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Wishing upon a Starr

"Wishing upon a Starr" Continued...

Issue: "Modern martyrs," Nov. 30, 1996

But if the media and fellow Democrats disappoint Mr. Zeifman, Republicans like Senate Banking Committee chairman Alfonse D'Amato of New York worry him: "D'Amato's recent abdication of responsibility should not be the standard."

But it may be. Several weeks ago, The New York Observer reported that Mr. D'Amato has taken to trashing his own party. In a series of lectures held prior to the election at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Mr. D'Amato said of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, "Tell that bag of wind he's not my mother. He never fed me." Now Mr. D'Amato is busy announcing that because Mr. Clinton won the election, he's also won the right not to be investigated by Mr. D'Amato anymore. The American Spectator's Mr. York says that the Senate hearings Mr. D'Amato conducted were "very revealing. He shouldn't back down now. He has a great hypocrisy problem."

A senior-level congressional staffer--who demanded anonymity because all things having to do with Whitewater have been marked off limits--insists that if Mr. Starr produces the goods, Congress will be ready. "We're just waiting on Starr right now," he assures. "It would be a mistake to think we're not prepared to continue these investigations." But according to Mr. Ziefman and others, the very fact that they are waiting on Mr. Starr is problematic.

One person who appears to have plenty of fight left--and knows exactly who he wants to fight--is Mr. Clinton himself. The day after he was reelected, he told a gathering of Democrats that he would quickly get to work taking out his political opponents. His words were, in fact, that he would "remove them like a cancer from political life."

For those Republicans so fond of the image of Bill Clinton as a baby-boomer softy given to crying and pouting and not much else, the message is clear: Welcome to the real world. As anyone in Arkansas could attest, Mr. Clinton can be powerfully vindictive. He is, in a word, sentimental. It was the Southern writer Flannery O'Connor who pointed out that there is no mind-set as capricious and dangerous as a sentimental one. One minute the sentimentalist allows a tear to fall, or proposes appointing a Republican to his cabinet, the next he speaks of excising the GOP like a malignancy.

The only way for congressional Republicans to resist such pressure is to summon the courage to hold the president to the standards set by Edmund Burke and more recently by the Democratic Party during the 1970s. If not, it's going to be a long four years for them.

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