute, but the rich, as always, have more to give.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/10/1996
NEXT CONSPIRACY THEORY WILL SWAMP W'WATER PROBERS

WASHINGTON After all the right wing's huffing and puffing, the Whitewater "scandal" is dying out in wisps of smoke.

President Clinton's main accuser, David Hale, is currently tangled up in his own lies at a Whitewater trial in Little Rock. Hale has had two years in the witness protection program to practice his story, and it didn't survive two days of cross-examination.

The "independent" Whitewater counsel, Kenneth Starr, turns out to have far more conflicts of interest than Clinton ever did. Starr's own definition of "independent," he told other lawyers this week, means only that he is independent of the Clinton administration i.e., not independent of partisanship, outside sources of income or private clients (Brown and Williamson Tobacco) with a grudge against the President.

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's eye-glazing Whitewater hearings have run out of money, gas and intelligible questions. D'Amato, too, has a conflict: He's co-chairman of Bob Dole's presidential campaign, and his claims of impartiality are ludicrous.

How, then, can the GOP keep Whitewater alive through the coming presidential campaign? By saying the magic word, "Mena," and conjuring up a conspiracy so vast and diabolical that it drags in Clinton, Ollie North, former President George Bush, the Iran-Contra scandal, cocaine smuggling, gun running and money laundering.

Like a member of an Australian tag team, Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), chairman of the House Banking Committee and a long-time Whitewater critic, is about to rescue his flagging fellow-wrestlers by leaping back into the ring with an investigation of accusations that Mena, Ark., a hill town near the Oklahoma border, was used to launder drug money to benefit the Clintons back in the mid-1980s.

Leach will take depositions from informants later this month, aide David Runkel said. He has not yet decided whether to hold public hearings. But an investigation into Mena fits the Republican strategy against the Clintons up to now: Keep raising questions, never mind the answers. It's the questions that raise doubts about Clinton's character.

For Leach, there is a double risk in Mena. First, it is a favorite of conspiracy nuts, and while something happened there, the evidence trail has been polluted by fabricators, paranoids, right-wing TV preachers, self-styled soldiers of fortune and fast-buck confidence men. The path to Mena, in the fantasy world they inhabit, takes in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA, Hmong tribesmen, Australia's Nugan-Hand bank, Colombian hit men and Rhodesian mercenaries. If Leach should hold hearings, he could find himself providing a public forum for some farcical wackos.

Second, Clinton could be accused, at most, of knowing what was going on in Mena while he was governor. The purported "what" secretly running guns from Mena to Nicaraguan Contras and supposedly importing cocaine on return flights would implicate conservative hero Ollie North, the Reagan administration and George Bush in far more serious crimes, for which, in fact, there is little believable evidence.

"Virtually no one takes these allegations seriously," says White House counsel Mark Fabiani. "But the problem is that the investigators, like D'Amato, are not held to any standard. They make an allegation, and if it's not true, they never withdraw it or apologize. They just move on to the next allegation."

Mena is the bottom of the Whitewater barrel. After that, it's Ouija boards and witch doctors.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/12/1996
FATAL COMBINATION IN BROWN'S FLIGHT

A 3-PART RECIPE FOR DISASTER

WASHINGTON Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, on a high-tech sales mission to Bosnia, was killed when his two Air Force pilots attempted a risky, bad-weather approach to Dubrovnik airport with a single, old-fashioned, low-tech radio, according to aviation sources and the Air Force.

The crew's last, desperate moments are now the subject of an official Air Force investigation, but aviation industry sources have already been able to reconstruct what must have happened to the plane and some are horrified at the risk the pilots took.

"The weather was extreme, the navigation technology is 50 years old and there was no military urgency for that mission," said retired Adm. Eugene Carroll, a former flight instructor now at the Center for Defense Information. "They could easily have diverted across the Adriatic to Italy and waited for the weather to clear."

The crash, in which 35 people died, raises two key questions: Why the Air Force, which spends billions on high-tech weaponry, relied on such imprecise navigation equipment? And are Air Force pilots under pressure from VIP passengers to take needless risks that a commercial pilot would never consider?

Each component in this crash the bad weather, a nonprecision navigation system, a VIP flight was innocent enough by itself. But when they came together, it was a disaster.

The approach to Dubrovnik's Cilipi Airport, which sits atop a 500-foot cliff and is ringed by mountains, is marked by two radio beacons that are lined up with the runway, 2 miles and 12 miles out.

The weather was below minimum standards. The cloud cover was at 2,000 feet below the safe descent altitude at which pilots are supposed to see the field. Some Croats called the weather at the time the worst storm of the century, although the tower said visibility was 5 miles and the rain was only light to moderate.

The standard approach requires pilots to tune their automatic direction finder (ADF) to the outer beacon KLP with a frequency of 318 kilohertz identify its Morse code signal, and turn their plane so that it is headed directly at the beacon in a compass heading of 119 degrees, aimed at the runway.

Once the plane is over the first beacon, the needle pointing to the beacon spins aimlessly. At that point, just 10 miles from the airport at an altitude of 4,000 feet, descending through impenetrable clouds, the pilots were supposed to retune to the second beacon CV with a frequency of 397 kilohertz identify it by its Morse signal and hope they could follow it down to the runway.

Ideally, a plane using this approach would have two ADF radios, one tuned to each beacon. U.S. commercial airliners are required to have two ADF radios, which leapfrog one another on rarely used multiple-beacon approaches. But the Air Force T-43A a Boeing 737-200 in which Brown and his colleagues were flying had only a single automatic direction finder, according to the Air Force.

With only one ADF onboard, the Air Force pilots would have been flying blind on final approach for the moments it took them to find and identify the second beacon.

"You have a little plane, bouncing around in a storm, with rain hitting the windshield, and the pilots looking out to see if they can spot land at an unfamiliar airport and at the same time trying to identify a Morse signal," said a U.S. commercial pilot. "They had a 20-knot wind from the south, which translates into a 7-degree drift from their course. I can see how they get into that situation."

The plane hit a mountain at 2,100 feet, 2 miles off-course and parallel with the runway.

Industry sources said Air Force officers had sought to upgrade the instruments on the T-43A but were turned down for budget reasons. For example, the T-43A had an old-fashioned ground-proximity warning system, which, according to industry sources, does not give warnings when the plane's wheels and flaps are down for landing.

Air Force officers insisted their equipment is up to standard, their procedures are correct and their pilots know how to resist pressure from VIP passengers eager to make an appointment. But in 1983, Secretary of State George Shultz told his Air Force crew to land his Boeing 707 at the Beirut airport when it had just come under artillery fire and the Air Force obliged.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/15/1996
INSIDER DOLE'S RUNNING OUTSIDE BOUNDS OF REALITY

WASHINGTON As Bob Dole struggles to find a theme for his presidential campaign, he looks like a man in search of a gimmick. It is a curious sight to see him, at the age of 72, trying out ideas that might win him the White House. You would think that by now he would have a clear agenda and clear set of principles.

But his campaign rhetoric bears almost no relation to reality and in a couple of cases directly contradicts it.

After 36 years as a Washington insider, he is running as the down-home boy from Kansas. In his case, the accent should be on the "from." He spent just 10 days last year in the state he represents in the Senate, and seven were related to his presidential campaign. In 1992, when he was last reelected, he voted by absentee ballot.

After regular yock-it-up appearances on the relentlessly raunchy Don Imus radio show, Dole now is solemnly campaigning against "the language of the gutter" that the American entertainment industry spews upon us. Does he not listen to Imus and his locker-room humor?

After demanding for years that the U.S. break a United Nations embargo against arms to Bosnian Muslims, Dole now is bashing the Clinton administration and threatening Senate investigations for letting Iranian arms reach the Bosnians.

But the most blatant cynicism of all is Dole's current crusade against Harold Baer, the federal judge whose dippy decision tossed out evidence in a drug case in Washington Heights. Baer said that residents of the neighborhood were justified in running away from police and that therefore the police had no legitimate basis to suspect them of criminal activity and search a cocaine-filled car.

Baer's ruling which he later reversed was outrageous and indefensible. But Dole's demand for Baer's impeachment is no better.

Dole's campaign for the White House centers on taking power away from distant, know-it-all Washington bureaucrats and returning power to the states. Local officials, because they are closer to the people, are wiser, more humane and more efficient at dealing with real-life problems, he says.

But Baer is a product of precisely that local political system that Dole so highly praises. Though he was appointed by President Clinton, Baer was selected for his federal judgeship by a panel of New York lawyers chosen by Sen. Daniel Moynihan. Sen. Al D'Amato, a Republican, signed off on the selection. Baer is from, and lives in, the city in which he hands down his rulings.

To Dole, the once-upon-a-time Kansan, Baer is too liberal. But New York is a liberal city; its political establishment is mostly liberals. If you believe in handing power to local officials, you should be willing to live with the results, whether Baer's goofy but not impeachable decision or Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson's opposition to the death penalty.

Not Dole. "When I'm President, liberals need not apply for judgeships," he said in Texas last week. This is the flaw in Dole's campaign for taking power away from Washington and handing it to local officials. He and his fellow conservatives believe in selective Big Brotherism. At the same time that they tout the wisdom of the states, they want to use federal power to impose a conservative agenda prayer in schools, a national ban on abortion, death penalties on states and cities whose voters may think differently.

Dole can't have it both ways. If he wants the states and cities to run their own lives, he has to accept that not all of them will swallow the Republican Party platform.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/17/1996
HOW THE FEDERAL GOV'T SPENDS YOUR HARD-EARNED CASH

WASHINGTON If government had as much sense as even the cheapest restaurant, it would give you an itemized bill for your taxes so you would know what you have just spent all that money on. Instead, it just demands that you pay the amount on line 65 and be quiet.

The result is an astonishing national ignorance. People naturally grumble about their taxes, but they also fall prey to various charlatans who tell them their hard-earned tax dollars have all been squandered for welfare, foreign aid or a conspiracy hatched by the Trilateral Commission.

Liberals claim weapons programs eat up the federal budget; conservatives pretend your tax money goes for misguided social programs. All you know is you paid bureaucrats in Washington a whopping amount of money and you don't see any payback.

So here's my calcuation of the bill, based on the percentage of the budget for each category. For simplicity's sake, it is for a middle-income family that paid $ 10,000 in federal personal income taxes. It leaves out Social Security and Medicare hospitalization costs, which are more or less self-financing, and it includes some receipts, like Medicare Part B premiums. If you paid $ 10,000, this, approximately, is where it went:

Interest on the debt $ 2,321

Military salaries $ 700

Military operations $ 908

Weapons purchases $ 549

Military research $ 346

Intelligence $ 280

Nuclear weapons $ 117

Foreign aid $ 138

Farm subsidies $ 70

Education and training $ 542

Federal pensions $ 658

Food stamps $ 250

Unemployment benefits $ 236

Veterans benefits $ 379

Federal law enforcement $ 64

Earned Income Tax Credit $ 152

Medicare doctor bills $ 370

Family support (welfare) $ 171

Housing subsidies $ 140

Conservation $ 50

Rail and highways $ 252

Disaster relief $ 32

Parks $ 28

Pollution control $ 65

Space flight $ 126

Federal prisons $ 27

Congress $ 20

Tax collection $ 80

White House $ 2

The remaining $ 900 or so is scattered around various accounts. These are rough figures, and experts may quarrel with them, but they are correct in their relationship to one another. We spend twice as much on the CIA and its related activities as we spend on foreign aid.

To me, the most stunning figure is the first one: interest on the debt. You get nothing at all for that; it pays off the bills run up in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan's supply-side economists promised us a free lunch. Cut high-income tax rates, they promised, and revenues would increase so dramatically that there would be no need for spending cuts.

That mistake costs you nearly one-fourth of your federal income tax bill every year.

A second notable point is how trivial the House Republican spending targets have been as they strive for a balanced budget. They went after the school lunch program. That would have saved the $ 10,000 taxpayer just $ 44. Knocking off public broadcasting would have saved $ 2.60. Abolishing the entire Department of Commerce theoretically would save $ 34, although in fact its functions like those of the Census Bureau and the Weather Bureau would simply be relocated.

A final point: I'm not claiming you got value for your money. I'm just pointing out where it went.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/19/1996
ISRAELI ATTACKS ARE TERROR BY ANOTHER NAME

WASHINGTON One of Vaclav Havel's many contributions to human civilization was his decision, once he had ousted the Communists from power in Czechoslovakia, not to throw them all into prison camps or line them up in front of firing squads.

His simple but profound reason: "We are not them."

It is a lesson currently being ignored by Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres as his planes and artillery sow random death and destruction on the population of south Lebanon.

Yes, Israel has provocation for its attacks. Katyusha rockets launched by Hezbollah guerrillas hiding in southern Lebanon sow random death and destruction in northern Israel. And the list of Israeli victims of Arab terror is horrendous. Just last month, terrorist bus bombs killed 31 Israelis; in February, 23 Israelis were killed.

Israel has every right to strike back at its enemies. It has no right to imitate their atrocities.

Last Saturday, an Israeli helicopter rocketed a Lebanese ambulance, killing two women and four children. The attack was not a mistake. Israel claimed that its much-praised intelligence had determined that guerrillas had used the ambulance to move fighters. Wrong but even if right, no reason to shoot an ambulance when you don't actually know who is inside.

Yesterday, Israel claimed it was conducting "surgical strikes" a phrase that may be the most blatant lie of the 20th century as its artillery shells rained on a Lebanese refugee camp and slaughtered perhaps 75 women and children. The only difference between that attack and a Palestinian bus bomb is the pretense: Israel is a civilized nation; the terrorists are not.

The Israelis claim they have pinpoint radar to locate the Katyusha launch sites. Fine, but the Hezbollah guerrillas now fire the Katyushas from disposable launch sites and launch them by delayed-action timers. When the Israeli shells come roaring in, the guerrillas are long gone. Only the civilians die.

Spreading an unmistakable odor over the Israeli attacks is the naked politics behind them. Peres, who succeeded to the premiership when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, faces a tough re-election campaign May 29 against the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party.

Netanyahu, a fervid opponent of peace talks with the Palestinians, was in momentary eclipse when his followers were linked to the Rabin assassination. But his fortunes recovered with the February and March bus bombings, which convinced many Israelis once again that the Arabs could not be trusted. Peres, committed to talking peace with Yasser Arafat, was under pressure to prove that he was just as tough as the Likud.

When the Katyushas began killing Israelis, Peres ordered exactly the kind of deliberately cruel response that marked the Likud's rule in the 1980s. Israeli troops sent 400,000 terrified Lebanese streaming northward to Beirut, destroyed the Beirut power plant and targeted civilian apartment houses and now even a United Nations base on the grounds that guerrillas had used them as bases for attacks. It's great politics: 84% of Israelis approve. Peres may be a shoo-in for reelection.

For President Clinton, it is a bitter irony. He prefers Peres to Netanyahu because Peres is committed to the "peace process." And naturally he prefers Israel to the Arab terrorists because Israel is not a terrorist nation.

But if you had to look at the results in south Lebanon yesterday, you wouldn't have seen much difference among the lot of them.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/22/1996
CANDIDATE DOLE SHOWS HE'S GOP STEREOTYPE OF GUY

WASHINGTON In the bad old days, unscrupulous insurance companies would target senior citizens with terrifying advertisements about the costs of, say, heart disease and offer insurance policies to protect them.

"Fact! Heart and Blood Vessel Disease Affects 1 in 4 People and Is the Nation's Leading Killer," says one screamer sent to a 77-year-old widow. "Fact! Coronary Care Costs are Double, Almost Triple, Average Daily Hospital Costs."

All true but the Fact! also is that senior citizens were already covered by Medicare. They were being duped into purchasing unneeded "dread disease" policies that paid out only 45 cents for every dollar collected.

In 1991, such deceptive sales pitches were outlawed. Companies had to disclose that seniors were already covered by Medicare. But the insurance companies didn't give up. And now House Republicans have approved a bill . . . to repeal the ban on deceptive marketing! So once again, let the elderly beware.

It is a small point, perhaps, but an illustrative one. With all the real need for health care reform in this country, with all the real people experiencing real hardship in securing health coverage for their families, this greedy little special interest manages to get its desire written into law. Some days down here it seems that the Republican idea of health reform begins and ends with making the insurance companies well.

Last week, Sen. Bob Dole tried to slip into a modest health reform bill a provision for Medical Savings Accounts, an idea championed by the Golden Rule Insurance Co.

Dole was warned that the highly controversial MSAs in this particular instance, a high-income tax shelter could sink the entire bill, which guarantees that employes have access to health coverage even if they change jobs.

But Dole fought for the MSAs anyway. He lost. Five fellow Republicans, including his Kansas colleague Nancy Kassebaum, joined Democrats and repudiated their own leader in his first legislative at-bat since securing the GOP presidential nomination. Never mind. Dole strongly hinted that he would slip the MSAs back into the bill when he meets in conference with House Republicans. Golden Rule is a major Republican campaign contributor. Its health comes first.

Another example of making insurers well: Dole and his fellow Republicans insist they want to dismantle federal regulations and turn power back to the states. But when it comes to small-business health insurance, House Republicans want to exempt the insurers from all state regulations against fraud, deceptive marketing, discrimination and under-financing.

Dole and the House Republicans are making the biggest single mistake in politics: Living up to their stereotype. If you are a liberal Democrat, you cannot afford to appear soft on crime. If you are a conservative Republican, you cannot appear to be indifferent to the average citizen and in the pocket of business.

But Dole has now embarked on his presidential campaign by taking two such stereotyped positions against raising the minimum wage, for health insurance companies and losing. He will be forced, by fellow Republicans, to accept an increase in the minimum wage. The Medical Savings Accounts, even if he maneuvers them through Congress, will be vetoed by President Clinton. Dole winds up empty-handed except for that devastating stereotype of the heartless Republican who does whatever business wants.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/24/1996
BOB DOLE'S TWO HATS ARE A VERY AWKWARD FIT

WASHINGTON In the morning, the Republican National Committee issued its "talking points" for the day: President Clinton appoints liberal judges. President Bob Dole won't.

Then Dole himself, in his role as Senate majority leader, appeared on the Senate floor to denounce one of Clinton's judicial appointments. Then the Dole for President campaign followed up the attack by sending out the text of Dole's floor speech.

Such neat coordination. Everything works together to hammer home the point that worked so well for George Bush in 1988: You can't trust a Democratic President to pick judges.

But the coordination shows something else: Dole has now taken his campaign for the presidency to the Senate floor.

It is neat. It is clean. It is free. No need to rent a hall, drum up supporters or invite the TV networks. No need to spend any of that dwindling $ 2 million that has to last the Dole campaign from now to the Republican convention in August. C-SPAN will carry your remarks to the nation free on the assumption that what is said on the Senate floor is official Senate business.

But is this kosher?

There is no actual rule against campaigning from the Senate floor, according to the Senate parliamentarian. But Dole's speech against a Clinton fund-raiser named Charles Stack who seems to think that $ 7 million entitles him to a federal judgeship blurs what is intended to be a strict line between official business and private pursuits. Members of Congress are not supposed to use government-provided space or government-paid staff for unofficial activities like campaigning or fund-raising.

"I was surprised he did that," said former Sen. George McGovern, the last person to run for President while serving in the Senate (in 1972). "It seemed like a campaign speech to me, like something that ought to be delivered at a rally in Detroit. You're supposed to use some discretion about carrying your campaign onto the Senate floor."

But Dole is in a bit of a fix. Because of his money problems, he cannot afford to go many places other than the Senate. And without any more contested GOP primaries there is no natural place for him to go campaigning even if he wanted to. Yet if he stays in the Senate, he risks accusations from the Democrats that everything he does is partisan political posturing. And if he actually tries to do the nation's business by compromising with Clinton and Senate Democrats, he risks charges from the right that he's selling out the Republican Revolution.

Former Education Secretary William Bennett urges Dole to step down as majority leader and escape the "trap" of having to compromise on conservative ideological principles. At the same time, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut chairman of the Democratic National Committee taunts Dole that he cannot be the Senate majority leader while refusing to engage with the President and Senate Democrats to enact legislation.

For Dole, the criticism from the right is far more damaging. Ideological conservatives don't trust him. To win their continued support, he must prove his purity, but by proving his purity he antagonizes the moderate voters he needs in November.

So there he is, stuck in the Senate for the next three months, with no place else to go, trying to live two roles at once: the pragmatic, problem-solving Senate leader whom Americans can trust and the uncompromising ideological champion of the right-wing revolution. It is a recipe for frustration and grumpiness. Just what Dole needs.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/26/1996
A DASH OF SAM MAY BE POLLUTING WHITEWATER CASE

WASHINGTON If you're old enough to remember the televised Senate Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973, you'll remember Sam Dash, the pedantic Democratic counsel who could drive viewers nuts by his maddening failure to ask the most obvious followup questions.

Even casual viewers would start screaming at their TV sets: "Sam! Sam! Why don't you ask him about the money?" But Dash was oblivious and would drift off the trail.

Dash a charming and universally admired lawyer is back in business, and in one way he hasn't changed.

Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr is paying Dash $ 3,000 a week, from government funds, to be an ethics adviser. Among Dash's duties: Advising Starr on whether the private clients he still represents pose any conflict of interest with his official investigation of President Clinton and his Arkansas cronies.

Starr needs this advice because even though he accepted the Whitewater appointment, he wanted to retain the $ 1 million-plus salary from his law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, by defending private clients. So far, Dash has found no conflicts, and Starr has worn two hats: public prosecutor and private defense attorney, collecting salaries both ways.

By now, you may again be screaming the obvious question at Sam Dash: Why are taxpayers being charged for the legal advice that helps Starr to retain his million-dollar outside salary? That's not a legitimate public expense. If Starr wants to make a million dollars while on the government payroll, let him pay for legal advice out of his own pocket. It's big enough.

Dash insisted in a brief interview that his only interest was in protecting the integrity of the independent counsel, who is allowed by law to retain outside clients. Most of his duties, he added, related to advising Starr on the strength of his Whitewater cases.

But Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), who feels Starr's outside clients are indeed a conflict of interest, charges that "Dash is being paid on the public payroll for giving personal legal advice to Ken Starr on how to maintain a million-dollar income even when it conflicts with his official duties."

That would be a far bigger misuse of public funds about $ 160,000 so far than anything Starr has managed to pin on Clinton. Starr is paying Dash more in a month than Hillary Rodham Clinton earned for her 15 months of Whitewater work for the Rose Law Firm.

Because of his Watergate services, Dash is generally revered by Democrats in Washington. He has been a perfect insurance policy for Starr, who was named an "independent" counsel even though he is an ambitious Republican.

Starr's charging taxpayers for advice from Dash is just one more example of the Whitewater pursuers having dirtier hands than their victims. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), whose Senate hearings have degenerated into unintentional hilarity, spent a day this week trying to prove that Clinton had steered a state lease to his partner Jim McDougal.

It turned out that the bid was proper, Clinton had applied no pressure on behalf of McDougal and the disputed lease helped revive a neglected area of Little Rock.

Poor D'Amato. In 1989, it was reported that he was leasing a $ 250,000 Manhattan office paid for by government funds from two long-time political allies who, "coincidentally," happened to be clients of his brother, Armand.

D'Amato must have thought he had caught Clinton in the same kind of contributor-friendly deal. Instead, the more he and Starr expose Whitewater, the clearer they make the case for the Clintons. Compared with D'Amato and Starr, they are innocent children.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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04/29/1996
TIMBERRR! GOP LOGGING FOREST OF CAMPAIGN GREEN

WASHINGTON Republican environmental policy is beginning to look like the old joke about Yasser Arafat: Send him $ 5 and he'll cut down a tree in Israel in your name.

American timber companies have made $ 8 million in campaign contributions overwhelmingly to Republicans in the past six years. In return, Republicans have gone to bat for the timber companies, most recently in the astonishing deal over Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

As part of the final negotiations on the 1996 budget, President Clinton can bar the timber companies from clear-cutting the ancient trees of the Tongass. But if he does, he has to pay $ 100 million to local governments in Alaska as compensation for the lost profits and jobs. Just don't call it welfare.

"We used to subsidize them to cut down the forests, now we'll subsidize them to watch 'Oprah,"' sighs Ben Beach of the Wilderness Society. "Ted Stevens (one of Alaska's two Republican senators) sure knows how to work the system."

Just as remarkable as the deal itself is the political leverage the timber companies enjoyed: Through a combination of campaign contributions and Stevens' Senate seniority, the logging companies were able advance their little special interest to the very top of the national agenda. Thus, when the President of the United States and the congressional leadership were trying to work out a national budget for 1996, they had to haggle first over how many trees could be cut in Alaska. Somehow, the Alaska loggers managed to hold the functioning of the federal government hostage to their demands.

Stevens' activism is largely ideological. Alaskans inhabit a huge land and they see no reason why they should not be free to exploit its wealth. But money plays a big part in the Republican environmental agenda. The timber, mining, ranching and nuclear industries have given $ 46 million to Congress over the past six years, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Their pay-off has come since they took control of Congress last year. Rep Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has compiled a list of the most outrageous Republican attacks on the environment:

Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas tried to repeal the entire Clean Air Act. Two Utah Republicans tried to legalize strip mining in a wilderness area.

Rep. Jerry Lewis of California cut the enforcement budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and tried to prevent the EPA from protecting wetlands.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska tried to turn over public lands to mining companies at bargain-basement rates. Young and California's Richard Pombo want to allow the importation of hunting trophies on the endangered species list African elephants, leopards, baboons and cheetahs.

Jim Hansen of Utah wanted to hand over 268 million of federal land for unrestricted local development. Alaska's Young again wanted to permit hunting in national wildlife refuges, which would give new meaning to the word "refuge."

The public isn't buying it. Republicans have suffered in the polls for their assault on the environment, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich has taken to the airwaves accompanied by several soft, furry animals to prove that he is at heart a nature-lover.

But that doesn't address the basic question: Wouldn't it be nice if somewhere in the political system there was someone who fought as hard for you and your interests as these guys will fight for a logging company?

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/01/1996
HOUSING VOUCHERS A NOBLE IDEA THAT HITS WORKING POOR

WASHINGTON Along with the American Dream owning your own home some day comes the American homeowner's nightmare: As soon as you get settled, the government will move a welfare family next door.

It sounds like typical misguided liberal social engineering except that the newest advocate of this plan that has frightened and frustrated so many working-class homeowners is none other than Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). He thinks it's a good conservative idea.

Dole calls public housing projects "one of the last bastions of socialism in the world." He wants them replaced with housing vouchers for the poor, who could then move wherever they like preferably to middle-class suburbs with good schools.

"Housing vouchers, in my view, would enable poor Americans to choose where they like to live, just like we do," Dole told the National Realtors Association.

Well, the poor wouldn't actually be able to move next door to Dole, who lives in the exclusive Watergate apartment complex. But with government help they could afford to move to those struggling, working-class neighborhoods where homeowners have scrimped and saved for their piece of the dream only to see their new neighbors from the projects get the same dream for nothing.

In theory, it's a great idea that dates back to the Nixon administration. Housing vouchers could break up inner-city poverty pockets and lead to a genuine racial and economic integration of American society. But in reality, the burden falls all too heavily on those who have struggled up to the first rung of the ladder on their own: the working poor.

Working-class Yonkers, for example, has been hit by an influx of poor people from more affluent areas of Westchester County, all subsidized by federal Section 8 housing vouchers. In Baltimore, vouchers are blamed for bringing blight and high rents to once-stable, working-class Patterson Park.

"In an area where many houses ordinarily could be leased for under $ 350, the [poor] families' $ 600-a-month housing vouchers have made renting to Section 8 tenants so profitable many speculators are no longer interested in ordinary working-class renters," reports the Baltimore Sun.

In Chicago, Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) has tried to bar the issuance of any more Section 8 vouchers in the city's southern suburbs. And in Mount Vernon, Va., angry homeowners along Route 1 blame the federal government's $ 1,000-per-month rent subsidies to welfare recipients for driving down property values and overwhelming the schools.

What makes Dole embrace such a controversial and divisive program? Well, for one thing, the real-estate professionals his immediate audience like it. Section 8 has guaranteed a steady income to many real-estate speculators, often at above-market prices. The government will pay up to $ 1,600 a month to move a poor family into a moreaffluent neighborhood. Housing vouchers are also a favorite of the purist, free-market conservatives in the Washington think tanks.

But vouchers are an example of conservative economic theory clashing with the Republican electoral strategy of appealing to working-class voters mostly white, but black and Hispanic as well by scaring them about Democratic welfare programs. Dole would risk losing those voters the Angry Homeowner class except for one thing: President Clinton also likes housing vouchers. Democrats are not going to attack Dole for trying to move welfare families out of the housing projects and into the neighborhoods. That's their policy, too.

E.R. Shipp has the day off.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/03/1996
CENTS-LESS RAVINGS IN A FUEL'S PARADISE

Washington Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.), perhaps best known for being the brains behind former Vice President Dan Quayle, cites the American motorist's painful plight these days:

"In California, gasoline costs about $ 2 a gallon today. And Bill Clinton raised the gas tax about 4.1 cents a gallon in '93. If we could cut that out, as Bob Dole wants to do, that would let consumers spend more of their money on other things."

Immediately, the mighty Daily News supercomputer began crunching McIntosh's numbers. McIntosh may be to economics what Quayle is to spelling, but in this case he is just about almost absolutely correct.

Repealing Clinton's gas tax actually 4.3 cents a gallon could possibly cut the price of a gallon of gas in the crucial electoral state of California from $ 2 a gallon to a mere $ 1.95.7 cents. On a 10-gallon purchase, California's consumers would have according to our financial analysis 43 cents more to spend on other things or perhaps to invest in the kind of job-creating businesses that make this country the envy of the civilized world.

Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) an economist, as he hastens to remind us calculates that repealing the 4.3-cent tax could save the average motorist $ 1 a tank on gasoline. I guess in Texas they all have 23-gallon gas tanks. Gramm further cites calculations that the 4.3-cent tax currently costs the average Texas family $ 532.80 per year.

Hmmm. Again the mighty Daily News computer blinks its lights. If repeal would save $ 1 per 23-gallon fillup, you would have to fill up 10 times a week to get rid of that $ 532.80 gallon burden. At 20 miles a gallon, you would have to drive 4,600 miles a week just to break even.

Gramm explains: The $ 532 is not the direct cost of the gas tax; it is the entire burden of the tax that is passed on to families by people like the plumber, who charges higher prices to pay for his increased fuel costs. But this is utter nonsense. We have 100 million households. At $ 532 per household, this gas tax that raises only $ 4 billion a year in revenue somehow imposes an economic burden of $ 53.2 billion. Well, Gramm claims to be an economist, not a mathematician.

Ah, folks. Some days it's hard to keep in mind that this great country is in fact in the hands of grownups.

Seldom have so many people labored so mightily as the Republicans to produce such a pathetic mouse as the assault on the gasoline tax. When it was enacted in 1993, they predicted to a man that it would destroy the economies of all 50 states. Now they promise that repeal will restore prosperity to our hard-pressed working families. Why do they play such a transparently infantile game? Because it works.

Democrats are fleeing in terror from the gas tax lest they be dubbed big-taxing liberals. At Democratic demand, the Justice Department is investigating whether higher gasoline prices are the result of illegal price-fixing by oil companies rather than the more obvious cause: Americans feel a God-given right to drive 80 mph in gas-guzzling minivans, and gas, not being in infinite supply, has temporarily risen in price.

Here is what really accounts for the hysterics from both parties:

The last time gas prices rose suddenly was also the last time an incumbent Democratic President was defeated for reelection. Gas went from about 50 cents a gallon in 1979 to $ 1.20 in 1980, and Jimmy Carter went into history. No, it's not much of a straw for the Republicans to clutch at, but when you look at them you realize it may be all they've got.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/06/1996
THE CLARITY OF D'AMATO'S VISION

WASHINGTON Sen. Alfonse D'Amato suffers from a rare combination of honesty and intelligence in this delusionary city. He is too smart to fool himself.

He knows, regretfully, that his Whitewater hearings will produce no incrimination of President Clinton. But he is too sensible and too much of a patriot to try to score last-minute political points by taking testimony from the conspiracy nuts, disgruntled Arkansas troopers and other myth-merchants so eager to testify that Clinton was on the take from drug dealers.

"You've got to be responsible too," he sighed over the phone. "This is our country."

D'Amato suspects major wrong-doing by the Clintons but he can't prove it and he's not going to pretend that he can. So look for the Senate Whitewater hearings to wind up next month with a report that accuses the Clinton White House of fudging its testimony about who saw which papers in Vince Foster's office, of playing coy with the facts about decade-old Arkansas real-estate deals but without a smoking gun.

"It's too late," D'Amato said. "At this point, keeping it going just looks like politics."

The inability of D'Amato's fellow Republicans to look in the mirror with the same kind of honesty got him riled enough last week to hit the front page. "Newt's Driving Me Nuts," said the Daily News headline. His complaint: Newt Gingrich and his cohorts keep fooling themselves into believing that the country loves what they're doing.

"They believe their own propaganda," he complained. "Newt Gingrich is smart but he completely misread the 1994 election. The people rejected Clinton's radical programs. They didn't want his health plan shoved down their throats. But they didn't vote to cut Medicare and Medicaid so the money could be used for a tax cut. They voted for us to run this place sensibly, for evolution, not revolution."

D'Amato's insight is directly counter to the official party line: Party leaders Gingrich, House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom Delay insist their only problem is communication, not substance. The GOP is temporarily down in the polls because the AFL-CIO (remember those pussycats?) has spent millions of dollars on anti-Republican commercials. Once the Republicans get their message out, the voters will rally to them once again.

This is pure self-delusion. Party leaders insist that their Contract with America won massive approval in public opinion polls before they tried to enact it. In fact, the Contract was never tested. GOP pollster Frank Luntz asked voters questions like, "Are there too many lawsuits?" and then lobbyists wrote laws to stop you from suing corporations for faulty products.

It's good politics for the Republicans to declare that real Americans support their agenda. But it's madness if they actually believe it.

D'Amato doesn't. "The public never even knew there was a Contract," he said. "Where did the people tell us to cut spending on education and the environment? Where did they say cut Medicare? Where did they tell us not to raise the minimum wage? We sent out horrible signals."

D'Amato has a simple, positive Republican agenda and it is not Gingrich's Contract with America. Bob Dole, he said, should run for President with a few basic themes: Workfare instead of welfare, common sense changes to reduce the size of government, letting people keep more of their money, a criminal justice system that makes sense.

It may not be enough to win the White House for Dole. But at least it would not hand reelection to Clinton by letting him run against the fat target of Newt Gingrich and his delusionary true believers.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/08/1996
DOLE'S SLICK PLAN TO GREASE WAY TO WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON Bob Dole is running for President as the grownup in the race. He's the candidate who supposedly represents "leadership." He's the one with the guts to make the tough decisions for America's best interests.

It's a posture that could fit Dole well except that he utterly betrays it with his fight to repeal the 4.3-cent federal gasoline tax. This is a tough decision? This is leadership? This is the grownup? Phooey.

Dole offered some curious reasons for repealing the 4.3-cent tax, which was enacted in 1993. He said that instead of being used for roads and mass transit, it simply goes to reduce the federal deficit.

For good reason. The real federal deficit this year is estimated at $ 256 billion, which is partially offset by "borrowings" call it embezzlement of $ 110 billion from the Social Security trust fund. That is, the nation is going ever deeper into debt, and Dole wants to give back $ 5 billion in current revenues at the rate of about half a buck per family per week. That would be your "tax cut."

Dole argued on the Senate floor yesterday that this ludicrous pittance would prove that Republicans are serious about cutting taxes for ordinary people. Sure they are. They are serious about giving ordinary Americans a break of about $ 18 total for the rest of this year.

The reasoning behind the gas-tax cut is pure cynicism. Republicans have been arguing falsely for the past three years that in 1993 President Clinton signed the biggest tax increase in history. In fact, the Democratic tax hike, which raises $ 44 billion this year, is not even close to the Bob Dole-written Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which will raise an estimated $ 68 billion in 1996.

Voters haven't bought the Republican accusation because most of them were spared any tax increase. It was targeted at high earners. But the one part of the 1993 tax package that everyone feels, however slightly, is the gas tax. That's why Dole is going after it: Not because it is burdensome, but because it is so widely shared. He can claim that he gave everyone in the country a tax cut provided that you actually see any of the money.

Cutting the gas tax may well take some of the edge off the recent increases in gas prices, but a fascinating analysis in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday indicates that the price was manipulated upward by a handful of oil companies, led by Texaco.

California has led the nation in skyrocketing gas prices, which initially were blamed on diminished supplies. But the analysis showed that Texaco jacked up its prices even when supplies were adequate. When other companies saw Texaco getting away with higher prices, they raised theirs, too.

It wouldn't be the first time. In 1975, oil companies deliberately cut their gas inventories and then jacked up prices just before the Fourth of July. They blamed the Law of Supply and Demand as though they had no control at all over the supply. This time, California Energy Commission Chairman Charles Imbrecht told the L.A. Times, "They were able to increase prices without [losing customers], and it's clear they continue to test that."

And what's Dole's response? He exploits this exercise in oil company profiteering to score a $ 5 billion hit on the Treasury and perhaps boost his presidential campaign. He knows cutting the gas tax will be irresistibly popular. "The vote will be overwhelming," he predicted. I guess it's a kind of leadership: Find out what's cheap, easy and overwhelmingly popular and then get out in front of the parade.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/10/1996
REPUBLICANS COURTING BILL'S DOWNFALL

WASHINGTON Republicans had President Clinton exactly where they wanted him yesterday: in a criminal courtroom, defending himself against murky but smelly accusations about financial shenanigans.

With polls showing Clinton leading Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) by as much as 30 points in the 1996 presidential campaign, the Whitewater trial in Little Rock, Ark., has become a major campaign asset for the GOP part of a web of legal entanglements that may yet drag the President down.

Whitewater fits the bill perfectly. The charges involving decade-old loans in Arkansas are so convoluted that few people understand them or realize that the Clintons generally have been able to refute them, as the President appeared to do yesterday.

In addition to the Whitewater trial, Clinton is the target of Republican-led or financed investigations into his alleged sexual harassment of Paula Jones, the separate House and Senate Whitewater hearings, a House probe of the firings in the White House Travel Office and at least one House inquiry into his Bosnia policy.

Between one thing and another, Republicans hope Clinton will be snared in some provable illegality. Some strategists notably Charles Black warn, however, that the Republicans tried and failed in 1992 to win the election by destroying Clinton's character.

Even though the President is not a defendant in the Whitewater trial, the structure of the questioning by prosecutors put Clinton in the position of having to deny accusations that he pressured Little Rock banker David Hale to issue an illegal $ 300,000 loan.

In theory, Clinton's testimony should not damage him. He answered the questions forcefully and confidently. But when Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before a Whitewater grand jury last fall, the mere fact of seeing her walk into a courthouse raised public doubts about her innocence.

Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour seized upon this predictable public reaction when Clinton taped his testimony last month: "I'd like to congratulate Bill Clinton for a presidential first," he said. "He's the first President to be deposed on Sunday, then turn around and offer a crime package on Monday."

THE MESSAGE was clear and is likely to be repeated in one form or other for the rest of the presidential campaign: Clinton's entanglement in Whitewater disqualifies him from carrying out his duties as President.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/10/1996
...AND TURN OFF THE REAGAN DEMOCRATS

WASHINGTON It's the Civil War all over again North against the South, high wages versus cheap labor except this time the fight is inside the Republican Party and the Yankees are the rebels.

Long Island's Rep. Peter King accuses Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and his Southern-dominated House leadership of threatening to destroy the union in this case, the 30-year-old alliance between the Republican Party and Northern blue-collar workers by repeatedly and unthinkingly attacking "labor bosses."

To King, the union-bashing is a major miscalculation. "Every poll I've seen shows that the only way the Republicans can win in November is to get back the Reagan Democrats and the Catholic ethnic voters," he said in an interview. "The building trades unions are a metaphor for the Reagan Democrats, and 90% of the members are Catholic ethnics. The carpenters, the steam fitters, the operating engineers, the sheet metal workers they're with us on all the red meat issues: crime, welfare reform, defense spending.

"The Republican leadership says they have polls showing that the workers are still with us and only the bosses are with the Democrats. But I can tell you that in my district the rank-and-file members are furious with the Republican Party."

Although Gingrich and Co. try to target their attacks on "labor bosses," the rank-and-file members are angered by the House Republican record of hitting ordinary working union members on basic pocketbook issues.

The Republicans tried to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees prevailing wages (i.e., union scale or close to it) on federal projects. The GOP fought proposed restrictions on the use of strikebreakers, and House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas has led a bitter fight against efforts to raise the minimum wage.

King therefore doesn't buy the GOP party line that Gingrich is merely fighting back against a $ 35 million anti-Republican ad campaign sponsored by AFL-CIO leaders against the wishes of most union members.

"That ad campaign came second," he says.

"I've been telling Gingrich and Armey for more than a year that they have to distinguish between the unions. Some of them are always going to be Democratic but some of them are our people. It hasn't had any impact. [AFL-CIO President] John Sweeney says the Republicans have done much more to unite the unions than he has."

"The mistake our leadership made is lumping all the unions together," King says.

"That sells down South, but not in the North. We should never have allowed labor to become that united. We should have made sure we kept the building trades on our side."

King's Nassau County district has long been a safe Republican bastion. But it went for Bill Clinton in 1992. And it's not so safe that if its voters go to the polls angry at Gingrich and the House Republicans, they will necessarily stop and think that Republican Pete King, after all, is a pretty good guy who should be returned to office.

There is also a cultural aspect to this civil war.

"Ronald Reagan was comfortable with hardhat workers and they felt that socially and psychologically he was comfortable with them," King says.

Now, he says of House Republican leaders: "It's a real, hillbilly, backwoods mentality. People in our party are in bed with the militias. We're becoming a rural, Southern, backward party. This is going to backfire, and it's going to kill us."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/13/1996
NEWEST GOP REPS MAKE CONGRESS INTO MAD HOUSE

WASHINGTON In their opposition to the minimum wage hike, few Republicans match the dedication of freshman Rep. Wes Cooley of Oregon. He kept a slave.

Richard Scot Jensen worked up to 70 hours a week for eight years on Massa Cooley's ranch in eastern Oregon's cattle country. He received no wages, apart from occasional pocket money. He did get room and board.

Jensen says he thought he was forgoing his wages in exchange for getting a part ownership of the "ranch," which was actually a vitamin-manufacturing business. Cooley says there was no such deal. He was simply doing Jensen a favor by taking him in and letting him work for nothing. To top this off, he claimed Jensen as a dependent on his income taxes.

Cooley, 64, is one of those rugged-individualist, Marlboro-man conservatives whose hypocrisy is so outrageous it can bring a smile to the lips of a brass monkey. He claimed in his campaign biography that he fought in Korea as a member of the Army's Special Forces, carrying out demolition operations so secret he was still forbidden to talk about them. In fact, he never served in Korea. The war ended before he got out of training.

He is tough on welfare. Oh, yes, indeed. But for at least nine years of his apparent marriage, his wife, Rosemary, collected widow's benefits from the Veterans Administration as compensation for the death of her first husband, a Marine pilot who died in 1965.

The VA rules are clear. "In order to receive death benefits as the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran, the claimant must be unmarried."

Cooley refuses to say exactly when he and his wife were married. But it makes no difference; the facts are plain. She continued to receive the benefits $ 897 a month at the end until 1994, even though he and she had applied for a bank loan in 1985 as man and wife. To deny Mrs. Cooley's right to the benefits, says the VA rulebook, "It is sufficient to establish that there was a single instance of holding out as man and wife."

Then there are some minor shenanigans. He falsely claimed to be a member of the national honor society Phi Beta Kappa. He threatened to punch out a pregnant reporter. He claimed to have been a government hit man who strangled people with piano wire.

Some other members of Cooley's House freshman class have been nearly as weird. Rep. Enid Green Waldholtz of Utah claims her husband, Joe, is a confidence man and has no idea how her own campaign was financed. Nebraska Rep. Jon Christensen's wife, Meredith, an admitted adulteress, is engaged in a messy divorce that may yet drag two or three other congressmen into the headlines. Reps. Steve Stockman of Texas and Helen Chenoweth of Idaho have a mysterious affinity for right-wing militias.

Still, it's hard to top keeping a slave and claiming him as a dependent. But Cooley could merely be a foretaste of things to come in the Republican Party. Alabama State Sen. Charles Davidson (R), who is seeking a nomination to Congress, wrote last week that God approves of slavery and that black slaves were grateful to the masters who converted them to Christianity. He found it right there in Leviticus: "You may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you."

Anyone who objects to that, he said, is "obviously bitter and hateful against God and His word."

What was it Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) called these guys a bunch of hillbillies at a revival meeting? It was an understatement.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/15/1996
FOR THE OVERPAID EXECUTIVE, A VERY CHEAP DEFENSE

WASHINGTON Enough of this class warfare, declares Forbes magazine this week. Why is everyone so upset at overpaid corporate executives?

Maya Angelou, the African-American poet, earned more than $ 4 million last year, Forbes says. Meanwhile, the average corporate boss in America's top 800 companies took in only $ 1.5 million, the poor thing. Deduct 40% for taxes and the boss is left with a take-home pay of just $ 17,000 a week.

If we don't begrudge top dollar to Maya Angelou, broadcaster Paul Harvey ($ 13 million) or professional poker player Daniel Harrington ($ 1.4 million), why should rabble-rousers like me criticize high-earning corporate bosses who are at the top of their game?

Well, for one thing, Maya Angelou did not lay off 40,000 employes and stuff her pockets with the resultant windfall profit from the increase in Angelou stocks. She did not shut down any poem-writing factory in her native North Carolina and subcontract the work to a sweatshop in Malaysia.

Her $ 4 million was eagerly paid by a combination of audiences for her speeches, publishers of her books and the Hollywood film industry. She was not awarded $ 4 million by a captive band of fellow executives on a corporate "compensation committee" regardless of her performance.

In fact, few people begrudge top corporate performers all the millions they can earn. Walt Disney's Michael Eisner pulled down $ 233 million. But Disney is an unparalleled factory of creativity. And Bill Gates of Microsoft has $ 15 billion that's billion with a b worth of stock in an industry he helped to create. More power to him.

Overpaid executives are an issue only when their earnings come at the expense of their employes or despite their mediocre performance. Even Forbes the publication of sometime presidential candidate Steve Forbes cannot defend the $ 119 million received last year by Anthony O'Reilly, who spent $ 2.6 million last month to buy a ring that once belonged to Jacqueline Onassis.

Noting that O'Reilly's H.J. Heinz Co. has had "disappointing" earnings over the past several years, Forbes writes that "Tony O'Reilly's ego and paycheck are bigger than his accomplishments." And it was a bit tacky for AT&T's board to give $ 6 million to CEO Robert Allen just as he was announcing the death of 40,000 jobs.

But the truly good news in Forbes' defense of corporate salaries is its defensiveness. At long last, the business community that Forbes serves has become a bit sheepish about how its leaders reward themselves and how they treat their employes. Just in time for President Clinton's seminar this week on corporate responsibility.

"The climate has changed," reports Labor Secretary Robert Reich. "The public is much more sensitive to corporate behavior than it was a year ago. In all the big restructurings of recent months, CEOs have been assuring the public that they will try protect jobs. That's a sharp contrast to a year ago, when they would brag to Wall Street about the cuts they were making."

Clinton and Reich are not going after corporate leaders for making a lot of money. But they are trying to encourage them to invest more in their workers, to protect employe pensions and health, to provide family-friendly work places and to treat employes as assets to be nurtured rather than costs to be cut.

"The CEOs are ready to hear about different business strategies rather just cutting costs," Reich said. All it took to capture their attention was a little class warfare over how much they earn.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/16/1996
GAMBLE IS PERSONAL, TOO

WASHINGTON Sen. Bob Dole ripped himself out by the roots yesterday, quitting his only real home, the U.S. Senate, in an all-out run for the White House.

It was either a political masterstroke or a hasty act of desperation, take your pick. But if it was a triumph, Dole's stunning announcement was marked by a fair amount of tears.

Dole smiled bravely as he stood among his colleagues and said he was resigning, but his voice came close to cracking and he nearly lost his composure.

Earlier, in a private meeting, many Republican Senators had tears in their eyes as Dole "the only leader most of us have known," said Arizona Sen. John McCain said he would sacrifice his Senate career in an effort to salvage his candidacy and his party.

The Republican spin was that Dole brilliantly had freed himself from daily nitpicking by Senate Democrats to concentrate fully on campaigning against President Clinton. Though he originally had hoped to use the Senate as an automatic, televised forum to campaign against Clinton, Democrats had tied him in knots.

The image the public saw was Dole, standing on the Senate floor, seeming in a perpetual scowl as the overhead camera stared down on him, muttering impenetrable arguments about "cloture" and "second-degree amendments."

"Ted Kennedy was just going to keep on coming at him, coming at him," said Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.). "It was like a giant eagle being pecked to death by sparrows, and they were doing it with glee. Now that party is over."

But there also was a clear overtone of a Hail Mary pass in Dole's abrupt departure.

He trails Clinton by 20 points in national polls, and even Republican pundits have been predicting disaster for him in the fall. He needed a dramatic break.

"He could have said, 'Okay, I'll go through the motions, lose the election and come back for two more years in the Senate,' " said Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah, a close adviser. "But Dole instead is saying, 'I won't give up. I'm going to get up and fight.' It's a strong, bold move, but for the Senate, it's an enormous loss."

It's also a personal loss for Dole. The Senate has become his entire life. He has no hobbies outside politics. As majority leader, he spends his days negotiating the ins and outs of legislation and scheduling. His "beach," the source of his perpetual tan, is the balcony that overlooks the Washington Mall. He has staff to drive him around town and to run little errands. And when he goes home at night, he turns on C-SPAN to watch reruns of Senate hearings.

Though he now campaigns as a son of Russell, Kan., in all of last year, he spent only 10 days in his home state. "He's like a divorced dad who shows up every once in a while and takes us to Disneyland by awarding a federal contract," says a Kansas Democrat. Once he quits the Senate on or before June 11, it's not as if he has any obvious place to go. The primary battles are over. He already has won the nomination. His campaign is virtually out of money. And the public doesn't really begin paying attention to presidential campaigns until Labor Day.

Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour said Dole would spend most of his time this summer doing fund-raisers for other Republican candidates. That way, the party itself or the candidates could pay the bills for the events. Dole would have to pay only for his own travel.

"It doesn't cost a lot to fly me around," Dole explained as he waited for an elevator in the Senate. "We'll get a load of press and Secret Service to cover most of the costs [of the chartered airplane he uses].

"I feel good about it," he volunteered with another brave smile. "I went to sleep at 10 o'clock last night."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/17/1996
GOP'S ATTACKS MAY GIVE PARTY BIG LABOR PAINS

WASHINGTON House Speaker Newt Gingrich sees the magnificent New York City skyline and immediately thinks, "Mafia."

It is a chain of logic you will hear more often in coming weeks as Gingrich's Republicans begin an onslaught against the Democratic Party's revived alliance with organized labor.

In Gingrich's view, which he has frequently spelled out over the years, the unionized New York construction industry is dominated by organized crime. Federal construction money sent to the city, he once said, in fact subsidizes the Cosa Nostra. And now, to combat a current $ 35 million AFL-CIO campaign against Republicans, the GOP is reviving charges that organized labor is mobbed up.

What has the Republicans scared is a series of AFL-CIO ads targeted against 75 pro-business GOP congressmen. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is warning its members that although union members are only 10% of the private work force, "The labor unions already exercise political clout far out of proportion to their numbers. . . . The future of the conservative revolution is very much up in the air."

The GOP counterattack began with a round-robin memo from two House Republicans, Bob Walker of Pennsylvania and Jim Nussle of Iowa, seeking anecdotes from their colleagues about "Influence of Washington Labor Union Bosses/Corruption" on the Democrats. Then, Rep. John Boehner, an Ohio businessman, began papering his colleagues with news reports about union corruption and there is talk of formal investigations.

This could be hot stuff with just two little weaknesses. The unions and union members that are likeliest to come under Republican scrutiny the construction trades, carpenters, Teamsters, laborers and the like have generally Republican memberships. These are the white, mostly Catholic, suburban hard-hats who overwhelmingly supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 and who are the backbone of support for Northern Republicans like Sen. Alfonse D'Amato or Rep. Susan Molinari.

The Republican strategy is to target the bosses rather than the membership, but in the construction trades there is not much political or cultural difference between rank-and-file members, leaders and management. Reagan's Labor Secretary, Ray Donovan, was typical: a pro-union construction-company executive who was suspected of consorting with mob figures. Donovan was acquitted of charges of fraud and grand larceny.

Ironically, in 1980, Reagan's one major union endorsement came from the mob-run Teamsters, led by Jackie Presser. And Reagan was effusive in 1983 in thanking the mobbed-up International Longshoremen's Association for its support.

The second weakness in the GOP strategy is that by making the charges now, only after the AFL-CIO began its ads, the GOP looks like it is once again playing politics with its investigatory powers.

"Corruption is corruption," says Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who represents many union members, "But we should never use a quasi-criminal proceeding as an act of political vindictiveness. It's an abuse of power. If there's corruption in these unions, how come we waited to complain about it until after (AFL-CIO chairman) John Sweeney started running ads against Republicans?"

King points out there is ample evidence of corruption in the tobacco and gambling-casino industries and no hearings are planned there. "Both those groups," he noted drily, "contribute heavily to the Republican Party."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/20/1996
CONSTRUCTION EXPLODES UNDER TOWNHOUSE PLAN

WASHINGTON Boom go the 13-story Christopher Columbus housing projects in Newark, crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust and rubble. Boom go the Raymond Rosen Houses in Philadelphia, collapsing as dynamite knocks out the foundations.

By the end of 1996, Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros will have demolished more than 30,000 public-housing units, concentrating on the high-rise, vertical slums that blight so many American cities.

"I'm the secretary of demolition," Cisneros says happily as he pursues a policy championed by New York developer I.D. Robbins: Raze the multi-story projects and replace them with single-family homes townhouses or detached dwellings ideally occupied by owners, not renters.

"It's a strategy that offsets the damage done by 1960s-style urban renewal," Cisneros says. "It's a strategy for bringing single-family housing downtown, bringing neighborhoods back. Homeownership keeps out crime because the neighborhood protects itself."

"High-rises are fine on Park Ave., but not for poor people," explains Robbins. "Poor people have a lot of problems, and if you jam 300 families with problems into one big building, you give yourself one big problem that you cannot manage."

The most prominent example of the new style of owner-occupied, single-family housing is the church-financed Nehemiah project, which already has transformed East Brooklyn and part of the South Bronx. Cisneros can point to similar new neighborhoods in downtown Newark, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles.

At first, the strategy doesn't seem to make mathematical sense. Yes, the high-rises are dreadful, but they provide a lot of shelter in a limited space. Low-rise housing takes up much more ground.

Robbins explains: The once-crowded but now-desolate inner cities have an abundance of ground, either vacant lots or abandoned buildings. "I think we have 35,000 acres in Brooklyn alone of land that has been seized for nonpayment of taxes," he says.

Low-rise units are cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain than high-rises. An owner-occupied, single-family residence needs no elevators, no landlord, no superintendent.

Former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp wanted to sell apartments in high-rise projects to their tenants. But Cisneros agrees with Robbins: The high-rises were a mistake of architecture. "You can't expect the poorest of the poor to operate like a middle-class co-op," Cisneros says.

The poorest of the poor won't become homeowners, either, but they are better off as renters in publicly financed townhouses than as prisoners of the high-rise projects, Cisneros says.

This makes such obvious good sense that it is surprising to find some city officials want to spend money on trying to rehabilitate the existing buildings or, worse, create more of the old-style projects. Robbins says Bronx officials, for example, want to build new six-story, elevator projects to house the poor.

"These buildings will not last," Robbins says. "Citibank spent $ 20 million rehabbing a group of buildings on St. Mary's St., and within five years they had to do it again. And if you build new high-rises, you only replicate the mistakes of the past."

Cisneros agrees. The old projects must go. So boom! down they come: Cabrini Green in Chicago, Kretchmer Homes in Newark, the Richard Allen projects in Philadelphia, Windsor Terrace in Columbus, Orchard Park in Boston, the Desire project in New Orleans. It is strange but encouraging to see public officials admitting, "We made a mistake."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/22/1996
WASHINGTON, NOT THE MEDIA, KILLED BOORDA

WASHINGTON The bugle in the hands of Musician First Class Paul Johnson sang "Taps" through the soaring arches of the National Cathedral in a haunting alto voice that lingered and moaned above a sea of solemn faces and dress-white uniforms and finally murmured to Adm. Jeremy Boorda, "Sleep, sailor, sleep."

And so Washington destroys another of its public servants then scratches its head in mystification and says beautiful words over his body.

Boorda, the chief of naval operations, shot himself last week as reporters from Newsweek magazine were about to question him over some ludicrous story about the combat ribbons he was entitled to wear for service off Vietnam.

Immediate public reaction was that once again the media had run amok, hounding a decent man to suicide. But the Boorda case was not press vs. military, it was military vs. military.

Ask 1,000 reporters whether Boorda's ribbons are a story, and you'd get 1,000 blank stares. He served on warships off Vietnam. His ribbons are for combat operations. What's the big deal?

Boorda was under attack by fellow Navy officers for not doing more to defend subordinates who were accused of sex harassment and similar offenses. The specific accusation against him unauthorized display of a Combat V on his commendation ribbons came from two retired officers, Marine Lt. Col. Roger Charles and Army Col. David Hackworth, who talked Newsweek into pursuing the story.

They and their allies act as if Boorda had violated a sacred trust by wearing the Vs until he took them off about a year ago. In theory, no one is entitled to a V unless he has been fired upon. But very few Navy deep-water sailors were shot at in Vietnam, and at one point Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, as chief of naval operations, authorized the V on all awards earned in the combat zone.

"It was supposed to be a morale booster," says retired Adm. Jack Shanahan. "They were shoveling them out by the bushel." Boorda's critics say Zumwalt had no right to debase the V by authorizing such mass awards.

But if the Navy combat V is such a carefully defined honor, how do you explain this 1990 citation? "He . . . rapidly assimilated threat data to provide clear, concise flow of information [and] was able to precisely complete the firing procedure. The Combat Distinguishing Device [V] is authorized." The recipient? The air-warfare coordinator aboard the Vincennes who shot down an unarmed Iranian Airbus in 1988, killing 290 people. He rates a V and Boorda doesn't?

You can get passionate arguments from military men on both sides of the Boorda case. Retired Army Col. Paul Bucha, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, insists Boorda was entitled to his Vs and wonders what the fuss is about. But military expert David Evans, a former Marine colonel, says to wear an unauthorized medal is "conduct unbecoming an officer."

If the issue is in such dispute among acknowledged experts, why should Boorda take it so seriously? For one thing, it had hung over him for a year. Second, he had seen how in Washington, even trivial accusations can be magnified into mortifying ordeals. "Look at Whitewater," Bucha says. "He must have felt the Navy couldn't take another scandal."

To most Americans, there is no scandal. But Boorda must have known that some of his fellow officers were ready and eager to end his career in disgrace. It was more than he could face. So he ended it for them. What a waste. But don't blame the press for this one. The press was used.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/24/1996
BIG-BUCKS DOLE SPENDS LIKE A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT

WASHINGTON The one presidential enterprise that Sen. Bob Dole had the chance to run this year was his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He went broke with three months to go.

From now until the GOP convention in August, Dole must mooch.

Running out of cash this early is not a good recommendation for a candidate who prides himself on financial prudence, who advocates a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and who routinely denounces big-spending liberals.

But the stakes are more serious than temporary embarrassment. To keep his name and candidacy before the public from now until August, Dole will have to flout federal election law, with Democrats pointing a finger every time he spends a dime.

Here's Dole's legal and financial fix: To qualify for $ 62 million in federal funds for the general election, he signed a pledge that he would spend no more than $ 37 million on winning the nomination. He has just about reached that spending limit. Clinton, who ran unopposed, has $ 20 million left to take him through the summer. Dole has a reported $ 177,000. Dole's problem is not that he can't raise more money; under the law, he is not allowed to spend any. This guarantees him a long summer of playing financial shell games, juggling books, stiffing creditors, selling assets to himself, borrowing staff and piggybacking on other Republicans, all to evade the federal spending limit.

"When you run for President, it's assumed that you'll take seriously the laws of the United States," says Clinton campaign spokesman Ann Lewis. "The Republican Party cannot pay for his travel to rallies, his convention expenses, his staff, his ads or his cell phones. I don't know how he does that and stays within the law. This is not a minor issue."

Dole's plight hands the Clinton campaign an easy political point as well. "He gives so many speeches about balancing the budget," Lewis says. "Well, here was his one opportunity to live within a real budget, and he has been unable to do it."

How did Dole manage to spend $ 37 million? True, he faced tough and unexpected opposition from Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan as the primaries began. But Dole spent close to $ 20 million of his total in 1995, before most Republican voters were even paying attention. Money was squandered on meaningless pre-season straw polls that generated barely a passing headline. He put 300 people on his campaign staff.

According to available records, Dole spent $ 10 million on fund-raising, $ 12 million on salaries and office space, $ 6 million on campaign commercials, $ 3 million on travel, $ 1 million on telephones, $ 1.2 million on computers and office equipment. The balance was spent on legal fees, consultants, polling, postage and nonbroadcast advertising.

This year, he has been spending at the following rates: $ 6.6 million in January, $ 5.8 million in February, $ 5 million in March and $ 1.6 million in April.

He can survive the summer by sticking his staff on other payrolls, selling his computers to his general-election campaign and campaigning only at events sponsored by other Republican candidates. All he has to pay for is his own travel i.e., first-class air fare aboard his own charter, with the real costs paid by the press and the Secret Service. But these are blatant evasions.

Luckily for Dole, the Federal Election Commission is notoriously slow to crack down on campaign finance abuses. So he can break the law with impunity. By the time he's caught, it will be too late. And he might even be President.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/26/1996
IF RUSSIA'S REDS WIN, WEST MAY BE TO BLAME

WASHINGTON In a weird echo of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote 150 years ago, a specter is again haunting Russia, the specter of communism.

Just five years after the Soviet Communist Party committed suicide by trying to oust reformer Mikhail Gorbachev, its remnants are making a run for power again, this time not by revolution but by the ballot in national elections on June 16. Polls indicate that millions of Russians maybe most are willing to give the Communists, led by Gennady Zyuganov, another lease on life.

How can this be? Why would the Russians trade democracy, free markets, freedom of thought and a free press for the system that fettered them for nearly 75 years? The answers are stark and disturbing, and some of them lie at our doorstep.

Most important, Russian President Boris Yeltsin squandered his initial popularity by allowing a free market to be a license to steal. Insiders, most of them former Communist bureaucrats, took advantage of privatization to seize government factories and pocket the proceeds. Yeltsin also tolerated an organized criminal "Mafia" that has managed to terrorize virtually all businesspeople and control several banks.

"There's a lot of concern about corruption," says Karen Clark, a specialist at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, which has tried to teach political skills in undemocratic countries. "That's a big theme of Zyuganov's campaign."

Freedom meant an economic and cultural upheaval that was bound to feed resentment and revive class envy.

Workers in heavy industry who were once the elite of Russian society watched their paychecks vanish as yuppie lawyers whizzed past them in BMWs doing multi-million-dollar currency deals on cell phones.

A once-pampered intellectual class subsidized by the Soviet government found that writing learned articles on Leninism had little value in a free market. Pensioners lost their savings to hyperinflation. Parents watched their children, who once would have marched off to Young Pioneer meetings, turn instead to the streets, where they could earn more money in a day begging from, stealing from or swindling tourists than the parents earned in a month.

A once-puritanical and tightly censored TV and radio were suddenly filled with pornography, raucous Western music and blaring commercials.

But, ironically, support for the Communists is strongest in the countryside where neither the benefits of freedom nor the accompanying evils have been much felt. In the rural areas, freedom has meant only higher prices and "Dynasty" on television. In the cities, which have gotten both the best and the worst of the new world, Yeltsin is believed to be ahead.

But a well-meaning West is also partly to blame for the Communist backlash.

"We sent in advisers asking the Russians to do things that no American politician could survive doing," says Brad Johnson, an international financial lawyer who specializes in Eastern Europe. "Our people went in saying, 'End rent control.' That's something we wouldn't do in New York City, but we asked the Russians to do it, and they did. So now they may be thrown out of office. They would be thrown out in New York, too."

"When historians write their books, people will say the Bush administration was asleep at the switch for the biggest change in 20th-century politics since 1917, and that spilled over into the Clinton administration," says old Russia hand Charles Maynes, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine. "We held the Russians to conditions of Jeffersonian democracy that we don't demand from Turkey."

But for all that, Maynes and Clark agree that millions of Russians especially the young are better off and happier in the free Russia. Because so many Russians now own property or hope to Zyuganov has been forced to back off pledges to nationalize private property.

Polls show Yeltsin pulling ahead, but, Clark warns, polling in Russia is unreliable. Each side suspects the other will steal the election: The old Communist network still controls the countryside, and Yeltsin could stuff ballot boxes in the cities. His best advantage: Sympathy for the Communists rises with age; the young want no return to the past and the young are the future.

'YOU REALLY cannot roll back the clock," Maynes says. "You have to hope that enough roots have been put down so that freedom will survive. And after all that grabbing for state property, even the Communists have a stake in the new system."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/29/1996
A TERRORIST UNDER EVERY BED? POLS SEEM TO THINK SO

WASHINGTON Pennsylvania Ave. is safely sealed off in front of the White House. Concrete barricades divert cars, trucks and buses. Police cars are parked athwart all possible entryways. The President sits securely inside his stark fortress. All we need for our new public space is a name.

How about Hezbollah Plaza? Or perhaps Timothy McVeigh Square?

It would be a fitting tribute, a tip of the hat to the ragtag little bands of loonies who have done to this great country what no foreign power has ever accomplished. We have created a Berlin Wall in our own midst out of terror that we may be blown up by dwarfs.

President Clinton agreed to this abomination after a security task force determined that the White House was theoretically vulnerable to truck bombs like the one that destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Yes, indeed. The White House is also vulnerable to mortar rounds fired from the roof of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, anthrax in the water supply and poisoned pizzas delivered by desperate men on bicycles.

Who's in charge here?

It was vulnerable to a lunatic named Francisco Duran, who was able to walk up to the fence and fire at it with an assault rifle. How? The Secret Service patrols inside the spiked fence. Duran, with diabolical cleverness, fired from outside the fence. To stop him, the Secret Service guards had to . . . climb the fence! In the meantime, Duran was tackled by two passersby.

And why did the Secret Service not patrol outside the fence? Because it is not its job. Outside the gate, the sidewalk belongs to the U.S. Park Police. The roadway of Pennsylvania Ave. itself is under the jurisdiction of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police. Of these three authorities, none not one regarded it as necessary to walk a beat on the sidewalk in front of the White House to intercept loonies like Duran and make sure that trucks keep moving along.

Instead, we get the classic bureaucratic cycle: underperform, then overreact. It was somehow easier to seal off the entire street and cut the capital in half, creating monstrous traffic jams, draining the life out of a few central blocks downtown and advertising to the world that we live in terror of pygmies.

The enemy at the gate

In agreeing to seal off Pennsylvania Ave., Clinton fell for one of the capital's most pernicious industries, threat-mongering. Almost anyone who dreams up a security nightmare can persuade the government to spend millions or even billions of dollars to prevent it.

Clinton is not alone in taking this sucker bait. Sen. Bob Dole, his Republican challenger, has fallen for the line that America is vulnerable to a nuclear ballistic missile from North Korea or Iran and that we must therefore build a Star Wars defense to protect ourselves from rogue nations. Fact: The defense will cost $ 60 billion. Fact: North Korea and Iran have no such missiles. And if they did, we could destroy that missile or missiles in a pre-emptive strike, cheap.

The CIA, a premier threat-monger, has just persuaded Congress to increase the U.S. intelligence budget even though the CIA's spy satellite division was caught with a $ 4 billion slush fund that no one knew about. That's enough to run the Marine Corps for two years.

Why must a great nation cringe from these ludicrous enemies? Why spend ever more money on an ever smaller threat? Because the world, the threat-mongers tell us, is more dangerous than ever. Well, what better way to remind ourselves than to name the square in front of the White House? We could call it Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman Gardens or perhaps reasonable people can disagree Moammar Khadafy Park.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/29/1996
FIRST BLOOD IN W'WATER MESS

VERDICT SENDS PREZ TOWARD ROCKY RAPIDS

WASHINGTON Guilty. Guilty. Guilty, said the Little Rock jurors, the first truly clear words in the mind-numbing Whitewater scandals, and each of them a rifle shot at President Clinton's hopes for reelection.

In theory, the President was not on trial in Little Rock. In the reality of politics, he was.

Verdicts of not guilty would have cleared the path to a likely easy win over Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas in November, whom Clinton leads by more than 20 points in some polls.

Whitewater appeared to be dying of its own weight. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) had announced he was wrapping up his own investigation without finding any smoking-gun evidence against the President.

No such evidence was produced in the trial that ended in Little Rock, Ark., either. But the stunning convictions of Clinton's successor, Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, and his former business partners, James and Susan McDougal, play directly into the Republican strategy of ousting Clinton by raising doubts about his honesty, integrity and character.

The Republicans don't need a clear legal case against Clinton or any evidence of wrongdoing; they just need doubts, and the Little Rock verdicts keep the mysteries of Whitewater alive through Election Day and beyond.

Clinton, who hasn't been a target of probers so far, now may draw increased attention from independent counsel Kenneth Starr. The President's main accuser, former Judge David Hale, was a witness against the McDougals, and he says Clinton pressured him to approve an illegal loan to them.

With this verdict against the McDougals, Starr might now reason that Hale, an admitted liar, has some credibility as a witness against the President. In his video-taped testimony on behalf of the McDougals, Clinton vigorously disputed Hale's accusations that he had urged the former judge to make the disputed $ 300,000 loan. The jurors may have been split over whether they believed the President, but the bottom line is the McDougals were convicted.

Republicans have been mounting increasingly personal attacks on Clinton in recent days. One GOP ad accuses Clinton of pretending to be on active duty in the armed services to avoid trial on the sex-harassment charges of Paula Jones. And Republicans crank out faxes daily accusing Clinton of fibbing and lacking principles.

The problem the Republicans have is that they tried this tactic to defeat Clinton in 1992, and it didn't work. The public shrugged off Whitewater, allegations of marital infidelity and charges that Clinton had ducked the draft and voted for him over President George Bush.

In their eagerness to seize on the Whitewater verdicts, Republicans could make the mistake of overplaying their hand. But, with guilty verdicts in the books, the Whitewater charges may seem to have more weight than they did in 1992.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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05/31/1996
GOP GEARS UP TO TAKE LOW ROAD TO ELECTION DAY

WASHINGTON California is central to Sen. Bob Dole's hope to oust President Clinton, and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Ken Khachigian is in charge of Dole's California effort. Here's his strategy against Clinton:

"We're going to take him down. We're going to take him down hard," Khachigian said Wednesday. "There will be 80 days of hell after the convention. The nasty boys in Washington haven't met their match."

Seldom in politics has there been a clearer confession of weakness, seldom a more public admission of bankruptcy.

What are Bob Dole's main assets as he seeks the presidency? What vision does he offer the nation? Ah, here we are: Bill Clinton avoided serving in Vietnam. He is accused of sexually harassing Paula Jones. His wife's billing records were missing. And now his former business partners have been convicted of bank fraud in Arkansas.

This is the 1996 Republican campaign for the White House: Never mind Dole Clinton's a rat.

Even Dole's staunchest defenders come up short in drawing a positive picture of their candidate. Americans will vote for Dole, said Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in a typical comment, as soon as they learn who he is: a hardscrabble kid from Kansas who was a basketball star, whose mother sold appliances door to door, who was drafted and wounded in World War II and who struggled in a military hospital to rehabilitate himself.

You may notice that everything in Thompson's description happened at least 50 years ago.

On the other hand, at the mention of the Whitewater convictions, Thompson brightens visibly. "It's a tremendous shot in the arm for the Dole campaign," he told a group of reporters. "There's no question it will be a central issue in the campaign. It goes right to the heart of the matter."

Thompson, who clearly hopes to be Dole's running mate, said he looks forward to a race that will highlight the Paula Jones case, the Whitewater verdicts and Clinton's character flaws.

You might stop and reflect that if this sort of attack worked, George Bush would be President today and Dan Quayle would be next in line for the White House. It is one of the signs of clinical insanity to keep repeating the same action over and over again in expectation of a different result.

Why do the Republicans do it? Desperation. In Dole, they have a candidate who had eight years to come up with an agenda for his 1996 presidential campaign and managed only to discover the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves unspecified power to the states. In his current attempt to rally the party faithful, he is reduced to embracing ideas he once privately scorned, like Star Wars and supply-side tax cuts, and posing as a law-and-order candidate for sheriff.

And although he is a likable man, it was a fellow Republican, former Ohio Gov. William Saxbe, who once complained that "Bob Dole couldn't sell beer on a troopship."

Dole himself is smart enough not to base his campaign on Clinton's character. He has said virtually nothing about Whitewater. In fact, there is not much to say. There is no evidence to link Clinton to any wrongdoing. And even a momentarily revived Sen. Alfonse D'Amato can say only that his exhaustive Senate Whitewater hearings will conclude with "serious questions" about the President and First Lady which is exactly where they began almost two years ago.

Whitewater is an embarrassment for Clinton, but it is a trap for the Republicans. If that's all they can talk about, they lose again.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/03/1996
NETANYAHU PLOTS A COURSE TOWARD MIDEAST TURMOIL

WASHINGTON Bibi Netanyahu, the new Israeli prime minister, is committed to peace. Big deal. So is Hezbollah, the Arab fanatic group peace . . . just as soon as it pushes Israel into the sea.

To be for peace in the Middle East says nothing at all. The question is how to get there. The fast-talking Netanyahu, while professing peace, has plotted a course that guarantees further turmoil with both his Arab neighbors and the U.S.: He is committed to expanding Jewish settlements on occupied Arab territory.

This is great news for the Israeli settlers who believe God granted them this piece of real estate and also for Hezbollah. The settlers get to keep their land; Hezbollah gets to keep its holy war.

Many of the settlers cheered when Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November. They feared Rabin was taking too many risks for peace but he was so popular that he would have won reelection. Now Israel's voters have ratified Amir's political judgment.

"People are saying the assassins have won, which of course they have," says Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who regards Netanyahu as a friend and hopes he will grow in office and work toward a genuine peace.

Like most who have met and dealt with the fiery-eyed Netanyahu, Ackerman is impressed by his intellect but a little uneasy about his character. Netanyahu is fully capable of looking you in the eye and swearing that night is day and waiting to see if he gets away with it. He exasperates American negotiators, who question his sincerity about peace. Former Secretary of State James Baker once banned him from the State Department. Ackerman calls it Netanyahu's "wiseguy attitude."

Israel's last right-wing government, under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, collided with the Bush administration over its determination to build new settlements indirectly subsidized by U.S. aid. Shamir also enraged Americans by repudiating his own peace proposals as soon as anybody actually accepted them. Netanyahu, though not as religiously driven as Shamir, comes out of the same mold.

"He is going to have to deal squarely and honestly in any negotiation with us," Ackerman warns. "Otherwise he is in trouble."

The Clinton administration decided last week to reach out to Netanyahu to prevent a recurrence of the "Washington-Likud chill," a senior official said. But nobody knows what to expect from the new prime minister, the official added. "He is the leader of a party whose platform rejects giving away any land."

"I can't imagine he would be dumb enough to announce an expansion of settlements," says a congressional source with some control over the $ 3 billion in aid to Israel. "The law requires that we deduct a dollar from their aid budget for every dollar they spend on settlements. And in this budget climate, everybody is looking for ways to save money."

Compared with Shamir, who was never very popular even with pro-Israeli U.S. politicians, Netanyahu has a major handicap in dealing with the U.S. government. Shamir could defend his positions by pointing out that the Palestine Liberation Organization refused even to recognize Israel's right to exist. It was a clinching argument but one that Arafat now has taken away.

"Arafat made peace with the Israelis," says a congressional Democratic source. "The Israelis can't keep blaming Arab intransigence for every problem. There is no going back to those days."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/05/1996
IT'S NOT A 'CUT' IN MEDICARE, IT'S DAYLIGHT ROBBERY

WASHINGTON Accuse House Speaker Newt Gingrich of cutting Medicare and he goes ballistic. He calls President Clinton a liar. He accuses the press of complicity in falsehoods.

"Medicare goes up every year under our plan," Gingrich insists. Spending per beneficiary rises from $ 4,800 a year to $ 7,300. "The word 'slash' or 'cut' is not accurate," he insisted over the weekend. "It's not factually correct."

Gingrich has a point. The Republican plan for Medicare is not a cut. It's daylight robbery. It is a plan to channel taxpayer money into insurance companies and private bank accounts under the guise of health care.

Usually these schemes to loot the Treasury are complex and eye-glazing. This one is simple and brazen. Gingrich's vision for Medicare includes an option for a Medical Savings Account. Seniors would receive a voucher from the Treasury say $ 6,500 to $ 7,000 to buy catastrophic health care coverage on the private market. That supposedly would cost them about $ 5,000, depending on their age.

They would keep the remainder in a special account for routine medical bills. If they do not get sick, they keep the money.

So goodbye to Medicare. Under the Gingrich plan, healthy seniors who now cost the system nothing could receive $ 7,000 each. This undermines the fundamental concept of insurance: that money goes to the sick, who need it, not to the healthy, who don't.

"I'm about to turn 65," says Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.). "I'm not going to cost the system much. But my mother is 87 and has cancer. If you pay 95% of current benefits to everybody, you're going to be paying out a lot of money."

"If people can take their money out at the end of the year, that money is lost to the system," says Iris Lav of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Under this plan, people who are not sick put [Medicare] money in their pockets."

Even conservative advocates of MSAs which, by the way, can work under certain conditions have doubts about applying them to Medicare.

"It's a little bit of a gamble," says Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute. "There is the potential danger that you would be paying people who you wouldn't be paying otherwise."

And would private insurance companies actually provide full, unlimited, Medicare-type coverage to 80-year-olds for $ 5,000 a year? "No one has ever tried this plan with the senior population," Tanner says. "There could be increased costs."

There is also an invitation to game the system: Take the cash from the vouchers when you're reasonably young and healthy then switch to full-service, unlimited Medicare for your final years.

What's the attraction for Gingrich? The MSAs are being pushed by one of his major backers, the Golden Rule Insurance Co., which makes money by selling catastrophic coverage only to carefully screened healthy people. For an insurance man, the MSAs are a pot of gold: a government-enforced flow of cash.

Under MSAs, the government creates and finances a whole new class of customers for the insurance companies: seniors walking around with $ 7,000 vouchers to spend. If any of them looks like a poor health risk, steer them toward conventional Medicare. It's a no-lose proposition for the insurers and a step toward bankrupting Medicare.

So Gingrich is correct. He does not "cut" Medicare. He loots it, and it dies or, in his eloquent words, "withers on the vine." I like to agree with the speaker every now and then.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/07/1996
NEWT'S GRASPING AT STRAWS AS HIS REVOLUTION FADES

WASHINGTON Never mind Jim McDougal, the small-time Ozark grifter; House Speaker Newt Gingrich is after bigger game. Maybe he can tie Hillary Clinton to Vincent (The Chin) Gigante, the big-time mobster. Maybe he can put Bill Clinton in jail.

Gingrich is currently accusing the Clinton administration of quashing a racketeering "indictment" of the Laborers International Union in exchange for $ 3 million in contributions to Democrats.

"If you read the proposed indictment," he says darkly, "it talks about murder."

Then his staff hands out news articles showing that Hillary Clinton "publicly hobnobbed" with Arthur Coia, head of the union, and traveled to Florida in 1995 to speak to 1,000 top LIU officials. Then Gingrich announces that House crime subcommittee hearings on the mob-union-Clinton link will begin in July.

This is heavy stuff. The Laborers have a long history of mob involvement. Vinnie the Chin and the Genovese crime family are the reported powers in charge of New York's Local 958, which represents garbage truck drivers. Quashing an indictment for cash is an impeachable offense.

And across right-wing America, faces brighten. The Clintons could go to jail.

Except that . . . there was no indictment.

In 1993, the Justice Department prepared a 212-page civil complaint demanding that Coia clean up his union. There was no accusation of murder; the complaint noted that over the past 20 years, 80 Laborers officials have been convicted of racketeering, extortion, income-tax evasion and attempted murder.

Coia negotiated on some terms mostly to keep his own job and the Justice Department agreed not to proceed with its complaint. Gingrich says Attorney General Janet Reno agreed to a "plea bargain." But there was no plea bargain, either. This was a civil complaint.

The Laborers are not a pretty union. But if Gingrich is outraged by politicians who accept endorsements and contributions from mob-influenced labor unions, he was curiously silent when his hero, Ronald Reagan, cheerfully accepted endorsements from Jackie Presser of the Teamsters and Teddy Gleason of the Longshoremen.

No, this is not crimefighting. After a brief period of posing as a statesman-philosopher-scholar who had found imaginative, new, conservative solutions to the problems facing America, Gingrich is back in his old familiar role as smear-artist. It is how he rose to power in the first place, and it is how he clutches at power as it slips away.

The public has had two years to judge Gingrich's proposals and his character. He is almost single-handedly the reason polls now give Clinton a 20-point lead over Bob Dole. Gingrich and not any brilliant performance by congressional Democrats is why the GOP now risks losing control of both the House and Senate this fall.

So he grows reckless and grasps at straws. What can save him? Perhaps Paula Jones and her sex charges. Maybe the travel office investigation. Maybe more Whitewater convictions. Maybe a wild accusation that Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's staff shredded incriminating papers after his death. Maybe hearings and subpoenas and lawsuits and injunctions and trials and reminders that Clinton ducked the draft. Maybe Hillary's fingerprints. Maybe a picture of Hillary with a labor leader. . . .

I suspect we are witnessing the death throes of the Gingrich revolution and they are truly an ugly sight the reckless, desperate thrashings of the doomed.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/10/1996
DOLE'S FLIP FOR LIBERAL STRATEGY IS PERSONAL FLOP

WASHINGTON Bob Dole leaves the cozy club of the Senate this week with a gush of predictable praise from his Democratic colleagues, but with some friendly jeering as well.

Those who have long known Dole as a pragmatic, skeptical, level-headed negotiating partner watch in dismay as he tries to reinvent himself as an ideological, supply-side radical with a sudden affection for a Star Wars missile defense system and sweeping tax cuts.

Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), who has observed Dole's 27 years in the Senate, says now that Dole is seeking the presidency, he is "changing his entire congressional record of fiscal responsibility. [He] wants to repeal the gas tax $ 30 billion. He wants to have a missile defense of $ 60 billion. He now is going to propose an across-the-board tax cut of $ 600 billion. Anything to get elected."

Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.) was so infuriated by Dole's proposal to repeal the 4.3-cent gas tax that he abandoned Dole's crusade for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget, calling it ludicrous, hypocritical and a "partisan charade."

"One minute, the majority leader [Dole] calls for passage of a balanced budget amendment," Exon complained. "But in nearly the same breath, he simultaneously pushes massive tax deductions that would reduce revenues by multi-billions of dollars [and] on the spending side, he calls for a $ 50 billion-plus revival of Star Wars that would additionally worsen the deficit."

For Dole, this election-year conversion is especially dramatic because his strongest campaign asset is his life.

He seeks the presidency not with any special agenda and certainly not a vision for the future. Rather, his claim has been that he will perform in the White House as he has performed in the Senate: pragmatically, sensibly and only slightly to the right of center, seeking consensus when possible and making deals when necessary.

When he embraces supply-side tax cuts based on the theory that reduced revenues will increase growth so much that the tax cuts will pay for themselves he is running against his own history.

Dole was the leading Republican opponent of the Reagan-era supply-siders, and to correct their misjudgments the massive deficits in 1982 he was forced to mastermind the biggest tax increase in U.S. history.

Nobody knows that better than his fellow senators.

Hollings mischievously dragged out old Dole votes to raise taxes and said, "That is the senator from Kansas that we know and love. He was increasing taxes. He was cutting spending."

"Dole's dilemma," said the scholarly Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), "is that those who hold the reins in the Republican Party don't like the Dole that's advertised. They're firebrands who don't like compromise and say to hell with making the government work. They're antithetical to someone whose whole career has been based on splitting the difference. They're fighting for his soul."

Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who admires Dole and thinks he might even be a good President, says he understands what his Kansas colleague is doing: "He's just trying to figure out how to get some lift. His campaign is flat, and he needs some wind in his sails. So he's going around telling everybody, 'I'll give you whatever you want.' " Kerrey paused for a moment, then smiled. "He's behaving just like a liberal Democrat."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/12/1996
IT'S LEFT-FACE, FORWARD MARCH AS DOLE DEPARTS

WASHINGTON The real Bob Dole stood up yesterday and, as so often happens in this city, his most eloquent, honest and touching speech was a farewell.

As he looked back on 27 years as a leading conservative Republican voice in the Senate, Dole was proudest, he said, of his role in creating the federal food stamp program and federal regulations to protect the disabled.

He was proud of joining Democrat Sen. Daniel Moynihan of New York to rescue the Social Security system with a major tax increase in 1983. He was proud of allying himself with Democrat Fritz Hollings of South Carolina to create and preserve the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program and to protect school lunches.

He was proud of establishing Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. He was proud of his friendships with liberal Democrats across the aisle: Moynihan, the late Hubert Humphrey and the late Philip Hart. He talked more about Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia than about Ronald Reagan. Of former Sen. George McGovern, the anti-Vietnam War leader, he said, "I think George McGovern is a gentleman and always has been a gentleman."

Befriending McGovern? Honoring Martin Luther King? Creating food stamps and distributing them free? Preserving the WIC program? Saving Social Security? These are not the usual boasts of a supposedly conservative Republican presidential candidate. These are the demons to be invoked to terrify voters about the dangers of liberalism.

Difference of opinion

Take the Americans with Disabilities Act, which Dole championed. The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank that sets much of the GOP congressional agenda, says it "imposes huge costs . . . on businesses and local governments and has set off an avalanche of frivolous lawsuits." It's Dole's baby.

And McGovern, in the dictionary of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, exists only as the root form of an adjective, McGovernik, which is used to smear the liberalism of Bill and Hillary Clinton. But McGovern is Dole's honored friend.

To many Americans, the Dole who spoke yesterday the real Dole will be a revelation. For most of the past year Dole has struggled to find himself as he runs for President, and he has been all over the lot.

He promised conservatives he would be another Ronald Reagan, if that's what they wanted. He is hinting to supply-siders that he might favor broad-based, Reagan-type supply-side tax cuts, which he once fought. In yesterday's speech, he dropped from his prepared text a reminder that in 1981, he had managed "legislation that created the single largest tax cut in American history."

Dole's exposure of his liberal side does not necessarily create a new, kinder Dole. "He will not be shy about drawing distinctions between himself and the President," one of his top aides said. This is campaign speak for, "He'll rip Clinton's head off."

But this Dole is not a puppet of the House Republican revolution, with its quixotic assaults on public television and school lunches and its constant lambasting of government. Returning to his life-long pragmatism may bring fire from some of the GOP's ideological thought police, says Gingrich's spokesman, Tony Blankley. But that's a worthwhile trade-off.

"The public will find that Dole will be completely authentic to himself during his campaign," Blankley says. "I don't think he has it in him to sustain a fraudulent presentation."

So hello to the real Bob Dole. Funny that he had to introduce himself by saying goodbye.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/14/1996
FILE THIS LATEST DEM 'SCANDAL' UNDER N-OTHING

WASHINGTON When Bob Dole heard that the Clinton White House had been collecting FBI files on Republicans, he had an instant flashback: Watergate.

Wallowing in the FBI's gossip-filled raw files on political opponents this is something any veteran of the Richard Nixon years could instantly understand. We're talking impeachment-grade crimes.

Never mind that at the time of the original Watergate abuses, Dole dismissed accusations against President Nixon as "political garbage" and a "barrage of unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations." This is different. This is an accusation against Clinton, and Dole needs any weapon he can find.

Even people who should know better joined in the howling about this alleged White House abuse of power. But when you examine what happened, there is nothing I repeat, nothing there.

The targets of the alleged abuse were not "top Republican officials," as originally suggested. They were the first 341 names on a list of people with previous White House security passes people from A to G, some Republicans, some cooks and bottlewashers with no known political affiliation.

Former Secretary of State Jim Baker was on the list because his name began with a B, not because of his closeness to President Bush. Anthony Marceca, the security man who was updating the clearances, was not a Democratic political operative. He was a career Army criminal investigator, working off a clearance list prepared for him by a career White House employe hired, by the way, during the Nixon administration.

Most importantly, Marceca was not rummaging through the FBI's notorious raw files. He sought and received FBI summary reports on background investigations of applicants for White House passes. These are usually two-page form letters; they are not the full transcripts of interviews with informants and the unverified, occasionally mischievous allegations that the FBI hoards.

FBI background investigations can go into great detail to verify information volunteered by applicants for federal employment. "Have you ever smoked marijuana and if yes, with whom?" is a standard question. Another asks about psychiatric care. It is bad enough if this confidential information is being bandied about by political foes. But that's not what happened.

In an affidavit, Marceca said, "I looked for inconsistencies between the information obtained by the FBI in its background investigation and the information voluntarily provided by the individual in his or her application for federal employment."

He found only three examples of inconsistences: one applicant worked for the General Services Administration (the government's housekeeping agency), a second for the phone company, and the third for the White House groundskeeping force. That hardly sounds like a political enemies list.

But shouldn't Marceca have recognized that some of the names on his list were prominent Republicans? He should and did but so what? It's not out of the question that a former official like Baker might retain his White House clearance so he could advise the President on sensitive foreign policy issues. Marceca said he saw several Bush administration officials within the White House complex while he was working there.

For the Republicans, it has been a great story as long as they don't look at it too closely. Once they do, it evaporates into nothing. But their eagerness for such a "scandal" begs a question: Do they really believe Clinton is such a strong candidate that the only way to beat him is by clutching at these straws?

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/17/1996
AMERICAN EAGLE SHOULD WEASEL ON RUSSIAN ELECTION

WASHINGTON Consider the scenario: Russia holds a democratic election and the anti-Western, neo-imperialist Communist, Gennady Zyuganov, wins. President Boris Yeltsin refuses to step aside. What would the U.S. do?

The answer boggles the mind. We would urge Yeltsin to step down and make way for the Communist. Why? Because we are committed to democracy, regardless of the result.

"If it looks and feels like a free election and Yeltsin refuses to accept the results, we would say he has violated and betrayed an important part of his own legacy," says a top State Department official. "We would be quite tough. We would urge him to undo his mistake."

"What else could we do?" agrees Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), a former foreign service officer and specialist in Russian affairs.

Keep our mouths shut, for one thing. The U.S. commitment to democracy is truly noble, but a free election that elects Zyuganov could be the last free election for a long time.

Rather than condemn Yeltsin if he should try, again, to preserve democracy by un-democratic means, we could confine ourselves to an uneasy shuffling of feet. Sure, we are absolutely committed to democracy, but, er, the polling results are, uh, murky, and open to, um, varying interpretations, and we, er, have complete confidence, that, ahem, the Russian people will arrive at appropriate solutions.

In short, we should weasel. There is too much at stake.

Fearsome future

Though Zyuganov poses, to Westerners, as a moderate, he is the creature of and heir to a conspiratorial, revolutionary tradition that disdains both "bourgeois democracy" and "bourgeois morality." On top of that is an overlay of Old Russian nationalism and xenophobia.

A Zyuganov victory would not necessarily bring a return to totalitarian dictatorship and Cold War confrontation. But it could cause civil war in Russia if he carries out his party's pledges to renationalize private property. There are too many rich people many of them well-armed gangsters for Russia to slide back to the days of the heroic toiling masses without a struggle.

And the "bright red line" that Zyuganov knows he must not cross if he should win is any attempt to restore the boundaries of the old Soviet Union, U.S. officials say.

Ironically, the Clinton administration's experts argue that the best possible result in this first round of voting ballots will be counted through Tuesday would be a narrow Zyuganov victory over Yeltsin.

That might galvanize apathetic voters who blame Yeltsin for spectacular inequality and even more spectacular crime into realizing that the Communists might actually come back.

Then, in the second round, which is supposed to occur in 15 days, these disgruntled intellectuals, businessmen and pensioners might decide Yeltsin is really the lesser of the two evils and rally behind him.

Odds are, that's what will happen. Zyuganov's strength his appeal to the alleged glory days of the past is also his weakness. Most of his supporters are elderly. Young people realize the future lies with Yeltsin, for all his faults.

But this first real test of post-Soviet Russian democracy could quickly become a challenge for American democracy as well. If Zyuganov wins, the cry will immediately come from the Bob Dole campaign, "Who lost Russia?"

At that point, President Clinton might not like to be seen urging Yeltsin to step aside and make way for the democratically elected Communist. Not if he wants to be democratically reelected himself.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/19/1996
D'AMATO RUNS W'WATER PROBE INTO THE GROUND

WASHINGTON Sen. Alfonse D'Amato has ended his 14-month Whitewater investigation where it began, in a barrage of leaks, speculation and name-calling, with no persuasive charge of wrongdoing by either the President or Hillary Clinton.

So, in frustration, D'Amato and his Republican colleagues unloaded on Hillary Clinton, subjecting her to the most blistering congressional attack on a First Lady since Mary Todd Lincoln was accused of sympathizing with the South during the Civil War.

Politically, this was dumb. The First Lady is not popular in much of the country, but D'Amato's chief patron, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, needs to win support among the President's most loyal constituency, working women. And working women tend to admire Hillary.

Women who tuned in yesterday to the unveiling of the D'Amato report would have seen eight Republican senators, all Dole men, denouncing Hillary Clinton for being arrogant, deceptive, shifty, the central figure in a murky conspiracy. And what was her crime? There was no crime. When pressed, even D'Amato says he has no real evidence.

Instead, he has a final report so shrill "venomous," in the words of Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) that D'Amato could not attract a single Democratic vote on his committee. Past congressional investigations have been at least somewhat bi-partisan. In 1974, House Republicans voted to impeach President Richard Nixon, and in 1987 Senate Republicans joined in condemning the Iran-Contra scandal. But Whitewater was a straight party-line affair.

Even Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who suspected White House aides of shading their testimony about the aftermath of the Vince Foster suicide, derided the D'Amato report as "wildly speculative" and filled with "political accusations and smears."

In a final blow to his own credibility and professionalism, D'Amato allowed his report to be leaked over the weekend, so that selected portions would get maximum exposure without rebuttal from Democrats on the committee.

In its tone, the D'Amato report is not likely to persuade anyone who did not already believe the Clintons to be guilty of something. This is ammunition for right-wing talk-show hosts, not evidence that stands up under scrutiny.

Asked, for example, what he had discovered in 14 months that was actually new, D'Amato cited last-minute testimony from an Arkansas banker about a 12-minute telephone call in April 1986 about a bank loan. "This is rather devastating," D'Amato said ominously.

In the call, Hillary Clinton allegedly dismissed the banker's concerns that a loan might be improper. Period. If that's an example of devastating evidence an ill-remembered telephone call from 1986 she has nothing to worry about.

Her husband fares even better. D'Amato couldn't find anything to pin on President Clinton. His final 8-pound report was reduced to mealy-mouthed innuendo like saying there was an "apparent, if not actual, conflict of interest" in some of Clinton's actions as governor of Arkansas.

There is no evidence that connects the President to any specific misdeed, either in Arkansas or in Washington. D'Amato talks instead about "troubling and continuing patterns of abuse and deception" phrases that ring suspiciously like the weasel-worded accusations that have been made so self-righteously over the years against Alfonse D'Amato.

Whitewater was his turn to run a witch hunt and he just couldn't resist.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/21/1996
SOME IN GOP ARE COZYING UP TO THE PRESIDENT

WASHINGTON Rep. Steve Schiff of New Mexico is a conservative Republican who has fought President Clinton on gun control, the budget and welfare. But when Clinton showed up at an anti-crime rally in Schiff's Albuquerque district the other day, Schiff was right there with him.

"I think it's an honor when the President of the United States comes to New Mexico," Schiff explained later. In this age of hate-filled politics, Schiff's attitude seems almost quaint, like removing one's hat in the presence of a lady.

Similarly, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) has a 100% conservative voting record, as scored by the American Conservative Union, and is close to the House Republican leadership of Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay.

But when Clinton flew to South Carolina to denounce church burning a visit denounced by Armey as a cynical partisan photo opportunity Inglis made a point of being at the President's side. "He was happy to have the President express condemnation of church burnings," said an aide. "He did not agree with Armey's statement."

Inglis was so eager to appear with Clinton that Jesse Jackson's staff intervened with a reluctant White House to make room for him onstage.

Funny, two years ago you couldn't find many Democrats who wanted to be seen near the embattled Clinton in an election year. Now, as the President seeks reelection and in the midst of major embarrassments over Whitewater and FBI files even Republicans want to bask in the presidential glow.

Both Schiff and Inglis seem absolutely sincere in their motive: bi-partisanship in the fight against crime and bigotry. But there is a political ingredient as well: Clinton is defying the law of gravity.

For all the scorn and abuse that have been dumped on his head, despite the congressional investigations, special prosecutors, private lawsuits, hate radio tirades, scurrilous bumper stickers and jokes on late-night TV, Clinton leads Bob Dole by 20 percentage points in the latest ABC-Washington Post poll and in other polls leads by 33 points in New York, 23 in California and 13 in Florida. Most incredible of all, a Texas poll, which may be an aberration, shows Clinton tied with Dole at 42% in Texas the one big state Republicans thought they had locked up.

"Voters must have a high threshold of tolerance," marvels Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). "The President is like a ship at sea taking one hit after another. By this time, he should have sunk a long time ago."

And what did Clinton do to win this impervious popularity? Nothing much. The economy is fair, rather than great. Unemployment is low but many jobs pay less than before. The nation is at peace. But Clinton's best asset is that he opposed a conservative Republican agenda.

According to a computer model by James Campbell of Louisiana State University, if Clinton receives more than 53% of the popular vote, Democrats will regain control of the House, ending Gingrich's Republican Revolution after just two years. This helps explain why Schiff and Inglis are willing to be seen with the President. They are both popular in their districts, but they also want to survive a Democratic landslide.

Dole himself saw a similar disaster coming in 1992, when he was running for reelection to his Senate seat on the same ticket as George Bush. In the final days of the campaign, Dole's commercials dropped all mention that he was a Republican. I don't think he can do that again, but it might cross his mind.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/24/1996
CAPITOL HILL NEEDS REFORM, NOT LOBBYISTS

WASHINGTON It was a busy, busy night for lobbyists on June 18. At 5:30 p.m. there was the reception for Rep. John Ensign (R-Nev.). Price: $ 500 for a political action committee, $ 1,000 for a "sponsor."

Then, over to meet House Republican freshmen from mining districts: J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, Phil English of Pennsylvania and a bunch of others. Price: $ 1,000 minimum.

Rep. Jerry Solomon of New York had a fund-raiser at 6 p.m. Price: $ 1,000. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) had a birthday party; $ 500 for a political action committee, $ 100 for an individual. Rep. Greg Laughlin (R-Tex.) hosted a barbecue; $ 500.

And there was to be no rest for the weary lobbyist, no balm for the poor fingers sore and aching from writing all those checks. The next night, June 19, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) had a reception. Price: $ 1,000. Phil English had a birthday party; $ 100. Friends of Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) wanted you to meet him, for $ 500. Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had a "beach and shag party," $ 500. You could go see Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), $ 500.

These little soirees and many more are listed in the National Republican Congressional Committee's Calendar of Events for June. Well, they call it a calendar. You might call it a price list.

Oh, the Democrats send one out too. You can be sure of that. But their list is a little less extensive. June 18, for example, had only a couple of $ 500 breakfasts with Reps. Tom Sawyer of Ohio and Charles Stenholm of Texas.

None of this is especially new. What may be a little surprising, though, is how blatant these folks have become at publishing the prices they charge Washington lobbyists.

"There is no pretense that this buying and selling of access is in the interest of the average citizen," says Ellen Miller of the Center for Responsive Politics. "Ordinary people are walking away from the entire political system in disgust which is fine with these guys."

Two senators, Republican John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, finally get a chance this week to bring campaign finance reform to a Senate vote. It has been a terrible struggle, against labor unions on one side, business lobbyists on the other and worst of all mock civil libertarians who argue that it is an infringement of free speech to limit how much money a lobbyist hands a politician.

The McCain-Feingold bill bans political action committees. It requires candidates to raise 60% of their campaign funds in their home state that is, from the people who elect them, not the Washington lobbyists trying to buy access. In return for spending limits, it would allow 30 minutes of free TV broadcast time.

And it faces a filibuster. The McCain-Feingold bill hurts enough people both left and right that its survival is in doubt. Populist liberals from conservative states, for example, often have to raise much of their money in New York and California or from labor unions. Big-business conservatives want to be free to spend as much as they want to insure a friendly hearing.

McCain and Feingold need 60 votes in the Senate tomorrow to halt the filibuster. So tomorrow will be a big day for money in politics.

And also a big night: at 5:30 there's a reception for Republican House candidate Pete Sessions of Texas, $ 1,000. Meet Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), $ 500. Stop by and see Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) for $ 1,000. Look in on Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Mo.), the National Rifle Association's friend, for $ 500. . . .

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/26/1996
FIRST LADY LEARNS LESSON THE HARD WAY

Washington Hillary Clinton has learned a vital lesson about life in the Washington jungle. If you show any sign of pain, if you reveal any doubt, if you seek help, the natives realize you are not a god and promptly tear you to shreds.

You will get no sympathy. On the contrary, having revealed her frailty, the First Lady is now under attack by that most merciless of weapons, the Washington Sneer. She what! sought solace with some dingbat friends by trying to imagine a conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt, the last First Lady to be so viciously pilloried by opposition politicians and their allies in the press.

The crime is not that she dealt with New Age psychodynamic therapists. The crime is that she sought help at all. How could she be so weak? She is now the stuff of late-night TV jokes, Op-Ed cartoons and talk-show witticisms. Next thing you know, a congressional committee will subpoena her dreams.

Among the things that depressed the First Lady: the collapse of her unwieldy health care plan; the endless Whitewater probes; the suicide of White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster, who wrote in his final note about the jungle, "Here ruining people is considered sport."

It's all great fun. Columnist William Safire can call the First Lady a "congenital liar" and then complain that she and her husband are thin-skinned, too. Souvenir stores near the White House sell scurrilous anti-Hillary bumper stickers. Talk-radio hosts berate her endlessly.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato issues a Whitewater report that is the political equivalent of John Royster, the one-man crime wave. It leaves the First Lady and close associates Susan Thomases and Margaret Williams smashed and bleeding for no rational reason apart from frustration.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry saw part of this coming. In the Bob Woodward book "The Choice," which reported the First Lady's imaginary conversations, McCurry warned of the dangers of moving President Clinton closer to Republican positions.

If the President took away the Republicans' issues, McCurry said, "They can only win by doing the single most dangerous thing for Clinton, which is to totally destroy him as a human being." That includes destroying his wife.

The press will happily play along with this. Personal attacks are much easier to understand and they sell far more papers than obscure debates about welfare reform and medical savings accounts.

The level of abuse is really extraordinary.

Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour routinely refers to the President as "Slick Willie." Bob Dole's presidential campaign calls Clinton the "commander in thief." House Speaker Newt Gingrich describes Clinton as a liar.

In addition, the Republican attacks on the President contain a strong element of vindication for their own past sins. Whitewater, they claim, is just as bad as Richard Nixon's Watergate. The Clinton administration's request for FBI files is just as bad as the Bush administration's 1992 hunt for Bill Clinton's passport files. Hillary Clinton's "talks" with Eleanor Roosevelt are the equivalent of Nancy Reagan's consultations with an astrologer.

Under Washington rules, the Clintons have no choice but to take this abuse and keep smiling. If they fight back, they will be denounced as defensive, thin-skinned and meanspirited. If they seek human sympathy, they will be scorned.

But don't feel sorry for them. They'll survive. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton can take a punch.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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06/28/1996
STUCK IN A DESERT QUAGMIRE

Washington U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia are risking their lives to defend the indefensible: a feudal monarchy and $ 1.25 gasoline.

It's a doomed struggle. We can surely protect the Saudi royal family from foreign aggression. We cannot protect it from the forces of history and from its own people.

This puts America in a box: We cannot surrender to terrorists. We cannot reason with them. We cannot intervene to defeat them; the visible U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia is already destabilizing.

We can only hope that the Saudis a corrupt clan of sheiks whose days are numbered will be able to keep control of their land with increased beheadings.

We have already paid a price for getting involved in these murky struggles. It is not known who, specifically, blew up the Air Force barracks in Dhahran, but there is an excellent chance that as in the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings we trained them.

The Oklahoma City defendants learned explosives from the U.S. Army; the Muslim terrorists, from the CIA.

"We think the Dhahran bombing was done by native Saudi Sunni Muslims who were most opposed to foreign forces entering Saudi Arabia," says a long-time U.S. intelligence expert on the area. "Some of the [CIA-backed] mujahedeen in Afghanistan were Saudis, and they eventually returned home. They could have learned this stuff in Afghanistan from us. We ought to be a little more careful who we provide training to."

In Afghanistan, the U.S. exploited the fundamentalist religious beliefs of the mujahedeen to drive out Soviet-backed Communists. But the militants from Morocco to Indonesia are just as opposed to secular Western culture as they are to godless communism. They want Americans out of the Middle East as fiercely as they wanted the Russians out of Afghanistan.

So we do our Saudi mission on tip-toes. Our men and women do their best, as they risk death for the sheiks, not to offend their Islamic sensibilities.

American forces keep a low profile as they put their lives on the line. They keep to their bases, they have no alcohol, they leave husbands and wives behind. Servicewomen are advised to dress modestly i.e., no short-sleeve blouses to provoke the religious police. We close our eyes to the repressive regime no free speech, no freedom of religion, no elected assemblies, no political parties.

And for what? Gasoline. The Muslim fundamentalists are a greater threat to our oil supplies than Iraq's Saddam Hussein and all the mullahs in Iran put together.

Saddam and the Iranians at least know they must sell their oil on the world market to earn the currency their countries need in a modern age. The Saudi terrorists appear to have no use for the modern age; in their eyes, it only brings them corruption, pornography and blasphemy. Who knows what they would do if they ever controlled the oil wells?

A disruption in Saudi supplies could force major increases in oil prices. Any price increase even the 4.3-cent-per-gallon gas tax is enough to send American politicians into a panic.

So you will hear much bluster about punishing the culprits, cracking down on international terrorism, standing tall against threats and so on. The reality is that there is not much this country can do.

The battle is inside the heads of Saudis 4,000 miles away. Our troops can't fight and now they can't come home. They can only hunker down ever deeper, build better defenses and try to live through another day.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/01/1996
ELEPHANT MEMORY FADES ON ECONOMY

WASHINGTON Bob Dole will propose dramatic federal tax reform next month, provided he can talk himself into it.

Dole already sees great virtue in a single-rate flat tax, reports publisher Steve Forbes, Dole's one-time rival for the Republican nomination. A flat tax would charge everyone, rich and poor, the same rate say, 19%, after substantial personal deductions.

True, Dole ridiculed Forbes' own flat-tax proposal during the GOP primaries on the grounds that it would increase taxes for the middle class and balloon the federal deficit. But now, Dole is changing his mind, Forbes says, after a meeting with his former opponent.

"All he needs is a story," Forbes explains. A story?

Yes, Forbes says, the kind of story Ronald Reagan used to tell about how high tax rates discouraged him from making more than two pictures a year, the kind of story that tells how cutting taxes for investors like, er, Steve Forbes makes the economy boom, factories hum, the deficit shrink and racial tensions disappear. "That's why he's taking so long," Forbes explains. "He wants to internalize it."

This conjures up an improbable picture: hard-headed Bob Dole sitting in an office, telling himself over and over, "Cutting taxes will balance the budget."

It may be hard to believe, but 18-year-olds who will cast their first presidential ballots were only 2 years old when Ronald Reagan sold this economic vision to the nation in 1980, along with promises for a balanced budget and a defense buildup.

For the benefit of these trusting young people: It didn't work. The tax cuts never produced revenues sufficient to fund the defense spending; Reagan was never very serious about cutting domestic spending, and the federal deficits soared so high that today, 16 years later, nearly one-third of your federal income tax goes just to pay interest on the national debt.

Don't take my word for it. You can look it up. Federal tax revenues dropped from $ 410 billion in 1982 to $ 382 billion in 1983 while spending rose from $ 543 billion to $ 613 billion. The deficits would have been even bigger if the Treasury hadn't borrowed from Social Security taxes to cover the gap and if a courageous Republican senator named Bob Dole had not engineered the biggest tax increase in history to close some of the more glaring loopholes in the tax code.

But now, as the 18-year-olds prepare to vote, Republicans are promising that this same Bob Dole will enact a rerun of Ronald Reagan: tax cuts, promises of a balanced budget and Reagan's other fantastic dream a costly Star Wars missile defense system that would make America invulnerable to nuclear attack.

"The only way Dole can beat Clinton is with an agenda that promises economic growth," Forbes says. "He can't beat Clinton on generalities. He's got to get that growth agenda right. If he doesn't have the agenda, nothing can save him. Colin Powell can't save him."

A skeptic might note that proposing dramatic tax cuts and offering a vibrant vision of economic growth didn't carry Steve Forbes to victory even in the purely Republican presidential primaries. So why should this secondhand fairy tale help a Bob Dole who doesn't believe in it?

And a skeptic might further note that a current NBC-Wall Street Journal poll shows that by a margin of 71% to 19%, voters currently believe that the tax cuts Dole is supposedly considering are a "political gimmick." Still, don't rule this out. Dole surely needs something to boost him in the polls, and even a false promise like supply-side economics may be irresistibly tempting.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/03/1996
DO COWS FLY? SOME LIES DO

Washington Here's how FBI agent Gary Aldrich identifies the source for the most explosive allegation in his book, "Unlimited Access," the charge that President Clinton slips out of the White House at night for trysts in a downtown hotel:

"WHI-6 (for White House Investigation Witness No.6) stated that he feared for his job and thought that if it was ever known who he was and that he had ever given such information to the writer, he would surely be punished even though he was not in violation of any law to repeat to the writer what he knew."

Sounds like Aldrich found a whistleblower, right? His book, after all, is subtitled "An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House." And it is filled with the grumbling of insiders, though usually such trivial gossip like the Filipino stewards who supposedly hate the President so much that if he asks for a Pepsi, they serve him a Coke.

There's no clue that "WHI-6" is in fact David Brock, a writer for the conservative "American Spectator" magazine who is now horrified that Aldrich is citing him as a source. Brock says he has no idea whether the story about Clinton's nightly escapades is true.

And when challenged, Aldrich quickly retreats and says the hotel visits are merely a "possibility." that he couldn't knock down.

Ludicrously, Aldrich claims that "WHI-6" i.e., the Clinton-hating Brock came forward to him because "he is concerned about the President's personal safety."

What is scariest about this entire episode is Aldrich's assertion, "I'm willing to swear under oath to anything I have in this book."

Aldrich spent 30 years as an FBI agent. If this is his standard for sworn testimony, anyone convicted on the basis of his evidence over the past three decades ought to demand a retrial.

It wouldn't be the first time. Aldrich was involved in the infamous Miami pornography prosecutions 18 years ago in which the judge had to throw out the indictments on the grounds that one of Aldrich's partners was a pathological liar.

Aldrich will swear, for instance, that the Clintons have close ties to a "known terrorist organization . . . that has murdered civilians and political leaders of one of our closest NATO allies." The source for this charge? Clinton met Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

I guess Presidents aren't allowed to conduct foreign policy anymore unless the FBI approves.

Aldrich's book may be most interesting for what he cannot swear to. He worked intimately with White House security director Craig Livingstone, but there is no hint in this book that Livingstone misused FBI files to compile an "enemies list." This is one where Aldrich might claim firsthand knowledge rather than fourth-hand gossip, and he knows nothing.

Nearly as alarming as Aldrich's willingness to swear to anything is the eagerness of parts of the press to trumpet his false testimony. As soon as Aldrich's book was off the press it was on the front page of the Unification Church's Washington Times and Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.

Then, once it has penetrated through this soft underbelly of our national dialogue, the more "serious" press cogitates over no, not whether the charge is true or false, but "how it will play" in the presidential campaign. Hmmmm, Clinton is dropping in the polls.

This is our new standard for journalism: We neutrally and objectively rate the political effectiveness and the dramatic impact of lies.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/08/1996
MCCAIN FOR VEEP? BET ON IT

Washington Bookies have made Sen. John McCain of Arizona a 20-1 shot for the Republican vice presidential nomination. They should stick to horses; these are odds so tempting that even a confirmed nongambler would want a piece of the action.

McCain, the former Vietnam prisoner of war, has a couple of major disadvantages: Arizona and its eight electoral votes will probably go for Bob Dole anyway. Though he is safely conservative and opposes abortion he is not the kind of reliable ideologue who will ease right-wing fears that a Dole administration would be too moderate.

On the other hand, he has this major plus: The more you look at McCain, the more you see. Dole, in particular, is extremely comfortable with him, according to aides.

In many ways, the two men are alike. Both are war heroes. Both are pragmatists. Both have strong appeal across party lines and have led bi-partisan coalitions in the Senate. And both have a biting wit and an acid tongue.

Here's McCain fighting on the Senate floor last month for campaign finance limits, warning his colleagues that too many Americans felt their Congress worked only for special-interest contributors. When his fellow Republicans jeered that the nation spends more on yogurt than it does on campaign contributions, McCain snapped, "There is not a crisis of confidence in the yogurt industry."

And when Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) complained that limiting lobbyists' political contributions would infringe their constitutional freedom of speech, McCain jabbed back: "(When) the senator from Washington and I go to a lunch some place . . . and are given [a]$ 1,000, $ 2,000, $ 3,000, $ 4,000, $ 5,000 check or groups of checks, that is not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind."

McCain has been the Republicans' sharpest critic of President Clinton's foreign and defense policies, but he slams Clinton out of principle, not partisanship. In 1983, he was just as tough in criticizing President Reagan's dispatch of U.S. Marines to Lebanon. And McCain has rebuffed his fellow Republicans' attempt to limit Clinton's authority as commander-in-chief.

As a career military man, McCain is something of a maverick in Congress. He doesn't seem to feel any need to prove how tough he is.

Though he was a prisoner in Hanoi for nearly six years after his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down, he led the Senate fight to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam and has been a scourge of the scam artists who promise to find missing Vietnam-era servicemen for a fee. For this, some of the MIA/POW crowd has branded him "the Manchurian Candidate," suggesting that he was brainwashed by the Communists.

In the Senate, he has fought defense boondoggles like the Seawolf submarine and has warned his colleagues not to fall for the notion that they could keep the peace in Bosnia by means of no-risk airstrikes. Of more immediate importance to Dole, as an Arizonan, McCain represents a large number of retirees and has fought to increase their Social Security benefits.

In conventional politics, there are more obvious vice presidential choices than McCain. Michigan Gov. John Engler or Ohio Gov. George Voinovich might deliver their own must-win states. Selecting a woman would be dramatic.

But when all is said and done, Dole has to pick someone he feels comfortable with, someone without a private agenda and someone to whom he could safely entrust the presidency. Odds of 20-1 against McCain? Uh, I don't usually gamble but. . . .

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/10/1996
OH, BIBI! SHARON IS BACK

Washington -- Ariel Sharon is back in the Israeli government, which means you can forget everything any other Israeli leader says and watch instead what the boisterous Sharon does.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the new prime minister, was in the White House yesterday talking responsibly about the peace process, as he must, if he wants to retain $ 3 billion in U.S. aid.

But Sharon, the perennial Israeli hawk, was back home, where, under the innocent-sounding title of Minister for Infrastructure, he has just been handed control over the water supply to Arab villages and the construction of roads to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Ponder this: The Arab-Israeli conflict is a continuation of a 4,000-year-old tribal struggle for survival in the desert, and Sharon is suddenly in charge of the water.

Sharon has always played the same role in his previous government service, regardless of his nominal title. He is the Israeli Minister of Expansion. Let others talk of peace and diplomacy and UN resolutions.

Sharon has a vision of a Greater Israel and he is an expert in "creating facts" military strikes, new Jewish settlements, more roads while others sit around scheduling meetings.

In 1982, then-Defense Minister Sharon deceived his own prime minister, Menachem Begin, and the rest of the Israeli cabinet and led the Israeli army into disaster and dishonor in Beirut.

In 1990, he walked out of Yitzhak Shamir's right-wing cabinet on the grounds that Shamir, one of the most rigid politicians in Israel's history, was too eager to make peace with the Arabs.

Netanyahu had no desire to bring Sharon into the new cabinet, but one of his conservative allies, David Levy, insisted upon it as the price of staying in Netanyahu's precarious coalition. For Netanyahu, it's like being asked to hold a lighted stick of dynamite as he governs his country.

"Sharon will eat Bibi [Netanyahu] alive," says Professor Amos Perlmutter of American University, an intimate of many Israeli leaders. "He is dangerous. He's ambitious. He wants to be prime minister himself. He knows far better than Bibi how to maneuver. He can bring a crisis in the government whenever he wants. He has his own people in places you never heard of. He has his own constituency the settlers. And as Minister of Infrastructure it's a vague title, but he can invent the job. Anything to do with cement, with electric power, with water, belongs to him. Would he steal water from the Palestinians? Sure, he's capable of it."

Netanyahu, no dove, at least has to pretend that Israel is committed to peace.

Though peace has produced an upsurge of terrorist bombings that brought down the Labor government, even partial peace also ended the Arab economic boycott and fostered a tripling of foreign investment in the past two years.

Israel is now at a point where Netanyahu can envision an end to the annual $ 1.2 billion in American economic aid. But Israel can't have it both ways: It can't revert to the Arab-repressing, Fortress Israel policies of the past and expect to thrive in a freely trading Middle East.

The mistake Sharon has repeatedly made in the past is to believe that he can pursue his own vision of Greater Israel and somehow cajole, bluster and threaten his fellow Israelis and U.S. politicians to go along.

He has succeeded on occasion. But he has also lured his people to military and political disasters. Handling Sharon, not the Arabs, will be Netanyahu's toughest test.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/11/1996
UNSETTLING NOTE IN TRIUMPHANT TUNE

WASHINGTON Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveled in a spectacular political honeymoon yesterday, but at the peak of his triumph he sowed the seeds of discord to come.

At the very end of his stirring speech to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu slipped in these fateful words:

"We shall insist on the right of Jews to live anywhere in the land, just as we insist on the right of Jews to live in any other place in the world." Then he said a little prayer for help.

In an instant, Republicans and Democrats, senators and representatives, were on their feet applauding.

It was magnificent political theater and a spectacular image for Netanyahu to take home to Israel: the U.S. Congress appearing to applaud his vision of increased Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

But it's a false picture. U.S. policy against the expansion of Jewish settlements has not changed.

Clashes over this issue with former President George Bush helped to bring down the last conservative Israeli government, and if Netanyahu pushes settlements he is in for a confrontation, sooner or later, with the United States.

At the moment, he has a window of opportunity. This is an election year, and no U.S. politician of either party is likely to take him on.

He can go home, as his predecessors Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir have done before him, and claim to friends and opponents alike that Washington supports his hard-line strategy. The bill comes due later.

The U.S.-reared Netanyahu has played official Washington like a violin.

Just a month ago, friends of Israel were fretting that his election was a victory for the assassins who murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But Netanyahu's charm and rhetorical skills honed by years on ABC's "Nightline" overwhelmed skeptics.

In his speech to Congress he had little gifts for everyone: a Republican-style promise of less government and lower taxes to appeal to the conservatives, a denunciation of church burnings for the Congressional Black Caucus and a pledge to do with less foreign aid for the beleaguered budget cutters on the House and Senate appropriations committees.

"He played the strings of both Democrats and Republicans," said Rep. Major Owens (D-Brooklyn). "But I think he has enough political savvy to understand that he doesn't have a blank check."

Ironically, perhaps the greatest skepticism about Netanyahu came from American Jews.

THE 4,500-member American Jewish Peace Lobby mobilized 150 rabbis to urge President Clinton to warn Netanyahu against expanding settlements or else lose U.S. aid.

"This kind of letter would have been unthinkable a few years ago," said Jerome Segal, the group's president. "But the key to peace is whether Israel halts settlement activity."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/12/1996
...BUT SO DID CONGRESS AND THE PENTAGON BRASS

WASHINGTON U.S. servicemen died in Saudi Arabia in part because the Air Force could not afford to put Mylar anti-blast tape on the barracks windows.

Think of it, the richest nation in the world America guarding the richest family in the world the Sauds has no money for a basic precaution to defend its own people from two guys in a truck.

When the terrorist bomb went off last month, shards of glass slashed through the shattered building, killing 19 and wounding 259. My, how your Congress is indignant over this security lapse. Politicians are berating generals for inattention and demanding the resignation of Secretary of Defense William Perry. They are in righteous, patriotic, flag-waving high dudgeon.

Then the same politicians, Republican and Democrat, voted for a defense budget that guarantees that future generals also will be forced to scrimp on basic security, operations and preparedness. Oh yes, they voted to spend $ 11 billion more for defense than President Clinton asked for. But they directed the money to high-tech boondoggles that guarantee jobs in their home districts: the B-2 bomber, missile-defense systems, a new attack submarine.

These are weapons without an enemy. They are pure pork, decorated with an American flag in hopes that everybody will salute. Their chief threat is to the security of the U.S., for they will eat up money that could be used on real-world defense, like Mylar for the windows in an exposed outpost.

No one is more scathing on this perennial political scam than Pentagon analyst Franklin Spinney. He accuses the politico-defense-industrial complex of favoring expensive "high-tech turkeys" whose flaw is a variant of the old Robert Hall commercial: The prices go up, up, up while the budgets go down, down, down.

The inevitable result of this "budget bomb" will be a military force of fewer, costlier weapons and correspondingly less money for training, operations and maintenance.

Spinney's latest example is the F-22 fighter, which is projected to cost a whopping $ 88 million per plane vs. $ 25 million for the current F-16. The F-22 was promoted in part by a fraud: The dying Soviet Union put out disinformation that its radar systems were better than we thought, and we built the F-22 to counter that threat. The KGB ploy was eagerly swallowed by the CIA and the Pentagon. But the F-22 now accounts for so many jobs it may be impossible to stop, Spinney says.

"The Air Force may have to eat the F-22 and watch helplessly as its forces disintegrate because according to the secretary of the Air Force as many as 160,000 jobs may be at risk, once the effects on local economies are accounted for," he writes in Challenge magazine. "Out-of-control political selection procedures . . . could easily wreck our military forces in order to prop up the contractors who created the problem, with the active assistance of bureaucrats in the Pentagon."

To cap this, the General Accounting Office reported this week that the costly high-tech weapons used in the 1991 Gulf War worked no better than cheaper, simpler weapons. It added: "Many of [the Pentagon's] and manufacturers postwar claims about weapon system performance particularly the F-117 (stealth fighter-bomber), Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and laser-guided bombs were overstated, misleading, inconsistent with the best available data or unverifiable."

At best, these politically driven high-tech toys are a swindle. At worst, they rob and endanger the troops we send on real-world missions, like defending Saudi Arabia.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/15/1996
GOP LEADERS ARE SINGING THE UNION BLUES

WASHINGTON The polls are enough to drive a Republican strategist crazy.

On issue after issue defense, welfare reform, balancing the budget, character Bob Dole defeats President Clinton, often by sizable margins. Most Americans suspect the Clintons did something wrong, maybe criminal, in Whitewater, the Travel Office firings and the FBI files flap.

But on the key question Who will you vote for in November? Clinton consistently beats Dole by about 15%. Just as bad, Americans prefer Democrats for Congress by a 45-36% margin. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a disapproval rating of 62% and could well lose control of the House.

How can this be? Well, the GOP leaders have scratched their heads and found the cause of all their ills: He is a roly-poly gentleman from St. Barnabas parish in the Bronx named John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO.

"The great, amazing, ignored story of the past eight months is simple," says Gingrich. "The Democrats and the unions set out to spend millions of dollars on a negative ad campaign that was false." Gingrich is upset about an ad that accuses Republicans of trying to gut Medicare. He says Sweeney has targeted $ 35 million in members' dues against Republican candidates and it is this campaign that chiefly accounts for the GOP's unpopularity.

But surely the Republicans and their array of business allies can outspend the AFL-CIO, which is now down to 13 million members? "It is factually false to suggest we have more money," Gingrich insists. "We are not in the same league with the unions in terms of coercing money [from members]. How are you going to match Sweeney's ability to wave a magic wand and have another $ 20 million show up? The true value of the union effort is closer to $ 200 million."

Do I hear more? Yes! "Counting reported and unreported activities it is estimated that the union bosses will spend up to $ 500 million on this election cycle," House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) solemnly told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week. "AFL-CIO officials have pledged to spend an extra $ 35 million this year. . . . That money is an involuntary increase in dues so unprecedented in union history that John Sweeney was forced to call a special convention." True. The dues increase is 15 cents per member per month not a lot when compared to the $ 1,000 checks that politicians routinely pocket from lobbyists.

Republican leaders have a point when they argue that many union members agree with the GOP on abortion, taxes, gun control, affirmative action, welfare and other issues.

But what Gingrich and Armey overlook is that they antagonized unions on bread-and-butter issues. Republicans resisted an increase in the minimum wage. They protected strikebreakers, refused to crack down on employers who flout immigration laws, tried to weaken work place safety and sought to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act, which protects wages on federal contracts.

But to hear Gingrich and Armey tell it, John Sweeney has poisoned public opinion by out-thinking, outmaneuvering and outspending the Republican National Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Christian Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the National Rifle Association not to mention the nonstop propaganda of Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy and a host of right wing TV preachers.

What a tribute to Sweeney. Or, more accurately, what a delusion.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/17/1996
SUSAN MOLINARI'S CHARM CAN'T FIX THE GOP SPLIT

WASHINGTON Up pops perky Susan Molinari to put a jolly face on the dour, snarling Bob Dole campaign. It is either a political masterstroke for Dole or a last-ditch exercise in cosmetics, like painting lipstick on a corpse.

Molinari has one of the most winning personalities in the Republican Congress. Her infectious, combative enthusiasm can rally the most dispirited troops. She has a pro-Gingrich voting record of 91%. And she is an example of an often-overlooked side of the Gingrich Revolution in the House: More women than ever have positions of real power in this Congress.

Though she is a true believer in a Republican agenda that Democrats deride as harsh, she could help Dole solve his most glaring electoral gap: He trails President Clinton by 30% among women.

But Molinari is being asked, as Republican keynote speaker, to paper over a split in the GOP that cannot be healed. She, like most Republicans, is pro-choice; Dole, the Republican platform and most of her fellow Republican congressmen are committed to outlawing abortion and will remain so regardless of what she says.

The split cannot be healed in part because Republican leaders do not realize how deep it has become. "It's clear that a majority of Republicans are pro-life," House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a typical, oft-repeated comment the other day.

Not true. Exit polls consistently show that most Republican voters do not want the government to outlaw abortion. This is the one major issue where Republican leaders ignore the polls and follow their consciences or the dictates of religious conservatives.

And it is the one major issue where Republican women punish those leaders by refusing to vote for their anti-abortion candidates. In 1989, conservative, consistently Republican Virginia elected the nation's first black governor, Democrat Douglas Wilder, largely on the votes of suburban Republican women opposed to the right-to-life Republican candidate. Last year, those same women helped to defeat Oliver North in his campaign for the Senate.

"It's amazing how short their memories are," Ann Stone, president of Republicans for Choice, says of the party's leaders. "The boys just believe their own propaganda."

Stone says she is "ecstatic" that Molinari was chosen because, "She reaches exactly the target market that the Republicans have to reach: the suburban women." Molinari could have particular impact by appealing to pro-choice women in marginal states Dole must carry: New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois.

But regardless of her appeal, the facts remain: She is only the keynote speaker, not Dole's running mate. And her speech, no matter how tolerant of pro-choicers, will not change the platform language that commits the party to a constitutional amendment that would outlaw abortion.

Republicans have controlled both the House and Senate for two years now and have not brought the human-life amendment to the floor because they know it has no chance of passage. But they keep it in their platform and resist any attempt to soften the language thus alarming the pro-choice majority in their own party.

This gives the GOP the worst of both worlds: They cannot deliver an abortion ban to their pro-life voters, and they scare away many of their potential pro-choice voters by seeming to be so rigid. In this dilemma, says Jo Blum of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Molinari is not a solution: "She's window dressing."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/19/1996
A CANDIDATE WHO'S TOO HONEST TO HAVE A CHANCE

WASHINGTON News from Reform Party presidential hopeful Richard Lamm: You die. I die. He dies. We die.

Not a promising theme for a political campaign. Entire religions have been founded in an effort to soften this cruel truth, and here is Lamm, cheerfully telling us we must confront it or wreck the lives of future generations.

Lamm, an accountant by training, says the nation confronts one of the greatest challenges in its history: How to retire the 76 million people in the baby boom without bankrupting the country.

"The real problem is Medicare," he said the other day. "The average person retiring today gets over $ 100,000 of subsidies from Medicare." The biggest single chunk of that is spent in the very last months of life, staving off the inevitable.

"We need to have a real debate on medical ethics because my aging body can prevent your kids from going to college," Lamm says. "What the elderly really want is meals on wheels, medical-alert warning systems and hospice care. Instead, we give them expensive deaths."

A former Democratic governor of Colorado, Lamm accuses the Democratic Party of "inexcusably pandering" to senior citizens, of looking backward in a rearview mirror and of being in the hands of ossified bureaucrats.

So he seeks his political fortune in a secretive contest with obscure nominating rules in a party founded by Ross Perot, who decided as soon as he learned that Lamm was running that he wants the nomination too. "I do not think that Ross Perot is going to steal this election," Lamm says hopefully.

Under Perot's rules, Reform Party voters can mail in preference ballots. The results will be secret. However, anyone who "qualifies" is eligible for a second round of voting at an Aug. 18 convention in Long Beach, Calif., or by E-mail, and the result will be announced at the convention.

Apart from the reminder of human mortality, Lamm's candidacy is discouraging for what it says about the political system. He's a major Democratic politician, not a loony. He is telling uncomfortable mathematical truths, not peddling madcap schemes. And he felt there was no hope of delivering his message through the current political structure. Perot's game may be rigged, but for Lamm it's the only game in town.

Lamm believes he has a 50-50 chance of beating Perot. Then, in a three-way presidential election against President Clinton and Bob Dole, he doesn't need a majority of votes, just a plurality.

As President, he would phase in reforms. He would cut half a percentage point from current cost-of-living increases to Social Security recipients and make all Social Security benefits taxable. He would increase Medicare co-payments. He would limit nonservice-related health care in veterans hospitals. "The American people are ready to hear the truth," he says.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt says that Lamm's gloom is not the truth. Medicare and Social Security have seemed headed for disaster before, but bi-partisan action has always made the necessary corrections 23 times in the past 35 years. Today's problems, Gephardt says, loom larger because the Republicans who have controlled Congress for the past two years have not sought bi-partisan fixes.

Lamm seems headed, at best, for the same fate as John Anderson, the independent 1980 candidate who briefly won a large following by telling simple budgetary truths and then wound up with 7% of the vote. Americans preferred tax cuts, a defense buildup and Ronald Reagan's smile.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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07/22/1996
CUT CAPITAL GAINS TO FIGHT CRIME? IT'LL MURDER D.C.

WASHINGTON Tia Mitchell, 16, was riding her bicycle in the early evening of July 4 when she was shot through the neck and killed, two blocks from her home. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just another murder in a black neighborhood a story worth 92 words on page 5 of Section D in The Washington Post.

Barely noticed crimes like these kill a city. Homicide in the District of Columbia is up 24%, and fewer than one-third of the killings are ever solved. The courts are so out of control that in a murder trial last week, the defendant rose from his chair and stabbed a witness in the courtroom.

Police response time for a burglary complaint in the most dangerous neighborhoods can be as long as eight hours. When the streets echo every night with gunfire, when you never know if your child will return home from school or play, families move out as soon as they can afford to and the city descends deeper into poverty and violence.

Now House Speaker Newt Gingrich has a solution for the middle-class flight that is bleeding Washington: massive tax cuts with a maximum federal income tax rate of 15% for city residents and no tax at all on capital gains for investments in the city.

Middle-class flight

Washington would become a tax haven like Monaco or the lovely island of St. Kitts. You don't see the middle class fleeing St. Kitts, do you? In fact, you don't see much of a middle class in St. Kitts at all. You see very rich and mostly poor the problem that already afflicts Washington and so many other American cities. If you were looking for a way to drive the middle class out of a city, Gingrich's tax plan is exactly the way to do it.

Middle-class families flee cities because they can't afford the housing in safe neighborhoods. Turn the District of Columbia into a tax haven, and wealthy people from all over the world will buy homes in Washington, bidding up the price of real estate.

"Can you imagine what the market would be for one-room condos?" asks New York lawyer Adam Walinsky.

Gingrich's proposal would be a windfall for real-estate speculators and for the army of millionaire lawyers and lobbyists who already reside in Washington a tax cut just for staying put.

And the far smaller tax cuts that would be targeted toward the middle class are not likely to make frightened parents more willing to risk their children's lives or their own lives.

Fear drives people out

"In Baltimore, which has much of the same problems," Walinsky points out, "people are selling magnificent homes for a fraction of their value, giving up hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate value and leaving the city because they are afraid. Do you think they would stay for a couple of thousand dollars in a tax cut?"

Walinsky, author of the idea for a national Police Corps program, has an alternative plan for saving middle-class cities: cops. There's no mystery to it. Put more cops on the street, have them patrol aggressively, and crime goes down. His ideas are finally taking root. In Congress, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is proposing to expand President Clinton's Cops-on-the-Beat program to 125,000 by the year 2002 as part of a "Families First Agenda" if Democrats retake control of the House.

"We talked to people at their kitchen tables, and that's the kind of thing they want not capital gains cuts," Gephardt says. "Gingrich's plan is ideological mumbo jumbo."

With Congress hastening out of town, and with Gingrich's own Georgia seat in danger, the tax-cut proposal may be his swan song. It is so typical of his career: seizing upon a real problem, like murder, and proposing to solve it by cutting the capital gains tax.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/10/1996
JACK KEMP TAKES SNAP FROM DOLE

AN ODD COUPLE MAYSHAKE UP THE RACE

WASHINGTON Bob Dole and Jack Kemp would be the most liberal Republican ticket since Dwight Eisenhower ran with Richard Nixon and perhaps the oddest couple since Oscar Madison set up housekeeping with Felix Unger.

Consider it: dour Dole, the perennial pragmatist always on the lookout for the compromise deal, yoked to sunny Kemp, the ever-bubbling visionary with grandiose schemes Star Wars, a return to the gold standard to solve any and all problems.

It's a ticket that will excite a lot of Republicans seeking some way to defeat President Clinton. But Dole and Kemp would drive each other crazy in a week.

Kemp was once the heart and soul of Republican conservatism. It was he who converted Ronald Reagan to supply-side economics the notion that tax cuts would produce so much revenue they would pay for themselves. And if they didn't, well deficits don't matter; what counts is economic growth.

Until his recent conversion, Dole thought the supply-side theory was wacky, and he has spent a lot of the past 15 years raising taxes to make up for the revenues that never materialized. To Kemp, this concern for balanced budgets is "root-canal Republicanism" and he's not shy about telling anybody.

On economics, these two men are oil and water. But on social issues the problems of the poor, and of cities they are much alike.

Like Dole, Kemp comes from a sometimes forgotten wing of the party that fought for civil rights, that cares about the poor and that believes in government.

In the past decade, however, the GOP has moved so far to the right, that Kemp is now a left-winger. He favors affirmative action, gun control and immigration much of what the newly drafted Republican platform deplores.

Kemp is gnawed by the notion that his party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, was on the wrong side of the civil rights struggle. When his ally, Bill Bennett, once tried to persuade him to soften his criticism by saying the GOP was neutral, Kemp exploded: "That's the wrong side. If people are getting their heads bashed in, it's the wrong side to be neutral in the face of evil."

Kemp may be the only national Republican who knows his way around a housing project and who would be recognized in one.

But Kemp also has a knack of exasperating his colleagues. He is a true-believer who pored over economic textbooks at night while his Buffalo Bills pro-football teammates were out carousing. And he has the zeal of a missionary.

Dole, the deficit hawk, used to snarl at Kemp's economic theories in the Reagan years. And former Secretary of State Jim Baker once chased him through the George Bush White House, trying to punch him for a didactic lecture on U.S. policy in the Baltics.

Though Kemp has an unusually broad array of fans especially within the Democratic party he has been a poor, even suicidal, campaigner before conservative Republican audiences. The party faithful love his rhetoric about tax cuts, freedom, entrepreneurship, Star Wars and the like. But they sit in silence when he says the party has an obligation to minorities, when he hails the memory of Martin Luther King and when he urges support for affirmative action programs.

He admits his advisers have told him to soft-pedal the civil rights part of his philosophy, but the old quarterback just tightens his chin strap and goes charging into the line.

For this, millions of people love him. They just haven't voted for him.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/12/1996
VEEP PICK'S KEY TO CITIES

A HANDSOME SUITOR TO WOO URBAN DEMS

SAN DIEGO As soon as they played "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the opening reception Saturday night, there was something different about this Republican convention.

It was was the Jimi Hendrix version the discordant, distorted, electric-guitar rendition that so shocked Middle America with its irreverence when Hendrix performed it at the end of the 1969 Woodstock festival. Now it's background music at a GOP convention.

Bright and early the next morning, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was talking about how Republicans would reach out to minorities in the inner cities, promising genuine aid to the poor people whom the Democrats never really help.

New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato followed up by denouncing the nasty tone of some speakers i.e., Pat Buchanan at past Republican conventions. "We did learn from 1992," D'Amato said. "We are not going to have voices of intolerance, screeching and yelling."

Finally, vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp promised that Republicans would provide opportunity for all Americans, from sunny San Diego to the "ghetto in New York," with no one left out.

After decades of successfully exploiting race in their presidential campaigns running against welfare queens, street crime, affirmative action programs and "midnight basketball" Republicans suddenly are trying to appeal to blacks and Hispanics and the poorest of the poor.

It would be a laughably cynical election year turnaround except for one thing: Kemp. He has his flaws, but he genuinely cares about poor people, black, white, red, yellow or brown. No white politician since Bobby Kennedy has his ability to walk through a housing project, greeting the managers and many of the residents by name.

With the possible exception of William F. Buckley, no one has done more than Kemp to take the meanness the anti-black, anti-Semitic slurs out of modern conservatism. It was an outraged Kemp who leaked word to former Mayor Ed Koch that former Secretary of State Jim Baker had told fellow Bush administration cabinet members, "---the Jews. They don't vote for us anyway."

Some of his schemes for helping the poor like cutting the capital gains tax in inner-city enterprise zones may be far-fetched or impractical, but Kemp's presence on the ticket ought to guarantee one thing: a campaign without appeals to bigotry.

These wily campaign consultants can't run their "Willie Horton" commercials for Jack Kemp. They would be risking a fat lip.

Kemp warned his party a year ago that he would take no part in a campaign run on racial division. He supports affirmative action and aid to immigrants. He even consorts with and praises the current bugaboo of congressional Republicans organized labor.

Yes, this is still the Dole, not the Kemp, campaign, but when Dole took on Kemp, the party got not only a candidate but a conscience.

Kemp's biggest asset to Dole is that he will force the Clinton campaign to spend more time in New York and California and in traditionally Democratic cities, answering Kemp's appeals to traditional Democratic voters.

That takes time and money President Clinton would rather spend in other states with closer races. Kemp doesn't have to win New York or California for Dole; he just has to bleed the Clinton campaign in those states, giving Dole a better shot at winning enough states elsewhere to capture the White House.

"He puts New York in play," says D'Amato. "That's our strategy."

And a good one, too. It means Clinton has to fight a little harder for New York's votes.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/13/1996
GOP TRIES OPEN DOOR

SAN DIEGO Nancy Reagan's tribute to her husband was so touching and emotional that she stilled the raucous delegates to the Republican convention into total, tearful silence.

"Each day brings another reminder of this very long goodbye," she said, and as all thoughts turned to Ronald Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer's disease in Santa Barbara, Calif., chins trembled and eyes grew wet.

This was the act Colin Powell had to follow, and few were even paying attention to him as he climaxed an extraordinary first day of the convention with an even more extraordinary speech, reminding Republicans that they were "the party of Abraham Lincoln" and that those words carry with them an obligation.

Powell was cheered as he hailed Republican policies for economic growth, education, opportunity and defense. But then came the explosive words that might have threatened to rip the pretty paper covering the deep split in these Republicans.

"You all know that I believe in a woman's right to choose," he said, as a low chorus of boos began to swell in the hall. "And I strongly support affirmative action."

The boos grew louder but Powell's ringing parade-ground voice continued inexorably, "And I was invited by my party to share my views with you because we are a big enough party and big enough people to disagree on individual issues and still work together for our common goal: restoring the American Dream."

In an instant delegates were on their feet, cheering and applauding. Powell had turned the mood around, and set a keynote for a new kind of Republicanism: a party of inclusion, concern for minorities and the poor.

His speech capped a remarkable opening night that for a time seemed more suitable to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition than a supposedly conservative Republican convention. Though the delegates are overwhelmingly white, male and upper middle class, the first night featured a black woman who was once a welfare recipient, a young black boy singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," a Hispanic woman who touted the GOP as the best party for her and her people, and an AIDS victim.

Though the actual keynote speech comes from Rep. Susan Molinari tonight, Powell did as much as anyone to set the tone for this convention and for the campaign to come.

"The Republican Party must always be the party of inclusion," he said, and the white delegates cheered heartily.

"The Hispanic immigrant who became a citizen yesterday must be as precious to us as a Mayflower descendant," he said, and the Puerto Rico delegation leaped to its feet in joy. "The descendant of a slave or a struggling miner in Appalachia must be as welcome and find as much appeal in our party as any other American."

And white Republican delegates were on their feet cheering. In the past, some of these Republican gatherings have seemed like genteel Nuremberg rallies. Not last night. The party really made an effort to reach out to everyone in America.

Whether that effort is genuine and whether it will survive are anyone's guess. But the Republicans are trying to challenge President Clinton on his home turf, and with Bob Dole as their candidate, Jack Kemp as their No. 2 and Powell as a spokesman, they should be able to run a much tougher campaign against Clinton than the President expects.

REPUBLICANS have too often in the past made the mistake of living up to their stereotypes. Last night, they broke the mold.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/13/1996
PLATFORM DIVING STIRS FEW WAVES

SAN DIEGO Family secrets from Gov. Pataki: "My grandmother came over from Ireland on her sister's papers," he confided with a grin. "One of my uncles [from Germany] jumped ship in New York and never went back."

Yes, the governor is the grandson of an illegal alien. If the 1996 Republican platform had been in effect when his parents were born, he might now be deportable.

The Republican Party is committed to passage of a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to children born here to illegal aliens or legal visitors. At least, that's what the platform that was adopted yesterday says but nobody, not even the party leaders, pays much attention to the platform. It appears to be regarded as a sop to the boobs among the party's grass-roots activists.

Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour says he has never read a party platform. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) says he hasn't bothered to study it. Presidential candidate Bob Dole says he is not bound by it. And vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp actively opposes some of its key provisions, especially on immigration.

The result is two different Republican Parties on display: the highly conservative delegates, who spent a week dictating a platform that would outlaw all abortions and crack down on aid to legal immigrants, and the far more moderate speakers, like pro-choice keynote speaker Rep. Susan Molinari (R-S.I.) and the opening-night star, retired Gen. Colin Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants who believes children of illegal aliens are entitled to government aid.

The conservatives' audience is each other, while Powell and Molinari speak to the voters at large. Pataki, miffed over the immigration language, turned down his one opportunity to address the convention when he was told he would have to speak on that subject. So he won't appear.

If the party's aim is to present a more moderate face to the public, why antagonize moderate voters and moderate Republican leaders like Pataki and Massachusetts Gov. William Weld by drafting a harsh, but ultimately meaningless, platform?

"We have a lot of grass-roots activists, generally out of the conservative wing, who care very deeply about the platform," explains Dole adviser Charles Black.

"One of the main goals is to leave here with a unified party, with the grass-roots activists enthused and motivated. Sometimes it's a smart strategy to let these people go where they want to with the platform. The platform is not irrelevant to the campaign, but it's not what Dole is running on," he says.

That way, Dole can have it both ways. He can assure conservatives that he met all their demands for a conservative platform and he can assure moderates that the platform means nothing.

On abortion, for example, Republicans have controlled both the House and Senate for the past two years and have never introduced their platform-promised constitutional anti-abortion amendment. And we all wonder why the voters are so cynical.

But so far, the strategy seems moderately effective.

Dole was welcomed in San Diego by a couple of national opinion polls showing him to be within 10 points of President Clinton, a pleasant surprise after opinion samples that have shown Dole trailing by as much as 30 points in key states. Clinton will get a similar boost from the Democratic convention in Chicago at the end of the month.

With Kemp on the ticket, some of the bolder officials are beginning to envision challenging Clinton in strongholds like California and New York. "There's a real electricity now," says former Republican chairman Bill Brock. "To be frank, I haven't always seen that before."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/14/1996
COLIN TAKES GOP OUT OF DOLEDRUMS

SAN DIEGO A look of astonishment crossed the delegate's face as he watched his fellow Republicans leap to their feet, cheering for Colin Powell on Monday night. He turned to a member of the despised media and said incredulously, "We could actually win this thing."

Then he scurried off to spread the news.

This may be Powell's biggest gift to his newly adopted party: With his rousing opening-night speech, the retired general has lifted the defeatist mood that had conquered even the most relentlessly buoyant Republican optimists.

That's what officers are for: to inspire the troops and urge them on to victory. Powell still has the knack they taught him back in advanced infantry school.

Until Monday, the only real question about this campaign was, "How badly will Dole lose?" Party professionals were contemplating a landslide loss to President Clinton and possible loss of the House and Senate as well. Republican candidates were working out strategies to distance themselves from their own standard-bearer and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

"Republicans were so down until last night," political analyst Ed Rollins said yesterday morning. "Now all of a sudden, they're saying, 'We have a chance.' "

The mood swing is important because the defeatism is self-fulfilling. If Republican politicians and voters think Dole is doomed, they won't bother to work for him and won't even bother to vote.

Until yesterday, the party's smart analysis had been exemplified by conservative pundit William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who had branded Dole a sure loser. Kristol only said in print what scores of professionals were saying in private. But Powell seems to have squelched that kind of talk for the moment.

"If you think you can win, you don't spend the next couple of weeks badmouthing your own candidate, which is what has done the most harm to Dole: our own people badmouthing him," Rollins said.

Even with the brightened mood, it's still an uphill struggle for Dole and his running mate, Jack Kemp. Polls are not especially meaningful 12 weeks before an election, and polls today are all over the place some showing that he has pulled to within 9 points of Clinton, others reporting him mired 20 points back.

Even with the popular Kemp on his ticket, an ABC News poll out yesterday showed Dole trailing Clinton 49% to 33%, with Ross Perot receiving support from 12%. A poll by the Political Hotline had Clinton leading 48% to 36%. And in Texas a must-win state for Dole a Houston Chronicle poll had him only tied with Clinton at 38% to 38% showing a loss of support after Kemp was named. Perot snared 11% in that poll.

Professionals here say no poll really matters until after Labor Day. Dole should get some bounce out of the hoopla surrounding this convention. That will subside, and then Clinton gets his own bounce out of the Democratic convention in Chicago later this month.

"I would expect Clinton's lead will be back up to 12 to 15% after the Democratic convention," said Hotline publisher Doug Bailey, a long-time Republican consultant.

In theory, Dole could lose the popular vote and still win the presidency. Even if Clinton wins massively in New York, California and the Northeast, the electoral college is structured so that a group of little wins for Dole in the Rocky Mountain states and the Midwest could capture more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Clinton remains the odds-on favorite. His approval rating is better than 50% in virtually all current polls. And while many voters feel that perhaps a new person deserves a chance, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake pointed out, "I'm not sure Bob Dole would be considered 'a new person.' "

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/15/1996
IMAGES, NOT WORDS, KEY TO GOP SHOW

SAN DIEGO If you were unwise enough to leave the sound on when House Speaker Newt Gingrich addressed the Republican convention, you would have learned that freedom is all about beach volleyball.

"A mere 40 years ago, beach volleyball was just beginning," he marveled with his brightest smile. "Now it is not only a sport in the Olympics. . . . There's a whole new world of opportunity opening up that didn't exist 30 or 40 years ago, and no bureaucrat would have invented it. And that's what freedom is all about."

Republican delegates exploded in cheers and applause.

His words do not matter. The image is what counts.

What you saw was a benign, happy Newt Gingrich surrounded on film by adoring minority children being warmly cheered by your fellow Americans. He may be the most unpopular politician in America, but on the screen he is just an innocent sweetheart, blown away by the very concept of beach volleyball.

The images from this convention have been extraordinary. Almost every time you look at the screen, a black woman is praising the Republican Party. We have seen KarLa Gray-Boynton, a Detroit principal; Nicole Smith, a former welfare recipient from Milwaukee; Star Parker, a former California welfare recipient, and a host of others, including a 12-year-old girl with AIDS.

Republicans accuse President Clinton of stealing their ideas; on the TV screen, it looks as if the Republicans have stolen a Democratic convention.

Orian Box, spiritual adviser for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, led the Pledge of Allegiance in his war bonnet. Christine Rodriguez explains how she fought drugs in her community. Lucrecia Machado tells her life story as an immigrant from Cuba.

"It's somewhat out of proportion to the number of black and Hispanic voters in the Republican Party," says Vin Weber, a national co-chairman of the Bob Dole campaign.

The minority faces that sometimes seem to dominate the screen also are way out of proportion to their numbers among the delegates here, who are 88% white, 3% black, 3% Hispanic and 1% Asian.

This display of diversity was the brainchild of Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour trying to reverse the image of the Republicans as a wealthy, all-white, male-dominated party. But the display on the screen is only one pixel deep.

"Jack Kemp [the vice presidential nominee] may be the only Republican politician who wants to contest for black votes," Weber says.

In past elections, some party strategists have preferred to exploit racial fears, running presidential campaigns based on street crime, welfare, school busing and other largely local issues.

Dole has been basing his campaign on returning power to the states and localities. But the convention couldn't resist putting on a rape victim, Jan Licence, to tell her horrendous tale. In election years, rape apparently becomes a federal offense.

And even Kemp, the GOP's happy warrior against intolerance, rapidly has been changing his tune. He told the Los Angeles Times yesterday he now favors allowing states to expel the children of illegal aliens from public schools. And he suddenly favors repeal of affirmative-action programs, which he has long defended.

His new belief, acquired apparently within six or seven seconds of being offered the vice presidency, is that diversity in schools and work places can be assured without racial quotas. And he now believes that the little illegal aliens can be kicked out of the schools without using police-state tactics.

But you're not supposed to listen to what he says. Just watch. There's buoyant Jack Kemp, there's youthful Bob Dole, there's a Republican Party jolly and integrated enough to populate a happy hour beer commercial.

Beach volleyball, anyone?

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/16/1996
HE'S BACK - THE OLD BOB DOLE

STRING OF BARBS SOUNDS LIKE PAT

SAN DIEGO Pat Buchanan's angry voice finally was heard at the Republican convention last night. It came out of Bob Dole's mouth.

As he accepted his party's nomination for the presidency, Dole dropped the warm and cuddly face the Republicans have been trying to peddle to the American people for the past three days.

Instead, his unsmiling, slashing speech came dangerously close to reviving the image of his worst political blunder the 1976 "Democrat wars" crack that may have cost President Gerald Ford a second term in the White House.

On a night that was supposed to reintroduce Dole, 73, to the American people, he posed as a stern, grandfatherly disciplinarian, deriding the Clinton administration as a clique of permissive, immature elitists who want to seize the wealth of ordinary Americans and use big government to replace family and common sense.

He saw America, under President Clinton, as a nation "paralyzed by crime," in danger of nuclear missile attack and under the thumb of a large and uncaring government that wanted to collectivize child-rearing and seize wealth.

He resurrected the divisive notion that America stabbed its own troops in the back in the Vietnam War seven years after George Bush tried to bury the Vietnam controversy in his inaugural speech.

In an echo of Buchanan's isolationist campaign and a bow to the right-wing militias and the talk show loonies, he denounced the World Trade Organization, the United Nations and its secretary general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. He softened the edges of Buchanan's isolationist rhetoric, however, by defending immigration.

In one especially bizarre abuse of a presidential acceptance speech, Dole specifically threatened the teachers' unions, promising to strike fear into their hearts by working for school choice and competition.

Attacking the country's biggest grass-roots unions is not a strategy for forging consensus, winning over moderates and persuading Americans that Republicans are a reasonable alternative to President Clinton. Dole appeared to be playing more to the mostly conservative delegates who cheered him wildly than to undecided voters.

Dole's pollsters knew he had a problem before he gave this speech. Women did not trust him. He trailed Clinton badly among young voters. The Republican Party was seen as harsh and insensitive, especially by middle-class suburban women who might normally vote Republican.

So this convention was sometimes hilariously transformed into a showplace of gentleness, moderation and diversity.

Buchanan, whose harsh convention speech in 1992 cost the Republicans millions of expectable moderate votes, was not allowed to speak at all, even though he had delegates on the floor.

And then Dole climaxed the carefully wrought proceedings by dramatically hardening the tone, promising a defense buildup, a war on crime, retribution against terrorists and all the hardy standbys of a conservative campaign.

Dole had two goals to accomplish with this speech: To introduce himself as an acceptable, unthreatening alternative to Clinton and then to persuade voters, most of whom now approve of Clinton, that the President should be ousted.

It was a delicate task. The pollsters' research indicated that Dole's ratings dropped during this convention after personal attacks were made on Clinton, especially a sneering assault by Texas Sen. Kay Baily Hutchinson. Dole lost ground especially among retirees and ticket-splitters i.e., the independents and moderates who are especially turned off by negative campaigning.

THE PROBLEM is, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) explained, everybody hates negative campaigning, but it works.

Dole is in the hands of some of the world's cleverest political manipulators. They must have concluded that an angry, aggressive, negative campaign is the only way to begin.

Dole, the Leader, obediently followed their orders and began his march for the White House with a stumble.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/18/1996
BOB'S GIMMICK WILL BE BIG HIT

WASHINGTON Voters may suspect in their hearts that Bob Dole's promised 15% across-the-board tax cut is an irresponsible gimmick that risks adding to the federal deficit. But when they go into ballot booths in November, the overwhelming emotion is likely to be, "Gimme mine."

Tax-cut politics works. It sharply divides the parties: The Republicans are offering to let you keep more of your money (except that if the tax cut adds to the deficit, you're just borrowing from your children and then telling them to pay your debts). The Democrats are forced to defend current tax burdens, "big government spending" and the Internal Revenue Service.

This will be the heart of the Dole campaign to come, and, on top of a brilliantly staged convention in San Diego, it gives Dole a real shot at ousting President Clinton.

It does not matter that his tax cut is skewed toward the rich and offers only a sop to moderate-income voters. "You can tell the voters that a tax cut is going to give a huge break to a millionaire and only five dollars to the average guy, and the average guy will say, 'Great, where's my five bucks?' " says former House Speaker Tom Foley.

This political reality lets Bob Dole now repeat the "blue smoke and mirrors" promise on which Ronald Reagan won in 1980: a tax cut, increased defense and a balanced budget. Democrats can jeer all they want; they are up against a Republican campaign commercial promising $ 1,600 cash money to a middle-income family with two children.

And at the same time the Republicans are offering this windfall, they will be locking up more criminals, improving the schools, waging global war on terrorists, building a space-based defense against nuclear missiles, cracking down on illegal immigration, preserving Medicare and Social Security and balancing the budget.

When it comes to taxes, even hardheads like Dole, the long-time deficit hawk, can talk themselves into these fantasies.

In his acceptance speech to the Republican convention in San Diego on Thursday night, he accused "some genius in the Clinton administration" of raising taxes so that "somewhere a grandmother couldn't afford to call her granddaughter, or a child went without a book, or a family couldn't buy that first home because there was just not enough money to make the call, buy the book or pay the mortgage."

Poor grandma had to be making over $ 50,000 a year, including her Social Security income, if she got hit by the Democratic increase in taxes on Social Security benefits. The kid who couldn't afford the book and the first-time home buyer had to be in a family earning more than $ 143,000 if they were touched by Clinton's tax increases.

In fact, Clinton cut taxes for the working poor by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.

But the Democrats can point that out until they are blue in the face. They are up against the attractive slogan a 15% tax cut and the promise of $ 1,600 per average family with no reduction in essential government services.

No federal prisoners will be released early to cut costs, no parks will close, all Social Security inquiries will be answered promptly by smiling employes, no Medicaid-dependent nursing homes will refuse patients, no states will be hit with new costs for welfare and illegal immigration, all passports will be issued in time for that vacation flight, the deficit will disappear and the federal budget will be balanced.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL and powerful promise. It worked for Reagan twice. The only problem was that if you paid $ 10,000 in income taxes last year, nearly $ 3,000 of it went to defend you against an enemy, the Soviet Union, that no longer exists, and another $ 3,000 went to pay interest on those horrendous deficits.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/21/1996
BOB DOLE VS. THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Washington To the low-income or middle-class family with children in private or parochial schools, Bob Dole is offering a double windfall.

Not only is he promising a $ 500-per-child tax credit, but he'll also pay $ 1,000 per child for school tuition $ 1,500 if the child is in high school.

For a $ 40,000-a-year family with two kids in, say, St. Margaret's up on Riverdale Ave. in the Bronx, a Dole presidency would mean about $ 3,600 cash in tax breaks and tuition help.

This is a surefire vote-getter even though Dole gives no clue how he'll pay for it.

The downside is that the plan might wreck the nation's public school systems by skimming off both tax dollars and the best students.

Most voters, even conservative Republicans, oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize private or religious schools and want more money spent on public education, according to Republican pollster Linda DiVall.

But a lot of parents even some staunch liberals may secretly not care.

In many cities, education has become a double burden.

Urban parents pay the bulk of their local taxes to support public schools they are literally afraid to use and then pay private tuition to educate their own children. They feel they have no stake in the survival of public schools.

Dole's plan is too modest to let any poor family send their children to the most expensive private schools. But a $ 1,000 voucher would allow virtually all inner-city children to attend low-cost, working-class parochial schools.

St. Cecilia's in Jersey City costs only $ 1,255 a year.

"You'd see a lot more integration," predicts David Boaz of the free-market Cato Institute, which supports vouchers. "There has been some explicitly racist analysis, even from liberals. Opponents point out that people have fled the inner city for a reason and do not want the inner city to follow them. I'm sure there's something to that."

A similar conservative theory housing vouchers has already produced a backlash.

Housing vouchers up to $ 1,200 a month given to residents of public housing projects were seen as a cure for segregated inner-city ghettos, but residents of working class neighborhoods in Yonkers, Baltimore, Chicago and northern Virginia protested bitterly when people from the inner city started moving next-door to them with the help of federal subsidies.

Vouchers also threaten the independence of private schools. Federal money comes with federal strings.

As former Rep. John Erlenborn (R-Ill.) once wrote, federal involvement in schools can mean "interference in textbook choices, curricula, staffing, salaries, the makeup of student bodies, building designs and all other irritants that the government has invented to harass the population."

If you think private schools are immune to this kind of interference, just ask the nation's private colleges and universities, where administrative staffs have soared, in large part to cope with the restrictions that come with accepting taxpayer funds in the form of scholarships, grants and contracts.

For individual families, the Dole plan could be a good deal. But it comes at a cost.

It threatens the survival of public schools. Even most Republicans don't want to destroy the public school system.

But the once-centrist Dole is now following in the footsteps of the Newt Gingrich revolutionaries and their campaign contributors. They have one constant, overriding thought: How to channel taxpayer dollars whether for Social Security, Medicare, the national parks or, now, the public schools into the hands of the private entrepreneurs who support them.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/23/1996
DOLE'S TAX PLAN IS STUFF LEGENDS WILL BE MADE OF

WASHINGTON Bob Dole accuses our school teachers of losing the war for education. Then he proposes a budget that would flunk a fourth-grade arithmetic test.

Dole promises that a 15% cut in income tax rates will result in increased revenues to the federal government, no cuts in existing services and only a 5% reduction in federal spending. That's a free lunch if ever there was one. You'll pay less in taxes, get all the goodies you demand from government, plus a Star Wars missile defense, and the federal budget will be balanced.

The coolest criticism of Dole's campaign promise comes from Martha Phillips of the bi-partisan, anti-deficit Concord Coalition. Phillips, the former Republican staff director of the House Budget Committee, says Dole's promised spending cuts and his hopes for deficit reduction "are not credible."

Dole has taken Social Security, Medicare, defense and interest payments off the table. He then promises to save $ 217 billion from other programs an amount that aides say is less than 2% of the total amount the government proposes to spend over the next six years. This sounds like a minor, painless sacrifice. But it's a fast shuffle from a stacked deck.

Here are Phillips' numbers: This year, the government is spending $ 268 billion on what is called domestic discretionary programs: highways, federal prisons, the FBI, national parks, environmental cleanup, air traffic control, the border patrol, education and the like.

Under the Dole plan, this year's $ 268 billion would shrink to $ 186 billion in 2002. Yet Dole is promising that no vital services will be eliminated. But that's not a painless cut; that's 40% out of the heart of federal nondefense spending. Says Phillips: "$ 186 billion is less than $ 268 billion, any way you cut it."

In one promise, cited by former Congressional Budget Director Robert Reischauer, Dole says he can save $ 32 billion out of Energy Department programs that total only $ 25 billion over the next six years.

Smaller government sounds great until the national parks close, the line at the Social Security office stretches out the door, overcrowded prisons start dumping inmates and airports are flooded by illegal aliens for whom there are no detention centers. Then the public rebels, as it did last year when House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) forced a government shutdown. Some of his Republican allies, like Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, predicted the public would never miss the federal government. They were wrong.

How does Dole propose to make this faulty math work out? By a triumph of the will. "Cutting taxes and balancing the budget at the same time is simply a matter of presidential will," Dole says. "And I've got it, and I will do it."

But his presidential will collapsed as soon as he appeared before a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Louisville, Ky., the other day. There, he took veterans' benefits off the table and seemed to promise his fellow vets even more spending on medical research. He also suggested he was going to raise military pay by 13%.

The source of Dole's contradictory stance is ironic: He is doing exactly what he accuses Clinton of doing listening to pollsters. Every phrase in his speeches is measured by pollsters, and then his message is tailored to give the public what it wants: lower taxes with no decrease in government services and a balanced budget.

Ronald Reagan at least believed this myth. Dole knows better, but he's peddling it anyway.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/26/1996
DOLE SOUNDS BETTER, BUT BOBS THE ISSUES

PALOS PARK, Ill. The names of the candidates in this green, affluent countryside filled with mansions so new they seem naked come right out of South Side Chicago: Bobikiewicz, Murphy, Panici, Sterba, O'Connor and Pat and Jack O'Malley.

They are one or two generations removed from both poverty and the Democratic Party, and now they are running for office in the suburbs as Republicans.

As they stood under a blazing sun in a lakeside park yesterday, waiting for Bob Dole to speak, some of the younger ones boogied to the deafening sounds of the Debbi Ross band of Springfield, Ill., which chose to kill the time in advance of Dole's appearance by performing, somewhat inappropriately, "Play That Funky Music, White Boy."

Back in Chicago, 30 miles to the northeast, Democrats were about to open their convention to renominate President Clinton. Dole came out as Clinton came to Iowa during the Republican caucuses last January to boost morale as all national attention focused on the Democrats for a week.

Dole was in great form stern, fatherly, confident, yet relaxed and joking. He stood in his shirtsleeves, tie knotted tightly at his throat, and read his speech efficiently off the TelePrompTer, statistics and all, without rambling.

He knew his audience. He promised the Irish, Italian and Polish descendants of inner Chicago a cut in the capital gains tax, and they cheered mightily. He held out hope of a sharp reduction in inheritance taxes, and they cheered even louder. He told them that if they had 10 children, they would get a $ 5,000 tax credit, and they laughed appreciatively.

Gone is the hapless campaigner of the early Republican primaries. Dole is now "on message," as the campaign consultants say, and the message of the day yesterday was tax cuts and drug abuse mostly drug abuse.

There was no mention of jobs, abortion, education, foreign trade, Bosnia or strategic nuclear defense. The Dole advisers, their ears attuned to the pollsters, must have detected growing voter concern about drug use and chose to make it a prime campaign issue.

Dole charged that Clinton has been absent without leave in the war on drugs. He cited facts and figures to show that the President has seldom spoken about drugs, has cut drug budgets, has downgraded the importance of drugs on his national security agenda and has never once dealt with drugs at a meeting with foreign leaders.

Come to think of it, it is hard to recall that Dole has been particularly interested in drugs as a top priority during his 35 years in Washington. But politicians seldom miss a chance to score points, no matter how far-fetched.

As Dole spoke, plainclothes Democratic "rapid-response" operatives infiltrated the press area, handing out statistics defending Clinton's record. The President, the papers said, has proposed the largest anti-drug budgets in history, appointed Gen. Barry McCaffrey as his drug czar, supported drug testing for high school athletes, blocked loans to Latin American nations for not cooperating with anti-drug strategies and urged a crackdown on teenage drinking.

Dole's message, it turns out, doesn't make a lot of sense. He is promising more tax cuts, more spending now including an all-out war on drugs using the armed forces and the CIA and a balanced budget. But at least he was on message, and to his campaign consultants, that is major progress.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/27/1996
MONEY TALKS LOUDER THAN TRUTH

CHICAGO Bob Dole's challenge to Bill Clinton, a 15% tax cut, is as simple and hard-hitting as the old subway ads for a speedwriting shorthand course: If u cn rd ths u cn gt mo py.

Even as gibberish, the message comes through: Dole means more money in your pocket.

"The latest Dole campaign commercials are really clever," says sometime Clinton adviser Frank Greer, here for the Democratic convention. "Elect Bob Dole and you'll have more take-home pay. That stuff really works."

It works especially among the Democratic Party's traditional base working-class voters without a college education.

In today's economy, with corporations ever ready to shift production off-shore to cut costs, many employes have abandoned hopes of ever getting meaningful raises from their bosses.

They see two ways to get their heads above water, reports Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg: A tax cut that would increase their take-home pay or striking out on their own and starting a business. Republicans have a big head start on both fronts.

Traditional Democrats believe, Greenberg writes in an article being distributed here in The American Prospect magazine, that "The government works for the special interests and has forgotten the ordinary people who are supposed to be the center of the story. In the absence of a democratic politics, these voters are indeed willing to go it alone and settle for lower taxes."

"People really believe their tax money goes down the drain," says Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester).

"We have to come up with some answer on taxes, like the $ 10,000 tuition deduction."

But to counter the Republican pitch, the Democrats have a laundry list of campaign promises, most of them centering on government action. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri says if Democrats recapture control of Congress, they will more efficiently enforce laws on equal pay for women and crack down on employers who misuse pension funds. That sounds like a payroll police.

Gephardt's "Families First" agenda also wants to establish after-school "safe havens" for young people and a $ 1,500 tax credit for college as an alternative to the $ 10,000 deduction. It proposes a kids-only health insurance plan that would cost a parent $ 1,000 per child. In recognition of the go-it-alone tendency, it promises to ease tax rules for small and inherited family businesses.

Much of this is, no doubt, useful. All of it is realistic, responsible and achievable. None of it is as clear or as wonderful as Jack Kemp's promise, "Everyone can be rich."

Democrats argue that the Republican proposals a tax cut, a defense increase and a balanced budget don't add up and will only increase the deficit.

Absolutely true, but irrelevant. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota reports that farmers in his state are overjoyed with a farm bill that gives them a windfall this year but promises pain in years to come. "Farmers live from year to year," he said. "They're not thinking about future years."

Why should working people be any more farsighted? The Dole tax cut would come next year; the budget doesn't have to be balanced until 2002. A lot of people will be tempted to take the money now and worry about it later. They cannot afford to do otherwise.

"I've seen this work before," Frank Greer says. "In Maryland, a totally Democratic state, we had a 20% lead for Paris Glendenning [in the governor's race]. With just a couple of weeks to go, Ellen Sauerbrey, the Republican, came along and offered a 25% tax cut and almost won. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/28/1996
SHE ELICITS ONE HIL OF A RESPONSE

CHICAGO "Impeach Clinton and Her Husband Too," reads the bumper sticker. "My Vote Will Be an Ex-Hillaryating Experience," says the T-shirt. "That

----, ----, ----, ---bitch," says the hate mail.

Something about First Lady Hillary Clinton drives Americans around the bend. People who call themselves God-fearing conservatives, devoted to old-fashioned virtues and family values, turn foul-mouthed, hateful and vicious.

More than a third of Americans have a negative opinion of her. She routinely is called a liar and a schemer. Readers suggest she doesn't care about her husband's alleged infidelities because she is really a lesbian.

She is suspected of being the cause of Vince Foster's suicide, the evil force behind the White House travel office firings, the promoter of security aide Craig Livingstone, the concealer of subpoenaed records and quite possibly a communist.

Even the supposed gentlemen of the Republican Party get into the act. Former President George Bush couldn't resist whining to the Republican convention in San Diego that his wife had "upheld the honor of the White House and she did it with style, class, caring and love." The delegates hooted with appreciative laughter.

Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole suggested in his acceptance that Hillary's book, "It Takes a Village," was a call for the collectivization of child-rearing. Top party strategists openly speculate that she may yet be indicted before Election Day by the Republican special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr.

Truly she is a polarizing figure admired by millions, suspected or despised by just as many.

According to the polls, she is as big a political liability to the President as an asset. Yet there she was, on prime-time television last night, addressing the Democratic National Convention. Republicans minimized the appearances of their most disliked leaders Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms and Alfonse D'Amato at their San Diego convention. The Democrats put the First Lady outfront.

The reason? The attacks on her have produced a backlash of sympathy. The more abuse she gets from extremists, the greater the respect she gets from independent voters who admire her ability to shrug off the assaults and keep working.

"These attacks have turned into pluses," says Democratic strategist James Carville. "The President and Mrs. Clinton have gained strength in the eyes of the voters. People see them take a pounding day after day, they see these meanspirited attacks and they look at the President as a guy with a lot more strength than they once thought."

The conservative resentment of the First Lady is a little contradictory. She is denounced for being an ambitious, aggressive career woman who supposedly neglects her family. But the same people have no problem with the equally ambitious and aggressive Elizabeth Dole, who has no children and who startled some people during a "Larry King Live" interview by completing her husband's sentences for him.

Ironically, the Doles originally presented themselves to the public as a two-for-the-price-of-one political couple in the authorized biography written for Dole's 1988 run at the Republican presidential nomination. The book was a dual biography titled "The Doles: Unlimited Partners," and it suggested that if Bob Dole was elected President, Liddy would be elected, too.

Hillary's prominence scotched what appeared to be the Doles' plans. Reacting to the controversy that erupted over Hillary's power, Dole has promised that if he is elected, Elizabeth will return to her job at the American Red Cross. If Clinton wins, Hillary could run for President in the year 2000.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/29/1996
CUOMO TAKES A NASTY TURN

CHICAGO It is the amazing merry-go-round of American politics. Watch a Republican convention and you'll become an instant Democrat. Watch the Democratic convention and you'll just as quickly think kind thoughts about the GOP.

The current practitioner of this peculiar form of aversion therapy: former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Thanks to him, I find myself indignantly defending Newt Gingrich.

In the middle of what might have been a brilliant, unifying, inspirational speech to the Democratic convention here, Cuomo dropped this series of clangers:

"Republicans are the real threat. They are the real threat to our women. They are the real threat to our children," he said. In addition, Republicans threaten the environment, the concept of fairness, the Supreme Court and "the fundamental idea that we are all one family."

Susan Molinari is a threat to our women? Rudy Giuliani is a threat to our children? Upstate's environmental warrior Rep. Sherwood Boehlert threatens the purity of our air and water? New Jersey's tough but compassionate Rep. Marge Roukema is a threat to fairness?

Cuomo described today's Republicans as "rabid revolutionaries led by Newt Gingrich." Sorry, but Gingrich, for all his faults, is not rabid. A little dippy, yes. Wildly careless in his speech, absolutely. But a threat to our women and children? That kind of language is beyond the bounds of political discourse.

In the New York delegation, jaws dropped. "Poor Mario," one delegate said later. "He never knows when to stop."

What is so perverse about Cuomo's little tirade is that he began an otherwise excellent speech by pointing out the Democrats' basic problem: Millions of middle-class Democrats fled to the Republican Party because Democratic leaders began to slight middle-class interests and values.

True enough. When the Democrats in the 1960s worried more about police brutality than about crime, when they became tainted as the party of welfare and permissiveness, when some of their militant feminists said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," they were bound to lose voters to the Republicans.

But Democrats have cleaned up their act, Cuomo said. They no longer can be tarred as anti-family or pro-criminal. The time is right to win back those Democrats who fled to the Republican Party and watched it fall under the influence of ideologues whom Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) describes as having the mentalities of "hillbillies at a revival meeting."

Certainly there are millions of Republicans who are turned off by Gingrich's environmental policies, by the influence of the Christian Coalition, even by the irresponsibility of Bob Dole's proposed 15% tax cut. They may be looking with interest at a new Democratic Party, led by a centrist President trying to forge consensus in the vast middle of the ideological spectrum.

And then Cuomo tars all Republicans with a mirror-image version of Pat Buchanan's disastrous speech to the 1992 Republican convention. And this is the man who so movingly tells us we are all one family.

What spoils Republican conventions for me, even when the Republicans are on their best behavior, is the perennial undercurrent of meanness: the nasty anti-Hillary jokes, the "I got mine" mentality, the contempt for liberals, the moral superiority, the malicious asides like former Secretary of State Jim Baker's low-rent innuendos about President Clinton.

Democrats pride themselves on not being haters. Cuomo is certainly not a hater. But he is so combative that sometimes he carries his rhetoric far beyond where his magnificent brain and great heart would take him. And then he sounds just as mean as the meanest Republican. Fortunately for the Democrats, he was not on prime-time TV.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/30/1996
IF INK SMEARS, LOOK TO RUPERT

ATTACK ON PREZ EASY TO TRACE

CHICAGO THE DIRTY DIGGER strikes again.

On the morning after his triumphant renomination as President, Bill Clinton awoke to find that Australian-born publisher Rupert Murdoch was on his back, trumpeting the devastating news that Clinton campaign strategist Dick Morris is a secret toe-sucker.

Morris resigned. The Clinton campaign was momentarily deflated. What had been a carefully choreographed, relentlessly upbeat march toward almost certain reelection has stumbled in what should have been an hour of triumph.

It probably is only a short-term embarrassment, but it comes at a critical time just as Clinton was expecting to harvest the "bounce" in opinion polls that would have put him even more safely ahead of Bob Dole on the Labor Day weekend.

Murdoch, who despises liberal politicians on four continents, knows when to strike. His first, almost identical, attack on Clinton came in the early weeks of 1992, just before the crucial New Hampshire primary.

Then, The Star tabloid, once partly owned by Murdoch and still staffed by many of his alumni, paid Gennifer Flowers, a part-time cabaret singer, for her claim that she had a 12-year affair with Clinton.

From The Star, the story entered the vast Murdoch media network: the New York Post, the Boston Herald, the Fox TV network, the tabloid news show "A Current Affair" and a host of British and Australian newspapers.

Suddenly, Flowers was everywhere, her story magnified and amplified until it was so widespread that people assumed it must be credible. Why else would all these different media outlets be repeating it?

This time, the story is much thinner but the method is the same: Sherry Rowlands claims to The Star's Richard Gooding, a Murdoch alumnus, that she indulged Morris' alleged desire to feel her feet and that he let her listen to his calls to the President.

Before The Star even hit the supermarkets, Rowlands' story was on the front page of Murdoch's New York Post. No doubt it will now be recycled through the rest of his empire, retold, regurgitated, embellished.

Murdoch perfected this technique in his native Australia, cowing politicians into heeding his wishes or else risk the wrath of the far-flung Murdoch press. Most publishers confine their political agenda to their editorial pages. Not Murdoch. If he dislikes a politician, he uses not only an entire paper but his entire publishing and broadcasting network as a weapon.

In 1980, he wrangled an Export-Import Bank loan out of Jimmy Carter in exchange for an endorsement in Carter's primary race against Ted Kennedy.

In 1983, Murdoch dumped his buckets of slime on the head of Mario Cuomo, who was running for governor. The following year, the New York Post aided the Ronald Reagan campaign by publishing a scandalous story about Geraldine Ferraro that came straight and undiluted from Reagan's opposition research team.

In England, he has used his papers to make life miserable for Labor Party politicians who cross him. But if he likes a politician, like House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), he can hand out rewards in the form of favorable coverage and $ 4.5 million book contracts.

For Clinton, this is a kick in the teeth, and probably not the last from Murdoch. Morris was valuable to him but not essential. White House press spokesman Mike McCurry said yesterday that no campaign relies on one person for strategy.

More importantly, most Americans probably never heard of Dick Morris. And Sherry Rowlands' stories about him are funny, or pathetic, rather than lurid. This looks like a one-day wonder. But trust Murdoch: He inflicted his damage on the worst possible day.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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08/30/1996
FOOT FETISH TALE KICKS PREZ

CHICAGO For President Clinton, his day of expected triumph began with disaster and humiliation.

His chief political strategist, Dick Morris, the architect of his presidential campaign thus far, was accused in the pages of a supermarket tabloid of being a clandestine toe-sucker.

On the day that Clinton was to accept his party's nomination for a second term, all three TV networks led their nightly stories with the lurid tales of hooker Sherry Rowlands, on whose toes Morris allegedly munched.

Instead of analyzing Clinton's agenda for the 21st century, reporters went off in search of the classic Viennese manual, "Psychopathia Sexualis," in hopes of understanding foot fetishes. For a political candidate, it does not get much worse than this.

Morris may not be absolutely essential to Clinton's campaign, but he certainly was central to it. He had a professional's instinct for the images and phrases that rallied voters to Clinton's ideas. And now he was gone in the most lurid possible way at the worst possible moment for Clinton.

And then Clinton himself appeared in the United Center to deliver his acceptance speech, outline his vision of the 21st century and revel in the adulation of his fellow Democrats. They roared, they cheered, they stomped.

Clinton may not be the ideal candidate for every faction of the party, but he has the clear mark of a winner something the Democrats rarely have seen in the past 20 years.

In an instant, the Morris embarrassment was swept aside by the pomp, pageantry and seriousness of the real business at hand. Morris' alleged proclivities will return no doubt in radio talk shows from now until doomsday, but they were put into perspective by the day's real main event: Clinton's description of how he hoped to improve the lives of ordinary Americans and lead the country into the 21st century.

In his speech, Clinton staked out the center of the American political spectrum, presenting himself and his Democratic Party as fighters for a balanced budget, tax cuts, school reform, workfare rather than welfare, law and order, and even basic civility.

Every traditional liberal appeal for more educational spending, better jobs, more aid to the poor was coupled with a demand for personal responsibility.

The Republicans, by contrast, were portrayed as backward-looking believers in reckless tax cuts that would increase the deficit, raise interest rates and kill economic growth.

In 1992, Clinton's slogan was "No more something for nothing." This year it is the somewhat more elegant: "Opportunity for all. Responsibility for all."

It worked then, and it is likely to work again. The President already leads Republican challenger Bob Dole in the polls, and his public opinion adviser, Stan Greenberg, said the President's ratings go up every time he makes a speech.

The timing of the Morris story must have given Clinton chilling flashbacks.

In February 1992, just before the New Hampshire primary, the Star tabloid published Gennifer Flowers' claim that she had had a 12-year affair with Clinton. That story promptly was amplified by the Boston Herald and New York Post, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, who uses his properties to punish liberal politicians.

This time, the story is much thinner. There is no implication of misconduct by Clinton. But the embarrassment was nearly as bad.

IN THE LIGHT of day, it is likely to disappear by Monday but it also may be a harbinger of the kind of attacks that will continue to dog Clinton for as long as he is in public office. Some people just hate him.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/01/1996
PLAYING FOOTSIE WITH OUR FUTURE?

WASHINGTON COULD THE FUTURE of this great nation our children's lives, our own retirement, our prosperity and security in the 21st century really be determined by Dick Morris' unnatural affection for a woman's feet?

Will textbooks of the future really say that in 1996 Americans struggled with two competing political visions one Republican and one Democratic but the course of history was tipped by a hooker who sold her story to a supermarket tabloid?

Nah. And yet with sex scandals, you never can tell.

Democrat Gary Hart's presidential ambitions were obliterated in 1987 by a photograph showing him with a woman named Donna Rice. Sen. Bob Packwood was forced from the Senate because of charges of sex harassment. In 1963, a sex scandal involving British War Secretary John Profumo and the unforgettable Christine Keeler nearly toppled the government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.

But just as often, lurid sex charges evaporate. Who now remembers that just a year ago, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was accused by a former campaign volunteer, Anne Manning, of indulging in oral sex with her? Gingrich is now cruising comfortably toward reelection in his Georgia district.

President Clinton himself survived the explosive charges of Gennifer Flowers in 1992 that she had a 12-year affair with him.

With Bob Dole trailing Clinton by 15 to 20 points in most polls, however, the Dick Morris scandal becomes a straw for Republicans to grasp at. It fits neatly into Dole's basic campaign strategy that his character is superior to the President's.

As Dole said in an unguarded remark to an aide Friday, "It says something about who you surround yourself with, doesn't it? 'Cause all those people 14 or 15 of them have already left the White House."

Morris' escapades are more a morale-booster for the Republicans than a real political asset. Much as they enjoy Clinton's embarrassment, they can't really exploit it. If Dole tries to make an issue of Morris, he risks turning off moderate voters who, as polls showed during the Republican convention, object to personal-attack politics.

One possible danger for Clinton, says former Gov. Mario Cuomo, is that, according to one ABC News poll, 13% of voters are still undecided. "That's a very troubling number at this stage of the campaign," Cuomo said. "Suppose 7 to 8% go for Perot." That could tip some of the key battleground states to Dole.

Apart from the Morris scandal, Clinton had a beautifully choreographed week, a whistle-stop train ride through the Midwest climaxing in an adulatory and triumphant reception at the Democratic convention.

He laid out a series of small, centrist initiatives many of them engineered and opinion-tested by Morris designed to tell voters that government can help them get the skills they need for the future, plus financial security in their home-ownership, health care and pensions.

The first poll after the convention ended, by ABC News, showed Clinton leading Dole by a full 20% a virtually impregnable position for an incumbent President just 65 days before the election.

If Dole wants to beat Clinton, he had better find some more powerful message fast. Dick Morris may be a political chameleon, but he is not going to hand Dole the presidency. Some Dole supporters are now reduced to praying for the final scandal that might torpedo Clinton, an indictment of Hillary by Republican special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. But even that might not work.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/04/1996
BILL'S STRIKE BLOWS UP BOB THEORY

WASHINGTON President Clinton launched 27 cruise missiles at Saddam Hussein yesterday and succeeded just coincidentally in disarming Bob Dole.

Hours after lashing Clinton for "weak leadership" in foreign policy, Dole found himself compelled to reverse course and support the President's decision. Clinton further neutralized Dole's natural combativeness by calling him and thanking him for his support.

Dole's major foreign policy adviser, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who had slammed Clinton for "feckless, photo-op foreign policy," immediately silenced himself, saying, "It would not be appropriate for me at this time to voice criticism on this theme."

With a lead of up to 21 points over Dole in opinion polls, Clinton did not really need to strike at Iraq for domestic political reasons.

But in the past, such military actions even unsuccessful ones such as President Gerald Ford's Mayaguez rescue operation in 1975 have rallied public opinion around the President.

In addition, the attack on Saddam gives Clinton a timely defense against Republican charges that he is weak and naive in foreign and defense matters.

At the Republican convention in San Diego, for example, former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick charged that "Bill Clinton and his administration do not understand how to protect and preserve American strength and credibility."

Former Secretary of State James Baker reported to Republican delegates that U.S. allies are saying "in private . . . what they dare not admit in public: that America is no longer the world leader it was under Ronald Reagan and George Bush. And sad to to say, our allies are right."

In fact, Britain, Germany and Japan immediately supported Clinton's unilateral action against Iraq as an example of traditional U.S. leadership.

Clinton's alleged softness on Iraq would not have been a rich source of ammunition for Dole in any event.

In 1990, Dole traveled to Baghdad and sympathized with Saddam after Voice of America broadcasts criticized Iraqi violations of human rights. Dole even assured Saddam, incorrectly, that the writer of the VOA editorials had been fired.

Then, a month later, Dole resisted efforts by his friend Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York to impose trade sanctions on Saddam as punishment for Iraq's chemical-warfare programs. Dole argued that Saddam would simply shift his wheat purchases some of which came from Kansas farmers to other suppliers.

But the politics of the strike may be the least of Clinton's worries.

The fact remains that he and any U.S. President is powerless to micromanage the internal intrigues that caused Saddam to attack the Kurdish stronghold of Irbil in the first place. The battle of Kurd vs. Kurd is an intertribal struggle within a civil war inside Iraq's borders.

"What we created in 1991 a safe haven for the Kurds is going down the tubes," said Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey.

"It's very unfortunate. The Kurds may have brought it on themselves, but it dooms the Kurdish people. The only way to change that would be if our military efforts were somehow to lead to the overthrow of Saddam, and I'm skeptical that that will happen."

Clinton may have needed a minor military exploit against Iraq to solidify his foreign-policy credentials, but he cannot, politically, afford to wage a war, with its inevitable casualties, over the future of Kurdistan or even to oust Saddam Hussein.

Notes: Map by AP/DAILY NEWS showing location of U.S. air strikes.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/06/1996
POLITICS POLLUTES THE WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION

WASHINGTON Independent counsel Kenneth Starr just try saying those words with a straight face has now done what he said he would never do: He has pushed his Whitewater investigation into the midst of the presidential campaign.

Starr's target: President Clinton. The supposed crime: perjury. The real crime: Starr's abuse of his prosecutorial powers for partisan political advantage.

At a closed grand jury proceeding in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday, Starr's prosecutors asked Clinton's former business partner Susan McDougal, "Did William Jefferson Clinton testify truthfully before your trial?"

"That's a hell of a question," says Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who is advising McDougal. "It certainly sounds like he [Clinton] may be the subject of the grand jury's investigation."

Fancy that. A new allegation against the President just two months before the election.

McDougal refused to answer any questions. She says she would rather go to jail than help Starr by telling him lies about Clinton. But now she faces an 18-month perjury sentence in addition to the two years she received for her Whitewater conviction.

Dershowitz explains what's going on: Starr persuaded Susan's ex-husband, Arkansas banker James McDougal, to cooperate with him. But James is a hopeless witness on the stand, and Starr needs Susan for corroboration. In addition, James already testified under oath that Clinton knew nothing of the deals between the Whitewater land corporation and the busted Madison Guaranty savings and loan.

"Starr is telling the McDougals, 'If you stick with that story, you're going to jail,' " Dershowitz says. "This is clearly designed to get people to lie."

Starr has a record of strong-arming other Whitewater witnesses into telling him what he wants to hear. His staff told Arkansas banker Sarah Hawkins last year that they had evidence that could put her in prison for five years unless she cooperated. "They said they had evidence so strong, there was no way I could beat this case," Hawkins told the Los Angeles Times. But when she refused to plea-bargain for the simple reason that she could not imagine what she might have done wrong Starr's team confessed they really had no evidence against her at all. It was just a cruel bluff against an innocent citizen.

Does Starr have any kind of case against Clinton? Apparently not. The President has not been notified that he is the subject of the Little Rock grand jury's investigations, the White House says. And Starr's question to Susan McDougal about Clinton's testimony reveals the desperation of an empty-handed prosecutor: If you can't prove anything criminal, get 10 people to testify about events that happened 10 years ago, look for inconsistencies in their testimony and then try to win a perjury conviction.

Starr has repeatedly said he would obey Justice Department guidelines about avoiding activity that could affect an election. But he's a politically ambitious Republican. His presidential candidate, Bob Dole, trails Clinton by 15 to 20 points. Most stunning of all, in only one state in the nation Idaho does Dole have even 50% of the vote.

What's Dole's best hope? Ken Starr. The "independent counsel" doesn't have to bring in an indictment. That would look too political at this stage. All Starr has to do is raise new and unanswerable doubts about the President and he does his Republican duty. Justice weeps.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/09/1996
THE NUMBERS POLS SPIN DON'T ALWAYS ADD UP

WASHINGTON Bob Dole is offering a 15% tax cut. Therefore, says former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills, U.S. businesses will see "15% more of their earnings going to their bottom line."

Sorry, but a 15% tax cut does not equal 15% of earnings. If this is the way Hills, a potential cabinet member in a Dole administration, does her arithmetic, no wonder we have such a huge trade deficit.

Leaving aside that the Dole cut does not apply to businesses, to a taxpayer in the 28% bracket Dole's proposed 15% cut in tax rates works out to 4.2% of income and in fact, somewhat less because of graduated tax brackets.

Funny arithmetic is one of the surest signs of apolitical season, a time when even intelligent people like Carla Hills, who was one of the brighter lights of the Bush administration, stash their brains in cold storage and play games with numbers.

Much of what politicians tell you cannot readily be checked by objective measurement: Our allies respect/despise us more than ever; the economy is booming/stagnating; our schools are wonderful/awful; Candidate A is more/less moral than Candidate B.

But when it comes to fishy numbers, you can pull out Darrell Huff's invaluable little handbook "How to Lie with Statistics" (still available from W. & W. Norton Co.) and learn all the tricks foisted on a trusting public by ad men, politicians, economists, journalists, quack doctors, toothpaste merchants, public relations experts, pollsters, insurance companies, grifters, con men and bunco steerers.

Average vs. median

Here's GOP national chairman Haley Barbour: "Under Bill Clinton's leadership, families are paying more of their income in taxes 38.2% for the average family than ever in history."

Sorry, but the "average family" does not pay 38.2% of its income in taxes. The figure is closer to 27% including state and local taxes that Clinton has no control over.

Barbour is playing games with the word "average" averaging the tax bills of the richest Americans in with the poorest and then coming up with a phony number.

Richard Kogan of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities spells out the fallacy: "If four middle-income families pay $ 3,000, $ 4,000, $ 5,000 and $ 6,000, respectively, in taxes, and one very wealthy family pays $ 82,000 in taxes, the average tax paid by these families is $ 20,000. But four of the five pay $ 6,000 or less."

Because the wealthy pay more, the "average" tax bill is about two-thirds higher than the "median," the amount actually paid by families right in the middle of the middle class. In Kogan's case, the "median tax bill" for the five families is $ 5,000, far less than the $ 20,000 "average."

Conservative think tanks have used this same trick to persuade Americans that "tax freedom day" comes May 7. Until that date, they tell you, you've been working just to pay taxes.

But if you count just federal taxes paid by median-income families, "tax freedom" comes March 12.

A conservative group called Women for Tax Reform has hyped this numbers game to a new extreme. It not only cites as truth the phony figure that the "average" earner pays 40% of his income in taxes, it then translates this into a new level of fiction: "An average earner of $ 30,000 a year gets only $ 18,000 instead." But $ 30,000-a-year earners don't pay anything like $ 12,000 a year in taxes. Total taxes federal, state and local would be about $ 7,000, tops.

Are these deceptions deliberate? You bet. People smart enough to pore over tax tables are also smart enough to know the difference between average income and median income. But they assume you're not smart enough to see through their shenanigans.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/11/1996
AMERICA ALONE? BOB'S INVADING MILITARY REALITY

WASHINGTON From his studies, Army Spec. Michael New determined that the United States is a Christian nation, founded on rights bestowed by God. When the Army ordered him to serve in a godless United Nations peacekeeping force in Macedonia, he disobeyed.

The Army court-martialed him and gave him a bad-conduct discharge.

For this, New has become a martyr to radio talk show hosts across America. To the loony right, New is the hero who resisted U.S. domination by creeping one-world government.

You expect this sort of paranoia on talk radio and within the militia movements, ever on the lookout for black helicopters. But New's philosophy has now found a home in Bob Dole's presidential campaign. Dole, who prides himself on being a levelheaded, globally respected leader, now assures audiences that under a Dole presidency, no U.S. soldier will ever have to serve under foreign commanders.

So, Lafayette, drop dead.

In reality, U.S. forces have served under foreign commanders since the Revolutionary War, when the Marquis de Lafayette recruited American sailors for the French fleet, says former Assistant Secretary of State Lawrence Korb.

In World War I, Gen. John Pershing established the basic, essential principle that U.S. units in the American Expeditionary Forces would be kept intact, rather than being parceled out as replacements in the French Army.

But within that general principle, in World War II, the U.S. troops who landed at Normandy were under the overall command of British Gen. Bernard Montgomery. In the fighting at Arnhem, the Netherlands, the crack 82d and 101st airborne divisions were under British Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks. Yes, both Montgomery and Horrocks reported to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, but Eisenhower, in turn, had to listen to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

"I was under UN command in Korea," recalls retired Adm. Eugene Carroll. "In Europe today, NorthCom [the NATO northern command] is under a British general and CentCom is under a German, and we have forces assigned to all of them. The idea that we cannot serve under the command of a foreign national is chauvinism in the worst sense."

Even in Somalia in 1993, one of the commonly cited reasons for opposing foreign command, the 18 U.S. Rangers who were killed while searching for Mohamed Farrah Aidid were under U.S., not United Nations, command.

Dole has personal reasons to be skeptical of using U.S. troops to serve foreign goals. He was maimed for life in Italy in 1945 while fighting in a blood-soaked military theater that had been created to appease both Josef Stalin's demand for a second front in Europe and Churchill's reluctance to commit British forces to a World War I-like, head-on confrontation with Germany in Northern Europe.

But when Dole rules out sending U.S. troops to serve under foreign command, he is setting up an impossible strategy. No, we are not going to be international cops, unilaterally rushing our troops to every trouble spot. But, yes, we will organize the world against bullies like Saddam Hussein.

We'll pick all the fights, we'll command all the troops and our allies will obediently follow along. It's a simpleminded vision that wins applause along the campaign trail. But as foreign policy in the waning years of the 20th century, it's a fantasy. We either believe in collective security or we go it alone as globo-cop. Dole can't have it both ways.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/13/1996
BOB DOLE HAS RIGHT STUFF BUT WRONG MESSAGE

WASHINGTON Bob Dole's strategists are frustrated and baffled. They have devised two dynamite themes for his campaign: President Clinton handed Americans the biggest tax increase in history, and Dole is a "better man" than Clinton.

But, astonishingly to them, neither message works. Clinton leads Dole by 15% to 20% with just over seven weeks to go to the election.

The fault is not wholly Dole's. Anybody who knows Bob Dole agrees that he has his weaknesses he's no TV actor, he campaigns poorly, he can't articulate sweeping visions, he has a short fuse but still, he would make a perfectly fine President.

Dole has a keen feeling for what America is all about. He can work with Democrats as well as Republicans. He has a superb sense of humor. And he has that extraordinary true-grit biography. Under Dole, the government would function effectively to enact conservative but mainstream policies. He would appoint competent and responsible cabinet officers. He would be taken seriously abroad.

So what's wrong? For one thing, the chief messages his strategists have devised for him are phony. By dint of constant repetition, Republicans have talked themselves into the notion that Clinton burdened the entire country with higher income taxes. In fact, the 1993 increase in income tax rates hit only the richest 1% of Americans.

Perhaps that's the only world the Republican strategists know. When everyone down at the club is complaining about the 39.6% bracket, it's easy to assume that the whole country is suffering from unprecedented tax burdens. But most Americans, looking at their own tax returns, suffered no increase under Clinton, and nearly 15% of the poorest working families got a tax cut. "Biggest tax increase in history" doesn't resonate because for the overwhelming majority of Americans, it is just not true.

On the character question, Dole is as vulnerable as Clinton. Nobody talks about it much, but millions of American women know that Dole walked out on his first wife, Phyllis, and married the younger and wealthier Elizabeth. Dole is a long-time member of that workaholic Washington club whose members skip their own kids' graduations, soccer games and birthdays to attend fund-raisers where they can make speeches about family values.

Women naturally tend to be somewhat colder-eyed about this than men. In New York, Clinton leads Dole by 63% to 22% among women, according to the latest Marist Institute poll. Nationwide, women account for virtually all of Clinton's lead.

Dole now accuses Clinton of responsibility for increased drug use. Most Americans look closer to home for the cause rather than blame the White House for this particular ill. Dole ads also have had fun playing with Clinton's flip-flops on a balanced budget and welfare reform. But under pressure from the strategists, Dole has flip-flopped just as dramatically by endorsing the supply-side tax cuts he once scorned.

Having failed with the tax and character issues, Dole's strategists now talk of running a purely negative campaign against Clinton. If they can't build up their own candidate who remains below 50% in every single state except Idaho perhaps they can tear Clinton down.

They could call Clinton a draft dodger, a womanizer, a tax-and-spend liberal who is soft on crime and weak on defense. No, it won't work, but it's the only thing they know how to do.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/16/1996
CLINTON'S FOES ARE HALF-BAKED ON IRAQ POLICY

WASHINGTON In one of his many critiques of President Clinton's policy toward Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) demanded to know what the "end game" would be.

End game? We're talking Babylonia here. Iraq is where Daniel told King Belshazzar of the Chaldeans his kingdom would be divided among the Persians and Medes, and 2,500 years later they're still fighting over it. There's no "end game" in the Middle East.

Armchair generals and allies of the Bob Dole campaign like Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana can call for "taking out" Saddam Hussein. But in the real world, it's not going to happen, and if it did, it wouldn't make much difference. Who would replace him? Would that person be any less greedy for Kuwaiti oil? Would the Middle East suddenly live in peace and harmony? Fat chance.

This is why the Clinton administration sharply scaled back its rhetoric about "disproportionate responses" over the weekend and began talking about how to contain Saddam, rather than how to punish him once and for all.

"Lugar suggests that we bomb Saddam out of office," says a senior White House official. "That's easier said than done. In 1991, we had a half-million American soldiers in the region, and we subjected Baghdad to unprecedented bombing. If it didn't happen then, it's unlikely to happen now. Our objective is to contain Saddam and reduce his ability to threaten our vital interests. Is it an immaculate solution? No. Will this all be resolved by a week from Wednesday? No."

The immediate U.S. goal: enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq while protecting U.S. pilots. Period.

Former Secretary of State Jim Baker faulted Clinton last week for hitting Iraq too softly and for allowing the 1991 allied coalition against Iraq to decay. But there are major differences between the current situation and 1991. Then, Saddam crossed the Kuwaiti border, annexed Kuwait, threatened the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and talked of raining down destruction on Israel.

Given that clear violation of international law and threat to the economy of the Western world, it still took President George Bush six months to round up a coalition of allies to push him back. Even then, Bush could not oust Saddam. This time, he has crossed no borders. He was invited to move into northern Iraq's Kurdistan by a Kurdish faction. There is no apparent danger to oil supplies. Saddam is a pain, but he is not worth losing any U.S. troops in an effort to depose him.

Clinton's chief misfortune is that he is confronted with two murky crises Saddam's move into Iraqi Kurdistan and the hopelessly muddled Bosnian elections just two months before an election, when criticism is cheap, rhetoric is shrill and U.S. strategic interests can be too lightly cast aside for the sake of scoring a few cheap political points.

In both cases, American goals peace, freedom, democracy and brotherly love are at odds with reality. Millions of people may share our goal of a united, multi-ethnic, democratic Bosnia, but only three or four of them are Bosnian Serbs, Muslims or Croats most of whom would apparently prefer to cut each others' throats. The elections that were supposed to create a single democratic state are just as likely to solidify ethnic hatreds and split the country for good.

All Clinton can do is try to keep a lid on, create an illusion of progress and pass a more or less stable situation on to his successor.

This is not neat, tidy or clear-cut, and it never will be. Welcome to the real world.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/18/1996
ALL OF A SUDDEN BOB DOLE IS DIRTY HARRY

WASHINGTON Bob Dole was getting nowhere in his campaign for the presidency, so he decided to run for sheriff. Elect Dole, he says, and the jails will be bigger, the streets will be safer and our young people will be drug-free.

On a spinal-reflex level, it makes perfect sense. Fear of crime is the biggest poison in our national lives. It keeps parents from entrusting their children to city public schools, scares customers away from inner-city merchants, imprisons people in their homes at night, hiding behind locked doors rather than enjoying the world around them.

Attack crime effectively, and there would be no need to worry so much about school choice, enterprise zones in the inner cities, middle-class flight and many of the other secondary issues that occupy politicians' attention.

But for Dole, this sudden focus on crime is a flip-flop on a fundamental principle. He spent the first eight months of his campaign reciting to the befuddlement of most audiences the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which says nonfederal issues like crime should be left to the states.

It seems an odd issue to choose as the centerpiece for a presidential campaign, but Dole stuck with it. At every campaign event, he would pull the 10th Amendment out of his pocket and recite it by heart: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people."

The federal government was too big, Dole insisted. It had amassed too much power. It took away too much of our money. It was dictating too many policies to states and localities. It was time to hand those powers back to the states and to the people.

Then Dole fell 20 points behind in the opinion polls. Whoops! All of a sudden, to hell with the Constitution, he's Dirty Harry. A speech and campaign fact sheet handed out in Villanova, Pa., were filled with horror stories about rapes and shootings. Yesterday he visited a tent-jail in Phoenix and paid homage to Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whose chief claim to fame is that he feeds his prisoners bologna sandwiches and goldfish crackers.

Dole, the candidate who promised to cut taxes, downsize the federal government and balance the federal budget, is now vowing to double federal spending on prisons and beef up federal drug enforcement in addition, of course, to spending more on defense, preserving veterans' benefits, Social Security and Medicare and paying off the national debt.

He proposes hiring more federal prosecutors and taking charge of all crimes committed with a gun even though the federal court system, led by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, complains bitterly that such crimes have no place in the overburdened federal courts.

Dole is by no means the first presidential candidate to seek salvation in crime. Richard Nixon was great at it, Ronald Reagan a master. In 1988, little Mikey Dukakis had a momentary blip in the polls that so scared George Bush that, within a few days, you would have thought Bush was running for National Hangman. Bush had rallies for death, complete with cheerleaders.

And what, supposedly, is President Clinton's big character flaw? Oh yes, he has no core beliefs, no principles. He bases his policies on whatever his pollsters tell him. Dole, on the other hand, is supposed to be the gritty leader who sticks to his principles. Except that this week his pollsters told him he was losing, and the original core of his campaign restoring the Constitutional division of powers immediately went out the window.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/20/1996
MILITARY FAIRY TALES . . .

Washington One of the 20th century's most horrendous tales of treachery, cruelty, cynicism and coverup was related this week in a congressional hearing: The alleged betrayal of hundreds of American prisoners of war, left behind in Korea and Vietnam and sacrificed to Nazi-like medical experiments by the Communists.

It is a story that resurfaces from time to time and grows more horrific with each retelling. It's always good for a fire-breathing political speech, a cheap headline, a fund-raising letter, a talk show topic or a thread on the Internet.

The only problem is that there is no credible evidence of a betrayal, a coverup or medical experimentation. The current source of these horror stories is Jan Sejna, a former Czechoslovak political general, who testified Tuesday before Rep. Robert Dornan (Wacko-Southern California) that hundreds of U.S. prisoners from the Korean and Vietnam wars were used as human guinea pigs.

Sejna claimed that he defected from Czechoslovakia because he was opposed to the Soviet invasion in 1968. In fact, he was a Stalinist who ran away in February 1968, six months before the invasion, because he feared prosecution by the Communist reformer Alexander Dubcek.

Sejna shared a failing common to defectors. After they tell the CIA everything they know, they realize they are becoming useless. So his stories began getting better and better.

He suddenly remembered that the KGB had trained all the world's terrorists, including the Irish Republican Army, the German Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Italian Red Brigades.

"His reporting got more and more outrageous as time went by," recalls a long-time CIA analyst. "Let's say that as his stories got better and better, we wanted less and less to do with him," adds a U.S. intelligence specialist.

Gradually, the CIA cut him loose, and he wound up as a translator at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Then Sejna discovered the POW/MIA issue, a gold mine for far-right conspiracy theorists and scam artists who promise to bring back loved ones for a fee.

"We deposed him three years ago and he said he knew of 90 U.S. POWs who had been taken from Vietnam to Czechoslovakia in the early 1960s," says a disgusted congressional investigator. "When he testified Tuesday, the number was up to 200." In fact, the U.S. never had that many unaccounted-for POWS in the early years of the war. There is no evidence, the Pentagon says, that any were taken to the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia.

Sejna explained why he was telling this story at such a late date: It had taken him this long to find Americans who cared. Sejna has been in this country for 28 years. That would mean that Ronald Reagan who condemned Russia as the Evil Empire didn't care about murderous Communist experiments on our G.I.s. Former CIA Director Bill Casey, who pressured his agency to prove that the KGB tried to kill Pope John Paul, allegedly didn't care about Sejna's evidence. For the conspiracy mongers, it is a coverup so vast that everyone was a part of it everyone but brave Jan Sejna and brave Bob Dornan.

But for the relatives of men still missing in Korea and Vietnam, this is the cruelest of hoaxes. It suggests that the U.S. government knows the true fate of the missing men but just doesn't care. It also holds out the hope that perhaps their loved ones are still alive and will come home if only our lazy, callous, cynical government can be forced into action. We all wish it were true. It's not. It's the last gasp of unemployable Cold War warriors trying to make a living out of lies.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/23/1996
LINE-ITEM VETO WILL GIVE BILL THE POWER TO PUNISH

WASHINGTON Utah was the first state to get a peek at what the next four years might be like for Republicans: Clinton II, the Wrath of Bill.

With a stroke of his pen last week, President Clinton overrode the wishes of the Utah state government and its entire congressional delegation to place 1.7 million acres of spectacular desert off limits to coal mining.

There were no congressional hearings, no consultations, no negotiations. Utah's two Republican senators were furious. Sen. Bob Bennett declared that Clinton "has demonstrated an outrageous, arrogant approach to public policy." Sen. Orrin Hatch called it a "clear example of the arrogance of federal power."

Well, fellas, you ain't seen nothing yet. According to current polls, this President is headed for a landslide victory in November. And upon reelection he will acquire the power of the line-item veto. That will permit him to stick his thumb in many more Republican or uppity Democratic eyes.

With the veto, Clinton will be able to eliminate or threaten to eliminate individual spending projects in congressional districts. Having now seen what Clinton could do in Utah, all congressmen will draw the intended lesson: There is a price for defying this President. You might lose that courthouse, bridge or defense contract and all those jobs back home.

"There is a message intended," a top White House official confirmed.

In the case of Utah, Clinton was able to use the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect the Grand Escalante canyons and the Kaiparowits plateaus. Utah howled that his action would cost the state $ 6.5 billion in mineral revenues, including $ 1 billion in funds earmarked for schools. It was no use. Clinton knows he will not carry Utah in November. Bennett and Hatch have been among his staunchest foes. The governor, Mike Leavitt, is a Republican. Clinton owed them nothing and they could give him nothing. On the other hand, protecting the Utah desert could win him votes in nearby Western states, many of whose new residents who moved in precisely because of the natural wonders Clinton now has shielded from commercial use.

"It was a no-lose situation for him," sighed a Utah Republican. "He came in third here [behind George Bush and Ross Perot] in 1992."

The line-item veto is such a potentially powerful weapon that even a popular President might hesitate to use it against his opponents.

But Robert Reischauer, former congressional budget director, pointed out that Clinton in his second term will be looking at his place in history, rather than at reelection. "He's likely to be a little bolder on these issues, and he could use the veto in some dramatic ways," Reischauer said. He singled out as potential targets some of the defense projects Republicans have added to the budget over Pentagon objections. At the very least, he said, Clinton's veto threat would make him a presence in congressional spending negotiations that now are dictated by committee chairmen.

Reischauer believes the line-item veto so dramatically tips the federal balance of powers that it will be declared unconstitutional before Clinton gets his first chance to use it, when spending bills are sent to him in August.

If it survives, we're in for an adventure. Clinton has not been a vindictive President thus far. But he never had this kind of power before. And power corrupts. The Republicans who fought so long for a presidential line-item veto may start changing their minds very soon.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/25/1996
CONTRA-COKE TALE IS NOT WHAT IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE

WASHINGTON It's a story to make your blood boil: CIA operatives, intent on funding the anti-Communist Nicaraguan Contras, allegedly dumped tons of crack into the ghettos of America and siphoned the profits off for their secret war.

Talk shows are burning up with this topic. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) demands an investigation. Jesse Jackson thunders, "Was the CIA willing to poison our cities with crack cocaine to fund its private war in Central America?"

The answer is no. At least not on the basis of the evidence that Waters, Jackson and other black leaders cite: a three-part series that ran in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News last month.

The real story is outrageous enough. The Nicaraguan suppliers of tons of cocaine got off with wrist slaps, while Ricky Donnell Ross, the black American distributor, is looking at life without parole. It's another example of the government's toleration of gross disparities in drug sentencing laws, with blacks appearing to bear the heaviest burdens.

But the Mercury News can't prove any CIA involvement. Rather, it notes that Danilo Blandon, one of the Nicaraguan smugglers, testified that he ran drugs to fund the CIA's Contra army.

His testimony means nothing. For the past dozen years, wily defense lawyers for drug smugglers, international arms dealers and money launderers have been claiming that their clients are not crooks, but secret allies of the CIA. Maybe they can baffle a jury or win a dismissal on the ground that the CIA will balk at going to court.

"This dates back to the Iran-Contra scandal," says CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield. "Claiming a relationship with the CIA has become one of the defenses of choice."

The CIA is itself partly to blame. Although it never used Blandon, it has been documented that some of the aircraft and personnel employed to run guns to Nicaragua were smuggling drugs into the U.S. on the return trip. Plus, the agency does indeed have a long and dubious history of involvement with a variety of "anti-Communist" drug dealers, from Burma to Pakistan to Lebanon to Latin America.

Investigators ranging from wacky conspiracy theorists to congressional committees have tried to discover CIA involvement in drug running over the past decade and have come up empty.

For this is by no means a new story. California Reps. George Miller and Barbara Boxer declared in June 1986 that the Contras were raising money by smuggling cocaine. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) held a two-year investigation and concluded that the Ronald Reagan administration gave priority to fighting communism in Central America rather than stopping drugs.

But did the CIA deal in drugs or cooperate with drug dealers? "That the Contras were smuggling drugs doesn't surprise me," says a retired senior intelligence official with no particular love for the CIA. "But there's no evidence at all that the CIA was involved."

CIA Director John Deutch now promises an internal investigation. It probably won't satisfy the conspiracy theorists. This story has already run way beyond the facts. Waters is asserting that the San Jose Mercury News story documents "drug trafficking by CIA operatives that allowed tons of cocaine, turned into crack, to go into our inner cities." But the Mercury News itself makes no such claim.

If you have Internet access, you can see the Mercury News articles at www.sjmercury.com/drugs/. It's a good series. It just doesn't say what everybody seems to think it says.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/27/1996
PLAYING WITH DEADLY FIRE

Washington By now it is one of the most obvious truths in the Middle East: Dig a hole in Jerusalem and somebody Arab or Jew is going to riot.

That's what baffles and exasperates the White House. Just six weeks before the U.S. presidential election, the hard-line Israeli government set off the spark for the bloodiest Arab-Jewish fighting in years.

This time there's a new and deadly twist. Under the peace accords achieved thus far, the Palestinian police have both guns and a well-founded hope of international support for an independent state. "There's no going back," said a congressional analyst. "Too much has happened."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who insists he wants peace with the Arabs, must have known he was playing with fire when Israeli workers completed a tunnel near Arab shrines on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, officials believe. "They did it under heavy armed guard," a U.S. official pointed out, "so they anticipated there would be trouble."

Inviting holy war

In the past, Orthodox Jews have rioted over archeological excavations by the Israeli government. Given the sensitivity of the ancient religious sites, disturbing them is not merely a glitch in the peace process, it is an invitation to holy war.

With that spark, the subsequent Palestinian explosion was expectable. Palestinians and many U.S. officials suspected that the Israelis, under Netanyahu, were again playing the stop-and-go games that so frustrated the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush administrations.

"They talk peace and then quibble over every little detail so that nothing ever happens," a Clinton administration adviser said. "This outburst is the result of Israel's failure to follow through on the peace process. For the Palestinians, it's the cumulative resentment at being dissed."

President Clinton himself barely concealed his irritation with the Israeli government yesterday, as he even-handedly called on both Arabs and Jews to avoid unnecessary new provocations. But he and his aides made it clear that the kind of provocation he had in mind was the Israeli tunnel.

"Former Prime Minister [Shimon] Peres went on TV and pointed out that this was exactly the kind of thing he and [his assassinated predecessor] Yitzhak Rabin would never have done because it was so provocative," a U.S. diplomat noted. "So there's a little impatience here."

Awkward as the new crisis is for Clinton, it provides no real political opening for his challenger, Bob Dole.

Clinton is almost universally regarded in the American Jewish community as a friend of Israel. Dole is suspected by some for defending Saddam Hussein in 1990, opposing key Israeli aid requests and, on one occasion, referring to Jewish leaders who wanted more aid as "selfish."

In addition, his best asset with American Jews, vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, recently praised Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, whom many Jews consider an anti-Semite.

Clinton could therefore afford, in theory, to lean hard on Israel to ease up on the Palestinians and speed the peace process.

But aides say he is not thinking in terms of penalties, as Dwight Eisenhower did during the 1956 Suez crisis. Then, also on the eve of a presidential election, Eisenhower threatened to cut off U.S. aid to Israel unless it withdrew from Egypt. Israel yielded.

This time, a White House official says, the aim is to get the peace process back on track. The U.S. problem is that Israelis voted for Netanyahu last spring knowing that he would pursue hard-line policies toward the Arabs.

And the current fighting confirms hard-line beliefs on both sides: The Israelis will conclude the Arabs can't be trusted with their own security force or an independent state; the Arabs will decide that Netanyahu is the unrelenting foe they always suspected he was and that there will be no peace through negotiating with him.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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09/30/1996
CONGRESS WON'T RISK ALIEN-ATING BIG BUSINESS

WASHINGTON Immigration agents raided the posh resort of Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Aug. 25, rounding up 153 suspected illegal immigrants and sending others scurrying into the hills. Among the missing, a worker with forged documents at the luxurious Inn on the Creek. The inn's owner: Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah).

Bennett, one of the Senate's true gentlemen, was naturally embarrassed by the news. But when asked by his home town Salt Lake Tribune how many illegal aliens might have been employed at his hotel, he had no idea.

And why should he? The law rewards ignorance. There is virtually no penalty for hiring illegal aliens. All you need is a blank look, a shrug of the shoulders and an innocent, hurt voice when it is suggested your ragged $ 2-per-hour dishwashers, speaking in unknown tongues, might not be legal residents. Bennett has a better excuse than most; his inn is managed by an asset trust and he has no direct involvement.

But IBP, the big meatpacker, recruits employes for its Iowa plants by advertising on Spanish-language radio stations in the border town of McAllen, Tex. Then, it is perpetually astonished to find that many of those who flock north to take backbreaking $ 7-an-hour slaughterhouse jobs prove to be . . . Mexicans! Who'd have thought it?

It is the world's longest-running Capt. Renault imitation. Employers are forever shocked shocked to find that they have illegal immigrants on the payroll. And when they are caught luring these desperate folks to low-wage jobs in this country, they escape scot-free.

The current immigration bill once promised to correct some of these abuses, but the Republican-led Congress has caved in to employers at every step of the way. There will be no end to misuse of the temporary-visa program, in which thousands of cut-rate foreign workers are brought into the U.S. each year to clean hospitals, write computer programs and staff restaurants.

An attempt to double the laughably weak "administrative fines" for knowingly hiring illegal aliens for a sweatshop was dumped by Republicans in the House-Senate conference. An effort to tighten up on document fraud, which allows employers to claim they were fooled by the wily aliens' forgeries, was defeated. A proposal to add 350 Labor Department inspectors to look for exploitation of illegal aliens in the work place went down in flames.

"The employers are surprisingly happy with this bill," says Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. "Anything that would discourage an employer from hiring an illegal alien was taken out."

Oh yes, the Congress has tried to be tough on the immigrants themselves, threatening and then backing off under White House pressure to deport any legal immigrant who needed federal help to pay catastrophic doctor bills for AIDS. It also made it harder to claim political asylum.But Congress bought the business community's argument that a crackdown on illegal immigrants in the work place would be economically harmful. For some reason, the law of supply and demand which says that if employers raised wages they'd find plenty of workers ceases to apply when it might cost an employer money.

Barney Frank, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and a couple of colleagues are fighting a rear-guard action this week to toughen the immigration bill before it becomes law. But don't bank on it. Low-wage labor keeps employers happy, and this Congress listens to employers.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/02/1996
BILL HAS A LOT ON HIS MIDEAST PLATE

WASHINGTON Just five weeks before Election Day, President Clinton found himself suddenly confronted yesterday with bitter Arab-Israeli disputes that some of the world's greatest diplomats have ducked, dodged and swept under the rug for nearly 30 years.

For Clinton, there was no way forward, no way back and no way out.

With Bob Dole heckling in the background, Clinton had to tackle the Middle East's bleakest issues, including:

Jerusalem, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claiming unilateral, unconditional sovereignty and the Palestinians demanding a share of control over the city they consider their future capital.

Israel's promised withdrawal of most of its troops from Hebron, in occupied Arab territory, and the fate of Jewish settlers on the ancient "Land of Israel."

The realization that long-promised Palestinian self-rule has put guns into the hands of Palestinian policemen who have shot Israelis.

These are issues that Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, George Bush and James Baker managed to postpone into the indefinite future and the future turns out to be now. Behind the smiles, the handshakes and the positive spin lies the reality that these disputes may in fact be insoluble.

Everything before this, even the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Sinai, has been relatively easy. These are the problems that require Israel to risk its life for the abstract concept of peace and the Arabs to abandon their dream of driving Jews into the sea.

As Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Washington, they were not even speaking the same language. Netanyahu was arguing that Israel's surprise opening of an ancient tunnel into the Arab quarter of Jerusalem was not a provocation, and that the resulting Arab riots were deliberately instigated by Arafat.

Palestinians, in turn, accused Israel of arbitrarily abandoning a well-functioning peace process ignoring the Arab terror bombings that had killed more than 50 Israeli citizens earlier this year.

Clinton's goal breaking the "cycle of grievances," an aide said was complicated by the fact that neither the Israelis nor the Arabs accept that the other has a legitimate gripe.

But of the two sides, Netanyahu was on weaker ground.

Previous Israeli governments have known better than to open the tunnel which was used by Jewish extremists in 1981 in an attempt to undermine the al-Aqsa mosque. An Israeli poll showed that most Jews believed their new, young prime minister had botched the peace process by completing the tunnel and provoking the riots.

Arafat, by contrast, gained support among his own people for resisting the Israeli moves.

Dole, who trails Clinton by more than 20% in some polls, exhorted Clinton not to put any pressure on Netanyahu and said that his government deserved full U.S. support. It is not likely, however, that Dole will score many points with American Jewish voters or even with Netanyahu.

Blind support for hard-line Israeli policies, which are unpopular even in Israel, looks too much like election-year pandering. And the last Republican administration, led by Bush and Baker, helped topple Netanyahu's ideological predecessor, the Yitzhak Shamir government, when it stalled the peace process as Clinton now suspects Netanyahu of doing.

Dole's unqualified support for Israel is not likely to last beyond Election Day, and the Israelis know it.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/04/1996
BIBI & ARAFAT'S HANDSHAKE IS A NEW BEGINNING

WASHINGTON Menachem Rosensaft, the son of survivors of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, took special pleasure Wednesday in watching Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warmly seize the hand of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

For nearly eight years now, Rosensaft has heard himself vilified as a self-hating Jew, a traitor and worse. His crime: In December 1988, he was among a group of American Jewish leaders who traveled to Stockholm and met Arafat not because they liked or supported him but because they recognized there could be no peace without the Palestine Liberation Organization.

This personal history makes Rosensaft more optimistic than most after the apparent failure of the Netanyahu-Arafat summit here. He remembers what the Stockholm meeting led to: Arafat promptly recognized Israel's right to exist, and the PLO formally renounced terror. A peace process that seemed to have run its course in the late 1980s went into a new and, for a while, more promising, track.

But Rosensaft was still denounced for his naivete, his supposed "trust" in Palestinian good will, his treacherous dealings with the enemy. He had dealt with the Devil, Arafat, whose hands were stained with the blood of so many Jews.

And there Wednesday, was Bibi Netanyahu, Israel's ultimate hawk, seizing Arafat's hand in both his own hands, calling Arafat his friend and his partner. "That parting handshake was a 180-degree change in attitude," Rosensaft said yesterday. "It means the process of de-demonization has begun. That's a major accomplishment."

The handshake doesn't solve any of the underlying problems Jerusalem, the promised Israeli withdrawal from Hebron, self-rule for the Palestinians. But Rosensaft reasons that if the two men can see each other as partners in a dialogue and recognize that the other has constituencies to satisfy, they can begin a more businesslike working relationship.

Still explosive

The biggest problem both men face is that the atmosphere in Israel is still explosive and virtually everybody a 13-year-old kid with a rock, a frightened settler with an Uzi has a matchstick. Netanyahu demands that Arafat control the Palestinian violence, but Arafat has no more control over some of the Arab zanies than Netanyahu had over Yigal Amir, the Jewish zealot who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin last year.

If either side is looking for a violent incident as an excuse to break off the talks, there will be plenty of them. "This is going to be an ongoing problem," Rosensaft says. "How do we get the moderates on both sides as opposed to the radical minority to put extremist acts into context and continue the peace process."

It may be hard to think of Netanyahu and Arafat as the moderates on either side, but for now that's all we have to work with. The end goal what the diplomats call a just and lasting peace is probably unattainable. The Palestinians feel they have been promised an independent state; Netanyahu is unalterably opposed. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital; Israel will never surrender sovereignty over it.

But the key to tranquility in the Middle East has been to create the illusion of progress through endless negotiation.

Henry Kissinger was a master at this, a juggler who kept plates spinning in the air while entertaining the audience with fast patter. The plates never went anywhere, but as long as they spun, they didn't come crashing down and nobody got hurt.

Rosensaft believes Netanyahu and Arafat may have achieved something more solid. "If political relationships are determined by personal relationships," he says, "this is a big step. Just consider: Arafat is now in a position to pick up a phone and talk to Netanyahu when there are problems. That could never have happened before."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/06/1996
IT'S BOB VS. BILL - AND BOB

WASHINGTON Witty, adult, statesmanlike Bob Dole tonight takes on an opponent who has haunted him throughout his political career: an unpredictable, surly, snarly, acid-tongued curmudgeon named Bob Dole.

In comparison to the hurt that Dole can do to himself in a debate, President Clinton is no threat at all.

Debates are supposed to help the challenger. Dole appears tonight on stage for the first time as the President's equal. All he needs to do is make himself appear to be an acceptable alternative to the incumbent President as Jimmy Carter did to Gerald Ford in 1976 and Ronald Reagan did against Carter in 1980.

Carter showed that he was more than just a "Georgia peanut farmer." And "Reagan convinced the public he wasn't a nut case," recalls his 1984 campaign manager Ed Rollins.

That's all it took.

For Dole, it's more complicated. Carter and Reagan were outsiders, relative unknowns on the national political stage. Dole is a familiar figure, and he has to destroy a stereotype described by White House aide George Stephanopoulos as a "dark, dour, Darth Vader candidate."

The most damaging moment in Dole's political career was his famous remark in a 1976 vice presidential debate against Walter Mondale that World Wars I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam were "all Democrat wars."

What is most bizarre about this outburst is that it came in response to the following question: "Did you approve of President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon?"

Put on the defensive, Dole went off like a skyrocket. And in response to a question about Watergate, he blamed the Democrats for 1.6 million men killed and wounded in 20th century wars.

Dole has improved since 1976. His temper is more controlled. His dark eyes no longer dart nervously from side to side when a camera zooms in on him. He tries to smile more often. But he still erupts at times with flashes of resentment that are a reminder of the volcano that lurks within.

This is the weakness Clinton may try to exploit tonight. White House aides say the President intends simply to present a positive agenda for the future rather than engage in a back and forth with Dole. But they all know that the real fireworks can come from the innocent-sounding, but partisan, remark that sends Dole into the stratosphere.

In debating the issues, Clinton may meet his match. Dole is an excellent debater, especially if the subject is legislation. Unable to take notes because of his war injuries, he has developed a phenomenal memory. He can rattle off statistics, legislative proposals, the outcome of House and Senate votes and who made what deals in obscure conference committees. He probably remembers more about the fate of Clinton's congressional agenda than Clinton does.

Dole also has a wicked, if slightly old-fashioned, Bob Hope-style sense of humor: pre-written one-liners in search of a pretext. But sometimes he has a strange sense of his audience. He can talk at length about the taxes on Subchapter S corporations, as though everybody has one. In the 1976 debate, he looked into the camera and warned Americans that if Democrats won, union organizers would "come on your property three hours a day and organize farmers, unionize farmers."

But winning the debate is not enough for Dole, says Stephanopoulos. His real task is to change the nature of the race, in which he trails Clinton by 12 to 20 points in the polls. If the best debaters in each party actually won elections, tonight's contest would be between Republicans Alan Keyes or Morry Taylor and Democrat Jesse Jackson, not Dole and Clinton.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/07/1996
AND A SOUR, DOUR BOB DOLE SHOWS US HIS TRUE SELF

WASHINGTON With a faint scowl on his face, with his eyes darting downward, and his tongue nervously licking his lips, Bob Dole promised last night, "I'll lead America to a brighter future."

Uh-huh. Right.

Dole gave millions of Americans their first chance to see him stacked up against President Clinton, head to head, and that alone was a small victory for him standing on the stage as an equal, giving as good as he got.

It was a classic Dole performance: combative, at times resentful, dour and disapproving with occasional lightning flashes of wit brightening the grimness.

In terms of knowing the issues, Dole showed for any who may have doubted that he is clearly qualified to be President. And his vigorous statement of his key positions smaller government, a 15% tax cut may have won him back some wavering Republicans who doubted whether he would be a match for the President.

Dole currently suffers not only from a gender gap women prefer Clinton by substantial majorities but a party gap. Democrats are more solid behind the President than Republicans have been for Dole. Last night, he probably made few converts, but he may have rallied his own doubters.

The public's verdict on this debate won't be determined for a couple of days, after Americans compare notes, listen to commentators, read newspapers and digest what they heard. There were no knockout blows and, to anyone who has followed the careers of both men, no surprises.

"There's a lot wrong with America," Dole sternly told Clinton, even as he was trying to convince the viewing public that he is the most optimistic man in the country.

Dole saw a country that is no longer respected throughout the world, racked by crime and drugs, burdened by taxes and regulations.

Any challenger for the presidency must paint such a picture but must also convey a bright, optimistic alternative. Dole never quite managed the second part.

Clinton, with his affable TV personality, was able to deflect some of Dole's best shots and outline his vision for the future. As he has done for the past four years, the President took punches like a Joe Palooka, bobbing back up with a smile.

It was one of the oddest debates ever staged, between two men who clearly like each other despite their philosophical differences. Dole never used the opportunity to attack Clinton over Whitewater or the Paula Jones sex harassment charges or the FBI files or any of the wanna-be scandals that have dogged the President. Abortion was never mentioned, nor were any of the hot-button issues that have dogged previous debates, like flag-burning and school prayer.

But the vision of America that Dole portrayed was worse than reality. He claimed the average American pays 40% of his income in taxes. Not true. It's around 25% for all taxes federal, state and local. Only those in the highest brackets pay 40%. He claimed Clinton had sent more U.S. troops overseas than any President in history. Also not true.

He claimed Clinton had imposed the biggest tax increase in history. Again not true. Asked if the country was better off than it was four years ago, Dole glanced at Clinton and said, "He's better off."

This description flies in the face of economic surveys that show record numbers of Americans believing the country is on the right track.

Trailing Clinton by 15% in the polls, Dole had to go on the attack. But debates are not his best forum. He can look his worst when he is combative snappish, disapproving, mean. He held himself under control for most of the evening.

But for those who have regarded Dole as somewhat surly and aloof, he probably did nothing to alter the image. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was seated in the front row with orders to smile as a reminder to Dole. But against the spotlights, Dole couldn't see him. And so far, he hasn't had much to smile about.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/09/1996
WORLD'S LARGEST TAX HIKE? NOT FOR AVERAGE EARNERS

WASHINGTON You hear it over and over again: President Clinton handed you the biggest tax increase in history.

Bob Dole said it in his debate with Clinton on Sunday night. Republican campaign commercials bombard you with it. The Republican National Committee even quotes Democratic Sen. Pat Moynihan of New York incorrectly as saying in 1993, "It [the middle-class tax hike] will be the largest tax increase in the history of public finance in the United States or anywhere else in the world."

Clinton says there has been no increase in federal income taxes for the average working American. Who is right?

Fortunately, you, the average American taxpayer, can test the truthfulness of these competing claims by conducting an experiment, just like Mr. Wizard, with everyday articles to be found lying around the average home.

I refer to the tax booklets the IRS sends out every January, containing the income tax tables. If you are a squirrel, like me, you will still have the booklets for 1988, 1992 and 1995 although, unlike me, you probably don't store them partly, but not all the way, under a sofa.

Consider a couple, filing jointly, with a taxable income of $ 45,000 a year right in the middle of the working middle class.

In 1988, the last year of Ronald Reagan's second term, their federal tax would have been $ 8,740.

In 1992, George Bush's last year in office, the tax on the same $ 45,000 would have been $ 7,953.

And in 1995, after Clinton's supposedly "biggest tax increase in history," the tax on $ 45,000 would have been just $ 7,537 $ 1,200 less than under Reagan and $ 400 less than under Bush.

If you don't believe me, you can look it up. This is an apples-to-apples, dollar-for-dollar comparison. Under Clinton, the tax on a $ 45,000 income appears to be less than it was under Reagan.

No, Clinton didn't give you his promised middle-income tax cut. The tax tables are indexed for inflation. That $ 8,740 in 1988 theoretically has the purchasing power of $ 7,537 today. The tax burden is the same. But the main point is that under Clinton there has been no increase for moderate-income people.

The same is true for a higher-income couple with a taxable income of $ 85,000. In 1988, they owed $ 20,587.50. In 1992, their bill was $ 19,146 and in 1995, $ 18,737. No tax increase.

So how can the Republicans claim Clinton has hit average Americans with the biggest tax hike in history? They can't. It is an untruth. It has been exposed over and over again in publications across the country, from The Wall Street Journal to the Los Angeles Times.

But what about the Moynihan quote? As peddled by Dole and the Republicans, that, too, is an untruth. Moynihan was talking about the 1993 budget reconciliation act, which raised taxes on upper-income Americans, levied a 4.3-cent gasoline tax and raised taxes on the upper fifth of Social Security recipients. Moynihan never described it as a middle-class tax increase because it wasn't.

Much of what you hear during a campaign debate is uncheckable by the average person. But the charge that Clinton raised income taxes on average Americans can be disproven by anybody with the old IRS brochures tucked away in a shoebox. For middle-income Americans, there was no increase in federal income taxes. The Republicans know their charge is not true. They keep saying it anyway. That becomes a deliberate lie to the American public. And they have the nerve to question Clinton's character.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/10/1996
WORDFEST MISSING IN ACTION

WASHINGTON Vice President Gore apparently suspects Americans have no brains and Jack Kemp thinks they have no memories.

Gore addressed the nation for his half of the 90-minute vice presidential debate last night in the maddeningly slow, distinct tones of a kindergarten teacher in a special ed class, repeating key phrases "Bob Dole's risky $ 550 billion tax scheme" over and over and over.

The bubbly Kemp promised instant prosperity for all by slashing taxes on investors, and thus, he said, doubling economic growth. If he was aware that his theory had been tried 15 years ago and quadrupled the national debt, he showed no sign of it.

If this is a foretaste of the presidential race in the year 2000 these two didactic, jargon-spouting policy wonks it is not too early, today, to start screaming.

Yes, they were civil to each other and stuck to the issues. Yes, they even brought out some illuminating nuances. Kemp, most notably, all but repudiated the Republican platform's demand for a constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion, saying it would not pass. Gore pledged that President Clinton's much-mocked plan for putting 100,000 police on the streets would be completed in the next four years.

But if Ross Perot's absence was no great loss from the presidential debate, last night's discussion could have used the presence of Perot's running mate, the brilliant economist Pat Choate, who might have asked some really tough questions about jobs, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), international trade and campaign financing.

Kemp and Gore are both members of the Washington club. They like each other. Their families know each other. They agree on most issues civil rights, a high-tech future, global partnership.

Choate would have smashed some dishes. He has been most devastating in his critique of NAFTA and his exposes of the cozy deals whereby high-ranking U.S. trade officials suddenly turn into lobbyists for Japan, China and other competitors as soon as they leave the U.S. payroll.

Instead, we get Kemp-Gore. In fact, this is probably not the presidential campaign of 2000. Kemp is popular with entrepreneurial Republicans, but he's so quirky that he is not likely to convince the party's moneymen that he can actually win the White House.

Kemp strings together enthusiastic but unintelligible sentences about entrepreneurship, Rosa Parks, the Judeo-Christian tradition, a basket of commodities, Hannah Arendt, Star Wars, inner-city home ownership and the discouraging effect of high marginal tax rates.

Party bigs listen to his spiel, clap furiously with tears in their eyes and write checks to Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) or Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Inability to raise money is what persuaded Kemp not to run this time. In 2000, he would have the same problem, and would be up against some heavy hitters: Colin Powell, perhaps. Or the party's rising star, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

If Clinton wins reelection, Gore will certainly be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. But there are other strong possible contenders out there: Sens. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

But President Gore? Last night he was like a character in an old Bob and Ray routine, the "president . . . and . . . chief . . . executive . . . officer . . . of . . . the . . . Slow . . . Talkers . . . of . . . Am . . . eri . . . ca."

It's enough to make you scream. Aaaaaargh!

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/11/1996
AFL-CIO TO BEAR FRUITS OF NEWT'S ANTI-UNION LABORS

WASHINGTON Thanks to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the AFL-CIO thinks it is about to repeat the political victory it scored in 1982, when union members abandoned their flirtation with conservative Republicans and stalled the Reagan revolution.

"We're going to win back the House," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney predicted yesterday. "Newt and Co. certainly antagonized us, not only organized labor, but nonunion workers and even middle management." Sweeney described the gifts that Gingrich has handed the labor movement: attacking labor bosses, opposing the minimum wage, protecting strikebreakers, attempting a "hatchet job" on Medicare, attacking pensions. "I can't understand why they ever took on some of the issues they did," he marveled.

Gingrich had help from big business, most notably the massive AT&T lay-offs early this year, which warned employes at all levels that job security is a rapidly vanishing concept.

The result has been a reinvigorated labor movement, a $ 35 million war chest, professional union activists working against Republican candidates in 100 congressional districts and the real prospect of ending Republican control of the House.

Can it happen? In 1982, the AFL-CIO went into action against Reaganomics and helped Democrats pick up 26 seats in the House, win 20 of 31 Senate seats and 24 of 33 governorships. Though 44% of union members had voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, after two years marked by a recession, 67% voted Democratic.

Sweeney claimed the effort is nonpartisan, focused only on bread-and-butter issues important to union members. "We're looking to support Republicans where we can find them," he said.

Take that with a grain of salt. Rep. Peter King (R-Nassau) stood up for organized labor when Gingrich and his allies went on the attack, notably deriding the House Republican leadership as a "bunch of hillbillies."

King has won support from many of his Long Island locals the police and letter carriers, electrical workers, operating engineers, construction workers, air-traffic controllers but the New York State AFL-CIO overruled the locals and endorsed his Democratic opponent.

Sweeney himself, by the way, regards King as a standup friend of organized labor. "He will have some labor support," he said.

Republicans claim that 40% of union households vote Republican and that the AFL-CIO leadership is using their dues money to back Democrats. Sweeney counters by saying the AFL-CIO confines its efforts to bread-and-butter issues of importance to union members. There is no AFL-CIO position, for example, on gun control or abortion. And, Sweeney says, he has heard no significant opposition from within the unions to the new political activism.

Organized labor has been so weakened in recent years by foreign competition that killed off some industries and technological advances that transformed others that it has seemed almost marginal in elections.

Gingrich and his allies felt perfectly safe in trying to enact an agenda that would have weakened labor even further. Bob Dole went out of his way to attack the teachers unions in his speech to the Republican convention.

Now, as Election Day approaches, the Republicans are shocked to find that they have awakened a sleeping giant. They may not, in the end, lose everything, but Sweeney has them running scared. Perhaps from now on they'll pay attention.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/14/1996
CLINTON AGENDA FOR SECOND TERM IS JUST NO BIG DEAL

WASHINGTON Teddy Roosevelt gave us the Square Deal, Franklin Roosevelt the New Deal and Harry Truman the Fair Deal. Look at President Clinton's agenda for the next four years, and the words will instantly spring to your lips: big deal.

For a President credited with having a grand vision for America's future, Clinton has a to-do list for his second term that is a modest and curious hodge-podge: school uniforms, universal access to the Internet, inflation-proof savings bonds, tax breaks for college tuition, literacy standards for 8-year-olds, modest retraining grants for displaced workers.

Granted that, assuming he wins reelection, the President is likely to face a hostile Congress whose principal idea of public service is to issue him and his wife subpoenas. Granted that the big enemies of the 20th century fascism and communism have been vanquished and the public no longer sees a need for big, central government.

Even so, Clinton's blueprint is a pale and limp program for so great a nation as this.

Have we really solved the problem of universal access to affordable health insurance? Have we found a way to provide affordable nursing home care for the elderly without forcing honest, desperate families to finagle their way onto Medicaid?

Do we have a humane solution for dealing with the mentally ill? Have we even begun to cope with the tide of immigrants legal and illegal willing to work for bottom-dollar wages? Do our immigration and labor laws reflect the notion that we ought to take care of our own people first?

Have we managed to even out disparities of wealth so grotesque that a clever stock manipulator makes enough money overnight to found a dynasty, while his fellow countrymen sleep homeless, jobless and hopeless in the parks?

Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour says Clinton is such a successful politician because he is running as "a moderate Republican." This is a diabolically clever strategy that somehow never occurs to the national Republican Party itself.

But it also frustrates what remains of the liberal wing in the Democratic Party. "Clinton is pursuing pure establishment politics," says Robert Borosage, co-director of the labor-allied Campaign for America's Future. "His goals are a balanced budget, deficit reduction, reforming entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, free trade and a defense budget that will buy weapons to fight one and a half wars for the price of two.

"But he is not making the transition from the Cold War economy. He's not making the public investments in sewers, bridges, fast trains that could both build up the country and provide jobs. There's no attempt to make sure the global economy protects labor rights or insures some measure of reciprocity."

Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute says in his new book, "The Party's Not Over," that "Democrats must stand for rebuilding the inner cities. . . . This is the great moral and economic task of post-Cold War America." Faux also wants the federal government to be more actively involved in assisting new technologies, like solar energy and the electric car, which could make America independent of foreign oil producers.

Clinton proposes instead to be mostly a maintenance President. He will urge corporations to find jobs for welfare recipients, fix up the schools, help cities put more cops on their streets, encourage children to wear uniforms to school and help their parents install V-chips in the television set. All very worthwhile, but when you consider what really needs to be done . . . big deal.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/16/1996
THE DISGRACE IS BI-PARTISAN

WASHINGTON Sen. Dole, if elected President, will you promise not to pardon Michael Andreas?

Poor Dole. Just when he works up a good head of steam over President Clinton's murky political associates, his own financial angel the Archer Daniels Midland Corp. pleads guilty to the biggest price-fixing scheme in U.S. history and accepts $ 100 million in fines.

Michael Andreas, who faces indictment, is the son of legendary ADM Chairman Dwayne Andreas. Together with his family and employes, the elder Andreas has steered $ 200,000 to Dole's campaigns since 1979 and smoothed his path in many lesser ways.

When Dole needs to fly somewhere at a moment's notice, an ADM corporate jet shows up.

For this luxury service no tickets, no reservation, no waiting in line at the airport Dole pays ordinary first-class fare.

When Dole needed a vacation getaway, Dwayne Andreas helped him out with a below-market price for a Florida condo.

In return, Dole has supported a host of agricultural subsidies and a fuel-tax exemption for ethanol, which has saved ADM billions of dollars. Consumers make up the difference in higher taxes and higher prices.

ADM's plea comes precisely as Dole was scoring points by tormenting Clinton for dropping hints that he might pardon Susan McDougal from her Whitewater conviction. It also hit the front pages amid a furor, fanned by the Republicans, over hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to the Democratic National Committee that may have been funneled from Indonesia's Lippo Bank.

The Democrats should have known better than to take this money. One of the most embarrassing scandals of the George Bush administration was a $ 600,000 contribution from a mysterious Japanese-American businessman named Michael Kojima, who turned out to be a bankrupt, deadbeat dad on the run from his creditors.

Nobody could figure out where Kojima got the money he gave to the Republicans. Well, I will tell you: He borrowed it from the same Lippo Bank of Indonesia.

Then he went into bankruptcy so Lippo couldn't recover it and donated it to the RNC.

In this convoluted process, the Lippo money ceased to be lo and behold! a foreign contribution.

Eventually, the Republicans had to put their windfall into escrow, however, when Kojima's ex-wives went after it for child support.

Despite this history, Dole was beginning to make the charge about Indonesian contributions to Clinton stick.

Editorial writers have been demanding investigations, Republican congressmen have been threatening hearings and calling for yet another independent prosecutor.

Even Speaker Newt Gingrich felt morally entitled to chime in. "This is a potential abuse of the American system on behalf of an Indonesian billionaire in a way that we have never seen in American history," Gingrich said.

Well, not quite.

This is the Speaker Gingrich who wanted to accept a $ 4.5 million advance from Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch for a book of recycled speeches that eventually earned only $ 1.2 million. Just don't call it a bribe.

Still, the defense that "everybody does it" is no defense at all for Clinton. A) he promised the most ethical administration in history, not one that plays by the same sleazy, old rules. And B) he didn't need the money.

So please, you folks at the White House, stop arguing that this is all perfectly legal.

It's only legal because the people who make and enforce the laws are the ones pocketing the money.

That's the biggest disgrace of all.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/17/1996
DOLE HAS SHINE, BUT STILL CAN'T TARNISH CLINTON

WASHINGTON BOB DOLE finally found his voice last night, sternly lashing President Clinton for breaking promises, raising taxes, allowing a rise in drug use and halting welfare reform.

Dole repeatedly and adroitly slipped in zingers about Clinton's character chiefly by claiming that he, in contrast to Clinton, always kept his word. And he tempered his attacks with flashes of humor.

Their last debate showed Dole at his gritty, hard-nosed, grown-up best, with his temper under control, thinking on his feet and skewering Clinton for having no ideas. This was the Dole who held sway over the Senate for so many years, earning the respect of his peers as a master of legislative detail and stiletto invective.

But beyond the stylistic triumph, Dole was unable to answer the two biggest questions of the night. He could not or would not explain how he plans to make the federal budget cuts that will be required by his proposed $ 550 billion tax cut. And he had no answer for a woman worried about the spread of health maintenance organizations and their cutbacks in medical services.

On the budget cuts, Dole said, in effect, "Trust me." That let Clinton explain that Dole's plan would mean cuts of up to 40% in federal programs such as the environment, law enforcement and education or else increase the deficit.

Dole also tossed Clinton a home-run pitch when he asserted that the country was suffering from the worst economy in a century. This is an astounding statement from a man who recalls growing up during the Depression.

For the most part, Dole managed to keep his balance on the tightrope between criticizing Clinton and not living up to his stereotype as a hatchet man.

But his long-awaited character attack was probably too late. Dole and his allies have cried "Wolf!" about Clinton's failings for far too long. Four years ago, President George Bush branded Clinton a draft-dodging, womanizing, pot-smoking, river-polluting adolescent who could never be trusted as commander-in-chief. Clinton won anyway.

For the past three years, conservatives repeatedly have promised bombshells about the Vince Foster suicide, Hillary Clinton's investments and the Whitewater investigation and never managed to implicate the President. Conservative lawyers have financed a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones. Hate radio has savaged the President daily.

Still, Clinton leads Dole the war hero, the man whose word is universally trusted by his Republican and Democratic colleagues by 15 points in the polls.

Clinton's resilience is literally maddening to Dole's advisers. They know their attack strategy hasn't worked, and still they pursue it. It is a classic sign of insanity to repeat the same failed course of action over and over in expectation of a different result.

The right wing has tried this politics of character assassination often in the past, as Dole inadvertently reminds us when he suggests that Clinton couldn't measure up to such giants as Harry Truman.

Just for fun, you might look up what the Republican right said about Truman when he was actually in office: He was a "second-rate officeholder surrounded by the Missouri mob" who ran a "jailbird administration" marked by an "undoubted decline of public decency, public morality and public trust" not to mention a State Department filled with "traitors and sex perverts."

It didn't seem to hurt Harry, either.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/17/1996
NO HOPE & GLORY IN FINAL WORDS AT BATTLEGROUND

WASHINGTON BOB DOLE began his last-ditch assault on President Clinton's character in San Diego Tuesday with the doomed look of an old soldier sent on yet another hopeless mission.

It must have reminded him of the bleakest days of World War II. You know your tinny Sherman tank is no match for a German panzer, but you climb in anyway because you're a soldier and it's all you've got.

Maybe you'll get in a lucky shot. More likely, the Sherman will live up to its German nickname, "the Ronson," because of its tendency to go up in flames.

Dole gave it his best effort the day before the debate in a speech to electronics industry executives. He listed an array of "ethical failures" by the Clinton White House, from the travel office firings to the misuse of FBI files. He went on:

"The problems of this administration have become a pattern, a habit of half-truths, an atmosphere of evasion. What bothers us most is not just the wrongdoing but the excuse-making. In every case, this administration refused to take responsibility for the mistakes it has made and the harm it has caused. The goal is always to conceal ethical failure, not confront it. We hear not apologies, but alibis."

It was Dole at his gritty, grown-up best. He seemed genuinely grieved that the President might not be an example to the young and that the White House was no longer a symbol of national pride and integrity.

At one time, it might have worked. But Dole and his allies have cried "Wolf!" way too often. Four years ago, President George Bush branded Clinton a draft-dodging, womanizing, pot-smoking, river-polluting adolescent who could never be trusted as commander-in-chief.

Clinton won anyway.

For the past three years, conservatives repeatedly have promised bombshells about the Vince Foster suicide, Hillary Clinton's investments and the Whitewater investigation and never managed to implicate the President. Conservative lawyers have financed a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Jones. Hate radio has savaged the President daily.

Still, Clinton leads Dole the war hero, the man whose word is universally trusted by his Republican and Democratic colleagues by 15 points in the polls.

Now Dole belatedly delivers his version of the character attack, and it seems pale in contrast to what has come before.

Dole clearly is uncomfortable in accusing Clinton of lacking in character. "Some voters seem ready to support Bill Clinton even though they say I don't say it they say, that he's unethical," he said in San Diego.

Right, Dole doesn't say it.

Clinton's resilience is literally maddening to Dole's advisers. They know their strategy hasn't worked, and still they pursue it. One of the classic signs of insanity is to repeat the same failed course of action over and over in expectation of a different result.

The right wing has tried this politics of character assassination often in the past, as Dole inadvertently reminded us when he suggested that Clinton couldn't measure up to such giants as Harry Truman.

Just for fun, you might look up what the Republican right said about Truman when he was actually in office: He was a "second-rate officeholder surrounded by the Missouri mob" who ran a "jailbird administration" marked by an "undoubted decline of public decency, public morality and public trust" not to mention a State Department filled with "traitors and sex perverts."

It didn't seem to hurt Harry, either.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/18/1996
THE SHARPIES EYE SOCIAL SECURITY

WASHINGTON Further proof that we have a truly professional Congress i.e., one that works for money is the current fascination among both Republicans and Democrats with schemes to privatize Social Security.

The sales pitch is just beginning, and it combines all the elements of the classic scam: fear, fast talk and the promise of surefire, windfall riches for those willing to take the risk.

First, scaremongers financed by brokerage houses spread the fear that Social Security is going broke and might not be around for the next generation. It's not true. The system is financially sound through the year 2030, beyond which all talk is speculation and moonshine.

Still, many young people, made cynical by the world of rip-offs they see all around them, are ready to believe Social Security won't be there for them. They start to resent that 6.2% FICA deduction often bigger than federal income taxes from every paycheck.

Then comes the fast-talk solution: Instead of watching your FICA tax disappear into a Social Security trust fund to pay a fixed pension on retirement, you could invest at least part and eventually all of it in the stock market.

Why, there was a little old lady in Cleveland who invested her savings in the stock market in 1947 and the other day she died a multi-millionaire. That, they tell you, could be you. Just hand over your money.

Although it is pushed largely by conservatives, this is not a conservative idea. It is an attempt to use the coercive taxing powers of the federal government to compel you to send money to Wall Street stockbrokers. It shares the same cynical philosophy as the medical savings accounts touted by House Speaker Newt Gingrich: using big government to guarantee an income stream to private business.

With even partial privatization, the stockbrokers would get a $ 60 billion windfall. You would take the risk that some 28-year-old sharpie won't bet your retirement on platinum futures on the Montevideo Bolsa. And if the market crashes just before you retire, well, uh, heh, heh . . . .

"Privatization would be the biggest financial bonanza in the history of mutual funds," author Robert Dreyfuss said yesterday. His article in the December issue of Mother Jones magazine spells out the coalition of financial interests, conservative think tanks and lobbyists who have combined in hopes of a piece of this windfall.

Former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) worries that privatization has attracted the interest of some notable Democrats, especially Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and perhaps even President Clinton, guided by the business-oriented types in the Democratic Leadership Council.

It is conventional wisdom to say that entitlements must be reformed and that Social Security cannot be expected to provide a comfortable retirement. Absolutely true. Expect tax increases or postponement of retirement, and by all means invest as much as you can afford.

But, after the election, watch out for efforts to privatize Social Security.

There's a lot of money behind it, and Congress always listens to money.

"If you had a vote on this today, I'm not sure you could defeat a move toward privatization," Metzenbaum told a news conference yesterday. "There would be overwhelming Republican support and some Democrats. I saw this sort of privatization with the savings and loans. It turned out to be the greatest rip-off anybody could possibly imagine."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/21/1996
MURDOCH'S NOT PAYING ANY TAXES ON POLS HE BUYS

WASHINGTON Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is one of the most visible and influential businesses in the United States. It owns the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studios, New York's Channel 5 and a dozen other stations, TV Guide, Harper Collins publishers, the New York Post, Boston Herald and an array of magazines.

Ask one question, however, and the company suddenly becomes invisible: Does News Corp., with U.S. revenues of nearly $ 10 billion, pay income taxes to the U.S. government? On hearing these words, company officials vanish from sight.

They may have good reason to disappear. News Corp., an Australian corporation, has given $ 351,000 in campaign contributions to the Republican Party, according to Common Cause, the self-appointed political policeman.

It is legal for a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign corporation to make such contributions provided it earns money in this country. It is not legal, however, if the subsidiary has no income, and for U.S. tax purposes, News Corp. appears to be a total bust.

In 1995, for example, News Corp. reported global revenues of approximately $ 12 billion, including $ 8.5 billion earned in the U.S. Its global income tax bill, however, was a mere $ 96 million a tax rate of 8%. News Corp. does not say in which country or countries that $ 96 million was paid.

Murdoch is known throughout the world for shifting his reported profits to low-tax havens like the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands Antilles, while claiming his losses in relatively high-tax countries like the U.S. and Britain. As the Australian-born mogul has said, "If you can move assets around like that, isn't that one of the advantages of being global?" And one of his subordinates was reported by The New York Times to have acknowledged that News Corp. "pays almost no taxes on its U.S. businesses."

Under the law, if News Corp. has no net income here, it owes no taxes. But under the law, if a subsidiary of a foreign-based corporation has no income in this country, it can make no campaign contributions. It is specifically against the law for the profitable foreign parent to allocate part of its profits to a U.S. political party.

In theory, Murdoch can't have it both ways. He can't be a major American mogul dispensing cash to politicians at the same time that his business shows empty pockets to the IRS. In fact, Murdoch has it any way he wants to. He's an American citizen for American purposes and an Australian citizen when he needs to qualify for ownership of Australian media outlets.

Republicans, like House Speaker Newt Gingrich, are currently jumping up and down in indignation over an illegal campaign contribution made by a South Korean company to the Democratic National Committee and about questionable donations from Indonesia's Lippo Group.

The Republicans are right to be outraged but selective in their morality. When it comes to making campaign contributions, Murdoch's News Corp. appears to be on a level with those penniless Buddhist monks who wrote $ 5,000 checks to the Democratic National Committee. He's got no money to support the government but will pay a bundle to influence it.

Since becoming a citizen, Murdoch has swiftly discovered the American way to make politicians grovel at his feet and leap to fulfill his every wish: You don't have to be a good citizen and pay taxes. That's a mug's game. Eliminate the middleman. Just pay the politicians.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/23/1996
CHANGE SYSTEM SO FAT CATS CAN'T FEED POLITICIANS

WASHINGTON After 35 years of chasing fat-cat money, Bob Dole makes an unpersuasive crusader against murky campaign contributions. But President Clinton's defense against Dole's charges is even worse: "Vote Democratic. We're no sleazier than anybody else."

Clinton supporters have now descended to arguing that, yes, they took the money from the Indonesians, but they didn't do anything in return. Sure, they did. In return for the money, the President listened to Indonesia's concerns. Is anybody listening to yours?

For truly righteous condemnation of our corrupt political-financing system, let us turn to Ross Perot's running mate, Pat Choate, who literally wrote the book "Agents of Influence" on Washington's bi-partisan sellout to foreign special interests.

Washington quickly corrupts virtually everyone who arrives, Choate argued to a small rally at George Washington University the other day. In 1994, he noted, 86 freshmen congressmen, mostly Republicans, were elected, all promising to clean up the system.

"Within the first eight weeks, 20 of them were out collecting money from political action committees [special interests] and within the first year, all but five of them had taken PAC money," Choate said. "All together, they collected $ 10 million from PACs. For those who got a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee [which writes tax laws], the minimum contribution was $ 150,000." Once in Washington, politicians soon learn that their power depends on the contributors, not the voters. With enough money, you can deter any challenger from even trying to unseat you.

Choate hammers Democrats and Republicans for accepting foreign-source campaign contributions. Under the law, if the presidential candidates accept federal campaign funds $ 62 million each they agree not to raise outside money. But Common Cause charged two weeks ago that both campaigns had broken the law by laundering millions of dollars from the Democratic and Republican national committees.

"This is not a technical violation," Choate said. "This is an attempt to steal the election. This is fraud, criminal and impeachable. This is theft from the American people."

As for the lame Dole and Clinton arguments that their gifts from foreign donors are legal, Choate thunders: "The test is not whether it's legal or illegal. The test is whether it's right or wrong."

Choate's biggest handicap as he delivers this somehow-forgotten truth is that he is on the same ticket with the flaky Perot. Unthinking people may jump to the conclusion that therefore he, too, is missing a wheel from his tricycle. Not true. When Choate describes the corruption of even the most honest people by big money, he is exactly on target. The flaw is not in the people; it is the system that has to be thrown out.

His solution is public financing of campaigns to make your representatives independent of the big donors and the foreign wheeler-dealers. This has generally been sneered at as "welfare for politicians," but the people doing the sneering have a stake in the status quo. Under the current system, big money owns the politicians; under public financing, the voters would.

This change won't happen soon. Choate has no illusions about his chances in this election. But he points out that if Perot's Reform Party wins 5% of the vote Nov. 5, it gets half funding $ 31 million for the race in 2000. With that kind of money, it wouldn't need Perot, and maybe it could be taken seriously.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/24/1996
CIA-DRUG PROBE BLOCKED BY POL, SENATORS TOLD

WASHINGTON A Senate investigator searching for links between drug smuggling and the CIA testified yesterday that he had been stonewalled by then-Assistant Attorney General William Weld, now the Massachusetts governor.

"Bill Weld told U.S. attorneys not to cooperate with us," said Jack Blum, who as special counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led a probe into narcotics trafficking during the 1980s.

He testified before a raucous Senate Intelligence Committee hearing into a recent newspaper report that the CIA had financed its anti-Communist war in Nicaragua 10 years ago by allowing its agents to sell crack cocaine in Los Angeles.

Blum said there was no evidence to support that specific charge. But he accused Reagan administration policy makers of turning a blind eye toward criminal activity by their Nicaraguan allies in the war against pro-Communist Sandinistas.

The predominantly black audience jeered senators and witnesses who downplayed evidence of a CIA drug connection, and committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) threatened twice to clear the room.

The allegations by the San Jose Mercury News have reverberated among black Americans, some of whom accuse the CIA of deliberately introducing crack into the inner cities.

When Blum tried to find out in 1987 and 1988 whether the CIA had intervened with the Justice Department to drop drug cases against the Nicaraguan Contra guerrillas, he said, "We confronted an absolute stonewall. Bill Weld put a very serious block on any effort we made to get information."

Weld, a Republican, is running for the Senate seat held by Democrat John Kerry who conducted the Reagan-era investigation on the CIA and drugs. Weld's campaign did not return a phone call for comment.

Blum said White House aide Oliver North, now a radio talk-show host, intervened to help drug suspects who had aided him in the clandestine war against the Sandinistas.

CIA and Justice Department officials promised to reopen their files to investigate the San Jose Mercury News' allegations.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/25/1996
HMOS CURING DOCTORS' HATE OF GOV'T INSURANCE

WASHINGTON You know how doctors feel about national health insurance, right? It's "socialized medicine," run by bureaucrats "with the efficiency of the Post Office and the soul of the Motor Vehicle Bureau."

Well, think again. The District of Columbia chapter of the American Medical Association has just passed a resolution urging the AMA to take a look at Canadian-style single-payer health insurance.

Everyone would be covered. You would have free choice of doctors. There would be virtually no paper work, no denials of care, no letters from the insurance company explaining why you weren't covered for that $ 2,000 bill.

What happened to produce this stunning reversal within one important affiliate of the AMA? In a word, Aetna. In another word, Prudential. In some more words, health-maintenance organizations, managed care, gatekeepers and all the mind-boggling bureaucracy, second-guessing, penny-pinching and paper work that corporate America has inflicted on the nation's physicians and their patients.

"The only reason doctors are even willing to consider single-payer is their total frustration, disgust and hatred of the way their talents are being squandered by the managed-care system," says Dr. Wayne Blackmon, head of the D.C. Medical Society.

Blackmon, by the way, is no fan of the single-payer system. But he clearly shares the frustration of the doctors who pushed it through the D.C. society: "It's a choice of corporate bureaucrats or federal bureaucrats. With the insurance companies in charge, we have to fight to do anything for our patients. If it takes you 20 hours to fight for proper care for just one patient, it becomes impractical to fight for your entire caseload."

There's also a cash problem. Under managed care, many doctors, particularly specialists, are being squeezed out of the system. "Physician incomes are going to be severely slashed over the next two or three years," Blackmon says.

As doctors watch their incomes and their freedom to practice shrink, they see the insurance companies pocketing millions. The D.C. resolution notes that under managed care, 30% of health care premiums are spent on administrative costs and profits.

"We've got more paper work than ever, we still don't have universal coverage and we're no longer treated like professionals; we're just worker bees for the insurance companies," complains a Maryland doctor who asked not to be named for fear of offending an insurance company.

President Clinton, having been burned on his own national health plan, shows no sign of wanting to fight this battle again. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) will reintroduce his Canadian-style plan in January, assuming he is reelected. But if Republicans keep control of Congress, they surely won't take on the insurance companies. The Republicans proclaimed two years ago there was no health-insurance crisis in the country, and that solved the problem to their satisfaction.

And the AMA itself does not promise much reform. The D.C. resolution will be introduced at a December AMA meeting in Atlanta. "I'm sure it would go down to flaming defeat at the national level," Blackmon says.

That's true for now. But the doctors are just beginning to feel the twinges of mindless, bureaucratic, corporate-run health care. In a couple more years, you will see a nation of doctors complaining of severe pains in the wallet, looking to the government to set them free and make them well. Then, perhaps, we'll solve this problem.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/28/1996
REAGAN-ERA U.S. WINKED AT ALLIES' DRUG SMUGGLING

WASHINGTON Did the CIA peddle drugs in America's ghettos to finance the Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua? The answer is no if you ask the question in precisely that way, says Jack Blum, former staff director of a Senate subcommittee on narcotics and terrorism.

The real answer, he says similar to the one I offered here last month is no, but . . .

No, the CIA didn't sell drugs itself. No, the profits of drug sales never reached the Contras; the drug dealers kept the money. No, the black community was not targeted.

"Cocaine in the mid-'80s was a perfect equal-opportunity destroyer," he testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee the other day. "It didn't matter what color you were, where you were from, what your national origin was.

"The problem became more acute in the African-American community because the definition of a problem addict in America is an addict who runs out of money, and if you run out of money quickly, you become involved in the drug trade, you become a visible social problem and you get on the screen. In fact, the stockbrokers, the entertainers, the lawyers who used cocaine around America escaped that attention, but their lives were ruined too."

Blum spent two years investigating suspicions that the CIA channeled drug money to the Contras and found no evidence to support them. But what he found may be just as bad: Policymakers top officials in the Ronald Reagan administration "absolutely closed their eyes to the criminal behavior of our allies and supporters in that war.

"The policymakers ignored their drug dealing, their stealing and their human rights violations."

Poisoning America's cities

Reagan officials, including superpatriot Oliver North, knew that U.S. allies like Panama's Manuel Noriega, the Haitian junta and the military leaders of Honduras were dealing in drugs. But the poisoning of America's cities was less important to the Reaganauts than fighting communism in Central America.

"Instead of putting pressure on that rotten leadership of the Haitian military," Blum said, "we defended them. We held our noses. We looked the other way, and they and their criminal friends distributed cocaine in the United States in Miami, in Philadelphia, New York and parts of Pennsylvania."

If drug suspects were caught, Blum said, CIA officers were required to sit in on debriefings, lest the culprits blurt out intelligence secrets. "When there were criminal cases that threatened to expose various covert operations in the region, those criminal cases would then be put aside, for one reson or another," Blum said.

This CIA/drug problem has not been solved, he continued. "In Afghanistan recently, we've had allies who went into the heroin business big-time. It's the largest cash crop in Afghanistan. It's the biggest cash crop in the region. It's coming out by the ton."

The CIA, Blum said, has to reexamine its practice of making, enlisting and training foreign criminals for its covert operations. "When you teach people how to change their identity, how to hide from the law, how to build bombs, how to assassinate people, they don't forget how to do it. . . . We supported people who were in the heroin trade in the mountains of Burma. It turned up again in the Vietnam War, where our allies, the Muong tribesmen, were in the heroin business."

So, did the CIA sell drugs in the ghetto? No. But ask the question in a slightly broader way: Did an ideology-obsessed U.S. government White House, Justice Department, CIA, Pentagon consciously close its eyes to to the horrors that drug smuggling by its friends inflicted on American communities? Blum says yes.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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10/30/1996
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE IS LESSON BOB DIDN'T LEARN

WASHINGTON Within sight of Bob Dole's apartment in the Watergate, a craggy-faced, conservative 69-year-old Republican senator is showing him too late, no doubt how he might have won his race for the White House.

Virginia's John Warner should have been a dead duck by now. He is pro-choice on abortion in a state party filled with grass-roots activists from the Christian Coalition. In 1994, he enraged his fellow Republicans by actively opposing Oliver North's candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

To Warner, who served in the Navy in World War II and with the Marines in Korea, North was no superpatriot; he was a liar, unfit to serve in the Senate. A lot of Republican senators agreed with Warner but kept their mouths shut. When Dole came into Virginia and donated $ 10,000 to North's campaign, Warner was a lonely man indeed.

But Warner stood his ground. "My conscience is clear, and I'm just not going to change," he said. Today he's a shoo-in for reelection, leading Democrat Mark Warner by 20 points. At the same time, Dole trails President Clinton by 7 points in a state he should have locked up long ago.

Here are two men on the same ticket in the same state with similar biographies and virtually identical political philosophies. Why is one thriving and the other apparently headed for defeat?

"Swing voters," says political analyst Doug Bailey, a Republican strategist and founder of the Hotline newsletter. "As Dole tries to maximize his conservative base, he turns off the voters in the middle and probably increases the turnout of blacks and Hispanics who will vote against him. And to the extent Republicans seem harsh, they really pay a price with women voters."

John Warner refused to cater to the far right. He therefore wins a good deal of Democratic support because he stuck to his guns at great risk. Dole, on the other hand, "told the conservatives he would be another Ronald Reagan," Bailey says. "The moment you say that is the moment that you cannot be another Reagan. You can't become President by trying to be something you're not."

Dole has had just one genuine moment in this campaign, when he resigned from the Senate and recounted his career of working in the middle of the political spectrum allied with Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) on food stamps, with Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) to save Social Security, with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) to preserve school lunches.

Since then, Dole has done an astonishing chameleon act. Instead of campaigning on his own record and his own beliefs, he has turned himself into the Republican rivals he defeated and ridiculed during the primaries.

On the stump these days, Dole sounds like Steve Forbes with his supply-side tax cuts; Pat Buchanan with his opposition to affirmative action and abortion; Phil Gramm with his demagogic bashing on crime; Bob Dornan with his free-swinging attacks on Clinton's character and the liberal media, and Morry Taylor with his vague, magic-wand spending cuts that will somehow balance the budget. These were the candidates that even Republican voters didn't want, and Dole is now trying to peddle their ideas, secondhand, to the general public.

Sophisticates in Washington often sneer that John Warner is no rocket scientist, but this isn't rocket science. Warner is smart enough to run for office as himself. This is the tragedy of Dole's campaign. At 73, after a lifetime of doing other people's bidding, he finally had a chance to be himself and he didn't know how.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/01/1996
POLS ARE REFUSING TO LET THE TRUTH GET IN THEIR WAY

WASHINGTON Ronald Reagan used to tell a favorite story about a World War II pilot who won a Medal of Honor by holding hands with a wounded crew member and going down with his plane.

Reagan loved that touching anecdote. When it was pointed out to him that it came from a Reader's Digest filler, not real life, he grew furious. "The old man is really ticked," one of his aides reported.

But say this for Reagan: Once he found out the story was false, he never told it again.

This may make him the last honest man in American politics.

Point out, these days, that a political statement is false like the Republican claim that President Clinton gave the middle class the "biggest tax increase in history" and the politicians just shrug and keep repeating it.

And why not? There is no penalty for telling lies that work. The press might expose the falsehoods the first couple of times they appear, but after that, the lies are no longer news and so they go unchallenged.

"If they had any shame at all, they would pull some of these ads," says Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School of Communications. "But they keep playing games even after they're caught."

To Jamieson, the two most blatant distortions are the Clinton administration claim that Republicans will slash Medicare and the Republican claim that Clinton raised middle-class taxes. Both assertions have been amply rebutted, yet the candidates and their allies keep repeating them.

Republicans argue, correctly, that they want to spend more, per beneficiary, on Medicare over the next seven years although the amount does not equal the projected costs of inflation. This does not "slash" Medicare, although some of the other Republican schemes, like medical savings accounts, would loot it.

On the other side, while Clinton's 1993 tax hike was nominally the biggest increase in history (i.e., not allowing for inflation), the Republicans are flat wrong in charging that it soaked the middle class.

"I've called them on this," Jamieson says. "They say that under Clinton the typical family pays $ 1,500 more in taxes. It's just not true. They say that 40% of what you earn goes for taxes. That's not true." Her complaints have had no effect.

Here's another: Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor keeps insisting that NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, has created 251,000 good jobs in this country. In fact, nobody knows how many jobs, if any, NAFTA has created. But even if Kantor's number, which is based on a Commerce Department calculation, is correct, he does not subtract the number of jobs lost to increased imports from Mexico.

Jamieson also faults Clinton for repeating that 12 million workers have taken advantage of his Family and Medical Leave Act to take time off from work. In fact, she says, 10 million of them were entitled to the leave even without the new law.

It's one thing to make mistakes in the heat of a campaign appearance or a debate. Clinton was wrong in saying that "of the people, by the people and for the people" is a phrase from the Constitution. Bob Dole was wrong in claiming that the economy is the worst in a century.

But the deliberate repetition of falsehoods is not a mistake. It is a political strategy. These people know exactly what they are doing. They are telling lies over and over, even after they are caught. And then they blame the public for being cynical.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/03/1996
DOLEFUL IMAGE COSTING BOB

WASHINGTON BOB DOLE HAS TRIED IT ALL his war record, personal integrity, tax cuts, crime, fear of immigrants, ethics, resentment over affirmative action and has not been able to connect with American voters.

For a competent, mainstream public servant with a long and distinguished political career, Dole barring a miraculous reversal of fortune faces a stunning repudiation.

Part of the blame goes to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was allowed to define the Republican agenda in terms of his own ideological "revolution" over the past two years. A good deal of damage was done by mogul Steve Forbes, who spent $ 25 million of his private fortune trying to tear Dole down as old, unimaginative and out of touch during the Republican primaries.

But maybe former Ohio Gov. William Saxbe, a Republican, uttered the verdict on this campaign more than two decades ago: "Bob Dole couldn't sell beer on a troop ship."

Lee Miringoff of Marist College has a somewhat kinder but equally hard verdict: "Mario Cuomo used to talk about the poetry of politics," Miringoff says. "Dole has no poetry. Clinton is all poetry."

Certainly Dole's campaign ranks among the worst ever run. Until he was prompted by his campaign advisers, Dole showed little awareness that Americans worry about real problems: how to pay the mortgage, raise their kids, survive corporate downsizing, keep their employable skills polished.

In the New Hampshire primary, he kept talking, instead, about the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves unspecified powers to the states. Then, facing defeat at the hands of populist-conservative Pat Buchanan, he confessed, "I didn't realize that jobs and trade and what makes America work would become a big issue."

The contrast with President Clinton is stark. The President's agenda is full of modest little programs that are easily ridiculed but can have real effects on real lives: the Family Leave Act, tax credits for college and deductions for job retraining, a break on the capital-gains tax for homeowners, championing an increase in the minimum wage. With the economy in reasonably good shape and the country at peace, Clinton has had no need to make more dramatic proposals.

But a lot of voters may be wondering: Does either of these guys know or care about me?

Since securing the nomination, Dole has struggled to find a message that will touch complacent Americans. At times it seems as if he sat down with a yellow legal pad and tried to list what, precisely, he had to believe in order to become President: supply-side tax cuts, vouchers for private schools, sterner drug enforcement, a Star Wars missile defense system. They fit him about as well as the blazer he suddenly donned in Chicago one day in an attempt to look casual.

"Dole mentions real-life issues like jobs and family income," says Miringoff, "but he never talks about them in ways that seem real."

On one critical issue, abortion, he wound up with the worst of all possible worlds. He allowed religious fundamentalist to dictate his party's platform plank, which would outlaw abortion, and then said he would ignore the platform. That stance antagonized both right-to-life voters and pro-choice women.

To former Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Dole never really had a chance. Last August, Rollins predicted: "There's nothing Bob Dole can do to win this election. His only hope is that Clinton might lose it."

TODAY, ROLLINS has a more detailed analysis: "Three things matter in a campaign the candidate, the organization of the campaign and the issues. Clinton is a far superior campaigner to anyone around; Dole is far weaker. Clinton's campaign is as brilliant as any in history; Dole's has been a disaster. Clinton took away many of the cutting-edge Republican issues like crime and welfare; Dole has never given people reason to say it's time to make a change."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/06/1996
ERA OF LOWERED EXPECTATIONS

PRESIDENT Clinton scored a sweeping but paradoxically hollow victory yesterday, winning a second term for which he has only a modest agenda, a half-hearted popular mandate and perhaps even fewer political allies than ever.

Clinton's Electoral College landslide masked widespread public misgivings about the President's honesty and character.

He won, chiefly, because women were turned off by the Republican agenda and a narrow majority of voters thought the economy was doing well.

In an age of hate radio, scare tactics and attack commercials, voters apparently chose the candidate who troubled them least.

Clinton at his best can be a comforting, reassuring President, radiating optimism and national unity.

But exit polls indicated that even many of Clinton's supporters were suspicious about his truthfulness but they were even more suspicious of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). And while many mistrusted Clinton, they had even less faith in Bob Dole's promise to cut taxes, balance the budget, increase defense and preserve Medicare.

Clinton will enter his second term facing the enormous threat of endless investigation by a hostile Congress and special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

In addition to the hearings that tormented him during his first term, he now faces new challenges over possibly illegal fund-raising from foreign nationals and continuing probes over the travel office firings, FBI files and missing Rose Law Firm records.

Some Republicans who pursued Clinton in his first term notably New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato seem to have lost heart for pursuing the President. D'Amato and his Whitewater investigators never came up with a convincing narrative of presidential wrongdoing, and the public eventually tuned out.

But other Republicans, especially in the more radical House, are convinced that Clinton is a crook who has no moral right to be President. Egged on by talk show hosts, they no doubt will do their best to make Clinton's second term as miserable as they can.

Although Clinton's aides have said he wants to use the next four years to secure his place in history, his stated agenda is too modest to earn him a place on Mount Rushmore. He wants to continue trying to cut the deficit, aid education and spread the blessings of technology to school children.

Gone are the ambitious hopes for health-care reform and major investments in the cities. Clinton's second term will be, at best, more of the same, and if he goes into the history books at all, it may be only as the third President in history whom his opponents have tried to impeach.

Clinton probably owes his reelection as much to Gingrich and his radical House freshmen as to anything he has promised the public or achieved in his first term.

Gingrich won power in 1995 promising a radical transformation of American political life but he began it by attacking the school lunch program and public broadcasting and then ran aground by shutting down the government in a fit of pique over the way Clinton treated him on Air Force One.

In addition, Gingrich's remark about letting the Health Care Financing Administration which runs Medicare "wither on the vine" energized senior citizens against the Republicans, clearly costing Dole the key state of Florida.

Gingrich's bumptiousness allowed the President to stand as the champion of common sense against the House barbarians. And Dole, as he haplessly sought issues of his own to challenge the President, never broke free of the Gingrich aura.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/08/1996
FIRST, WE GET RID OF ALL THE POLITICAL CONSULTANTS . . .

WASHINGTON Two days after the election, when even the most partisan Republicans and Democrats spoke of coming together to work for the common good, Bob Dole's adman, Alex Castellanos, dropped a little poison into the well.

"Bill Clinton is not fit to make Bob Dole's license plates," Castellanos said, "although he may soon be doing so."

Get it? Clinton belongs in prison, not the White House. Having lost the presidential election, the Republican political masterminds can now turn their attention to putting Clinton in jail.

What gives? Sen. Alfonse D'Amato is urging his colleagues to forget about continued congressional hearings into Whitewater. House Speaker Newt Gingrich sees grounds for compromise with the Clinton White House. Chastened Republicans who barely retained control of the House of Representatives can see room for agreement. Democrats are abandoning traditional liberal solutions at every opportunity.

But the campaign consultants to whom the politicians surrender their brains and souls every couple of years hate the very concept of cooperation.

Their $ 1.6 billion political industry is based on attack ads, sneering fund-raising letters, wedge issues like race and immigration that drive voters apart and finding strategies to differentiate their clients from their foes, mostly by smearing the other guy as soft on crime or an enemy of the elderly.

If the Republicans and Democrats actually get together to solve problems, how does a consultant mount the next House and Senate campaigns, starting just a year from now? How does a politician denounce his opponent as an extremist or hopelessly liberal if, motivated by the national interest and a sense of compromise, their voting records are largely the same?

There is big, big money at stake. This last presidential election cost $ 800 million, including all the independent expenditures. The House and Senate races cost an additional $ 800 million.

A percentage of every ad buy on TV, of every direct-mail solicitation, of every dinnertime phone call, every lawn sign, every banner remained in the hands of the campaign consultants.

In Dole's case, they did more damage than good. They took a widely admired mainstream Republican deficit hawk with a soft heart for the hungry and disabled and tried to mold him into the image of their cynically manipulated focus groups. Dole became the kind of supply-sider he once detested. In yielding to the consultants' advice to attack Clinton's character, Dole resurrected his single biggest weakness, his image as a hatchet man.

Dole lost. His consultants pocketed millions. But their prosperity depends on keeping the animosities alive to feed their fund-raising.

Castellanos' big regret, he told a seminar sponsored by the Hotline political wire service, is that he didn't do even more negative campaigning. He is especially worried by Clinton's move to the center, because if Democrats adopt moderate Republican positions, it becomes that much harder for Republicans to win elections.

This, of course, is the new name of the game: not governing the country, but winning elections. You can't govern if you don't win, but you can sure win even if you don't govern. Just hire a smart consultant although perhaps not the heavy-footed Castellanos.

When he made his wicked crack about Clinton making license plates, Clinton's political adviser Doug Sosnik snapped back, "If you want to know why Bob Dole lost, you just heard it."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/11/1996
POLS TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN

Washington Congressional Republicans are in a fix.

They certainly want to hold hearings on these outrageous Democratic campaignspending abuses.

However, the Republicans emphatically do not want to pass any laws that might actually crack down on campaign spending.

Such a conundrum. The hearings would certainly be juicy. The Democrats the party of the people have been stuffing their pockets so fast they have not been able to notice whether the checks from their fat cats are in English, Chinese or Babylonian cuneiform.

The problem, however, is once the Republicans have feasted on these delicious morsels at televised hearings, what do they actually do about the problem?

The answer is nothing. Republicans, as a party, are dead set against limits on campaign contributions. Sen. Mitch McConnell, newly reelected from Kentucky, spelled out the position when he led a filibuster against the leading campaign finance reform bill, sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), in June: "Make no mistake about it," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "This is a partisan issue. The Republican National Committee opposes this bill." To McConnell, campaign contributions are an exercise of free speech, and therefore the more the better.

President Clinton said Friday he would support a revised version of McCain-Feingold modified to outlaw contributions from foreign nationals in the new Congress. But the Senate Republican contingent next year will be even more conservative than it is now, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott opposes the McCain-Feingold bill.

In fact, it's almost impossible to put a lid on the obscenely expensive efforts to buy political influence. No campaign finance reform bill is likely to stop so-called independent expenditures, in which special-interest groups run ads against their opponents and not in favor of any candidate.

"The independent ads are a campaign consultant's dream," says former Republican adviser Ed Rollins. "Just give me the money, and no candidate, and let me beat up on somebody."

Nor would the McCain-Feingold bill prevent, say, publisher Rupert Murdoch from giving the California Republican Party $ 1 million one-tenth of all its revenues as he did this year. And it would not stop such in-kind contributions as the Unification Church's expenditure of $ 800 million, mostly raised in Japan and South Korea, to finance the Washington Times newspaper as an outlet for conservative ideas.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a co-sponsor of McCain-Feingold, says, "I am not optimistic that this new Republican Congress will be sympathetic to reform."

But Dodd says hearings even with no plans for legislation could be dangerous to the Republicans. "I would caution them to take a good look at the situation before they start pontificating," he said Friday. "Does anybody think this is going to be a free ride where they can just look at the Democrats?"

Dodd, who has had a miserable two weeks answering questions about the DNC fund-raising abuses, hopes that if the Republicans do hold hearings, they will create such broad enthusiasm for campaign reform that the Republicans will no longer be able to resist limits on contributions.

But for now, Dodd is off to seek contributions for his own reelection. He needs, he said, to raise $ 16,000 a week, every week, for the next two years just to be competitive, and he hates it.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/13/1996
NEWT BECOMES PAIN IN THE ASSETS FOR REPUBLICANS

WASHINGTON When Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) started fomenting his plot to sideline House Speaker Newt Gingrich the other day, he got some quiet support from House Republicans and a mischievous brainstorm from Queens Democrat Gary Ackerman.

"My thought was the Democrats should throw all of our votes to Pete King, and all he'd have to do is come up with 10 friends and we'd have the majority to make him speaker," Ackerman said yesterday. "King said his only problem was that he didn't have 10 friends."

Yes, with a little sense of fun, a little solidarity and a dozen or so Republican allies, the Democrats could dump Gingrich as speaker. Normally, they would vote straight party line for Dick Gephardt of Missouri in January, when the House chooses its speaker. And on a party line vote, Gephardt would lose. But if the Democrats backed King's rebellion against Gingrich, they could at least bench Newt.

"If the Republicans were to come up with a moderate or a reasonable conservative, we might be better served by voting for him," Ackerman said. "I'm half serious. Crazier schemes have happened."

King himself wants Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois to stand in for Gingrich, at least until the speaker resolves ethics charges against him. The most serious of them, filed in September, suggest he concealed evidence from the House ethics committee. Until Gingrich is cleared, King argues, he will be too weak to confront President Clinton on budget or ethics issues.

The rebellion began Sunday, with Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) agreeing that Gingrich should step aside. Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut said he would not vote for Gingrich as speaker before seeing the ethics report. And yesterday Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.) said she, too, was having second thoughts about supporting Gingrich before seeing the ethics report.

"I can think of no one better than Henry Hyde as speaker," Roukema said over the phone, though she appeared to doubt whether there would be a full-fledged rebellion against Gingrich. "I'm keeping my options open."

King said he believes more than 100 House Republicans feel the same way but are reluctant to say so in public. The test will come when the Republicans choose their leaders at a caucus next Wednesday in a secret ballot. If Hyde or some other candidate is nominated, Gingrich could have a fight on his hands.

"I'm getting an undercover response," King said yesterday. "I'm talking now about raising this in the conference. If I get 40 to 50 members, that's more than the speaker can handle."

One moderate Northeastern Republican says he is sticking with Gingrich because the likely alternative would be not the widely liked Hyde but the current majority leader, Dick Armey of Texas, who makes Gingrich look like a liberal.

And Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican moderate from Utica, says he detects no real groundswell against Gingrich. "I cannot in my own mind justify any call for him to step aside," Boehlert said. "You dance with the one who brings you. He brought us all into power."

Ackerman's wicked little scheme pre-supposes that Democrats really want to dump Gingrich. In the past election, Ackerman said, "Newt was our best friend. The guy walks around with a target on his back, and that helps us. He's the symbol of what we are not, and he reminds us of who we are."

This world is upside down. The Republicans are beginning to regard Newt as a liability and the Democrats see him as their best asset.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/15/1996
AMERICAN DREAM: HELP THE AFFLICTED GET OFF THE STREETS

WASHINGTON The woman was about 30, blond and a little overweight. Her face was bruised. She was swathed in layers of ragged clothing. In her right arm, she clutched a shopping bag full of rags. In her left arm, she desperately hugged a teddy bear. And she was crying quietly.

She was some parent's beloved daughter, some predator's easy victim, nobody's concern.

If President Clinton is looking for a worthy goal to accomplish in his second term, here's one: Rescue the homeless mentally ill.

It can be done. This is a problem that was created by government stupidity, and it can be solved by government intelligence.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a Washington psychiatrist, provides a five-year road map in "Out of the Shadows," a new book published by John Wiley and Sons. He traces three causes of this crisis that afflicts America and then how to solve it.

The first cause is government bureaucracy. The states discovered that they could shift millions of dollars in costs to the federal government by emptying their costly mental hospitals and dumping patients on the streets.

Once out of the hospitals, the patients would become a federal burden, eligible for Medicaid, Social Security disability payments, food stamps. So the mental hospitals were shut down. Some patients did fine. Others were simply shifted to different public "facilities": the parks, bus terminals, jails, libraries, museums, subway tunnels, hot-air grates.

Cops were forced to become street psychiatrists. Police chiefs invented a new phrase "mercy bookings" to describe arrests of the mentally ill just to protect them from the streets and get them a shower and a meal. And a handful of violent ex-patients stole the streets, parks, playgrounds and subways.

Deinstitutionalization was the cruelest of failures. It was worsened by civil liberties lawyers who argued that mental patients had to be free to live on the streets if they chose. No matter that the choice was insane. On top of this came a variety of ideologues, left and right, who dismissed the very notion of mental illness or who thought psychiatrists were part of a Communist plot.

Torrey's solutions: First, single-source funding and accountability, preferably at the state level, for treating the mentally ill. "If mentally ill homeless people are overrunning the local parks, everybody should know whom to call," he writes. "If the mentally ill are overflowing the local jails, everybody should know whom to call."

Second, compelling mental patients to take their medication as a condition for staying out of the hospitals. For the majority of patients, the medications do work. But many patients lack what Torrey calls "insight" into their diseases. They have no awareness that they are ill and see no need to take medicine.

Third, recognition that mental illness is an organic disease, not a freely chosen alternate lifestyle; not the result of poverty, racism and the injustices of the capitalist system; not a government plot like fluoridation of water and black helicopters.

Torrey's path does not require forcing the mentally ill back into hospitals. There are far more attractive, less restrictive, less costly settings clubhouses, self-help groups, guardianships.

But his solution does demand an end to the bureaucratic buck-passing by different levels of government and rejection of the civil-liberties theory that the mentally ill are walking down the streets, sobbing and clutching teddy bears, in a triumphant exercise of American freedom.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/18/1996
ANCIENT FEUDS ARE MODERN BURDENS FOR U.S. LEADERS

WASHINGTON Tall, aristocratic-looking Tutsis have ruled Rwanda, slaughtering and being slaughtered by the Hutus, for four centuries. Our boys will go in there and be out by Easter.

Bosnia's Christians and Muslims have been lusting for each other's blood since the 14th century. Our boys went in there last year and were supposed to be out by this Christmas. The new exit date is June 1998.

To anyone who signs up for the U.S. armed forces, this is likely to be the no-win future: sudden, repeated deployments to far-off tribal quarrels in which all sides are both villains and victims, and it is impossible to choose among them.

There will always be an unrealistically quick exit date. There will be no victories, only uneasy, impermanent truces. There will always be the risk of casualties and the inevitable question, "Was it worth a single American life?"

Hardest to grasp is the absence of good guys. In eastern Zaire, the Hutu refugees we intend to aid are refugees chiefly because many of them butchered their fellow Rwandans and had to flee when their victims gained the upper hand. We are supplying humanitarian aid to fugitive murderers as well as their innocent children.

In Bosnia, U.S. troops have had to disarm the Muslims we are protecting from the Christian Serbs. The Muslims were trying to retake their former villages by force. American forces intervened, and now the Bosnian state radio, which exists under U.S. protection, has suddenly become anti-American.

The promise that U.S. troops would be out of Bosnia in just a year was always a fiction. It should never have been made and yet the truth is that without this false promise, the U.S. public would have opposed the deployment and Bosnian genocide would still be continuing. As soon as we leave, it will resume again.

There are dozens of these age-old, impenetrable conflicts around the world, all capable of erupting into genocide and famine in living color on your TV screen: Kurdistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Haiti, Zaire.

There is a whole bookful of them, "The Fighting Never Stopped," by Patrick Brogan, which is a little encyclopedia of every regional, tribal and national conflict in the world and good guide to where your beloved son, daughter or spouse in the military might be sent next.

If America fails to intervene in these often heartrending catastrophes, the world says that its richest, most powerful nation stood by and was indifferent to genocide and starvation. Domestic critics will complain that we failed to exert international leadership and that our allies are once again confused and derisive.

But if a President, whether Clinton or a successor, does act, he will be instantly accused of sacrificing U.S. lives in quixotic crusades that have no relation to the national interest merely to prove his manhood.

And if a President picks and chooses the places to intervene, he will be faulted for not having a consistent, coherent foreign policy, and of merely responding to the pressures of the moment and the pictures on CNN.

For a President, these are the toughest decisions to make. There is no glory in them, no profit, no political reward, no thanks just the risk that you might have to explain to some soldier's parents exactly why he died in Kigali or Brcko. The only answer is, "Greater love hath no man."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/20/1996
A MOVE TO THE CENTER? DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH

WASHINGTON For his second term, President Clinton proposes moving toward the center, striving for traditional Republican goals like balancing the budget and shrinking the federal government. He even boasts of enacting agenda items from the Republican Contract With America.

How do the Republicans respond?

"He's a skillful opportunist," says Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Republican. "He has virtually no fixed reference points. I don't see any philosophical moorings in this President."

To Engler, Clinton is a slick campaigner who somehow bamboozled the American public into ignoring its own best interests and voting for him twice. Clinton's victory, he says, is "an aberration."

It's a familiar argument. Democrats used it to explain Ronald Reagan just a lucky guy with an uncanny ability to fool voters. This is a form of self-gratification that truly can lead to blindness.

Republicans have to face the fact that Clinton beat Bob Dole in two enormous mainstream constituencies women and Catholics.

For all the contrived female performances at the Republican convention, the GOP message is still that women's proper place is in the home. As Reagan's former Education Secretary Bill Bennett told the National Press Club on Monday, many mothers work not to keep their families fed or educated, but to save up for boats. I kid you not.

Perhaps even more dramatic than this gender gap is the Catholic gap. Clinton beat Dole 53% to 37% among Catholics in spite of a GOP agenda specifically targeted toward Catholics. Dole promised vouchers to pay for parochial school. He told Catholics that they would particularly benefit from his $ 500-per-child tax credit.

And Dole was aided in the final days of his campaign by the Catholic hierarchy and right-to-life commercials denouncing Clinton's veto of a ban on the so-called partial-birth abortion.

Nevertheless, Catholic voters helped Clinton carry the industrial Midwest Engler's Michigan and Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin all states whose Republican governors thought they could deliver for Dole. The Catholic vote is too big and too disparate for any single explanation. But Dole's attacks on unions and his catering to Protestant fundamentalists probably didn't help.

Since Clinton's victory, Republicans have been consoling themselves that their continued control of the House and two-seat gain in the Senate are far more meaningful.

The victories are real, but not overwhelming. The GOP owes its dominance more to geography than to popular support. In gross numbers, Americans split evenly 50% to 50% in voting for representatives. The six-seat Republican edge in the Senate masks a knife-edge 51% to 49% split of voters who preferred Republicans. This is hardly a national conservative mandate to shrug off the President's reelection as an accident.

With the country this evenly balanced, a centrist coalition could hold sway pressing for campaign finance reform, policing some of the abuses out of Medicare and Medicaid, setting tough national goals for elementary and secondary education. Or each side can dismiss the other as a temporary accident, pray for the impeachment of Clinton and the conviction of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, do nothing and try to win a more decisive edge in two years.

The first path might serve the national good, but the second would really help raise campaign contributions. You cannot imagine what a tough decision this is for a politician.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/22/1996
A CONSERVATIVE GETS LIBERAL DOSE OF MEDICAL REALITY

WASHINGTON Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross discovered dark spots on her skin not long ago and hied off to the doctor. Everything was normal, but the doctor wanted to run a biopsy a cancer screen on a mole on McCaughey Ross' foot.

"You're lucky," the doctor told her. "Your insurer will cover the test. Some won't pay for a biopsy if it comes back negative."

McCaughey Ross was horrified. Insurance companies, she discovered, were telling doctors and patients to play roulette with their lives. Refusal to reimburse for negative tests, she said, "sends a message to doctors and patients not to practice lifesaving preventive care."

So now she crusades against tight-fisted health maintenance organizations and insurance companies that want to put profits ahead of people's lives.

She warns about insurers and doctors who withhold care just to make a buck. She fights for legislation to guarantee that women won't be sent straight home after mastectomies.

Just as a conservative was once defined as a liberal who has been mugged, we can now formulate a new definition of a liberal: a conservative who has run up against the for-profit health system.

The giant killer

McCaughey Ross, you will recall, leaped to prominence as the author of a 1994 article demolishing President Clinton's ponderous health care proposal.

Many of her accusations proved to be off-base. Patients who sought private care or doctors who practiced privately would not have gone to jail under Clinton's plan. Americans would have been encouraged to join HMOs, but they could not have been forced into them, as she suggested.

Nevertheless, her critique was seized upon as the definitive analysis of the Clinton plan, which thereupon died. There were no survivors, and there is no successor in sight that would extend affordable health care to all Americans.

The result? McCaughey Ross points out that today 41 million Americans are without insurance, 85% of them working people. Millions of others who have insurance are at the mercy of doctors and insurers with hidden financial incentives not to treat them.

No, McCaughey Ross is not quite a liberal yet. She still thinks health coverage can be provided by a combination of private-sector initiatives: insurance pools for small business, health maintenance organizations and medical savings accounts.

Many of the existing financial abuses, she predicts, would be resolved merely by exposing them to light.

She wants insurance companies to disclose all their financial tricks for making profits by withholding treatment and tests from their clients.

She insists she remains opposed to government regulation, but she warns the health care industry that unless it cleans up its act, it will invite the same kind of government regulation that now covers public utilities.

"I believe in profits, but not at the expense of people's lives," she said after an impassioned speech to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies here. "When the insurers are making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and paying themselves obscenely large salaries, it's fair to ask if they are insisting on these early mastectomy discharges to pay for their very large salaries."

In her new crusade, she is up against two realities: All the profits in the vast and vastly profitable health insurance system come from giving as little care as possible, denying as many claims as possible and discharging hospital patients as early as possible.

And it was a lot easier to stop Clinton's health plan than to set up a better one.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/25/1996
DEMS WILL MISS BOB DORNAN, THE GOP'S JESTER

WASHINGTON No more Bob Dornan? This cannot be. His defeat is a loss for liberals everywhere. Attacking B-1 Bob, the mad California Republican representative, was like shooting fish in a barrel, and now someone has stolen our fish.

He lost to Loretta Sanchez, a Democratic upstart in a Southern California district that now has a Hispanic majority.

He will be missed. Dornan was always good for a couple of bowls of popcorn with his late-night rants on C-Span about lesbians, homosexuals, Communists, adulterous, draft-dodging Bill Clinton and Hanoi Jane Fonda. He was a cartoon character, a Yosemite Sam with a voting card, a throwback to a bygone era when senators and representatives were red-faced guys in too-tight collars with veins and eyes that bulged as they pounded on tables and downed their bourbon.

The new breed is increasingly an indistinguishable crew of colorless yuppie lawyers who drink soda water and never say anything that might cost them a campaign contribution.

The excitement of Dornan was that he was always on the outer fringes of self-control. He might say anything at any time. He once denounced his opponents as "lesbian spearchuckers," and he once described himself as "just another mick from New York City."

He said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) cared more about Israel's defenses than America's. When Frank accused him of anti-Semitism, Dornan said that he thought Frank was Italian.

He was the self-appointed papal whip in the House of Representatives, telling other Catholics how the Pope would want them to vote.

He could be a blowhard and a bully. He once seized former Rep. Tom Downey (D-L.I.) by the tie and manhandled him after first calling him a "draft-dodging wimp." And he came close to getting into a fistfight on the House floor with Rep. Bill Hefner (D-N.C.) after calling Clinton a "draft-dodging, womanizing son of a bitch."

News of his defeat caused mixed emotions on Capitol Hill. "It's like learning that they canceled 'News of the Weird,' " mused Dan Buck, an aide to Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.).

And some Republicans were privately relieved to see him go. During a Dornan tirade last September, a conservative GOP senator grumbled, "It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the Democrats recaptured the House."

For liberals, Dornan served a useful purpose on Capitol Hill. He made his agenda gay-bashing, Clinton-hating, opposing abortion and immigrants appear to be the concerns of the lunatic fringe. "Fortunately," said former Rep. Dennis Eckart (D-Ohio), "he's a reverse E.F. Hutton. When he talks, no one listens."

Yes, he was a blowhard, but even blowhards deserve representation in Congress. There are certainly enough of them out there.

But Dornan was by no means the meanest or most dangerous right-winger on Capitol Hill. For one, he has a sense of humor about himself that defuses some of his hatemongering. Second, there are other congressmen who share his agenda and some of his more vicious opinions but are slicker, more presentable advocates.

When Dornan fulminated on the House floor it was pure entertainment and generally harmless. Apart from his name-calling, Dornan didn't do much damage. But his more polished colleagues Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.), GOP Whip Tom DeLay (Tex.) know how to take Dornan's agenda and Dornan's witch hunts and turn them into laws.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/27/1996
GOP PROBERS ARE OBSESSED BY ANTI-BILL BIAS

WASHINGTON If anyone needs evidence of bad faith in the continuing Republican investigations of President and Mrs. Clinton, just take a look at Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, the incoming chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee.

Burton's choice for his lead investigator? No, not one of the thousands of nonpartisan professionals available in the U.S. government. Instead, he hired David Bossie, co-author of the book "Slick Willie: Why Americans Can't Trust Bill Clinton." This hardly bodes a dispassionate search for the truth.

Bossie comes out of Citizens United, the anti-Clinton activist group run by Floyd Brown, who produced the Willie Horton commercial in 1988. He has made his living in recent years by peddling Arkansas gossip about the Clintons to various news organizations. Whitewater, cocaine smuggling, skirt-chasing virtually every scurrilous rumor you have ever heard about Clinton has Bossie's hands on it.

Nervous Republicans have demanded assurances from Burton that he won't run a televised circus that might embarrass them when he resumes hearings next year on Whitewater, the FBI files, the travel office firings and perhaps the death of Vincent Foster.

Burton pledged fair play and statesmanlike conduct but then his man Bossie got bagged over the weekend for pulling a fast one on Burton's fellow Republicans. Bossie obtained confidential Commerce Department phone logs from the House International Relations Committee, saying he needed them for an official investigation of John Huang, the Democrats' fast-buck fund-raiser. Then he leaked the logs to the press.

"I was not happy about that," says Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), a member of Burton's committee. "Neither was Dan." Democrats stood aside as Republicans denounced Bossie's leaks. Burton reprimanded Bossie but didn't fire him for the cardinal sin of misrepresenting himself and his intentions to his Republican colleagues.

Another leak also points toward Bossie. The Government Oversight Committee subpoenaed George Stephanopoulos' private copy of FBI agent Gary Aldrich's zany tattle-tale book about the Clintons. In the margins, Stephanopoulos had written little rebuttals.

This, too, was promptly leaked to the press with the spin that because Stephanopoulos rebutted some of Aldrich's wilder assertions but not others, the unchallenged statements must be true.

"That's their modus operandi," says White House lawyer Jane Sherburne. "Everything we give them, they take it and leak it in the most irresponsible and inflammatory way. George bought his copy of the book to work up our responses to Aldrich's claims. Why is it legitimate to investigate our reaction to Aldrich's book? And why is it appropriate to leak it to the press?"

Coming from people who protest the White House misuse of FBI files, this is hypocrisy indeed: House Republicans obtain confidential information under the pretense of an official investigation and then selectively leak it in hopes of scoring political points.

For the Republicans, this is just self-destructive. Clinton has moved so far to the center that many Republicans even Speaker Newt Gingrich are eager to work with him on reforming welfare, balancing the budget, rescuing Medicare and Social Security and cutting taxes. They have a Democratic President carrying out a moderate Republican agenda, and they still want to destroy him. That's not government that's an obsession.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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11/29/1996
SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZATION IS A FOOLISH SCHEME

WASHINGTON If you get in and out early enough, you can make a fortune in almost any wacky fast-buck scheme: chain letters, tulip bulbs, collecting cans of Billy Beer even privatizing Social Security.

Your success depends on the theory of the greater fool: Foolish though you were to make your initial investment, you can always find a greater fool to sell it to. He's the one who gets stuck unless, of course, you can't find a greater fool.

Social Security privatization is the fast-buck scheme of the moment, and it sounds truly wonderful. These things always do.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) has a plan that would take all workers under 30 out of the current Social Security structure and require them to invest 6.2% of their income in private retirement accounts. In theory, investing in the stock market or mutual funds would earn far bigger pensions than the modest Social Security benefits they can expect at age 65 or so.

But if you take these young workers' contributions out of the system right now, how do you pay current retirement benefits to those already in the system? To this, Shays has a prompt answer: Uhhhhh . . . you would pay current retirement benefits out of taxes and cut government spending somewhere else.

This is theoretically possible, except that Shays also wants to balance the federal budget. To do so, he and his fellow Republicans want to continue borrowing the "surplus" from current Social Security taxes. But if you start privatizing Social Security, there will be no surplus. On the contrary, the government would have to raise income taxes or run deficits to maintain existing Social Security benefits.

There is no way to privatize let millions of people out of what is in fact a pay-as-you-go retirement system without sticking somebody with the bill. On the bright side, privatizing Social Security will be a huge and sure-fire money-maker for stockbrokers, which accounts for much of their enthusiasm for this idea.

A more modest privatization scheme, advocated by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and others, would invest part of the Social Security trust fund in private stocks instead of wholly in Treasury bonds.

This is safer and maybe even advisable, but it, too, has its risks. With the Dow Jones averages soaring above 6,000, average stock yields the amount actually earned by the underlying investments average a mere 2.5%. Hot stocks, like Netscape Communications, are trading at more than 300 times their annual earnings. As long as stock prices rise, everybody makes money. But it doesn't take much for the bubble to burst.

"You can't count on these price-to-earnings ratios rising indefinitely," says Dean Baker, an analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. "I don't know what the right ratio is, but it's not going to remain at 30 to 1" i.e., a price that requires an investor to pay $ 30 for every $ 1 in company profits.

The reason? There aren't enough fools out there to keep bidding stock prices ever higher regardless of their profits. The folks who push these schemes are smart enough to get out early, before they collapse.

The Social Security system is surely headed for trouble, but with modest adjustments it can be preserved as a guaranteed minimum income for the elderly and disabled. No, it's not going to make everyone or anyone a millionaire, and it's not a substitute for a well-invested private pension. But that's no reason to destroy it.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/04/1996
INDICT HILLARY? THERE'S NO WAY THAT WILL HAPPEN

WASHINGTON A bit of Christmas cheer for all you Clinton haters: The good news is that Hillary Rodham Clinton gets convicted. The bad news: She gets sentenced to community service.

Now, shall we get real? Despite the wishful thinking of bright-eyed young conservatives everywhere, Hillary is not going to be convicted of anything. Therefore, she will not be indicted, either.

Why? Because the stakes for independent counsel Kenneth Starr and his Republican Party are too high and Starr is smart enough to realize it. This is an all-or-nothing gamble. To indict the First Lady, to bring her to trial and then lose the case against her, would be a catastrophe for a political party that is already suffering major defections among female voters.

It also would doom Starr's personal political ambitions. He would go into the history books as the man who tried to put a First Lady in jail and failed. He wouldn't be able to run for dogcatcher.

Starr may suspect that the First Lady concealed Rose Law Firm billing records or that her story about the travel office firings contradicts the testimony of others. But to win a case, he must convince a jury of 12 ordinary Americans not Wall Street Journal editorial writers and not College Republicans that Hillary is a crook.

Technically, he might be able to mount a prosecution but in this instance, technically is not good enough. "It would have to be an overwhelming case," says former independent counsel Joseph DiGenova, a Republican. "Starr's not going to bring an indictment unless there is damning evidence testimony against her from somebody like [former White House counsel] Bernard Nussbaum or [Clinton intimate] Bruce Lindsey. I just don't see that happening." Otherwise, Starr risks the embarrassment of an O.J. verdict a prolonged, highly public trial after which the jury takes a minute and a half to decide, "Not guilty."

Starr's record so far is not all that successful. His biggest catch, former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, was convicted and forced to resign but was sentenced to only four years probation. According to jurors in the case, Tucker was headed for an acquittal until his accomplice, the flaky James McDougal, insisted on taking the witness stand.

Starr was then unable to convict Arkansas bankers Herby Branscum and Robert Hill, a defeat that scotched his plans to indict Lindsey as well. A jury looked at the case and decided it could not agree that any crimes were committed.

If Starr puts the First Lady on trial, she can, for the first time, defend herself. She would no longer have to respond to all the leaks and speculation with a cheerful smile. Her attorneys from the scorched-earth Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly can attack Starr's integrity and the closed-door political maneuvering that led to his appointment.

Starr has never been a prosecutor before and may not know what it takes to win a criminal conviction. Even professional prosecutors can guess wrong. The Justice Department investigated former travel office Director Billy Dale for 30 months, tried him for three weeks and then saw the jury vote an acquittal in two hours. Dale was an instant martyr.

Rather than risk a similar disaster, the far safer path for Starr is to write a long report denouncing the Clintons, their aides, their partners and their friends for generally sleazy conduct and then quietly walk away. No, it's not a lot of result for three years and $ 24 million, but it's the most he can realistically hope for.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/06/1996
KNIFE THAT SLASHES COST OF LIVING MAY NICK MANY ELDERLY

WASHINGTON If you listen to the economists who want to cut back on the cost-of-living index, growing old is a pretty good financial deal.

Three-fourths of people in their 70s and 80s own their own homes and have seen windfall gains from the rise in housing prices over the past couple of decades, says Prof. Robert Gordon of Northwestern University. They should not get cost-of-living increases for a rise in the value of an asset they already own.

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that the elderly have to spend much of their income on health care, Prof. Zvi Griliches of Harvard observes that people are living longer and health care is improving. "It may be an increase in the price of dying. It's not an increase in the cost of living," he says.

And Prof. Michael Boskin of Stanford disagrees with the notion that the elderly suffer more than the rest of the population from inflation. They benefit from, say, cars that need fewer repairs. They can shop at discount outlets when prices rise in their local markets, and they can substitute cheaper goods chicken for beef, he said when the price of beef rises too high. With arguments like these, the Senate-appointed Boskin Commission reported this week that the current Consumer Price Index the basis for the annual cost-of-living adjustments in federal pensions and tax brackets overstates inflation. The error is 1.1 percentage point, meaning that if the CPI goes up 3%, the actual cost of living has risen only 1.9%. Retirees who get a 3% increase receive a windfall.

Icing the COLA

Boskin recommended the creation of a new, more accurate cost-of-living index that would not give retirees compensation for price rises they don't actually experience.

Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.), one of the nation's most enthusiastic defenders of the Social Security system, agrees. A more accurate COLA, he says, would be at most a modest burden perhaps $ 8 a month on retirees.

Over 12 years, the potential budget gain from a cost-of-living adjustment, he said, would be a whopping $ 1 trillion. A revised COLA would put Social Security on a sound financial basis for the next 75 years which, Moynihan notes privately, would take the steam out of the Wall Street campaign to privatize the system on the premise that it is growing broke.

But does the current COLA really give retirees a windfall? In some cases, certainly. Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill got an extra $ 1,000 a year when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, sending energy prices soaring. That spurred a hike in the cost of living and added 1 percentage point to O'Neill's pension.

But in other cases, cutting the COLAs will work hardship. Inner-city elderly are often captive to their local bodegas and convenience stores; they can't always jump in their cars and drive to suburban discount stores in search of the lowest price. The current COLA doesn't count such added costs as growing too frail to mow your own lawn. And even if health-care prices don't go up, as people grow older they tend to spend more of their income on doctors and medicine. That is surely an added financial burden.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of this proposal. Nobody wants to see wealthy retirees get extra, unneeded benefits extracted from taxes on hard-pressed young workers.

But, equally, a one-size-fits-all COLA reduction may unfairly penalize the poorest elderly, especially those living in expensive cities.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on this explosive subject early next year. But I suspect the fix is already in. Republicans and Democrats are eager for an easy, relatively painless $ 1 trillion for the federal budget. Their hearings are more likely to be a search for political cover than for the truth.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/09/1996
HEADING THE CIA IS REAL MISSION - IMPROBABLE

WASHINGTON As soon as scholarly, gentlemanly Tony Lake was named director of central intelligence, sad but knowing smiles appeared all across Washington: Another lamb is being led to slaughter. The CIA will eat him alive.

The day before Lake got his appointment, former CIA Director Robert Gates offered a glimpse of what's in store at Spook Central.

Gates told the Senate Intelligence Committee that his subordinates never bothered to tell him they had identified Aldrich Ames as a likely Soviet mole in 1992, fully two years before he was arrested. Nor did the operations directorate let him know that the KGB had rolled up 40 CIA covert operations inside the Soviet Union. Gates thought it was only five.

"That's absolutely egregious and horrible," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) exclaimed.

Especially when you remember that Gates was no outsider appointed by a suspect Democratic President. He was a CIA lifer, a Cold Warrior and a protege of the cloak-and-dagger man's best friend, Bill Casey. No matter, they lied to him anyway.

Gates was replaced at the CIA by James Woolsey, who instantly became the agency's staunchest defender. With the end of the Cold War, Woolsey claimed, the CIA needed even bigger budgets. He fought his heart out for the CIA. No matter; his underlings lied to him, too. Woolsey claims he was never told the true status of the Ames case and should not be blamed for things he never knew about while he led the CIA.

Lake thus takes over an agency that sometimes seems beyond the control of democratic government. It deceives its own leaders, even friendly ones. It hid the involvement of one of its agents in the murder of a U.S. citizen in Guatemala and stripped the security clearance of State Department official Richard Nuccio for the sin of informing Congress.

In 1994, it built itself a $ 300 million building that was not to be found in any budget, not even the secret ones. Last September, a $ 4 billion slush fund was found in the CIA's satellite office also unknown to Congress.

Anyone who tries to change this culture finds himself up against skilled secret operatives trained in deceit. Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner, the tough Navy admiral who tried to reform the undercover operations branch, complains in an interview: "They became the best source of disinformation about me. They felt they could hound me out of the place."

Lake's task, as Turner sees it, is to challenge the value of the Operations Directorate, the spying branch, and that could incur the same hostility.

"Somebody needs to ask what have we achieved over 35 years from human intelligence," Turner said. "A lot of it has been spy wars [the self-contained battle of spy vs. counter-spy], and that hasn't helped the country very much."

Perhaps hardest of all, Lake has to liberate the creativity and initiative of his talented agents and analysts at the same time that he insures that they obey the law, report all covert actions to Congress and spend no money that has not been duly appropriated.

Lake is tougher than he looks. As a young State Department officer, he served in the boondocks of Vietnam when a lot of his CIA counterparts were sitting in Saigon, bribing Vietnamese colonels.

If the CIA wants to fight him, it knows how. "You won't know who did it," says Sen. Daniel Moynihan, a former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "They can be very hard on people in the most extraordinarily complex ways."

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/11/1996
BRITISH MEDDLING COULD BE A SECRET DISSERVICE TO U.S.

WASHINGTON Her Britannic Majesty's Government wouldn't pull a cheap stunt like running a propaganda operation against the United States, would it?

For one thing, it would violate a long-standing agreement that the intelligence services of the two countries do not run operations against each other. For another, it would be disgraceful, cowardly and wrong.

Nevertheless, the Clinton administration has privately questioned the British government on whether MI5, the British security service, deliberately smeared Martha Pope, a member of the U.S. Commission for Northern Ireland.

Two British newspapers, the Mail on Sunday and Sunday World, credited MI5 10 days ago in reporting that Pope, an aide to former Sen. George Mitchell, had a love affair with former Irish terrorist Gerard Kelly.

Pope merely threatened a libel suit she has never even met Kelly and both papers immediately backed down and paid her close to $ 400,000 in damages.

Protestants in Northern Ireland, who trumpeted the false MI5 reports, failed in their effort to torpedo Mitchell's mission to revive peace talks between the British government and Irish nationalists. But in the process, the British government got what it wanted: renewed assurances from the U.S. that there had been no clandestine contact between Mitchell's team and the nationalist Sinn Fein.

The incident is officially closed but it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of top Clinton administration officials. Mitchell is the President's personal envoy for Northern Ireland. MI5 has no business spreading tales about his team. "Plus, if they run an operation on him, that's a violation of the tradecraft agreement [against spying on each other]," says a senior White House official.

Because of the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain, there has been no formal U.S. diplomatic protest over the incident. But there has been an inquiry. "Call it a friendly dialogue with a friendly nation," a U.S. official said. "Although I'm not sure that it has been all that friendly. The tone was, 'What gives?' "

Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) wants the U.S. to hit Britain harder. "If MI5 did undertake a dirty-tricks operation in this case, then our closest ally is guilty of an attack on the office of the President of the United States and directly interfering with the policies of the United States," he wrote to Secretary of State Christopher on Monday. "If MI5 was involved, the British government owes the American government a direct apology."

Would MI5 really smear a friendly U.S. diplomat? In the 1970s, it smeared its own prime minister, Harold Wilson, by spreading rumors that he was not only a KGB agent but having a love affair with his secretary. In 1992, the Tory government of Prime Minister John Major obligingly went through MI5 files at the request of the George Bush campaign, seeking dirt on a young American named Bill Clinton who had studied at Oxford.

Her Britannic Majesty's Government is insisting that the Martha Pope story is nothing more than fabrication by those naughty British tabloids. But the more respectable and clued-in Daily Telegraph also reported that MI5 was involved.

And while we're on the subject of British intelligence, White House officials are wondering exactly how British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind learned that Madeleine Albright would be the new secretary of state before he was supposed to know it. All in all, not very clever, Mr. Bond. In fact, rather tawdry.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/13/1996
WORKERS LOSING WHITE HOUSE ALLY AS REICH QUITS

WASHINGTON President Clinton sees the big task of his second term as balancing the federal budget. His departing labor secretary, Robert Reich, sees a far greater challenge: closing the widening gap between rich and poor.

It's not the extreme wealth enjoyed by a handful of folks at the top of the system that's the problem. On the contrary, the obscenely wealthy are an inspiration to us all.

Reich's worry and the only legitimate government concern about inequality is that the poorest among us, those without education and job skills, are falling farther and farther behind. When politicians look for places to make budget cuts, low-income working people have the weakest voices to protect their interests.

"Balancing the budget is only a means to an end," Reich says. "It's little comfort if the country were to balance the budget by sacrificing working people's chances to get ahead or destroying the opportunities for those who want to work."

Problem: Bob Reich is leaving the Clinton cabinet. With his departure, the administration will lose one of the most effective advocates working Americans have ever had.

In a White House whose principles sometimes seem to be determined by pollsters, Reich was a consistent Pole Star.

He was the defender of those who get up and go to work but make no campaign contributions and employ no lobbyists.

He fought off the Democratic neo-liberals who opposed increasing the minimum wage. He ignored the go-go free-marketeers who think global competition requires America to tolerate sweatshops. He tried to rein in employers who abuse immigration laws to import cheap labor. He stood up to corporate executives who think they have a right to tap employe pension funds.

Subjective inflation

Reich also preserved what he called an "iron wall" to protect the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is coming under pressure to cut back its estimates of inflation and thereby reduce cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.

A sample Reichian insight: "It's the consensus that the Consumer Price Index overstates inflation but nobody knows by how much. Much of this is subjective.

"If you're poor and spending most of your income on clothing and housing, you're probably not benefiting much from the lower cost of computers. If your neighborhood is deteriorating, you may be spending more on locks or replacing the windshield of your car."

Therefore, we have to think long and hard about living standards and quality of life before we let a group of economists devise a formula that might blindly cut pensions to the poorest of our elderly.

Clinton said yesterday he had no intention of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. But the reality of the last two years of congressional budget cutting is different. The vast majority of cuts in entitlements have been made in programs for the poor, reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, corporate welfare one of Reich's targets has remained relatively intact.

At one time, Reich's fight to protect working Americans might have been dismissed as classic Democratic bleeding-heart concern for life's losers. But in recent years, a rash of corporate lay-offs most dramatically the cutbacks by AT&T has persuaded millions of Americans that they, too, might need the government to defend them from the arbitrary cruelties of the marketplace.

Reich is leaving for personal reasons. Whoever replaces him whether former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford or (more likely) White House aide Alexis Herman or some third candidate has huge shoes to fill.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/16/1996
LITTLE GUYS COUNTER CIA'S OUTDATED INTELLIGENCE WAYS

WASHINGTON Two huge threats are looming before the U.S. intelligence community as national security adviser Anthony Lake prepares to become director of central intelligence.

The first is a Marine reserve sergeant out in San Diego. Armed with a personal computer and a network of contacts around the world, Eric Nelson (no kin to me) has developed an E-mail system that consistently beats the Defense Intelligence Agency's reporting on terrorism, chemical and biological warfare, political profiles, background on hot spots, nuclear weapons, international crime and political analysis.

"He really covers the ground," says Marine Col. G. I. Wilson at the Pentagon. "And best of all, he is quick. His secret is that he only uses open [i.e., unclassified] sources. He has been immensely successful. All the armed services use him."

Nelson's threat to the $ 30 billion intelligence community? His operating cost is about $ 20 a month. He pays it out of his own pocket.

The second threat is Robert Steele, a retired Marine and CIA intelligence officer who beat the CIA in a head-to-head competition devised by retired Air Force Gen. Lew Allen.

On a Thursday afternoon in 1995, Allen asked the CIA and Steele to come up with a complete intelligence report on Burundi by 10 a.m. Monday. CIA could use all its spies, satellites and communications intercepts; Steele could use only open sources.

"We wiped out the intelligence community," Steele says. "By Monday, they had little more than the CIA Fact Book, which tells you Burundi exists. My network, using [commercial information services] Lexis-Nexis, Jane's, Oxford Analytica and some others, came up with the names of 10 top scholars available for debriefing, maps showing areas of tribal influence and the tribal order of battle, the most recent political and economic analysis, 100% coverage by satellite imagery and a list of all Soviet topographical maps that could be digitalized for air operations."

Allen's memory is that Steele's victory over CIA was not quite that dramatic, but he agrees: It is astonishing how much vital intelligence information is now instantly available from open sources.

Steele's threat to the intelligence community: He believes he can shave $ 10 billion a year off the current intelligence budget by relying far more on open sources. "The CIA only spends 1% of its budget on open-source collection, and that already produces 40% of its usable product," he says.

Traditional CIA secret intelligence is often counter-productive. To protect its sources and methods, CIA often can't reveal key information especially to law enforcement. Its analysts are not allowed to mingle as freely as they could with the business and academic communities.

Meanwhile, the President and other intelligence "consumers" are flooded with information from open-source CNN and print journalism that often gives them all they need to know long before the secret sources can deliver.

If the consumers could tap into Sgt. Nelson's "listserv" or Steele's Open Source Systems, they might start wondering whether they really need a $ 30 billion intelligence community with all its satellites, spies and station chiefs.

But the point here is not the budget savings. It is how to get the best, fastest and most usable intelligence without needlessly tangling our feet in expensive cloaks and stumbling on our costly daggers. Perhaps Steele says it best: In this age of the Internet, there's no need to send spies where a school boy could go. Naturally, this worries the spies.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/18/1996
SOME STRANGE GUNFELLAS

With so many bad guys carrying up-to-date, high-powered automatic pistols these days, cops demand them, too.

It's a terrible feeling to be outgunned by the outlaws. And where do the bad guys get their guns?

Try the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Officers in its law enforcement unit, who carry guns chiefly to destroy animals in distress, have been caught selling nearly 700 police weapons on the private market often to unlicensed purchasers.

Here's the racket uncovered by State Inspector General Roslynn Mauskopf. In 1990, the conservation police upgraded their weapons from .357 magnum revolvers to Glock 9-mm. semi-automatics. Instead of trading in their service revolvers, many officers bought them at cut-rate prices and then sold them.

Then just three years later, the conservation police again upgraded their weapons, this time from the 9-mm. Glocks to the slightly more powerful .40-caliber model. Why? Nobody is quite sure. The 9s were surely capable of bumping off mad raccoons and crippled deer.

But Glock, known for its aggressive marketing tactics, was offering a great deal: a straight gun-for-gun trade, new Glocks for old. Glock wants to dominate the law enforcement market and, in effect, was offering its guns for a net price of zero.

How could Glock make any money out of such a transaction? Thanks to the Brady Law, the old Glocks suddenly had increased value. They were built before the new gun-control legislation banned magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets and were protected by a grandfather clause.

"Each gun came with three 15-shot magazines, and with the Brady bill, the high-capacity magazines went up in price from $ 20 to about $ 100," Mauskopf says.

"Glock has been going through the land, buying up old Glock 9s," says a representative of a rival manufacturer. "The word on the street is that there is a profit in selling the grandfathered weapons."

But in this case, Glock and its distributor were squeezed out. The officers were allowed to buy their old guns with three magazines a $ 600 value for a mere $ 256, with no sales tax. They bought all 325 guns that had been issued to them and then started to sell them privately.

"Their actions turned the Department of Environmental Conservation into a veritable weapons supermarket," Mauskopf's report says. "Hundreds of police guns were put back on the streets of New York, many of which ended up in the hands of private citizens who were not licensed or authorized to possess them."

The Austrian-made Glock 9, which has a quirky, unpredictable trigger, is a deadly weapon. Even in the hands of trained police officers it is known for unintentional discharges.

"The attitude at the Department of Environmental Conservation is that they were new toys," Mauskopf says.

The state can find no evidence of wrongdoing by Glock, although some officials question its aggressive sales techniques and the motives behind a cozy deal that supposedly provides new guns free.

The state has suspended George Firth, head of the law enforcement unit, who pushed the two gun upgrades and allowed his officers to buy the old guns. In the future, old state weapons will be melted down, rather than sold.

As for the individual conservation cops, they pocketed a profit Mauskopf estimates at up to $ 62,000. Plus, they now enjoy the confidence that comes with packing high-powered Glock .40s to help them preserve peace, life and public sanitation as they confront the animal kingdom in all its wrath.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/20/1996
BY WALKING OUT, NEWT'S LAWYER IS CRYING 'FIRE'

WASHINGTON When a lawyer dumps a client in the middle of a case, it tends to send a strong message: Not only is my client a crook (which is no reason to dump him), but he is a lying crook who wants me to help him commit his crimes.

Defense lawyer Jan Baran has just sent this message about House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Baran says he can no longer represent Gingrich in his case before the House ethics committee.

This is the most serious accusation Gingrich has faced yet: Even his own lawyer doesn't trust him.

There is no other way to read Baran's resignation. The American Bar Association provides three broad reasons that allow a lawyer to drop a client:

The client has not paid the lawyer.

The lawyer is mentally or physically incapable of continuing.

The client "persists in a course of action involving the lawyer's services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent" or "has used the lawyer's services to perpetrate a crime or fraud."

Gingrich isn't broke. Baran isn't sick. We are left with Reason Three.

Gingrich allies now admit that the speaker misled the ethics committee about his complex mixture of political fund-raising and tax-exempt organizations. This is confession to the clearest charge against Gingrich: that he failed to provide full, accurate and reliable information to his own colleagues.

There is talk on Capital Hill that the ethics committee in fact drafted such an "indictment" of Gingrich last Friday, accusing him of submitting inaccurate information. But Georgia Republican John Linder, a Gingrich intimate, blamed Baran for preparing the false documents.

Baran will not carry that can. "I wish to make clear that my firm did not submit any material information to the ethics committee without Mr. Gingrich's prior review and approval," he told The Associated Press. "I strongly believe that is the committee's view as well."

Baran's parting shot comes close to what the legal community calls a "noisy withdrawal," which lawyers can make only in the most blatant cases of misconduct by a client. Normally, when a lawyer drops a crooked client, he is supposed to say nothing that would hurt the defendant's interests.

No matter how Gingrich tries to spin this, Congress has enough members who are lawyers to understand Baran's message. Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who thinks the ethics complaints against Gingrich are mostly trumped up by Democratic liberals, finds Baran's withdrawal "troubling."

"He's taking some shots at Newt as he leaves," King said yesterday. "That to me raises some real questions. Newt owes the Congress and certainly the Republican conference some kind of statement between now and Jan. 7 (the date the House is scheduled to reelect him as speaker)."

If the ethics committee in fact approved a complaint against Gingrich last Friday, Gingrich has 30 days to respond. That means the House Republicans might be forced to vote for him before they learn whether the ethics committee believes he is guilty.

Republicans who might want to defend Gingrich to the last ditch are now in a box. Baran defended the speaker eloquently and energetically for two years, and in the end, Gingrich tried to pin the blame on him. To protect his own integrity and his own professional reputation, Baran had to abandon the speaker. That message won't be lost on the House.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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12/23/1996
TRADE LESSONS U.S.ONCE TAUGHT NOW HAUNT US

WHEN storms struck the North Atlantic a century and a half ago, prudent sea captains of all nations had but one choice: haul in sail, snuggle down inside oilskin garments and wait out the raging winds and waters.

As they sat shivering and rocking on the waves, helpless under bare masts and battened hatches, the captains would have seen, racing recklessly out of the mists and slicing through the whitecaps, a tall three-master flying every stitch of canvas it had mainsails, topsails, topgallants and royals, white as clouds and stiff with rain and wind.

No need for the prudent captain to spy out the mad ship's colors as she flew past. The world knew her for a Yankee, sir! a New York sailing packet, built perhaps by one of the original New York Jankes, the Dutchmen on South St. with names like Roosevelt, Westervelt and Christian Bergh. None but a Yankee sailed on through Atlantic storms; none but Yankee ships and skippers dared hold to that startling new concept, a schedule.

Britannia thought it ruled the waves in those long-gone years. New York knew better. When the New York-built clipper Oriental first glided into the West India docks in 1850 after a record-smashing voyage from China, half the city of London crowded along the Thames to gawk at its lofty masts, blink at its dazzling brasswork and sniff the delicious scent of the season's first teas.

But tea is just part of our story. It had occurred to a New York merchant, N.G. Carnes, that the factories of China were great imitators. In 1835, Carnes sent the sailing packet Howard to France, where it loaded up on every pharmaceutical product known to science, every fancy good made in London, Paris or Venice and set off for China.

Attar of roses, a perfume, cost $ 25 an ounce in Europe. The Chinese could copy it for a dime. Continental gourmet sauces were duplicated, down to the labels, at a fraction of their price. Italian silks, chessmen, elaborate fans, spectacular French fireworks all were copied in China and imported to New York.

Fortunes were made in this China trade. No longer were the Chinese exporting traditional products tea, porcelain and bamboo screens. New York introduced them to the astonishing profits to be made from counterfeiting Western luxury goods. New York overdid it. It imported so much from China that in time, Chinese silk shawls were a glut on the market. Chinese fans were common as dirt. New York shopkeepers were reduced to selling imports from China at prices lower than those in Hong Kong or Shanghai.

The China trade collapsed. Eventually, so did America's mastery of the seas. Britain bought clipper ships from Boston, then built its own out of steel rather than wood and then subsidized steam-powered ships. In a good wind, a Yankee clipper could still fly past one of these smoking British teapots, but good winds are chancy and in the end the clippers had to lose.

Today, the U.S. cargo fleet is little more than a memory. Today our trade is in a Liberian-flagged ship that rams a dock in New Orleans because the Chinese crew can't understand English. The China trade is booming again, but now we grumble about it. The Chinese export more to us than they buy. They copy our goods not attar of roses these days but CDs and software. Their exports undercut our industries and our jobs. Their ships underprice ours.

But blame the Chinese for this? Nonsense, sir! We taught them. We set the example for industry and adventure and commerce that spans the seas. Blame us for forgetting.

Copyright 1996 Daily News, L.P.
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01/01/1997
IT'S HARD LABOR DEFENDING NEWT

WASHINGTON Defending Newt Gingrich calls for steel nerves, an iron stomach and a willingness to change stories with a rapidity that has been known to cause dislocation of the cervical vertebrae.

For two years, the House speaker insisted he was absolutely innocent of any conceivable ethical violations. While his loyal defenders were energetically peddling that story, he spun around and entered a plea of guilty, but not very.

He blamed his lawyer, Jan Baran, for writing an inaccurate letter to the House ethics committee. Baran fired him. While Newt's defenders were trashing Baran, Gingrich admitted that, yes, he was responsible, after all.

But he had an excuse. His real mistake, he said, was in not consulting lawyers about how to set up a tax-exempt foundation. Then it turns out he did consult lawyers, who warned him against using tax-exempt foundations for political purposes. He simply ignored the lawyers.

Defending Gingrich produces howlers like this exchange between Texas Democrat Martin Frost and Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas:

Frost: The ethics committee says [Gingrich submitted] "inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable" information.

DeLay: But not "misleading"! It doesn't say "misleading"!

Gingrich supporters sound like Frank Beamer, coach of the powerhouse Virginia Tech football team. It has a sparkling 10-1 record, but 18 players have been arrested for crimes ranging from rape to involuntary manslaughter. Beamer's explanation of these ethical lapses: "I don't think it's as clear-cut as you might think."

The folks least likely to want to spend their time thinking up ever-shifting defenses for Gingrich the next two years are his fellow conservative Republicans.

They have work to do, a revolution to carry out. They fear Newt might be forced to gasp! compromise, or horrors! go easy on President Clinton's ethical problems. Thus, the first GOP defector was Rep. Michael Forbes of Long Island, one of Newt's ideological soul mates, who recalls with awe the early years of the Gingrich "opportunity society" revolution. Now, Forbes says, "a wounded speaker who must lay low will not serve well the cause he championed."

All it takes is 20 such Republican doubters, and when the roll is called next Tuesday, the speaker will be Democrat Richard Gephardt of Missouri. In the real world, if as few as 10 Republican members let leaders know they have doubts, Newt will have to come up with an alternative strategy.

Instead of risking humiliation, he could temporarily step aside or throw his weight to a successor. Already, Republicans talk of jockeying by Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and budget Chairman John Kasich of Ohio to become speaker if Gingrich falters.

Ironically, Gingrich may be able to count on House moderates, whom he has courted in recent months. They may have doubts about Newt, but they prefer him to the likeliest alternative, the rigidly right-wing Armey. "Armey is a good deterrent," says a Northern Republican member.

With his future on the line, Gingrich has set up a hotline to check his vote count each day. A conference call is planned for Friday; a full meeting of the GOP membership for Monday.

"If they see they're short of votes," says Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who plans to vote for Gingrich, "I don't know what the hell they're going to do."

After so many years, life without Newt is unimaginable. But start imagining. To his own colleagues, Gingrich is becoming too heavy a burden.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/03/1997
NEWT SUNK BY OL' COLLEGE TRY

WASHINGTON As college courses go, Newt Gingrich's "Renewing American Civilization" was no more partisan than much of the propaganda left, right and wacko peddled on many American campuses under the flag of academic freedom.

Prof. Gingrich had his own idiosyncratic view of U.S. history: Everything was fine until 1965 the start of Lyndon Johnson's second term. But his political slant was certainly within current scholarly bounds, and as a lecturer he is far better than most.

No, the ethical problem confronting Gingrich as he seeks reelection as speaker next week is not the political content of the course, for which he sought tax-deductible contributions.

Gingrich's problem is that he was both the teacher and an active politician and the tax-deductible contributions advanced his political career.

Politicians, especially ideologically driven missionaries like Gingrich, would kill for free TV time; "Renewing American Civilization," which was broadcast nationally on cable TV, gave him free TV exposure and its backers could claim their investment in his political future as a tax deduction.

Newt's defenders fudge this issue. They say contributing to the course was no different from making tax-deductible contributions to the Sierra Club.

But the Sierra Club isn't running for public office. It doesn't run the House of Representatives. It can't reward contributors by giving them tax breaks or trying to repeal federal regulations.

Like President Clinton with his lavish Asian contributors, Gingrich was peddling access. Give money to his cause, you got his ear. Clinton's performance is sleazy enough but he didn't tell contributors to take the money off their taxes.

Gingrich defenders argue he was not seeking to enrich himself. He didn't have to not through the TV course. He thought he was getting a $ 4.5 million book advance from Rupert Murdoch.

Even when he had to forgo the advance, his publishers told him he could expect $ 10 million in royalties. It was perfect: His windfall income would come from Murdoch, his travel and entertainment expenses would be paid by his political action committee, GOPAC, and his national political evangelism would be financed by the TV course.

Finally, he falsely denied to his fellow congressmen on the ethics committee that the college course was supported by GOPAC. Newt's defenders say this was unintentional and blame his lawyer, Jan Baran.

To believe that, however, you have to believe that Baran, a respected former counsel for the Republican National Committee, acted as Gingrich's lawyer for two solid years under the misapprehension that GOPAC had no relation to the college course. That is, his own lawyer had the case backward.

Gingrich defenders might be a little more convincing about his "innocent mistakes" if they had not also been in the forefront of trying to railroad Hillary Rodham Clinton into court for her inability to locate Rose Law Firm billing records. Right-wingers also argue that Clinton should face criminal penalties for denying to the General Accounting Office that she ordered the firing of the White House Travel Office staff. Now Gingrich's problems have turned all these law-and-order eagles into a bunch of mush-headed Legal Aid lawyers, claiming their client is merely a misunderstood victim of societal abuse.

Gingrich may yet win reelection as speaker Tuesday. But none of this is going away. Any time Republicans raise an ethics charge against anyone else, for any reason, their defense of Gingrich will come back to haunt them.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/06/1997
GINGRICH'S LOGIC THROWS THE LAW FOR A LOOPHOLE

WASHINGTON At the end of four years in office, President Clinton has earned $ 800,000 in salary and run up $ 3.2 million in personal legal bills, mostly over Whitewater. His Legal Defense Trust, which accepts private contributions, cannot keep up with the new bills coming in. Technically, the President is bankrupt, running up legal debts four times faster than he can earn income.

No such problem confronts House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Oh yes, he has heavy legal bills too, but Gingrich enjoys a perk reserved to members of Congress: He can tap his surplus campaign contributions to pay his personal lawyers.

Gingrich collected more than $ 6 million for his 1996 reelection. He spent $ 5.4 million. The surplus is a tax-free slush fund. It can be used to pay lawyers' fees to defend him from such charges as, er, misuse of tax-deductible contributions for political purposes. His spokesman estimated the other day that he has spent $ 700,000 so far and eventually will pay out $ 1 million. But it's not money out of his pocket. Newt Inc. pays.

Gingrich is not unique in doing this. Former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) spent $ 2 million in campaign funds trying, unsuccessfully, to stay out of jail. The Federal Election Commission rules are vague. The commission says it can imagine circumstances when campaign funds may be used for defense lawyers but will judge each instance on its own merits.

In theory, if the allegation is related to official duties, it's okay to use campaign funds to mount a defense. But Gingrich is all over the lot. His current defense is that his controversial college course was wholly nonpolitical. So how can he use campaign funds to respond to charges about it?

Congress remains an ethical never-never land, even though as soon as Gingrich took power in 1995 it voted with much fanfare to subject itself to the same laws that apply to everyone else. But there remains a giant loophole: campaign funds. There are no limits on how much a candidate can raise and laughable limits on how the money can be spent.

Under the law, campaign funds are supposed to be used only for campaign-related expenses not for purely personal costs such as food, clothing and shelter. In reality, even sex can be turned into a campaign-related expense. According to the Hartford Courant, when Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) wanted Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) to appear at a fund-raiser, Kasich insisted on bringing his girlfriend on the grounds that he had not seen her in a long time. The Shays campaign paid for her airfare.

Food can be charged to the campaign, even food a politician eats in his own home if he invites a potential contributor to share the meal. Sports tickets can be expensed if you can tie them to campaign fund-raising. You can pay your spouse or children a "fair-market salary" for their campaign-related work, as defined by you. Cars are easily charged to the campaign. So are gifts. Travel to resorts even to foreign lands can be written off as a campaign expense.

Still, using campaign funds to pay defense lawyers to defend you against charges of campaign-finance abuse is a bit much sort of like allowing bank robbers to use their loot to hire the best defense attorney money can buy. "It's legal, but it does seem like the ultimate irony," says Ellen Miller of the Center for Responsive Politics. "Even the notion that a legal defense fund is considered a normal campaign expense tells you something about the current political system."

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/08/1997
NEWT IS MOVING, BUT IT'S JUST A BAIT AND SWITCH

WASHINGTON Humble, remorseful, chastened and awed by the goodness of Almighty God, House Speaker Newt Gingrich took office for a second two-year term yesterday, dedicating himself to a national crusade against racism, ignorance and drugs.

He apologized to his House colleagues for the pain he had caused them, the controversy and ill-feeling he had brought to Congress. He turned his sights to a loftier agenda, rescuing the poor children in the ghettos from lives of poverty and fear.

It was a speech to bring tears to the eyes of a brass monkey. Here was Gingrich, having just survived another fight for his political life, and his mind was not on his own woes but on the poorest and weakest of the poor.

You would need a heart of stone to recall, at such an inspirational moment, that the reason Gingrich is in trouble is that he is accused of taking money donated to charitable foundations for the benefit of poor and ignorant children and using it to advance his political career.

You would be uncharitable if you happened to recall that Gingrich made pretty much the same touching speech two years ago and then proceeded to use his political power to try to dismantle public broadcasting, the school lunch program, environmental regulations, government-funded summer jobs and the minimum wage.

For Gingrich, the poorest of the poor are the perpetual bait in a bait-and-switch scam. He poses as a philosopher king and then executes a special-interest agenda for the benefit of the connected and the powerful. His favorite worthy cause is himself, and he believes in it with great sincerity.

"He was a born-again speaker up there," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens) as he left the House chamber. "He was throwing out ropes and lines looking for a life raft. He was publicly making love to Washington, D.C., a city where he tried to starve the children to death by slashing funding. He was reaching out to the black caucus, talking like a Democratic speaker up there."

Gingrich needs all the friends he can get. He still has to face a report from independent counsel James Cole on precisely what he did with his tax-exempt foundations and whether he intentionally misled the House.

But given his victory yesterday, Gingrich is likely to survive whatever Cole and the House ethics committee decide. His colleagues even doubters like GOP Reps. Pete King of Long Island and Marge Roukema of New Jersey have decided that the crusade to oust Gingrich is mostly Democratic partisanship and that his sins do not merit severe punishment.

Roukema says it is still possible that Gingrich could lose his job but that would require people who have strenuously defended him to turn around suddenly and admit they were wrong. A bigger threat may come from the Internal Revenue Service, but even there, a criminal prosecution seems unlikely.

To Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), Gingrich's victory hurts the Republicans in the long run. "People understand that he lied to the House and to the American people, and the Republicans voted for him anyway," Engel said. "Never in history have we elevated a speaker with such ethical problems. It will be seen as an outrage."

Is Gingrich wounded? It doesn't really matter. Congress responds to the concerns of its campaign contributors, and Gingrich outlined their agenda yesterday, too: cutting the capital-gains tax, building a space-based missile defense, reining in activist judges. That's where this Congress is headed, whatever happens to Gingrich.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/10/1997
WALL ST. IS JUST LICKING ITS CHOPS FOR SOC SEC PLAN

WASHINGTON Folks who want to privatize Social Security love to pose as defenders of personal freedom. They trust the wisdom of the private citizen. They want Americans to be free to control their own destinies, to be independent of the stifling "nanny state."

Except that's not exactly what they have in mind. None of the freedom lovers actually wants to make Social Security truly free i.e., voluntary.

On the contrary, all three of the Social Security plans currently being floated would compel citizens to entrust part of their retirement savings to the stock market. All three would mean a government-enforced cash flow to Wall Street.

This may or may not be financially good for individual retirees. Just don't mistake it for freedom.

To see the difficulty, consider a middle-ground proposal from Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.): Working people would be allowed to take about one-third of their current Social Security tax or 2% of income and invest it in government-monitored private savings accounts.

For a worker earning $ 30,000, Kerrey's plan would mean a contribution of $ 600 a year. Each employe would be free to invest in government-approved accounts, much like mutual funds.

Kerrey believes he can maintain the existing level of Social Security benefits. The private savings would be added income.

But there is a catch. To make this add up, Kerrey would reduce cost-of-living increases and gradually move the retirement age back to 70.

Suddenly, freedom does not sound like a particularly good deal for low-income workers, especially those engaged in heavy lifting. The currently scheduled increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67 has been estimated to mean a 21% reduction in real retirement benefits. Taking the retirement age to 70 would mean a far bigger cut.

Workers with below-average life expectancy especially minorities may never live to see their Social Security checks or their private savings. "I would acknowledge concern about that," Kerrey said yesterday. "Raising the eligibility age is a difficult issue. But I'm trying to keep the system fully funded. Perhaps people would prefer a tax increase."

One possible tax hike Kerrey cites: Removing the current $ 65,400 ceiling on earnings subject to Social Security withholding. For upper-middle-income and wealthy earners, that would mean no more "maxing out" toward the end of the year.

There is no way around this. Even modest privatization means lower benefits or higher taxes, or both.

Kerrey's plan stands between a privatization proposal that would abolish the current system and replace it with individual stock accounts and a labor-backed plan to invest part of the Social Security surplus in the stock market.

Which one of these does President Clinton favor? Apparently none of them, says his departing Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

"We're dealing with 2029," Reich said yesterday. "We have other issues that are much more immediate, like Medicare, which really is in danger. I don't foresee any immediate movement on Social Security. The political stars are not lined up."

But, Reich warns, "Wall Street has amassed a fairly substantial war chest in pursuit of privatization. There are a lot of lobbyists busily at work, seeking wholesale or partial privatization."

For Wall Street, there are billions of dollars in potential brokerage fees from privatization. This is a perfectly understandable motive. But hang on to your wallet when Wall Street starts talking about freedom.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/13/1997
JUNGLE WARFARE KILLS TRUTH

WASHINGTON Democrats and Republicans have been screaming "Another Watergate!" for so long that it numbs the brain. But last week, both sides finally managed to match Richard Nixon for stupid skulduggery.

Democrats first: They got caught bugging Republican telephones duplicating the original sin of the Watergate scandal.

A Democratic congressman leaked a tape of House Speaker Newt Gingrich making a conference call to his political allies.

Gingrich's words were moderately damaging but the Democratic leak was outrageous, and its cover story ludicrous.

Supposedly, a Florida couple intercepted Gingrich's phone call when they:

Happened to be listening in on a police scanner.

Happened to recognize the voices of Gingrich and such obscure operatives as Ed Gillespie of the Republican National Committee.

Happened to understand that Gingrich was breaking a secret commitment to the House ethics committee.

Happened to have a tape recorder to take this all down.

And happened to know a Democratic congressman willing to break federal law by disclosing the contents of an intercepted telephone call.

Gimme a break. What's an alternative scenario? How about this? In their lust to destroy Gingrich, Democratic operatives have mounted a full-scale intelligence operation, a la Nixon's plumbers.

No, I can't prove it, but it makes more sense than a little old lady in Florida with a police scanner.

Then Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) did his own imitation of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, when the beleaguered President fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Last Wednesday, Thomas called a quick meeting of the House Oversight Committee even though no Democrats could be present and fired James Cole, the independent counsel in the Gingrich investigation, as of Jan. 21.

This would put Cole off the payroll before he can deliver his final report on Gingrich's ethical problems the report that will determine whether Gingrich receives a slap on the wrist or a censure that would end his career.

When the one Democrat assigned to the committee, Rep. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut, blew the whistle on this sneak attack, Thomas said he was only joking.

If the deeply divided ethics committee wants to keep Cole on the payroll, Thomas will consider its request.

With the bugging and the firing, Washington has descended into jungle warfare with no rules beyond tribal loyalty.

It is the Republican tribe against the Democratic tribe.

If you think you know which side you're on, let's play a little game: What would you be saying if the shoe were on the other foot?

For Democrats: Suppose Republicans had bugged one of Hillary Clinton's telephone calls and leaked it to a right-wing paper.

For Republicans: Suppose Democrats held a secret meeting like Thomas' and killed the funding for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

For Democrats: Suppose Newt Gingrich had pocketed as President Clinton's campaign did hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Indonesian and Taiwanese sources.

For Republicans: Suppose Hillary Clinton was formally cited as Gingrich was for submitting inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable information to a congressional committee.

We all like to think our side is better, purer, cleaner, more honest than theirs. Well, think again.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/13/1997
CONSERVATIVES ARE SOLE WINNERS IN BIZARRE CASE

WASHINGTON Paula Jones' case goes to the Supreme Court today even though it wouldn't stand up for 20 seconds in the court of common sense.

But even if she loses in the end, the conservatives who put her up to this bizarre, destructive suit against the President win every time her name is mentioned, every time her picture appears, every time the details are discussed oh so soberly on television and talk radio.

Their goal is political, not judicial, and they watch with delight as the nation takes up their agenda.

Jones' story is simply unbelievable. Not the story about what happened between her and then-Gov. Bill Clinton in an Arkansas hotel room in 1991. That's her word against his.

What's unbelievable is why she is suing the President. No, it's not because he, supposedly, solicited sex from her. That alleged indecency occurred on May 8, 1991, and she did nothing about it for nearly three years.

Jones decided to sue Clinton, she says, when a right-wing magazine, The American Spectator, made an oblique reference to an incident involving the President and a woman named Paula. Jones felt humiliated and decided she wanted an apology from Clinton, who was by then President, for the article.

Why? Clinton wasn't the source for the story. Jones was, either directly or indirectly, through her friends. Yet this is the pretext for her lawsuit.

Further tainting this suit is the involvement of a long-time Clinton political foe, the obsessive Cliff Jackson, who brought Jones to the fore at the national conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee.

Clinton's lawyers believe they can win the case if it ever comes to court but they know that it is a political disaster for the President even to let Jones bring her case.

She claims, for example, that she can identify marks on the President's genitals; her first step in a trial would be to subpoena photographs. You don't have to be a Clinton supporter to pause for a moment and ask whether the nation will really be better off as a result of her efforts.

Jones' supporters argue that she has a better case than did Anita Hill, who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. That's not saying much.

It is true that the feminist organizations that backed Hill won't support Jones. But in this case, it is equally true that conservatives who pride themselves on their patriotism and family values have joined in an effort to destroy an elected President with an X-rated lawsuit.

Right-wingers who argued that sexual harassment complaints were merely the whimpering of homely women have suddenly become born-again feminists. And a Republican Party that seized control of Congress with the avowed desire of halting "frivolous lawsuits" now argue that the nation's business must come to a halt so that Paula Jones can sue the President.

It's doubtful that she can win. It is certain that every time the case is mentioned, the President loses. The only winners are the President's die-hard political opponents, and they win every time anybody takes this charade seriously.

The right-wingers don't particularly care what happens to Paula Jones. But she is likely to learn the bitter lesson of so many rape victims: The legal system rapes them a second time.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/15/1997
THE FINEST NEED TO ADVANCE INTO COMPUTER AGE

A CURIOUS complaint came out of the New York Police Department as it celebrated another year of cutting the crime rate: The NYPD has an intelligence problem.

The department is a world leader in compiling and analyzing crime statistics i.e., it has good intelligence on crimes after they occur. It is less good at compiling intelligence in advance of crimes: identifying potential criminals, tracking gang members and gang activity, anticipating crimes before they occur.

"The information exists out there," says a New York law enforcement source. "Officers that walk the streets talk to people in the precinct every day. The homicide detectives know those areas building by building. But their information is not collected or analyzed in any meaningful way."

A cop who knows what's happening on his post has no automatic way of putting that knowledge into a central system and no easy way to tap the intelligence of his brother and sister officers. In the computer age, the NYPD still writes its reports on typewriters and sticks them in drawers.

If you want to see what's possible, tap into the Web site of the Salinas, Calif., Police Department http://www.salinaspd.com. This prototype isn't the future; this is now. Beset by a gang problem, Salinas has set up a computerized central intelligence system that lets every beat officer become both an intelligence officer and a crime analyst. Every police report, every arrest, every interrogation, every field interview with a suspect or witness goes into a central computer system.

Ultimately, every officer will be able to punch in a suspect's nickname, a description of a weapon, a gang name, a tattoo, a crime description any one of a dozen bits and pieces of information and out will come everything that the department's officers know about that set of facts.

"When an officer sees somebody hanging around, or a suspicious activity, he can put it into the data base," says Ric Rincon, a former Alexandria, Va., police officer who now works with the Environmental System Research Institute, which developed the Salinas program. "That gives every officer the ability to do crime analysis. Right now, in a lot of cities, a cop on the beat doesn't even know what the night shift is working on."

Salinas can track individual gang members every arrest, every interrogation, every traffic citation, every time they're mentioned, it all goes into the system. "If a cop spots a gang member a hundred yards away, rather than make a mental note of it, he can write it down, it goes into the data base," Rincon says.

Computerization also lets Salinas approach the goal of becoming a paperless system. No more driving around with a briefcase full of 50 forms to fill out. No more fumbling with carbons, filing cabinets and missing folders.

The NYPD is currently circulating an internal proposal for creating a central data base to spread intelligence-sharing within the department and with other departments. And ESRI, the Redlands, Calif., company that worked with Salinas, hopes to make a presentation in New York next month.

"Information is the lifeblood of police work," says former New York Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy, now with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "[Former Commissioner] Lee Brown put 20% of the force out on the street, doing community policing. They are gathering more information than ever before. The NYPD sometimes doesn't like to learn from smaller departments. But in this day and age, given what the computer can do, we ought to spend every buck possible on this."

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/17/1997
TALE OF TAPE STICKS DEMS

WASHINGTON The story of how John and Alice Martin inadvertently happened to bug House Speaker Newt Gingrich's telephone call is perfectly simple. The problem is finding somebody simple enough to believe it.

John and Alice, both Democratic activists, were driving through Florida, listening to a police scanner, when they happened to recognize the voices of Gingrich and some Republican colleagues talking on the phone.

The Martins pulled into a parking lot, tape-recorded the call, interpreted it as being politically significant, flew to Washington and handed it to Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) of the House ethics committee, who leaked it.

There are problems with this story.

The Radio Shack scanner John Martin bought in August cannot tune in cell phone calls unless it is illegally modified (by snipping just one wire). Martin says he did not modify it.

Radio Shack says the scanner can accidentally pick up cell calls on the wrong frequency (a phenomenon known as intermodulation) if it is close to a transmitter.

So it is theoretically, physically and technologically possible that having picked up the call, they coincidentally parked in a spot where the false signal would continue to be heard reliably enough for taping.

If you believe that, let us continue. The Martins say they had no idea it was illegal to listen to the call. Radio Shack, however, includes in every scanner box a warning to purchasers not to listen, even unintentionally, to cell phone calls.

Having listened in anyway, the Martins concluded that the call was incriminating enough to warrant handing it over to the ethics committee. At this point, even the simplest and most gullible of us must say, "Fat chance."

You would have to be a fairly sophisticated lawyer with knowledge of ethics committee procedures to interpret the bugged conversation as incriminating. But the ordinary Martins immediately grasped its significance. This is interception and intelligence analysis worthy of the National Security Agency.

True, the Martins do appear to be innocent bumblers. But White House security aide Craig Livingston pretty much wore out the "innocent bumbler" excuse when he explained how he had innocently bumbled his way into the possession of hundreds of FBI background files on Republicans. His defense, too, was straight from the Good Soldier Schweik: "Humbly report, sir, I am an idiot."

Republicans who have chased the Clinton administration in vain with hearings and special prosecutors for the past four years at last have a case they can sink their teeth into. This is no convoluted Arkansas real estate deal, no internal "bureaucratic snafu" by an inexperienced White House. This is illegal eavesdropping. The full story has not yet been told and the Martins are no longer repeating their original one. They have gone silent as they cooperate with the Justice Department, according to their lawyers.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, in their hunt for Gingrich they are likely to lose a superstar. The tough, bluff McDermott was the House's champion of single-payer (i.e. Canadian-style) health insurance and an unabashed liberal.

Yes, the Democrats can argue as Republicans do about Gingrich that McDermott unintentionally violated arcane laws. As it happens, for such arcane crimes there is the potential penalty of an arcane prison.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/18/1997
STEALER OF THE HOUSE

WASHINGTON If the House ethics committee report were a baseball box score it would say simply, "Newt Gingrich, cs" caught stealing. But Newt is not out yet.

The proposed penalties a letter of reprimand and a $ 300,000 bill for misleading his colleagues allow him to remain as speaker of the House, leader of the Republican conservative revolution and target of Democrats.

Faced with much more trivial charges and a lesser penalty, former Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) resigned his seat rather than bring shame on his beloved Congress.

Gingrich has shown no such squeamishness.

As the ethics committee was deciding its judgment yesterday, Gingrich basked in a prolonged ovation at a meeting of the Republican National Committee, and made a speech about God, liberty and the girl scouts as a role model.

The official Republican line, as espoused by House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.), is that Gingrich will be speaker as long as he chooses to stay.

And why not? For all its tough language about repeated "reckless" conduct, the reprimand is a piece of paper that will go into a drawer.

And the $ 300,000 penalty was carefully described not as a fine but as "reimbursing the House for some of the costs of the investigation." Gingrich can raise $ 300,000 from lobbyists with a single speech.

Still hanging over his head is the prospect of an IRS investigation into his use of tax-exempt charitable organizations to fund his political crusade. The effect of this fast shuffle was to pilfer the Treasury to finance his partisan agenda. But the committee decided that rather than get into tax laws, it would turn its findings over to the IRS.

Still, it was not a comfortable moment for Gingrich. Special counsel James Cole, calmly reading his findings before a national TV audience yesterday, stripped away some of the confections Gingrich has used to sugarcoat his activity.

Gingrich had claimed, for example, that he ran afoul of the laws on misusing charitable organizations for political purposes because he was naive. The ethics committee found, on the contrary, that Gingrich was quite sophisticated about shifting expenses to tax-exempt organizations and that one of his pet projects, the American Campaign Academy, had been denied tax-exempt status precisely because it was political.

Gingrich also had blamed his lawyer, Jan Baran, for sending the ethics committee two letters falsely denying that his college courses had any political connection. The committee found that Gingrich the only person who could know that the letters were false had read them and approved them. Gingrich admitted in testimony, Cole said, that the statements he had made in the letters were not true.

Even though Gingrich beats this rap with a slap on the wrist, this is a cold victory. Polls show him to be one of the least popular people in America, with a negative rating over 60%. Though Republican members rally to him in admiration and gratitude, he is not necessarily popular in their home districts. They know there may be no political reward in fighting for Gingrich to the last ditch.

And for Democrats, Gingrich remains their best friend, one of life's perennial fat pitches, floating in over the plate to be whacked into the stands.

Like no one else in politics, Gingrich unites Democrats. He reminds them what they are for and symbolizes what they are against. What would they do without him?

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/21/1997
NARROW INTERESTS CAST WIDE SHADOW

WASHINGTON In President Clinton's sunny vision of America's future a land free of crime, free of hatred, free of ignorance, free of poverty there is one jarring note.

"In this land of new promise," he said in his second inaugural speech yesterday, "we will have reformed our politics so that the voice of the people will always speak louder than the din of narrow interests."

What's jarring? This goal genuine democracy appears to be something for the utopian future, like crime-free streets that echo to children's laughter. It is not the present, not by a longshot. The present belongs to campaign contributors and party fund-raisers; the voice of the people is a dull and distant murmur.

There were two inaugural celebrations yesterday: one in public for the world to see, the second in private, in cozy receptions where the "din of narrow interests" can lower its voice to a confidential whisper as it tells your government what it wants.

After he delivered his speech, for example, Clinton drove down Pennsylvania Ave., past the elegant Bice Restaurant.

Within, the New York State congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans, held an all-day reception, closed to the general public. The sponsors included: Metropolitan Life, Time Warner, the New York Stock Exchange, the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Fuji Film and American International Group.

Elsewhere in the city, parties were sponsored by AT&T, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Atlantic Richfield oil, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Bristol-Myers Squibb and others: banks, oil companies, foreign traders.

Four years ago, Clinton's inaugural committee accepted $ 100,000 contributions from special interests. This year, direct contributions have been limited to $ 100 yet the money is still flying. The total cost of this inauguration is estimated at $ 35 million. Somebody is paying that bill, and that somebody is paying in expectation of getting the money back.

There was a second jarring note to Clinton's inauguration, and it reinforces the first. Having celebrated America's freedom, Clinton climbed into a bulletproof limousine and rode through the Capitol's concrete barricades worthy of Berlin's old Checkpoint Charlie to another set of barricades outside the White House. Only there, inside the security bubble, did the President get out of the car.

More than any of his predecessors, this President has been forced to live inside the bubble. This isolation makes the President even more dependent on political pollsters and fast-talking gurus like Dick Morris to gauge what America cares about. It also magnifies the voices of the relatively few who achieve access to him the Asian businessmen brought in by fund-raiser John Huang, for example, or the heavy contributors who are rewarded with a night in the Lincoln bedroom.

The combination of security-imposed isolation and special-interest access is a double whammy. The voice the President often hears is not the voice of the people; it's the voice of the special pleader who has bought his way through the concrete barriers, metal detectors and bodyguards.

Clinton said there is much government cannot do. But it can do this: It can liberate itself from big-money interests and give itself back to the people. Yesterday, as politicians and campaign contributors celebrated victory, the average citizen was no more than a peasant with his nose pressed up against the glass of democracy.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/22/1997
SPEAKING OF POETIC JUSTICE

WASHINGTON "Stop the cannibalism!" Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas yelled on the House floor as he futilely tried to shield Speaker Newt Gingrich from rebuke by his colleagues.

It was a moment of pure poetry. The same heartfelt cry "Stop the mindless cannibalism!" came eight years ago from Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) as he resigned under Gingrich's relentless attack on his ethics.

Now it was Gingrich's turn.

With yesterday's vote to reprimand the speaker and fine him $ 300,000, the Gingrich tragicomedy has come virtually full circle.

Even Republicans, wincing under the blow to their leader, could appreciate the irony of the moment.

"The first thing I noticed when I came here was Newt Gingrich telling us the Democrats were all corrupt, the Democrats were unethical," recalled Rep. Pete King (R-Nassau). "This is poetic justice. If anybody was nailed, it should be Gingrich."

It dawned on King and some fellow Republicans yesterday morning that Gingrich is not merely a political liability, but a financial one.

To get the ethics committee off his back, Gingrich agreed to pay a $ 300,000 penalty nearly two years' gross pay for writing two inaccurate letters, an offense that he and his supporters insisted was no worse than jaywalking.

Gingrich can afford to pay $ 300,000. He has $ 1 million left in his campaign funds, and he netted more than $ 400,000 from his book, "To Renew America."

But most of his fellow members could not afford such a hit and in a closed meeting they made their anger known.

Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) complained that he didn't have $ 3,000 in his own bank account, let alone $ 300,000. Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) protested, "It sets a bad precedent for members who don't have that kind of money. There are members in here who wouldn't have run for Congress in the first place if they knew they could wind up subjected to this kind of penalty for a negligent mistake."

"There was some hard feeling," King agreed, "that Newt had worked his own deal and set a precedent that could apply to all of us."

To open up a loophole both for Gingrich and themselves, in the event of future difficulties, Republicans insisted the penalty was not a fine but a cost reimbursement.

House ethics committee Chairwoman Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), who called the penalty a fine on a morning TV show, was saying by noon, "I misspoke."

The difference is important: If it's a fine, Gingrich is under moral pressure to pay it out of personal funds. If it's merely a technical reimbursement of House costs, it shouldn't matter where the money comes from.

Gingrich survives as speaker, but he is obviously damaged goods. He still faces investigation by the Internal Revenue Service for presiding over an empire that laundered political contributions through tax-exempt charities. He is a liability to his Republican colleagues. He owes them far more loyalty than they owe him.

"What's he going to promise them?" Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) said after the vote to reprimand the speaker. "He can't say, 'Support me and I'll help you campaign in your district.' He'll have to say, 'Support me and I'll stay far away from your district.' "

But Rangel, who watched Jim Wright go down when he became too big a burden for his Democratic colleagues, also relished the poetic drama of the moment.

"For the rest of his life, Newt Gingrich will never be able to call anybody else dishonest," Rangel said. "That's a tragedy."

Or poetic justice.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/24/1997
HOW POLITICIANS CAN NEWTRALIZE GINGRICH'S POISON

WASHINGTON In the flood of documents unearthed by the House ethics committee during its investigation of Newt Gingrich is a two-page strategy paper that explains much of the poison that now permeates Congress.

It was drafted by Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord. Its thrust: The best way to defend Gingrich from attacks on his integrity is to blacken the reputations of Democrats.

The paper says:

"Indict the Clinton administration."

"Show the hypocrisy of House Democrats."

"Change the battlefield to one where the Democrats are on the defensive by attacking personal ethics, attacking individual legislative records, forcing Dems to defend Clinton administration."

"Get the Clinton administration under special prosecutor problems and have Clinton administration . . . get the House Dems to back down."

True, President Clinton and his wife have given investigators ample reason to look into their business dealings, their management of the White House and their fund-raising practices.

But this memo says something more: The relentless Republican pursuit of the Clintons is not simply a dispassionate exercise in truth-seeking. It was also a smoke screen to divert attention from Gingrich.

Ideally, if the Clintons came under enough pressure from Republican special counsel Kenneth Starr, they would get the message and tell House Democrats to lay off Gingrich.

In addition, the memo explains the far-fetched Republican attempts to suggest that House Democratic leaders David Bonior of Michigan, a former seminary student, and Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the eagle scout, were guilty of far greater ethical violations than Gingrich was.

The result of these malicious shenanigans is the most poisonous atmosphere in Washington since Richard Nixon left. Congress risks becoming like the streets of New York, in which no one is ever too busy to pause for a moment on life's journey and explain to some fellow human being that he is a %#$ jerk.

Is there any way to drain the poison and restore basic civility? Yes, Congress could de-Gingrichize itself and this applies to Democrats as well as Republicans.

De-Gingrichization would mean:

Stop the "special order" speeches the televised ill-natured, late-night diatribes before an empty House that Newt began exploiting more than 10 years ago to get his message out.

Stop the House's childish one-minute speeches, in which even the most intelligent members play to the C-SPAN cameras in hopes of getting a zinger sound bite on the evening news.

Halt appearances on food-fight television shows like CNN's "Crossfire" and, increasingly, Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour" on public TV. Producers of these shows pick the congressmen who will produce the most fireworks i.e., the best TV and even the most statesmanlike of members are lured into becoming shrill, partisan screamers for the sake of free TV exposure.

Abandon the "official Gingrich vocabulary" that silly document distributed by Gingrich's GOPAC group in which conservatives were urged to describe their opponents with the Gingrich-approved words "corrupt," "sick," "pathetic," "bizarre," "incompetent" and "traitors."

Stop using ethics complaints as a way of scoring cheap shots against political opponents.

In short, act like grownups instead of wise-guy frat boys and junior high school cafeteria intriguers. Or is that too much to ask?

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/27/1997
ROSY VIEW IS BLIND TO RUSSIANS' CRISIS

WASHINGTON Thomas Pickering is back from 31/2 years as U.S. ambassador to Russia with a rosy picture of progress and prosperity.

"Russians are going from the darkness of communism to the bright and sunny uplands of market reform and democracy," he said in a speech here the other day.

President Boris Yeltsin, who may look to you like death warmed over, is in fact providing effective leadership, and he is ably aided by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

"The economy has done astoundingly well," Pickering says. There may be some mass suffering, but the sturdy Russians are accustomed to pain and have fallen back on strong family structures and self-reliance to ease their hardships.

If that happy picture is the view Pickering provided to the U.S. government, President Clinton is flying blind into one of the great crises of the century.

Listen to this scream of pain from Russian democrats: "The Yeltsin-Chernomyrdin economic policy has brought unbelievable wealth to a tiny group of of old Communist bureaucrats and 'new Russians,' has reduced the overwhelming part of industry to paralysis and a majority of the population to poverty," says an appeal signed by historian Yuri Afanasyev, legislator Sergei Kovalev, editor Alexander Podrabinek and a number of other well-known fighters for Russian freedom.

"In terms of property ownership, the gap between the rich and the rest of the population is far greater than the inequality that caused the Bolshevik revolution. Famine is beginning in several provinces, and everyone expects at any moment a social explosion or a military mutiny."

Of the two, a military mutiny would be preferable, economist Nikolai Shmelyov, another leading democrat, wrote.

Angry soldiers would merely topple a few Kremlin leaders, "but from hungry people, you can expect no mercy."

What may be most alarming about both these warnings is that they criticize the West in part for Russia's problems. Up to now, only the Communists and wacky nationalists like Vladimir Zhirinovsky have accused America and Western capitalists of deliberately trying to destroy Russia militarily and economically under the guise of free markets.

"That view is now spreading very far across the Russian political spectrum," says Robert Legvold of Columbia University's Harriman Institute. "Even friendly Russians see NATO expansion, for example, as not merely misguided but intended to diminish Russia."

Legvold believes the complaints about internal hardship may be exaggerated, but he warns, "It would be a mistake to think there is no breaking point. If the strikes spread if the health workers join the air traffic controllers and the miners in a joint action then we move into a different universe."

In part, Pickering's view of Russia reflects the opinions of the U.S. business community, which deals primarily with bright-faced young Russian entrepreneurs, lawyers and go-go bankers.

"They don't see the blue-collar workers or the rural areas, and so their view is quite rosy," Legvold says.

But behind the facade of glittering Moscow, the burdens on ordinary Russians crime, nonpayment of salaries, joblessness, loss of national dignity are cumulative. And as they struggle, they hear Yeltsin cronies like Boris Berezovsky brag that he and a few friends personally control more than half the economy. Russian nationalists eagerly spread the word that Berezovsky & Co. are mostly Jewish.

It is true the Russians are a long-suffering people. But when they finally explode in anger, you do not want to be in the way.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/29/1997
ENEMY LIST MAY HURT A LOTT

WASHINGTON Back in the 1950s, it occurred to the State of Mississippi that the federal government was at heart a subversive organization, intent on undermining Christian civilization, states' rights and the purity of the white race.

To defend itself from this alien threat, Mississippi set up a State Sovereignty Commission a collection of yahoo sheriffs, small-town gossips, low-rent private eyes and various stoolies, snitches and informers.

It sounds funny now; it was not so funny then.

The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission hounded college professors, inspected newborns for telltale signs of "mongrelization of the races," gathered signatures of blacks opposed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and assembled files on 10,000 Mississippians.

At its most sinister, it funneled state cash to the White Citizens Councils, known as "the uptown Klan." And one of its spies Agent X distributed the license plate number of the car in which civil rights activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were riding.

The car was stopped by Klansmen in the summer of 1964, and the three were murdered.

Though it was abolished in the 1970s, its records have remained secret. But now, after a 20-year court fight, they are coming to light, and, I am told, among the names of those who aided the Sovereignty Commission is Trent Lott, now the Senate's Republican majority leader.

Lott was a cheerleader at the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s and later head of the alumni office when he attended the university's law school.

There is no indication that he was a major player in the Sovereignty Commission's dirty work. And, in fairness to Lott, it is all too easy to be listed as a police informer for no reason at all.

Nevertheless, as the lawsuit developed, two lists of names were prepared those of victims of illegal surveillance and those "who were members, employes or informants of the commission or who requested information from the commission, [who] have been classified as 'state actors.' "

Lott's name, I have good reason to believe, appears in the category of "state actor," as a source for the commission.

Publication of this information will do Lott no harm in Mississippi, just as Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd has not suffered in West Virginia for his early membership in the Klan.

On the contrary, the Mississippians who had to abandon any political ambitions were white liberals who believed in desegregation.

"We had to make a choice between civil rights or a political career," says Wesley Watkins, like Lott a former Ol' Miss cheerleader but, unlike Lott, a civil rights activist. "If you had political ambitions you surely were not an opponent of the Citizens Councils."

Those who went along with the system have thrived.

Even Agent X is doing just fine despite having been been publicly identified as R.L. Bolden. He is a staff member for Rep. Mike Parker (R-Miss.).

In the Senate, Lott has been Mr. Smooth, the amiable successor to Bob Dole as majority leader and a picture-perfect representative of the progressive New South.

The only hint of the bad old days comes when he praises and is warmly praised by the Council of Conservative Citizens, widely regarded as successor to the White Citizens Councils and the nation's leading defender of the Confederate flag.

All the names of the Sovereignty Commission's "state actors" are expected to be made public later this year.

As Czechs, Poles, Russians and East Germans have found out, it is never pleasant to learn, even years later, who among your friends and neighbors talked.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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01/31/1997
'CHECK' IT OUT, NEWT'S EXCUSES DO NOT ADD UP

WASHINGTON That $ 300,000 whack in the head was apparently not enough to attract House Speaker Newt Gingrich's attention.

Within days of the overwhelming, bi-partisan House vote to punish him for deceiving his colleagues, Gingrich was telling hometown voters he was merely the innocent victim of liberal political correctness.

In truth, the case against Gingrich and his various political and charitable enterprises is so complex that it can at times be made to look like legalistic liberal nitpicking.

Until you look at the canceled checks.

In the jumble of documents released by the House ethics committee, the checks stand up and scream, "Money laundering! Tax fraud!"

They show Gingrich backers donating money to the speaker's tax-exempt charity, the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation, and ALOF immediately writing checks for identical amounts to Gingrich's nontax-exempt political organization, GOPAC.

On Aug. 2, 1991, Citizens against Government Waste, a conservative but supposedly nonpartisan activist group, writes a $ 37,000 check to ALOF. That same day, ALOF writes a $ 37,000 check to GOPAC.

On Aug. 16, 1991, the Howard Callaway Foundation writes a $ 10,000 check to ALOF. It is deposited Aug. 21. That same day, ALOF writes a $ 10,000 check to GOPAC.

On April 14, 1992, the Grace Jones Richardson Trust writes a $ 25,000 check to ALOF. It is deposited April 20. On April 23, as soon as the deposit clears, ALOF writes a $ 25,000 check to GOPAC.

Private donors could claim a tax deduction. Conservative tax-exempt foundations like Citizens Against Government Waste could make a political donation to Gingrich under the pretense that they were merely aiding another tax-exempt foundation. If they gave the money directly to GOPAC, they risked losing their own tax-exempt status.

Gingrich claims he is naive about such mundane things as money. The evidence, on the contrary, is that he was extremely sophisticated. The major tax case that outlawed political use of charitable donations concerned the American Campaign Academy, one of Gingrich's earlier projects to educate Republican candidates. He knew exactly what the law forbids.

And the cash trail uncovered by the ethics committee is not the work of financial simpletons. ALOF, which had been created and given its tax-exempt status on the premise that it would aid inner-city youngsters, was in fact a shell. ALOF's payments to GOPAC were described as repayment of a loan, although there are no contemporary invoices to document how the original loan was used.

As it pocketed the ALOF money, GOPAC was busily engaged in what it called "Newt support," flying Gingrich and his wife to functions around the country, paying for their lodging and meals, helping to pay for his staff and helping to draft the ideas that later became the book for which he expected a $ 4.5 million advance.

So much for Newt's claim that he sought no personal benefit. He was going to have it all: political power, a personal fortune and international recognition as, in his words, "definer of civilization."

The House ethics committee made no judgments on possible tax violations by Gingrich. It did something far more damaging: It turned its evidence over to the Internal Revenue Service. These convoluted transactions may seem "arcane" to Gingrich backers; they are not arcane to the IRS. It knows how to read checks.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/03/1997
POLS DON'T LEND AN EAR, THEY ONLY SELL IT FOR A PRICE

WASHINGTON There is nothing so unpersuasive as a huffy politician who cries indignantly, "Surely you don't think I can be bought for a $ 500 campaign contribution."

Yes, I do. Also for an expense-account lunch, a freebie golfing vacation, a job for your relatives, an inside tip on a sure-thing investment or a free factfinding junket to Gay Paree. What you sell, at the very least, is your ear.

President Clinton is at his least persuasive when he puts on his innocent "Moi?" face and earnestly explains that his private meetings with fat-cat contributors are not mere political money-grubbing, oh no no no, but a robust give and take of diverse, disinterested opinions on how best to spread the blessings of liberty throughout this fair land and major parts of the Orient.

"I think it's a good thing when contributors care about the country and have some particular area of expertise they want to contribute," the President says. "Nobody buys a guaranteed result, nor should they ever. They should get a respectful hearing."

There it is: Ear for sale. Bring check.

I believe there are junior high school mathematics teachers, bodega owners, city firefighters, deli countermen, hospital nurses and bus drivers who also have particular areas of expertise and deserve a respectful hearing. That and $ 10,000 will get them to the White House.

From the news conference at which he defended his private meetings, Clinton went to a dinner with Democratic businessmen at which he listened respectfully to their expertise.

In between Clinton's two appearances, an extraordinary event took place: Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) held a press conference with consumer activist Ralph Nader and others, from both the right and left, to denounce corporate welfare. Kasich's simple logic: "Maybe we can service the people who don't have lobbyists in Washington. Since we reformed welfare last year for people who don't have lobbyists, I think that it enhances our case to reform welfare for people who do."

This is the world turned upside down: A Democratic President rubs shoulders with the business community while a Republican congressman tries to extend to corporate America the same personal responsibility he demands of the poor.

Kasich was hit the next day by indignant faxes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers. From many of the same people, Clinton pocketed another $ 1 million.

If I sound harsh toward a President whom I admire, it is for this reason: This political financing system is corrupt. It is so insidiously corrosive that it has drawn into it, seduced and destroyed even the best who try to serve.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a man of supreme personal honor, was very nearly dragged down by the Charles Keating scandal. Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-L.I.), one of New York's treasures, lost an election after he was filmed on a lobbyist-financed Caribbean junket. Ronald Reagan was ridiculed for selling ambassadorships. Patrician George Bush peddled access to himself and to Vice President Dan Quayle. The late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown turned Air Force passenger planes into charter tours for Democratic contributors.

And now Bill Clinton? If campaign money so controls the system that it can capture even a Clinton, we face a challenge to the foundations on which this country was built. We will have to amend the Constitution and the first thing we drop is the opening words, "We, the people . . ."

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/05/1997
READY TO RUMBLE ON BUDGET, IMMIGS

WASHINGTON Amid his smiles of bi-partisanship, President Clinton told Republicans last night he would fight them on two major symbolic issues:

Against a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget;

And for restoring safety-net assistance to legal immigrants.

In both cases, Clinton is also defying public opinion. But as he starts his second term he has powerful arguments, hidden allies and despite all the attacks on his political and personal ethics unprecedented popularity on his side.

The two issues the budget amendment and welfare for immigrants promise the biggest legislative fireworks of this session of Congress. On other issues, Clinton has won an astonishing victory: Unlike a year ago, Republicans no longer talk about shutting down the government, eliminating the Education or Commerce departments and repealing the Brady Law.

White House aides boasted last night that their budget for fiscal 1998, which begins in October, will be the first in years not to be declared "dead on arrival" on Capitol Hill.

Even conservative Republicans seem willing to go along with increases in education spending, and Clinton again sounds as he once did long ago like a conservative when he talks about school discipline and demanding higher standards for both students and teachers.

Oddly, on the most difficult budgetary issues like holding down Medicare increases and making long-term corrections in Social Security the two sides are within range of agreement.

It is on the symbolic issues the balanced-budget amendment and immigrant welfare that they are far apart.

Behind the scenes, as Clinton warned Congress not to rewrite the Constitution to require a balanced budget, White House aides were spelling out the consequences of a balanced budget amendment:

States suffering from local recessions could not expect any major federal help like extended unemployment benefits or food stamps unless 60% of both houses agreed to lift the spending caps. If the Midwest were hurting but New York and California were not it might be hard to find the votes to exceed the spending limits.

If the government found itself running short of revenues toward the end of a year, it would have to stop writing checks, including Social Security checks, or reduce the amounts. Republicans accuse Clinton of fear-mongering on Social Security but they haven't spelled out how their spending caps would be enforced, or by whom, in the event of a shortfall.

On welfare for immigrants, Clinton has powerful allies in the form of Republican governors, who do not want to be stuck with the bill when federal aid is cut off. Congressional Republicans, eager to claim welfare cuts as their biggest victory, have persuaded the governors to back off a request to reopen last year's welfare reform.

But unless Congress agrees to Clinton's request for $ 18 billion in welfare aid mostly Medicaid and Social Security disability payments the states will have to pick up the burden for impoverished immigrants and their children.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/10/1997
STANDING ON BACKS OF RETIREES NO WAY TO BALANCE BUDGET

WASHINGTON Suppose you scrimp and save for a rainy day, building up a tidy fund in the bank. Then the rainy day comes, and you need to draw on your money.

"Sorry," the bank says. "You can't take money out unless you put an equal amount in."

"And why not?"

"Because we have outlawed deficit spending. You are not allowed to spend more than you earned this year."

"But I've been sacrificing for just this occasion," you protest.

"Sorry. Drawing down on your savings is deficit spending."

Outrageous? Sure. But that's what the balanced budget amendment now being pushed by Republicans and many Democrats will do to the Social Security trust fund, the rainy-day surplus that has been piling up in the form of Treasury notes.

The amendment is simple: In each year, the government may not spend more than it has collected that year in revenues. If tax revenues fall short of obligations, checks must be trimmed.

It sounds fiscally responsible. But when the Alan Greenspan commission recommended raising Social Security taxes in 1983, it used the argument that Social Security should collect more than it actually needs for that year's retirement checks. The aim was to build up a surplus to pay for baby boomers who will retire in the next century.

But under the balanced budget amendment, if future retirees try to draw down the surplus they have been contributing to, Congress must raise taxes, cut other spending such as Medicare or defense or trim the retirement checks. Otherwise, the books for that year would record a deficit.

What this means, says a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is "the benefits of the baby boomers would have to be financed in full by the taxes of those working in the years the baby boomers are retired."

True, the Social Security trust fund which is estimated at $ 3 trillion in 2019 consists of Treasury notes, i.e., claims on future tax revenues.

But here's the difference: With no balanced budget amendment, the government could do what the Greenspan commission intended, draw on the trust fund and run a slight deficit for the years when Social Security obligations are larger than Social Security revenues. That's what you have been saving for.

With the balanced budget amendment in place, the government says, in effect: "You didn't save anything. We spent your Social Security savings on Star Wars and submarines, and we're not going to run up any more debts. So now your kids have to pay for your retirement in full."

Advocates of the amendment scream "scare tactics!" if anyone questions what a mandatory balanced budget might do to Social Security. But they cannot explain how their budget will be enforced and until they do, Social Security must be considered vulnerable.

What's so strange about this crusade is that it has taken on a righteous, religious zeal that seems impervious to rational argument. A dozen years ago, with Ronald Reagan in power, conservatives were supply-siders arguing that deficits don't matter, growth would take care of everything. Today, with a Democratic President in the White House, the conservatives have undergone a conversion and equate deficits with sin.

A balanced budget is all very fine. But a future modest deficit say 2% of gross national product would help pay the nation's debt to its retirees. There's no good reason to outlaw that.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/12/1997
ON THE FEDERAL DOLE - BUT STILL GOING ON VACATION

WASHINGTON Vietnamese travel agents in Southern California report that their business travel to Vietnam is suddenly off by 40%. The reason will make you laugh or cry, perhaps both: welfare reform.

Under the welfare law enacted last year, elderly and disabled Vietnamese refugees now face the loss of their Supplemental Security Income, a federal benefit designed as a safety net for those with no other means of support.

Up to now, they have qualified for SSI even though they may never have worked in the U.S. and never paid taxes. They were eligible because they were here, they were elderly and they were supposedly poor. It turns out, however, that many refugees were using their welfare checks to finance vacations back in the oppressive Communist homeland from which they fled.

How poor could they be? And whatever happened to that "reasonable fear of persecution" at the hands of the Communists that justified their refugee status in the first place?

This is the kind of abuse that prompted Congress last year to terminate most welfare for legal immigrants. The horror stories were well-documented and widespread: In some cases, prosperous young immigrants would petition the government to admit their aged parents to the U.S. and then dump them onto the SSI system at the first opportunity. The maximum SSI benefit is $ 484 per person per month, but state-paid supplements can raise that to more than $ 600 $ 14,000 a year for an elderly couple who never contributed a dime to Social Security.

No matter that their children were prosperous engineers, computer specialists, doctors and lawyers. No matter, either, that the children pledged that their elderly parents would not become public charges. The promise proved to be unenforceable.

In the Chinese community, 55% of elderly immigrants wound up on SSI. For Russians a large number of whom were considered refugees, exempt from the nonwelfare pledge 66% of the elderly received SSI, according to the 1990 census.

The loophole that Congress closed was huge and costly $ 14 billion a year, including both SSI and Medicaid. Now President Clinton wants to reopen it. In his State of the Union address, Clinton asked Congress to "restore basic health and disability benefits when misfortune strikes immigrants who come to this country legally, who work hard, pay taxes and obey the law."

Yes, the elderly immigrants come here legally, but no, they don't necessarily work hard, pay taxes or obey the law. On the contrary, they or their sponsoring relatives routinely break the promise they make as a condition for admission: They will not go on welfare.

Clinton's proposal for restoring disability and health benefits has not been fully spelled out, but a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, which runs the SSI program, says that old age is indeed considered a disability that qualifies for SSI, and with SSI comes Medicaid.

Cutting off welfare for legal immigrants will impose many hardships on innocent people. Children will lose food stamps if mommy or daddy gets laid off. Hardworking, tax-paying legal immigrants could lose disability benefits if they are injured on the job.

But they are victims of a persistent liberal failing: Liberals create these well-intentioned programs and then do not police them against abuse. When the inevitable backlash comes, the innocent suffer for the sins of the rapacious guilty and for the neglect of the liberals who ignored the abuses. Republicans have told Clinton they will oppose reopening this aspect of the welfare act. Unless Clinton spells out that he will stand for no more rip-offs, the Republicans are right.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/14/1997
CONGRESS TAKES A STAND - AS IN STANDUP COMEDY

WASHINGTON Congress finally spoke on term limits Wednesday, and it spoke in the unmistakable voice of Jackie Mason:

"I want term limits, but I don't want this particular version of term limits. I want some other version of term limits. I don't want 12 years because it's too long, and I don't want six years because it's too short. I want something in between. And I don't want term limits to begin just yet. I want it to start after I retire."

In the end, 288 Jackie Mason wanna-bes of the House voted in favor of term limits two more than needed to pass a constitutional amendment. But since they couldn't agree on which particular amendment, no amendment passed.

So 288 representatives have the best of both worlds. They can go to their constituents and solemnly declare they voted for term limits, and they can keep running for reelection until doomsday.

The same comedy routine is occurring with the balanced budget amendment. Oh yes, they all favor the balanced budget amendment, but not this particular balanced budget amendment. Some want an amendment that exempts Social Security, and others want to specify that you can't reach balance by raising taxes. The bottom line is that the balanced budget amendment, which once seemed like a sure thing, is going the way of term limits a proposal that everybody can favor but somehow cannot be enacted.

In fact, both term limits and a balanced budget amendment are terrible ideas. Voters should be free to reelect anyone they like, and a balanced budget amendment would put the national economy in a straitjacket.

It appears that Congress secretly agrees but does not dare say so. Instead, it gives lip service to constitutional amendments on term limits and balanced budgets, then insures their defeat.

Likewise with tax reform. Republicans are pushing for simplification of the tax code and the abolition of the IRS. But House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) is pushing for a single-rate flat tax, and Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, wants to abolish the income tax altogether and shift to a national sales tax.

If Congress ever actually reformed the tax code, the members would have to give up their most cherished power: the ability to write tax breaks for their contributors. But as long as Archer and Armey are at odds, both can make speeches about how terrible the current system is without the risk that any replacement system might be enacted.

The Senate is no better. The public wants to end the obscenity of political fund-raising, so senators say they too want campaign finance reform. But when it comes right down to it, the senators just can't agree. Some Republicans want to limit campaign spending by labor unions, some Democrats want free TV time for all candidates. Some want all funds to come from a member's home district, others want no such restrictions.

The bi-partisan bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is too modest for some, too sweeping for others, and so it remains stalled. You can tune in the continuing debate on C-SPAN. "Of course, I'm for campaign finance reform, but not this particular campaign finance reform. What I want shouldn't be too strict, and it shouldn't be too weak. It should be in between. And it shouldn't apply on Tuesdays, and it shouldn't apply to me."

No, it's not Jackie Mason. It's your Congress at work. Jackie would be better.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/17/1997
TAKE MY TAXES, PLEASE, AND I'LL SAVE THE WORLD

WASHINGTON Have I got a deal for you! Cut my personal income taxes to zero, and I guarantee that I will respond with a burst of creativity and unleashed entrepreneurial energy that will bring jobs and prosperity to the most blighted regions of this fair land.

Skeptical? Well, I can offer an ironclad guarantee: If after you cut my taxes, the economy does not blossom exactly as I predict, I will promptly say, "Hey, sorry. Who knew?" You have my solemn word.

Still skeptical? Well, I'm hurt. But if you don't trust me, why should you trust any of these other folks who are peddling tax-reform schemes with exactly the same promise?

Congressional Republicans are pushing once again for a cut in the capital-gains tax. Cutting taxes on investors and sales of property, they say, will unleash a burst of entrepreneurial energy that will create jobs and blah blah blah.

Yet the Dow Jones stock averages, at a stratospheric 7,000 points, are already 500 points higher than they were when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned of "irrational exuberance" on Wall Street.

Stock traders are currently pocketing million-dollar bonuses and measuring themselves for Maseratis. This is not a sluggish, stalled market that needs the stimulus of a cut in the capital-gains tax. That doesn't stop the advocates of cutting capital-gains taxes, however. They want to pour even more money into the pockets of those who are already doing extremely well.

A great deal for the very rich

Successful publisher and failed presidential candidate Steve Forbes is back in action, airing radio ads for a single-rate "flat tax" to replace the graduated income tax system. Forbes argues that a flat tax will create prosperity and jobs, etc. It will certainly be a major tax break for people in the multi-millionaire brackets, like, er, Steve Forbes.

Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, says he is making converts for his plan to abolish both the income tax and the Internal Revenue Service and shift instead to a consumption tax, which will unleash a burst of etc.

Instead of being taxed when you earn money, you would be taxed when you spend it at a rate of, Archer says, 15% on all goods and services in the country: food, houses, cars, rent. Critics say the tax rate would have to be closer to 30% to bring in as much revenue as the current system.

Archer admits there would be some loopholes. Those stock traders with their million-dollar bonuses could skip to the Bahamas and owe no U.S. taxes because they hadn't spent any money here. He also claims that a sales tax would strike at the underground economy by forcing people like drug dealers to pay taxes when they spend their untaxed profits to buy cars and gold chains.

In fact, countries that have shifted to value-added taxes to bring in revenue have enormous underground economies as plumbers, house-painters, truckers and so on do as much work as possible off the books, for cash.

Archer's proposal has already run into opposition from staunch Republican-leaning organizations like the real-estate lobby and the retail merchants, who risk being forced to raise all their prices by 20% or so. In a consumer-oriented society like ours, a stiff consumption tax would require a major shift in human behavior.

But Archer must be taken seriously. He is indeed chairman of Ways and Means, which writes the tax laws. He claims support from heavyweight fellow Republicans like Budget Chairman John Kasich of Ohio and Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. And he is determined, he says, to rip out the IRS by its roots.

Actually, all these tax plans would be very good for me. They might not be so good for most Americans, but who cares about them?

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/19/1997
WHITEWATER DOESN'T PAN OUT

Washington Special counsel Kenneth Starr's lips say his Whitewater investigation is still going strong. But watch his feet as they tiptoe away.

Whitewater is over. If Starr had any real hope of indicting the President or First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton i.e., accomplishing his reason for being he would not have spent the past three weeks negotiating for a new line of work starting up a 25-student graduate school in Southern California.

He will be gone by Aug. 1. He says he has able assistants to carry on his work. But he can hardly seek indictments of the President and First Lady and then walk out, leaving the aides with the dirty work of securing the actual convictions.

That would violate one of the basic rules of legal ethics: A lawyer sees a case through to completion.

Starr gave a hint that he was running on empty in a speech in Detroit last November, when he pleaded for anyone with information about Whitewater to come forward. No one did.

After 21/2 years of digging, Starr was left with two unbelievable witnesses: David Hale, a proven liar and convicted felon, and Clinton's flaky former partner, James McDougal, who was headed toward acquittal at his own trial until he took the stand and managed to convict himself.

His major victim former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was indeed convicted of misusing the proceeds of a federal loan but was then sentenced to only four years probation. Starr then lost his next two cases. This is not the kind of result upon which major legal reputations are built, and Starr has had his eye on a Supreme Court seat one day.

The original Whitewater story was simple and wrong: It suggested that then-Gov. Clinton intervened with state banking officials not to close a bank so that McDougal could loot it and use the proceeds to prop up the McDougal-Clinton Whitewater land development company.

In fact, there was no such intervention. The federal government not the state of Arkansas let the bank continue to operate. And the Clintons made no money off the deal.

A succession of congressional investigators House Banking Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa, the Senate's Al D'Amato of New York held hearings and also found no smoking guns. The original Whitewater prosecutor, Robert Fiske, found no foul play in the suicide of White House counsel Vincent Foster. A formal investigation commissioned by federal banking regulators cleared the Clintons of any wrongdoing.

In the end, Starr was reduced to trying to find discrepancies in testimony or the deliberate withholding of evidence. When all else fails, a sharp prosecutor can always come up with a perjury charge. But Starr evidently could not.

Bill Clinton still faces legal problems. The Paula Jones lawsuit is likely to be more embarrassment than serious threat.

The White House's fund-raising practices are more dangerous territory for him. The abuses are real, they are recent and they occurred on his watch.

But Whitewater, the ghost he and the First Lady have been fighting for five years, is now history a lingering suspicion for many, perhaps, but one that is unsupported by real evidence.

Like D'Amato, Starr can write a nasty final report about the Clintons. But if he does, he has to give them a chance to respond, and under Justice Department rules, he has to submit the report to a judge who would decide whether or not it is worth making public.

D'Amato's partisan, final hit-and-run report was scathing, but it was forgotten within minutes. And Starr's report seems headed for the same fate.

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/21/1997
TO UNDERSTAND NATO GROWTH, FOLLOW THE MONEY

WASHINGTON Russian nuclear weapons, even if not currently aimed at the United States, can be retargeted toward us in 10 seconds. Russia's leadership is unstable, with President Boris Yeltsin sick and Communists and ultra-nationalists eager to replace him. At such a delicate moment, what should U.S. policy toward Russia be? Poke it in the eye, says the Clinton administration.

Secretary of State Albright has gone to Moscow to tell the Russians that the U.S. is committed to expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization eastward. To the Russians, NATO means one thing that blinds them with hate: the German Army. If America wanted to reunite the feuding, demoralized Russians into a single, cohesive, paranoid, nuclear-armed, anti-Western military opponent, resurrecting the specter of the German Army on Russia's western borders is the way to start.

Then why do we risk it? Yes, there is much lofty babble about strategic vacuums and balances of power, etc. But given the obscenity of modern political fund-raising, I believe we must look at all government decisions in the worst possible light: Follow the money. If you expand NATO, somebody is going to make a buck out of it.

The Republican Contract with America gives a clue. It says the U.S. should expand NATO and encourage greater "interoperability of military equipment." That means U.S. weapons sales.

If Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are to become American allies, they will have to give up their old Soviet-origin weaponry and shift to equipment that is "interoperable" with ours same caliber ammunition, same tank parts, same radio frequencies, same aircraft landing systems and so forth. The cost could be $ 100 billion or more.

Now let us look up the political campaign contributions by the 25 biggest U.S. arms-exporting companies. According to William Hartung of the World Policy Institute, these companies have given $ 18 million to political candidates over the past six years.

Georgia-based Lockheed Martin, the top contributor, and McDonnell Douglas, the No. 6, are currently trying to sell fighters to the Czechs to meet the interoperability requirement.

U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill. The Poles, Czechs and Hungarians are too broke to pay for modern U.S. weapons, and other NATO members Britain, Germany, France are not going to subsidize U.S. arms exports to the East. "There is a $ 15 billion Pentagon fund for guaranteed loans to East European countries," Hartung says.

If cost were the only issue, NATO expansion might be worth it. But adding allies also adds commitments. Under the NATO treaty, American troops would be compelled to respond to an attack on Slovakia, say, as if it were an attack on the United States. Do we want them dying to defend Kosice and Chop because some campaign contributor thought he could make a few dollars in the process?

Expanding NATO was an easy applause line for President Clinton during the campaign. Voters of East European descent grow misty-eyed that their ancestral homelands would finally be part of the West after so many years of Russian domination.

But what's in it for U.S. national security especially if the Russians use the threat of NATO to hang on to their nuclear weapons?

"On this, there are no advantages for the United States whatsoever," says Michael Mandelbaum of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "It would be the worst blunder of the post-Cold War era."

Copyright 1997 Daily News, L.P.
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02/22/1997
HE'S LOST ANY SHINE IN THIS REVERSAL

WASHINGTON Independent counsel Kenneth Starr gave up his most treasured asset yesterday: He proved that he is not really independent after all.

Under political pressure, mostly an an