This Week

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 25," Jan. 17, 1998

I'm not crazy

Moments before opening arguments were to begin in the trial of accused Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, the unpredictable suspect paralyzed the proceedings by demanding that his attorneys be fired. He said he didn't want lawyers who would "pursue a mental-health defense." Mr. Kaczynski's attorneys, who have been working on the case for 18 months, say their client suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and intend to offer a defense that focuses to some degree on his "mental defect." The trial judge ruled that Mr. Kaczynski's effort to change lawyers was too late and that the trial would go forward.

Man knows not his time

Less than a week after the death of Michael Kennedy in a skiing accident, entertainer-turned-politician Sonny Bono died instantly last week after crashing into a tree on a Nevada ski slope. Rep. Bono (R-Calif.) made an unlikely entrance into politics after about a decade of relative obscurity. Living a quiet life as a restaurateur, Mr. Bono was frustrated by city-government red tape that delayed his placing a sign outside his restaurant. He ran for mayor of Palm Springs in 1988 and won, but not without enduring some of the same kind of disrespect he received from his wisecracking ex-wife Cher during their comedy/variety show in the '70s. Frank Bogert, the Republican mayor Mr. Bono defeated, called him everything from a hippie to a squirrel; when Mr. Bono won a seat in Congress in 1994, Mr. Bogert said, "I don't like to see a darned Democrat go to Congress, but I sure don't want to see Sonny Bono there, making a fool of himself and us." He didn't, and steadily earned the friendship of his GOP colleagues by speaking for them at fundraisers. "We lost a very good friend," said Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The race for No. 2

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Politics are just as competitive as any sport, but sometimes it's better to be second. White House and congressional officials struggled mightily on last weekend's talking-head programs to avoid taking the lead on the issue of reforming the politically sensitive Social Security system. "The president needs to exert leadership on this," said House majority leader Dick Armey on CNN's Late Edition. "And we're anxious to see him make a proposal." White House Budget director Frank Raines on NBC's Meet the Press said, "We can't do it by the president alone or Democrats can't do it alone." The Washington Post reported last weekend President Clinton may call a special session of Congress following the November elections to deal specifically with Social Security. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said last week he wants "an adult discussion" about the problems facing the system. But he said "the politicians ought [not] to try to get ahead of the American people," whom he said needed to summon the "moral courage" to act to head off Social Security's demise. His proposal: a commission to recommend reforms and congressional action to establish a new system in 1999, between election years.

Back into the crossfire

Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, lately a cable television personality, announced last week she's entering the New York Democratic primary to earn the chance to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Alphonse D'Amato. The New York senator faces reelection this fall. A three-term member of Congress from 1979 to 1985, Mrs. Ferraro cited her recent work on CNN's Crossfire as valuable experience that would make her a better senator. "Night after night, I've seen firsthand the problems facing this country," she said, referring to her hours toiling on the set in a television studio. Mrs. Ferraro sought the Democratic nomination to take on Sen. D'Amato in 1992, but lost in a four-way primary. This year, her entry makes the Democratic contest a three-way race with Naderite activist Mark Green and New York Rep. Charles Schumer.

Arrogant and sloppy

Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols escaped the death penalty after a divided federal jury in Denver deadlocked over his punishment. The sentencing is now the purview of trial judge Richard Matsch, who under federal law cannot impose a death sentence. At a news conference after the deadlock was announced, jury foreman Niki Deutchman said some jury members continued to be deeply skeptical of the government's case against Mr. Nichols. She accused the FBI of being "arrogant" and "sloppy" in its handling of the investigation and said that prosecutors "didn't do a good job of proving Terry Nichols was greatly involved" in the attack. Later, about 60 relatives of bombing victims gathered at a church about a block from the courthouse to seek consolation. The service ended with the church bell's chiming 168 times, once for each person who died in the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

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