Inventing a candidate (by Cal Thomas)
You might think that a post-election cruise for conservatives sponsored by National Review would resemble a wake, mourning the White House loss. Far from it. The success in maintaining a Republican majority in Congress has given conservatives a confidence they have mostly lacked in the post-Reagan years. The Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed made the most intriguing remark when he told me that "we are going to have to invent a presidential candidate for the year 2000." By that he meant finding a person who already subscribes to what most conservatives believe rather than attempting to squeeze a moderate-to-liberal Republican into an ill-fitting ideological suit. Perhaps this person would resemble former Wyoming Republican Sen. Malcolm Wallop, who presented a speech on the cruise that he had delivered the previous week to the economically conservative Cato Institute. Mr. Wallop listed specifically how and why conservatives should extricate themselves from a party mentality. There are too many to recount here, but the first step is to stop viewing the party as the exclusive property of Rockefeller Republicans who have by default been setting the party's agenda. Those Republicans have lost the White House twice in the past two national elections, compared to the three-in-a-row victories delivered by two Reagan administrations and one Bush administration. As conservatives dominate the intellectual and political high seas, Mr. Wallop had a word of caution: "My concern is with the character of American conservatism... . In Europe conservatives long ago gave up the principled battle against the welfare state, became just another set of claimants and have taken up the anti-immigration cause, not without racism. If you want to see a conservatism more niggardly and with less of a future than Nixon's, Dole's, Pete Wilson's, or Christine Whitman's, just go to Europe. The American conservative tradition, which began with Washington and Adams, is founded on a concern for character. No phrase came from Washington more often than 'we have a national character to establish.'" Mr. Wallop correctly asserted that America, with each passing year, resembles less what the Founders intended and more like the countries our immigrant forefathers fled. Conservatism has obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is the stereotype of "mean-spiritedness" and "selfishness." But like big ships, great social movements take time to turn around. Conservatives are on the right course. The question is, should they be on the Republican boat or abandon ship? copyright 1996, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
The love of money
Harold Nicholson was a day away from his 46th birthday when he checked in at Dulles airport for a flight to Switzerland to mix business with pleasure, and ultimately meet up with the woman he'd planned to marry. Then the FBI arrested him. The 16-year CIA veteran was charged with selling secrets to Russia--specifically the names of all the new CIA recruits from July 1994 to July 1996--for $180,000. U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey made known the weekend arrest Nov. 18 and denounced Mr. Nicholson as a man who "betrayed his country for money." He's the highest-ranking CIA official ever charged. The next day, FBI officials said the Russians may have inadvertently given evidence that Mr. Nicholson was working for them. Russian officials said they were seeking information on Chechnya; shortly thereafter, Mr. Nicholson allegedly began seeking information on that country, which he did not need for his CIA work. An Alexandria, Va., grand jury formally indicted Mr. Nicholson Nov. 21; his court-appointed lawyer says the accused double agent will plead not guilty at his December arraignment.
The land down under
President Clinton got out of town one step ahead of potential legal troubles. As the president was enjoying a working vacation in Australia, the U.S. Supreme Court set a date to hear the case of a woman who claims Mr. Clinton made aggressive sexual advances toward her in a Little Rock, Ark., hotel in 1991. Oral arguments in the Paula Jones case are slated for Jan. 13, a week before Mr. Clinton's second inaugural. At issue is whether a citizen can sue a sitting president for acts that occurred prior to his taking office. Also while the president was away, Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros announced Nov. 21 he'd soon be leaving town--making him the seventh of 14 cabinet members to quit since Mr. Clinton's reelection. In tendering his resignation, Mr. Cisneros said he needed to make much more than the $148,000 a year he earned as HUD secretary to support his two daughters' educations--one in college, the other in law school. What Mr. Cisneros didn't mention was his growing indebtedness to the law school graduate representing him in a special counsel probe to determine whether he lied to the FBI about payments to a former mistress. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton's former law partner and former Clinton administration assistant attorney general Webster Hubbell testified Nov. 19 to a grand jury about payments he received from business enterprises controlled by Indonesian financier Mochtar Riady. Mr. Riady's Lippo Group is at the center of a controversy over foreign-linked contributions to the Democratic Party. On Nov. 20, Mr. Hubbell left federal prison, where he is nearing the end of a 21-month mail fraud and tax evasion sentence, and took up residence in a Washington, D.C., halfway house. He was convicted of stealing almost half a million dollars from Rose Law Firm clients.
Out of Africa
The planned multinational intervention in Zaire is looking a lot less multi. On Nov. 19, the United States scaled back its previously committed 4,000 troops to less than 1,000 logistics specialists. The change in plans came amid reports that more than a half million Rwandan refugees have left camps in eastern Zaire and returned home. Departing Defense Secretary William Perry called the resettlement a "very positive development." Along with the logistics personnel who will deploy primarily to help distribute relief aid, participating countries will be providing a heavy supply of so-called "morning after" birth-control pills. Relief workers from the United Nations and the Red Cross say they want to help refugee women "avoid" unwanted pregnancy.
The "moral deficit"
After winning by acclamation the support of his party to remain Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich extended a kinder, gentler hand of cooperation to the president. Mr. Gingrich termed the 104th Congress elected in 1994 the "Confrontation Congress"; he said the 105th would be the "Implementation Congress." Tops on the implementation agenda is a balanced budget, but Mr. Gingrich said he hoped the new Congress would also address the nation's "moral deficit." Mr. Gingrich said, "We have an obligation to reassert... that this nation comes from God, that it is in fact only successful when it is submissive to God's will. I'm not suggesting here in any way a state religion. This country will never again be healthy if we don't have the courage to confront the spiritual and cultural and moral deficit that is an even greater threat to our future than the economic deficit."
In Delaware, police charged two unwed 18-year-old college students with murdering their 6 pound, 2 ounce newborn son. Brian Peterson and Amy Grossman, who grew up in the affluent suburbs of New York City, are accused of killing the child after Miss Grossman gave birth in a motel room, not far from her university dormitory. An autopsy suggested the child had been shaken and beaten to death before being stuffed in a plastic bag and thrown in a trash bin. In an interview with Fox television, Mr. Peterson's attorney audaciously claimed murder was the wrong charge: "[My client] did not commit murder. He committed a crime of bad judgment because no two teenagers [who] have no medical training should be alone in a motel when a baby is being delivered." If convicted of murder, the two teens could face the death penalty. A South Carolina man, seeking revenge on his estranged wife, reportedly shot and killed her four children as they slept, leaving them as a "Christmas present" for her to find. One of the children was the man's own son; the three others were his stepchildren. Police later found the body of the man in a nearby reservoir, an apparent suicide. Nearly one child in 10 is living with parents who have never married each other, according to a congressional report released Nov. 19. That's up from 0.4 percent in 1960. Also rising, according to a separate report issued the same day: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A committee of the Institute of Medicine said the United States now has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases of any developed nation in the world. One-fourth of the estimated 12 million new cases of STDs each year are among adolescents. What to do? One choice is "delaying sexual intercourse," but for those who just can't say no, the committee recommended distribution of free condoms through government schools.
A week of public hearings opened Nov. 18 into the mid-May crash of ValuJet Flight 592. At the hearing, the government released a transcript of the plane's cockpit voice recorder. "Completely on fire!" were the final words heard on the tape. Crash investigators believe improperly packed or stored oxygen canisters in the DC-9's cargo hold may have started or fueled the fire. Later in the week, a federal safety inspector conceded his agency had cut corners on approving ValuJet's operations procedures because it couldn't keep up with the airline's rapid growth. Near Quincy, Ill., Nov. 19, two planes collided at a runway intersection at a small airport. All 13 crew and passengers of the planes died in the collision. One of the planes, a commercial commuter aircraft, had just landed. The other, smaller plane was getting ready for takeoff.
New Era settlement close
Christian ministries, colleges, and charities burned in the collapse of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for New Era Philanthropy are one step closer to getting some of their money back. A bankruptcy settlement, worked out by many evangelical groups affected by New Era's collapse, had been held up by Prudential Securities, which was being sued in its role as New Era's investment broker. Under a Nov. 15 agreement, Prudential promised $18 million to be distributed to New Era's creditors if all lawsuits against the brokerage company are dismissed. The agreement must be approved by a bankruptcy judge.
Whither public education?
Business leaders worried about United States competitiveness in the 21st century found no comfort in two new education reports. The first, issued Nov. 19, showed American schools are making little progress toward a series of education goals set by the nation's governors in 1989. Despite six years of work toward the goals, the report said "overall performance is virtually static." Among the elusive education goals: increasing high-school graduation rates and raising reading scores. On Nov. 20, the Department of Education released results of the largest international study ever of how school children around the world perform in math and science. Students from 41 countries participated, with American eighth graders coming in 28th in math and 17th in science.
Air bag update
Responding to public concern over the danger that air bags pose to young children, small adults, and the unborn, the Transportation Department decided to allow drivers to have their air bags disconnected. Auto air bags have been linked to more than 50 deaths, including the deaths of 30 children.
Pope John Paul II, revered by millions as an anti-communist hero, met Nov. 19 with Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro at the Vatican, a meeting that Mr. Castro described as "a miracle." The pope promised to visit Cuba in 1997, but only after extracting a promise that he would be allowed unrestricted travel access and be allowed to speak to anyone he chose. On several occasions, John Paul has voiced opposition to the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, saying it hurts the poor. As street crowds chanted, "Down with the Communists," Romania's "ex-communist" leader was booted out of office in a run-off election Nov. 17. The new Romanian president, one-time college professor Emile Constantinescu, won by taking a page from an American political playbook of 1994: He developed a Contract with Romania that promised economic growth and rapid government reforms.
Emergency workers Nov. 18 rescued 34 people, choking and praying, from the English Channel tunnel after a fire broke out on a freight train, forcing the train to stop 11 miles into the 31-mile tunnel. The heat and smoke were so intense that it took firefighters eight hours to put out the blaze. At least 39 people died as steel-melting flames roared through the top four floors of a Hong Kong highrise Nov. 20. At least 80 people were injured in the blaze, which began at the bottom of an elevator shaft that acted as a flue in sending flames shooting to the upper floors of the 16-story building. In Puerto Rico, at least 20 people were killed and more than 80 hurt Nov. 21 when an explosion in Puerto Rico blew apart a six-story building. A Mars-bound Russian spacecraft failed to break out of Earth orbit Nov. 17 and crashed into the Pacific Ocean 1,800 miles off the coast of Chile. At first, it was thought the debris would scatter over northern Australia, which created something of a panic on the eve of President Clinton's visit to the country.