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I'vewritten two or three times over the years about a store in my hometown of Huntingtoncalled Kropotkin Records. It opened in 1970, when I was 15, and was an idyllichangout for hippie teenagers who loved rock 'n' roll and the counterculturethat flourished in that era. As opposed to its one competitor in town, a fuddy-duddybusiness that had a larger stock of Perry Como than Buffalo Springfield, Kropotkinwas an oasis where the young owners were two of "us," who dug themusic and would gladly talk for hours about current releases, politics and thenewest issue of Rolling Stone or National Lampoon.
The firstLP I bought there, for $3, was Workingman's Dead, by the Grateful Dead.I remember riding my bike early in the morning, about 6 a.m., picking up plumsand pastries for the journey, visiting "straight" friends over inanother part of town and then about noon, smoking a joint and reporting to Kropotkin's,where I'd spend the next two or three hours. It was a cool way to killa summer day. There was a "spare change" box at the counter, no cashregister, a list on the bulletin board of which customers were on the "shitlist" and endless talk from one of the owners, Tom Pomposello, about theblues. That wasn't my interest, but it opened a whole new musical worldfor my buddy Mike Bifulco, who subsequently became very close with Tom.I also remember Tom and his partner Rob Witter good-naturedly makingfun of me as I'd try to decipher hidden meanings in the pretentious coversof Moody Blues records.

Sadly, lastweek, at the age of 49, Tom Pomposello passed away. I hadn't seen him inyears but certainly remember him, and always will, very fondly, as a familiarand gentle figure of my youth. Following are the thoughts of a few friends whoselives were enriched by their friendship with Tom.


AlanGoodman:


"Sorry I'm late, but I was on deadline today with something.But in a way, it's good because I've just come from the wake and thatwas a scene. It brought together people from Huntington, musicians, animators,radio and tv producers, network executives, spiritual leaders?people whoknew and knew of each other, people who hadn't been together in decades,and at least one who flew cross-country to pay his last respects. And on everyone'slips, you heard the same thing. Tom was a very special guy.


"Iheard one story from Rob Witter about Scott Savitt and Bifulco that youwill have to confirm with the two of them, but I will save it for the end becauseit's too amazing.


"First,two quick stories I know about Kropotkin Records.


"Bythe time I visited it in the early 1970s, it was already a typical-looking recordstore, but anyone who just knows the Towers and Virgins of todaycan't really know what that means. Modest. A few rows of bins to hold the12-inch albums. Tom?the owner?smiling behind the counter. But apparentlyin the days when the business was young, there were no bins. Instead, the albumswere lined up in rows covering the walls around the whole store. If you wantedan album, it was lifted off the wall, you paid, and walked off happy. But whatno one knew was, those records on the wall didn't represent Kropotkin'sstock. They were the stock. If Tom sold a copy of Jimi Hendrix'sAre You Experienced? or a disc by Big Brother & the Holding Company,he was sold out of the title. I think a couple of times a week, he'd geton the train, visit a jobber a few towns away, and replenish. With one morecopy for each one he sold.


"Andthe other story is, when Tom would make those shopping trips, he'd leavethe store open. Maybe it was the back door or something, that part I don'tknow for sure. But regular customers who knew about it would come in and buyfrom him when he wasn't even there. They'd open the cash box. Leavemoney. Make change. Occasionally, he'd find extra in the till! I know Isound like my grandfather ('back in the old days, we trusted people')but even then it sounded impossible.


"Anyway,when I first got to know Tom it was 1970. I was at Columbia Universityspinning jazz records on the radio, Tom was doing the blues show. His old Huntingtonpal Fred Seibert, another undergrad who was later my partner, broughtTom to the airwaves, and by universal acclamation this student, champion andperformer of the blues was a natural talent on the air. He had a wonderful radiovoice, a delight in his category, and an understated authority. He was alsosomething of a celebrity, having recorded an album playing bass alongside hisidol, Mississippi Fred McDowell. With Fred, he formed Oblivion Recordsto manufacture and distribute it, along with a few other releases that camelater (all in the blues and jazz realms).


"Yearslater, when Fred and I were at MTV heading up advertising, plus on-airpromotion and marketing for the channel, I remember it as not being the bestof times for Tom. He was doing his music then. Fred had the idea to get Tomto produce some music tracks and live-action IDs to fill out the package ofidentity we created for the network. The scheme was basically to get some coininto the guy's hands. (Not a lot, though. We were into volume at the time,we wanted a lot of animation for the dollars.) Tom had no experience, but wefigured if the music was good, we could toss the films and it was still a goodprice just for the tracks.


"Thesimple bits he produced are still among my favorites of the hundreds and hundredswe put on the air. A cow in a pasture, munching on grass. As the camera pansaround, we see some young prankster has painted an MTV logo on the cow'shide. Or, a view of the White House in Washington, shot from apassing car window. A stencil covers the window, a spray can passes back andforth across the opening, the stencil is removed and it's the channel'slogo obliterating the Presidential Palace (that one to the tune of a Hendrix-like'Star Spangled Banner,' performed by Tom on guitar).


"Whenwe took over the on-air for Nickelodeon and completely revamped the channel'slook and feel, we brought Tom on as our producer. Since I had done the day-to-dayin that area for MTV since its inception, it was a bit like passing the batonfor me. Yeah, right?until he left me face down in the dust with the resultsof his consistent talent, a huge body of excellent work.


"Ilike to think we brought Tom kicking and screaming into the commercial world,and I told Patty, his beloved wife, the same at the wake tonight. I rememberthe gut-wrenching, sometimes agonizing, struggle Tom waged with himself as heapproached the work. For this man who had so much integrity and so much honesty(the name under which he always performed was Honest Tom Pomposello),who had worked so hard to popularize a form of music largely ignored and forgotten,who was earning a salary working for bosses who had clients, for Pete'ssake?the whole thing was so off for him. I think it was like anything elsefor Tom. Once he figured it out, once he could understand it in a context, hecould reach comfort with what he was doing.


"Eventually,he did that. Tom was on his own with his own company, his own style, earninghis own universal acclaim and reaping the rewards, not just for the work butfor his decency. And he never left behind the personal work he loved. Alongwith the commercial career, Tom found ways to incorporate traveling around theworld playing the blues, and more recently, producing a CD of sacred music bythe nuns of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT,where mass will be said for him tomorrow.


"Inall the time we worked together, I never heard him raise his voice. There wasalways the gentlest approach with anyone with whom he was working?nothingwas ever going badly. I can't count the recording sessions I attended withhim at the mixing board, but to listen to him direct the session, there wasnever a bad take, just not the one we needed yet. And there was always praiseand gratitude from him for everything.


"Ifelt all that again when I spoke to him just four days before he passed away.We weren't in the habit of speaking in recent years. A time or two a year,was all. But I needed some information I could have gotten a dozen ways, butfigured a call to Tom could clear that up and give me a chance to catch up.It was as uplifting as always. He went on and on about the picture of our kidswe sent him at Christmas. He spoke with pride about the work of his son Travis,who does David Letterman's promos (my favorite ID at college radiowas tiny Travis' recording of the call letters). He was full of enthusiasmabout upcoming projects, most notably a 'new' Mississippi Fred McDowellrecording he was making. While we were still at the radio station, years beforeFred died, Tom recorded McDowell singing with Tom on guitar. 'Fred wassounding very strong,' Tom told me. 'I was horrible.' But theywere on separate tracks. So now, thanks to modern technology, Tom had strippedthe vocal and was laying new tracks.


"So?fullcircle. A life completed, if not complete.


"Okay,the Witter story. Again, get confirmation. But apparently Bifulco hadn'theard about Tom's death, and Savitt felt he had to take him out to tellhim. He brought him to dinner, choosing the Thai restaurant that lives whereKropotkin used to stand.


"Now,when it comes to spirituality I ricochet between the poles of 'it'sall bunk' and 'name a religion, I'm an adherent, I believe itall.' But from what I understand, Bifulco, who used to work for Tom andwas very close, hadn't seen him in several years. So he and Savitt arewalking up to the restaurant and Bifulco stops and says, 'You know, it'sso weird we're eating here because last night I had the strangest dream.Tom came up to me and hugged me. And then he kissed me. And it seemed so real.'And Savitt told him, right there, and Bifulco felt better than Savitt becausehe felt that Tom came to say goodbye.


"That'sthe story. I wasn't there. But go ahead and tell me that's a lot ofpooh."


MikeBifulco and Scott Savitt: "On January 25 we suddenly lost a belovedfriend and musical treasure?Tom Pomposello. 'Honest Tom,' ashe was affectionately called, was simply one of the most influential and creativeforces to emerge in recent memory in the entertainment world. In the early 70sTom and his partner Rob Witter opened Kropotkin Records in Huntington. In thedays before mega-record stores, Kropotkin, though small in size, stocked anastounding cornucopia of musical delights?everything from acid rock toavant-garde jazz?with a special emphasis on the music Tom loved and championedall his life?traditional American folk music. Country blues, old timeyand Chicago blues records lined the walls; rare treasures all but impossibleto find outside of Greenwich Village.


"Theatmosphere of the store was as eclectic and colorful as its stock. Two polessupported the ceiling, painted like something out of a psychedelic barber shop.The ceiling itself was covered with black light posters?the favorite beinga notorious x-rated scene of Popeye and Olive Oyl. The free recordbox is still fondly remembered as is the huge tie-dyed couch where people wouldhang for hours, listening to music, catching the vibe or making out.


"Allthe while Tom was the ringmaster of this circus. He was hard to miss?abig bear of a man with shoulder-length black hair, full beard and a mischievoussense of humor. Many current day filmmakers, journalists, media moguls, musiciansand artists spent their formative years in this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetimeenvironment.


"Butit was Tom's mastery of the bottleneck guitar and his charismatic stagepresence that made him a legend. A musician from childhood, his life changedforever when he befriended and played bass with the great Delta bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell. Tom became a popular performer on Long Islandand New York City, and his annual Heckscher Park concerts werethe most eagerly awaited and heavily attended events of the year. In additionhe was a music professor at Five Towns College.


"Tommoved on to Manhattan to found Pomposello Productions, producingmusic, animation, videos and records. He created music for, among others, MTVand Nickelodeon, including the famous 'Nick-Nick-Nickelodeon' theme.His accomplishments and awards are too numerous to list here, but it'sno exaggeration to say that if you are even just a casual television viewer,you are more than familiar with his work. In spite of all his success, Tom neverlost his love of performing and continued to tour the world playing his cherishedcustom-made Dobro guitar.


"Manylive in this world; few leave it an enriched and brighter place by having beenhere. Tom Pomposello will be missed by many. His legacy lives on."


The FirstAnnual Blues and Folk Festival to honor the memory of Tom Pomposello is beingplanned for the spring of 1999. For information call Scotto Savitt Entertainmentat 516-757-9249.


It was Tom'swish that donations in his name be made to Promisek, Inc., a non-profit foundation.Funds will be used to provide musical instruments to the children of NorthernMississippi in honor of his mentor, Fred McDowell. Donations can be made to:Promisek, Inc., PO Box 402, Bridgewater, CT 06752. Phone: 860-350-8226.
A Slight Stumble for Bush Itwasn't exactly a replay of Roger Mudd's interview with TeddyKennedy in 1979, in which the Massachusetts senator failed to articulateany coherent idea of why he wanted to replace Jimmy Carter as president,but George W. Bush's one-hour appearance on C-SPANlast weekend was inauspicious. Even though he hasn't announced his intentionto run for the 2000 GOP nomination?in fact, his cousin John Ellis,a Boston Globecolumnist, has suggested he might not?BrianLamb's chat with Bush wasn't aired just because the Governorwon a smashing reelection in Texas last fall.
Bush badlyneeds some coaching lessons in speaking without a script; otherwise he'llbe creamed in the numerous debates that will take place within a short periodof time next year. Asked by Lamb if he likes reading, Bush said, "Yes,a lot." Prodded as to what kind of books he enjoys he answered: "Ilove history. I just finished reading The Sword of San Jacinto aboutSam Houston. I like occasional social commentary. I say occasional; I occasionallyread social commentary. But I love history. I was a history major in collegeand I spent a lot of time on history. I'm trying to wrack my brain nowthat you asked me to think of all the great history books. Well, I mean, TheRiver Also Rises, the book about the Mississippi River that flooded; the'27 flood, I believe it was, of the Mississippi. It's a great book...It's amazing to be interested in history and living?making history.It's an interesting coincidence."

As my friendBinyamin would say: Oy!


However,when Bush works from text he can be the charismatic candidate that Republicanswill rally around to recapture the White House. I saw Bush'sJan. 19 inaugural address on the tube and he was spellbinding; passionate, attractive,conveying a youthful sense of hope that propelled JFK in 1960.


In part,he told the crowd in Austin: "Our diversity gives Texas new life,new energy, new blood?and we should not fear it but welcome it.People seeking to improve their lives and move up lift our entire economy. Societiesare renewed from the bottom up, not the top down. This renewal will continueif government respects individuals, does not tax them too much and does nottry to do for them what they ought to do for themselves. And this progress willcontinue as long as we do not allow race to divide us... There's a trendin this country to put people into boxes. Texans don't belong in littleethnic and racial boxes. There are such boxes all over the world, in placeswith names like Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda; and they are human tragedies. As wehead into the 21st century, we should have one big box: American."


That sortof rhetoric wins presidential elections. But if Bush gets swamped in a debatewith the automaton Liddy Dole, pitbull John McCain (who'snow said to have doubts about running) or even Lamar Alexander, who'smore practiced in tedious retail politicking, then all his money, family connectionsand buoyant conservative philosophy will be for naught. The mainstream press,which is begging to forgive St. McCain any gaffe, won't be so kind withBush; he'll enter the race as the frontrunner and the slightest Quayle-likeslip-up will be exaggerated to the point that it might torpedo his campaign.I hope Bush runs: He's easily the best candidate against a damaged AlGore, who'll be carrying so much Clinton baggage he'llstart the general election campaign at a 10-point disadvantage. But George W.needs some debating lessons.


Bush hasalready been bashed by Alexander and Quayle for his slogan "compassionateconservatism," which I take as sour grapes from the two challengers becausethe Texas governor is topping the polls even before he's announced. Besides,Bush has demonstrated in Texas that there're teeth behind those words.And just last week, Sen. Rick Santorum, a hard-line conservative whofaces a tough reelection campaign next year in Pennsylvania, repudiatedAlexander and Quayle in a letter to both candidates. He wrote: "The RepublicanParty has a proud tradition of being both compassionate and conservative, andwe should embrace and promote both." According to Sunday's WashingtonPost, Quayle's camp was polite in response, simply replying, "DanQuayle believes Rick Santorum is a fantastic senator and looks forward to campaigningfor his reelection."


Alexander'sspokesman, reflecting his bitter boss' pleasure at tweaking Bush, issuedthe following hyperbolic statement: "Gov. Alexander is pleased to havestarted a debate in the Republican Party over whether we will stand stronglyand competently by our principles and articulate them forcefully or whetherwe'll hide behind Clintonian-like weasel words which offer nothing morethan a pale imitation of Democrat policies." So, now we know what Alexanderhas replaced his flannel shirt with this time around: the phrase "weaselwords." Get used to it, because until he drops out of the campaign that'sall you'll hear from the frustrated ex-governor of a tiny state.
Rich Is Back in the Tank I'velaid off the Times' Frank Rich in recent weeks for a coupleof reasons. First, the wretched columnist has either made some sense, like championingC-SPAN's Brian Lamb's call for complete televisionaccess to the Senate impeachment trial, or written about some entertainment nonsense that I find uninteresting but not dangerous. Then, last week, I feltkind of bad for him when our own Taki made sport of Rich's girth.I don't care if he's 300 pounds or anorectic; it has no bearing onwhat atrocities he commits to the printed page.
But Richwas back in rare form last week, first with a column on Wednesday called "TheCrybaby Party" that attacked a satiric piece by P.J. O'Rourkein the Feb. 1 Weekly Standard. O'Rourke, who's often gratingwith his repetition of one-liners, was dead-on this time around, joyfully advocatingan impeachment trial that would last for months, all because it's so damnamusing. Read the following and tell me, especially you earnest Upper WestSiders, that it's not funny: "Senators, don't! Please fallinto vicious partisan bickering instead. Mix drain cleaner into the coatroomjar of toupee glue if that's what it takes to bring tempers to a boil.Make the bar at the Palm restaurant a state and elect James Carville to yourchamber. Hide Sen. Thurmond's Viagra. Force Sen. Kennedy to skip lunch.Give Sen. Byrd's history of the Senate to Michiko Kakutani for a snidereview in the New York Times. Call witnesses, call an endless list ofwitnesses. Call Mick Jagger, he's slept with everybody. Call Dr. LauraSchlessinger. She knows Bill's type... The Clinton impeachment is a thingof manifold splendor, and what's most bright and shining is that it hasno downside."

Rich, confidentthat the Republicans' fight to convict Clinton is near conclusion,wrote that the President's opponents are blaming everybody else for theirfailure to make headway. He castigates the usual bunch of villains: HenryHyde, Bob Barr, Newt Gingrich, the House managers, BillKristol and Ken Starr. (Starr's a gimme on any Democratic list:To Rich, he's responsible for collecting "unexpurgated porn"and releasing it to the public, as if what was contained in his report wasn'ttame by even a teenager's standards.) Why, Rich thundered, soon the GOPwould start complaining about the biased, liberal media again!


But Richhas particular contempt for O'Rourke, who dared to lampoon the Americanpeople by describing them, rather accurately, as "masses waddling intoairports, business offices, and churches dressed in drooping sweats or fuchsiawarm-up suits or mainsail-sized Bermuda shorts, each with a mobile phone inone ear and a Walkman in the other and sucking Diet Pepsi through a straw."Imagine that! Rich, New York City populist, harrumphs. What is gallingabout his pomposity is that I'll bet that a majority of the punditocracy,the mostly liberal journalists who enjoy affluent lifestyles, send their kidsto private schools, have summer homes and are members of an elite class in thiscountry, howled when they read O'Rourke's words. They believe them,too, but don't have the balls to say so. And Rich, who's as elitistas they come, just used the passage to buttress his flimsy argument that Republicansin the House and Senate are Neanderthals who shouldn't be allowed in publicmeeting places. It's this kind of hypocrisy, so prevalent in the Washington-Bostonpower center, that's made this entire case so maddening. If Clinton werea Republican, you can bet that the media would be demanding his scalp.


(MichaelWolff, in his Feb. 8 New York "Media" column, rivaled Richfor repulsive writing. Wolff spent a few days at the hearings, sitting nextto novelist Dominick Dunne, he's quick to point out, and was struckby just how stupid the House managers are. "The Republican managerscertainly do not have the advantages of education, experience, or I.Q. to competewith the White House legal team. This is another thing that the television hasflattened: the class differences between the House members and the president'slegal team." Wolff also makes the preposterous leap that senators are ofa different breed from mere representatives, ignoring the basic fact that 45of the current senators started out in the House. Does he think these politicianstransform from caterpillars to golden butterflies once they enter the Senatechambers? Wolff continues: "It's Yale Law School versus the bumpkins."Translated: the Ivy League vs. them dirty Southerners in overalls whoguzzle moonshine whiskey and hang out with Goober and Gomer Pyle.Don't know about you, but I think South Carolina's LindseyGraham was far more impressive than Clinton's personal lawyer DavidKendall. As was Arkansas' Asa Hutchinson.)


Last Saturday,Rich was even more disingenuous, ridiculing the GOP for "p.c." behaviorin calling its three witnesses for the trial. Where's Betty Currie,Rich wants to know; is it because she's a small, black woman that HenryHyde passed her over, even though her complicity in the scandal is central tothe case against the President? Of course Currie's testimony iscrucial and everyone knows that: Her conversations with Clinton and his coachingcould nail him. But as Rich is obviously aware, with only three witnesses allowed,the House managers aren't going to take the risk of a hostile media showingimages of a cowering Currie as she's led to the Senate chamber. The demagoguery,led by Clinton's prayer and Super Bowl buddy Jesse Jackson,would be insufferable. It would be reminiscent of last year when she testifiedbefore the grand jury and, huddled against the masses of cameramen, looked sodefenseless. In fact, Currie is not a witless waif who's deserving of suchcondescending treatment by partisans like Rich. She's a savvy woman who'sbeen at the center of Clinton's White House?the gatekeeper, in a sense?andwould make an extremely helpful witness. But her appearance would backfire forthe Republicans and that's why they settled on Vernon Jordan, SidneyBlumenthal and Monica (who's now dropped her last name).


As for Blumenthal, it's no surprise that journalists are enraged that he's been calledas one of the three witnesses: Despite his loathsome reputation, he's aformer member of the press and there's a residue of twisted loyalty. TimothyNoah, writing in Slate, asks why Blumenthal (who's a neighborof his) and not Betty Currie? The Baltimore Sun's Jack Germondand Jules Witcover called the choice of Blumenthal "astonishing."That's a bunch of hooey, as any Beltway insider knows: Blumenthal'sbeen at the center of Clinton's dirty-tricks operation and, despite theself-righteous bluster he's bound to display on videotape, might fork overinformation to save his own skin. Besides, it was Blumenthal Clinton entrustedwith the whopper that Monica was a stalker who might be out to blackmail him.The ex-New Yorker apologist for the First Family then disseminated thatlie to the media.


The WallStreet Journal's Paul Gigot, in his "Potomac Watch"column last Friday, was one of the few pundits who applauded Blumenthal'ssummons. He wrote: "Mr. Blumenthal's [grand jury] testimony revealsa president doing much more than hiding an affair. He was using the powers ofhis office to create a false story that would destroy Ms. Lewinsky... Mr. Clintonwas telling his most fervent supporter that his president was the victim oflies and a gross injustice. Wouldn't Mr. Blumenthal want to tell everyonein the White House and around the world why his hero was innocent? If Mr. Clintondidn't want his chief political communicator to broadcast this phony tale,he could have said so. There's no record he did... In her interview withHouse managers on Sunday, Ms. Lewinsky seemed surprised when they asked herabout Mr. Blumenthal's testimony and the 'stalker' line. Maybethis explains the furious Democratic opposition even to videotaping her testimony."


It'shilarious listening to Clinton's lawyers and shills shed crocodile tearsfor Monica, asking why subject the poor girl to another round of hostile questions.Margery Eagan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, was burstingwith sympathy for Monica on Jan. 26, lamenting that the poor lass would be forcedto testify once again. She shreds the House managers: "There's somethingso prurient about it all, so creepy, as if a bunch of dirty old men with softfingers and sweaty upper lips keep pressing a pretty, embarrassed young thingfor details of her impure thoughts." It bothers Eagan that Monica was questionedby men, and Southern white men at that. Incredibly, she continues: "Toobad for the Republicans that they don't have a woman inquisitor who comesacross like Clinton defender Cheryl Mills?honey-voiced, passionate, high-minded."As I wrote last week, This Is Not America.


And WalterShapiro, the USA Today columnist who moonlights for Slate,wrote these absurd remarks in the online journal last Friday: "Monica isan ordinary young woman, who blundered badly when she was exposed to extraordinarytemptation. Like Helen of Troy, she's caused a helluva mess?but thatdoesn't mean she's responsible for it."


Helenof Troy? Jesus Christ, but I'm getting sick of all these lazy punditsinvoking Greek tragedy, when in reality the sleazy scandal simply resemblesa 90s sitcom or nighttime soap. Monica, with just a year of on-and-off servicingof Clinton, which she presumably enjoyed, is now famous and will become richfrom a book deal and television appearances. She's the toast of Hollywoodand will probably not want for a steady stream of income, at least for the nextfive years, until the shallow entertainment moguls decide she's too fator boring to consume their precious attention. She made out like a princessin this deal.
Lanny Davis' Paper of Record Therewas an editorial printed last Friday by the Democratic National Committee,I mean The Clinton Times... No, wait, let me start over. There was aneditorial printed last Friday by The New York Times that demonstratesjust how buffaloed the country's "paper of record" is by theWhite House's spin. It began: "Senate Republicans acted unwiselyyesterday by exercising their majority power to impose an open-ended and ill-definedset of procedures for the remainder of the impeachment trial. They are now perilouslyclose to turning the trial into a purely Republican spectacle that poorly servesthe nation and demeans the Senate itself."
I'mnot alone in suggesting that every time the Senate meets it "demeans"itself, but let's leave that alone for now. Just what does the editorialboard of the Times expect the Senate to do? Roll over for the White Houseand ignore the House's impeachment charges against Bill Clinton?They've been pushing their "censure" proposal for months now;it's going nowhere and I suppose Howell Raines and Arthur Sulzbergerare pissed that their opinion wasn't immediately adopted by the GOP. It'sironic that the very next day, last Saturday, the Times condemned AttorneyGeneral Janet Reno for not appointing an independent counsel to investigateClinton lieutenant Harold Ickes' involvement in campaignfinance irregularities for the '96 presidential campaign. And on Saturday,The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt recounted ABC'sscoop that Nathan Landow, a wealthy Democratic fundraiser, hired a privateinvestigator, Jarrett Stern, "for an unspecified project."Kathleen Willey, who has accused Clinton of groping and fondling her,maintains that she was harassed by a man two days before her testimony in thePaula Jones case.

Also lastweek, the Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Kenneth Starr'sindictments of Webster and Susan Hubbell on tax evasion charges.Dick Morris, Clinton's former guru (he may be still: who knows?)wrote a column in the New York Post a week ago that ridiculed the notionthat the impeachment trial will end as scheduled on Feb. 12. He correctly notedthat no one, last year, expected that Starr would recommend impeachment, thatthe House would actually impeach Clinton, that the Senate wouldn't immediatelydismiss the charges or that they'd call witnesses.


Not longafter Clinton's infamous pep rally on the day he was impeached, when formerPresidents Carter and Ford, along with former Sens. Cohenand Dole, tried to broker a censure (translated: a pardon), itappeared the trial would be a sham, with a spineless Trent Lott cavingin to the Democratic minority. It hasn't turned out that way. As I'vewritten before, every day that this trial continues, the worse it will becomefor Clinton. Since it's a guarantee that the Senate will dawdle, there'splenty of time for further evidence?like the Landow revelations?toinfluence the senators. That's why the White House is considering callingwitnesses of their own; that's why the War Room is gearing up foraction again. There was, it turns out, a false sense of security when Sen. Byrdcalled for a quick up or down vote. That's long forgotten now, even asGOP senators claimed on the Sunday talk shows that the perjury count might notattract even 50 votes for conviction. But, failing a sudden burst of couragefrom the Senate, it does appear that eventually Clinton will get off the hook.I'm firmly against the "finding of fact" gambit that some Republicansare pushing to provide cover for their reelection efforts. Sure, it'llbe thoroughly disgusting when Clinton celebrates upon his eventual acquittal,but the Senate shouldn't fudge with the Constitution. Leave it to futurehistorians, preferably not the progeny of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. or SeanWilentz, to describe just what exactly happened during Clinton's criminaladministration.


It'sMorris' theory that Susan Hubbell will crack and then her husband willtoo. Then: "If Lewinsky asked Currie to pick up the gifts, she might havedone so on her own. But if Currie was the one who called Lewinsky, it is very,very, very unlikely that she did so on her own. If Starr uses Lewinsky'stestimony to threaten Curry, she might have more to say about what Clinton didor did not tell her to do about the gifts." That's why the lengthof the trial is so important: Ken Starr might not be in the Senate chamber,but he's still working on the case. Clinton must've dirtied his briefsupon reading Don Van Natta Jr.'s report in Sunday'sNew York Times that Starr is considering an indictment of him while he'sstill in office.


If Morrisis correct, and the trial snowballs, there's no guarantee that Currie won'tstill be called as a witness. National Journal editor Michael Kelly wrote in The Washington Post on Jan. 27: "The import of Currie's[grand jury] testimony is clear: Knowing that he was the subject of a federalgrand jury investigation, and knowing that Currie must be called to testifyin this investigation, Clinton called Currie in and ran her through the cover-upstory one more time. At the time, whether Clinton knew it or not, Currie wasin fact a subpoenaed witness. Bill Clinton tampered with a witness in a federalcriminal proceeding." And that's called obstruction of justice.


The Timeseditorial board knows that Clinton is corrupt and that his criminal activityis not "just about sex." Why the paper is rolling over for Clintonis a mystery that I suppose only historians will uncover. If the minority partyin the Senate won every procedural vote, would it then be a Democratic "spectaclethat poorly serves the nation and demeans the Senate itself"? Probablynot.


On the sameday, Jan. 29, that the Times issued its 53rd call for Clinton'scensure, its former executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, wrote a blisteringcolumn, saying, "A guilty verdict would repair the Presidency and country."Admitting that he voted for Clinton twice, the second time with grave reservations,Rosenthal derides those who complain that the proceedings haven't been"bipartisan," explaining that of course that would never be expected.He also lays out the case against Clinton for those senators who refuse to musterthe courage to do it themselves: "Remember who got us here, who forcedthe trial, who put the country brain-deep in his own muck. Forgetting that islike forgetting that Judge Ito did not kill O.J. Simpson's former wife.Bill Clinton gambled the moral, political and historic reputation of the Presidency?showingwhat he thought of the office and himself. He lied. He lied in private and inpublic, with or without oath. He lied to friends, enemies, subordinates... Ifperjury aggravated by repetition is not enough, examine damage to government.He captured and tied up the entire White House in his lies. He lied directlyto some of his government employees, used others as shields, and kept some theoreticallyignorant so they could say sorry, we cannot inform the public."


Rosenthal,at one time, was a powerful and feared man at the Times. In his dotage,he's been granted a column, the equivalent of a gold watch, and is largelyignored by a young publisher who prefers the schoolgirl whimsy of MaureenDowd and anti-Christian, entertainment-laden prose of Frank Rich.Dowd was riding on her high horse last Sunday, railing against Starr and thereport that he may indict Clinton while still in office. "This is all aboutego, vengefulness and arrogance. The public is begging for release from Monicamadness, but all Ken Starr and the Republican House managers want is to savetheir own heartless faces." Stuff it, Mo, and keep those "vengeful"rants between you and Michael Douglas. If Starr is such a vindictiveprosecutor, why do the judges keep ruling in his favor? Maybe it's becausehe's obeying the letter and the spirit of the law.


It makesyou wonder: If Rosenthal were still a force at the Times, would the paper'sstance toward the country's felonious president be more severe?
This Column Is Tapped I'mcertain that Cynthia Cotts and her comrades at the Village Voicedon't tune in to Matt Drudge's Fox tv show on Saturdaynights?too many left-wing protest parties with cheap wine, bean dip andJoan Baez tunes to attend?but last weekend they'd have beensurprised to see their own Nat Hentoff as one of Drudge's guests.Hentoff followed the ubiquitous Dick Morris, who spoke ominously aboutJudiciary Committee investigators fearing for their safety, presumablyfrom Clinton's thugs.
Morris: "When I was called by the House Judiciary Committee just last weekend totestify or to meet with them I met with three investigators of the committee.They asked me not to use their names and I won't but they were each 50years of age or over, they weren't kids. They had decades of experienceworking for the IRS, the FBI, and all other kinds of other investigative organizations.They told me they were physically afraid of retaliation... And they said aren'tyou afraid of retaliation? They said don't you know the list of the 25people who have died in mysterious circumstances in connection with this investigation?And I said are you guys out of your minds? And they said no, no. And one ofthem said I guarantee you that each of us will have an IRS audit when this isover, he said I'm saving my receipts. I know that I am going to have anaudit. And I said, how does that work? And he said well the head of the IRSand Hillary are very good friends."

But I digress.Hentoff said Clinton "has a list of discarded women and as soon as oneof them indicates that she might speak to a reporter, or possibly sue...theyget visited. Now I can't say that they get visited directly from Clintonbut emissaries come and they say you better watch it..." Hentoff has writtenextensively about Clinton and his "discarded women" for The WashingtonPost and the Voice, so this isn't new territory; still, seeinghis anger on air is different from simply reading it.


Drudge eggedhim on, asking where did all the radicals go, "where is the backbone inthe rest of the media?" Hentoff wanted to know why Bill Clinton'smedical records are such a secret and agreed with Drudge that NBC waschickenshit for holding back its Juanita Broaddrick story by Lisa Meyers, whom along with ABC's Jackie Judd he called "thetwo best reporters on the networks."


But aboutthe mainstream media Hentoff said: "I think there is a fear, there is anexaggerated fear on the part of the liberals of the left. I'm really a libertarian but...never mind. They are so afraid that if Clinton is gone, theyhave no faith in Gore, which is an accurate prediction. They think that Tom DeLay is going to appoint all the Supreme Court justices, and the secret police?asif they didn't exist now, as Dick Morris points out?will take over the country. So they have abandoned their principles, most of them know thatClinton has done what he is being accused of, some of them know that as a civillibertarian I can make this case that he has done more harm to the Bill of Rightsthan any president in our history."
Barbara Boxer's Bullshit The hypocrisy of theSenate knows no bounds. Last Thursday, writing in the San Jose Mercury News,California Sen. Barbara Boxer had the audacity to call for anend to the impeachment trial without revealing that she's tangentiallyrelated to the Clintons: Her daughter is married to Hillary Clinton'sbrother Hugh Rodham, Jr. "This has been a very difficult chapter for thecountry," Boxer solemnly reminds readers, "for Congress, for the presidencyand for me. In my recent re-election campaign, I said I wanted to go back toWashington to legislate, not to investigate or humiliate. The time has cometo do just that?to move on and do the people's business." Whatpious horseshit.
It hasn'tbeen a "very difficult chapter for the country." Most people don'tcare a whit about the proceedings in Washington, even if they do registerapproval for Bill Clinton's performance as president (whichsharply contrasts with their opinion of his personal morality). Those who'vefollowed the Monica travails and Clinton's succession of lies viewit as entertainment; when it gets juicy every month or so, then it's betterthan the usual fare of film or television. As long as the economy stays healthyand there's no war to worry about, "the real people," as punditslike to say, are tending to their own business, looking at the trial as a meresideshow.

In fact,most "real people" are woefully uninformed about the business of politics.Last week, WABC's radio talk-show host Sean Hannity had aman on the street interviewing passersby to see if they could identify the vicepresident of the United States. Only about one in five passed the test.(Hannity, by the way, as I mentioned last week, is no mental giant himself.I got a call from a rival radio station employee who alleged that one time whenHannity asked who was appearing on a show opposite his and was told GoreVidal, he said, "Who's that?")


But backto Boxer. This is the woman who was elected in '92, the Year of the Woman,partly on the basis of her pillorying Clarence Thomas, now a SupremeCourt justice, a man accused of far less heinous behavior than Clinton. In addition,when Sen. Bob Packwood, who resigned in the wake of sexual harassmentcharges, was up before his colleagues, Boxer said: "I have to say, as oneU.S. Senator who is going to vote on how to dispose of this matter in a fairand just fashion to all concerned, I do not want to base my vote on a stackof papers." But when it comes to Clinton, a Democrat, she says it'stime "to move on" and no witnesses are necessary.


Maryland'spaleoliberal Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who's ready to rubber-stampacquittal for Clinton, had a similar view when it came to Republican Packwood.She said: "It is that history and tradition that I believe that calls usnow, as we get ready to vote, to honor the precedent of public hearings, forcross-examination of witnesses, to resolve discrepancies in testimony, to havea fair format." Yeah, I agree, that statement was hard to decipher; hersimple "no" vote on witnesses for the Clinton trial was more straightforward.


FEBRUARY 1


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