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Still, theadvantage had to go to the Republicans. They wanted two things out of last weekand they got them. First, an agreement that three more witnesses could be called.While the witnesses were only supposed to be able to testify on videotape, Republicanswangled it so they could excerpt the tape for use in their final arguments.So if Monica were to burst into tears and accuse the President of being a hypocriticalbrute, or if Sidney Blumenthal were to say two irreconcilable things, we'dall get to hear it. As Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith noted, what Republicans hadbeen offering the public was "sex, lies but no videotape." Videotapechanges everything. What fills me with the most glee is that having Monica talkagain should send the audience appeal of Barbara Walters' scheduled interviewplummeting.
In a pressbriefing last Thursday that must have had Democrats all over Washington yelling,"Shaddap! Shaddap!" presidential press spokesman Joe Lockhart woundup doing all sorts of damage. Lockhart had been protesting that, if Republicanspersisted in their partisanship, the White House might demand to call more witnesses."And we're not bluffing!" One thing about an impeachment, obviously,is that the Senate, not the White House, makes up the rules. And one thing aboutthis impeachment is that the White House is the side that does notwant witnesses. So badly do the Dems not want witnesses that they succeededin ensuring that the testimony of the three they got stuck with will be closedto the public (again, barring any later video release). This, after demandingthat the jury deliberations?traditionally the most private part of anytrial?be open to the public. So Lockhart was threatening to bendthe rules in order to harm his own side.

The secondRepublican win came with the party's growing unity around a "finding-of-fact"strategy, which would allow two votes, one on the President's guilt orinnocence, one on whether to throw him out of office. This was the root of allthe confusion. The official Democratic position, enunciated by New Jersey Sen.Frank Lautenberg, was that "you can't separate the two." Whywere Democrats so exercised about a two-stage vote, when this was what they'dbeen suggesting?in the form of censure?all along? What was the difference?It now appears the difference was that censure was meant only to shut down the process altogether. All along, it had been half of what Democrats claimed itwas: a vote on finding of fact that would make impossible a vote to remove.


This meansthat either (1) earlier in the process, the White House worried more than werealized that they could lose a vote to remove; or (2) as we speak, Senate Democratsare more reluctant than we realize to cast a "let him off" vote.


Here, Lockhartwound up doing even more damage. "The Constitution doesn't allow it,"he said of the finding-of-fact vote.


An astutejournalist asked: "But Joe, aren't they in a way just listening towhat the White House argument has been?"


Wheneverhe ran into trouble, Lockhart retreated to Senate arcana and changed his tack,saying that a finding-of-fact vote would be "subject to the rule of thechair."


When journalistsnoted that neither the rule of the chair nor anything else the Senate does isany of the White House's business, Lockhart lost it, and let the cat outof the bag. "What would happen," he asked, "if they changed theirmind between the votes and passed a new procedure through on a 55-45 that said,'If you vote to convict, you do remove'? What about that?"


Good point,Joe!
Right Said Fed ThePresident, meanwhile, was traveling around the country peddling the policy initiativesin his State of the Union address. As he did, Alan Greenspan was traveling aroundtrying to undo them. In particular, the Fed chair sought to save Social Security from the President's efforts to "save" it. Greenspan noted thatin order to fully fund the program, we'd have to raise taxes 4 to 5 percentof total payroll. Other than that, our only immediate option is to increaseimmigration. (Although I don't recall the President mentioning thatin his State of the Union.)
What reallycame in for Greenspan's wrath were Clinton's "U.S.A. Accounts,"under which he hopes to "privatize" part of the Social Security system.This was supposed to be boob-bait for free-marketeers, and Republicans haveswallowed it hook, line and sinker. Of course, these aren't really "accounts"and there's nothing really "private" about them: The governmentpicks a few lucky companies and consortia and buys their stock with hundredsof billions in taxpayer funds, instead of sticking that money into T-bills.If you know Clinton, you know where this is heading.

Greenspan,who probably felt the thumbscrews before he was re-upped as Fed chair, said:"Even with Herculean efforts, I doubt if it would be feasible to insulate,over the long run, the trust funds from political pressures, direct and indirect,to allocate capital to less than its most productive use." Translate thishedging out of Fed-chairmanese, and what you get is this: "Investing inSocial Security" is going to mean investing in the companies that haveladled the most dough into the President's campaign coffers.


The untutorableand always-chipper Lockhart called Greenspan's speech a "very importantvalidation" of the President's program.
Beautiful Southland Republicansare beginning to realize they have a potentially gargantuan problem in the Louisiana1st. That's ex-Speaker-to-be Bob Livingston's district, which he'spromised to vacate under pressure from Hustler magazine. Livingston announcedlast week that he'd step down on Feb. 28. That means Louisiana Gov. MikeFoster will have to call a primary election for sometime in March.
The problemis, such quickie elections tend to put a premium on name recognition. That'swhat Newt Gingrich and other Republicans warned against when Livingston wasmulling over retirement a couple of years ago. Because the announced Republicanwith the most name recognition is ex-Klansman David Duke. Duke is bound to bemuch weaker in this economy than he was in his governor's and senator'sruns in the early 90s. But the remaining Republicans running are pretty nondescript. David Treen, it's true, is an ex-governor who has Livingston's endorsement,but he hasn't finished a run for anything since the early 1980s. (He hasa habit of announcing, then dropping out.) Then there's Rob Couhig, a localmogul who owns the New Orleans Zephyrs. Couhig has run for Congress once before,in 1980, when he mustered only a third of the vote in a never-close race againstCokie Roberts' mother (and Vatican ambassador) Lindy Boggs. Rounding outthe Republican field is an ophthalmologist called (no foolin') Monica Monica.

Then, inNorth Carolina last week, Lieut. Gov. Dennis Wicker sang for the campaign-financesupper slopped out by the gambling magnates who threaten to take over all theSouthern Atlantic states. "I know this may offend certain powerful groups," Wicker said, "but I believe we have to put our children's future first.Let's make a maximum investment in education without raising taxes."Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Wicker is obviously a prime beneficiaryof undereducation in the Tarheel state. To paraphrase Sy Sims, an illiteratevoter is his best constituent. Educated voters, after all, would ask Wicker to name the "powerful groups" he claimed to be offending, and wouldpoint out the ones he's sucking up to. Educated voters also understandthat a lottery is a tax?it's a stupidity tax. Which only makes Wicker'singratitude the worse.


The onlyray of sunlight in all of Old Dixie came from Virginia, where Ken Starr'swife Alice spoke to a Ladies Home Journal interviewer who asked her whatshe thought of Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I admire all her hairdos,"said the noble Alice. A sentiment tantamount to: I admire all her chins.


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