This Week

Issue: "Honest Abe Rosenthal," March 14, 1998

Calling the bluff

Washington Post writer Ruth Marcus called Monica Lewinsky's lawyer's bluff last week. Appearing on NBC's Today late last month, William H. Ginsburg challenged journalists to "find me a case of civil perjury that has been pursued criminally at the federal level in the last 100 years. I dare say they cannot." Mr. Ginsburg may be spending too much time on news-show sets and not enough time in the law library. The Post's Ms. Marcus reported her "cursory" computer search of federal court records "turned up more than 25 cases of federal prosecutions for perjury in civil cases," not counting those that may have been dropped or settled. There's more. She quoted from the Clinton Justice Department's manual for federal prosecutors: "Because false declarations affect the integrity of the judicial fact-finding process, all offenders should be vigorously prosecuted." Meanwhile, the judicial fact-finding process continued vigorously last week, with presidential friend Vernon Jordan's appearance before a Washington grand jury. Spinners for Mr. Jordan and the White House took pains to emphasize the continued strength of the friendship between Mr. Jordan and President Clinton. "There is no rift. No rift," the superlawyer's lawyer William G. Hundley insisted. Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said Mr. Clinton looks forward to the day when he can be "less circumspect" with Mr. Jordan. But circumspection rules right now. The same camp that was pushing the "no rift" storyline stressed days earlier on background to Washington journalists that Mr. Jordan, when first asked to help Ms. Lewinsky find work, had no knowledge of her potential involvement in the Paula Jones case. Testimony in that case is the basis of possible perjury charges against Ms. Lewinsky or the president. Why is the point important for Mr. Jordan? It clearly leaves open the possibility, as The Washington Post hinted, that there was obstruction of justice and/or perjury but Mr. Jordan was not aware of it.

Audit the little guy

A study by the General Accounting Office found last week that almost half of randomly audited taxpayers over the past three years live in 11 Southern states. More than 85 percent of those audited made less than $25,000 a year. Random audits are restricted to groups the IRS has suspicions about, such as working families who claim the earned income tax credit.

Number 51?

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Forty-four years after Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the Congress, members of the House last week handed the island commonwealth its best chance in 100 years to add another star to the Stars and Stripes. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, the measure would allow a special referendum giving Puerto Ricans three choices: continued commonwealth status, statehood, or independence. Before approving the referendum bill, the House voted down a provision that would require the local government to conduct business in English.

Nothing but net

Suspended National Basketball Association star Latrell Sprewell's $32 million contract requires adherence "to standards of good citizenship and good moral character" and prohibits "acts of moral turpitude." So after Mr. Sprewell choked and punched his coach last December, his team, the Golden State Warriors, had a right to fire him, right? Wrong, says the arbitrator who last week ordered the NBA to trim its one-year suspension to seven months and the last-place Warriors to fork over the remaining $17.3 million or trade him. It's "an issue of fairness," explained arbitrator John Feerick.

NATO Expansion

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed last week, 16-2, to a resolution to expand the size of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by adding three former foes: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) called the vote "an obvious vote of confidence in the democracies of Eastern Europe." Dissenters on the right and left complained not enough had been done to define the role of an expanded NATO, nor to recalculate operational costs.

Test of greatness

Sen. John Glenn knows geography: "I know the Great Lakes. I've traveled the Great Lakes. And Lake Champlain is not one of the Great Lakes." The senator from Ohio, which shares some Lake Erie shoreline, criticized Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy for sneaking into an otherwise routine bill a provision to reclassify as a Great Lake Vermont's Lake Champlain ("a pencil line on a map," sniffed Great Lake stater Fred Upton, a congressman from Michigan). What gives? Actually, it involves taking--namely, a share of the $56 million in federal research money for Great Lake state colleges, The New York Times reported last week. Also last week, as if your tax dollars weren't working hard enough, two senators pointed out that federal money is being used to close-caption The Jerry Springer Show. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said the purpose of the federal program "is not to expose the hearing-impaired to every form of cultural depravity under the sun."


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