Desperate for a lift in the waning days of her primary race in Illinois, Republican pro-abort Loleta Didrickson summoned Bob Dole to attack her rival. But last week, Republican voters gave 37-year-old Peter Fitzgerald the right to represent the GOP in a challenge to Carol Moseley-Braun's Senate seat this fall. The Dole attack didn't work for Ms. Didrickson, but Sen. Moseley-Braun might give it a rerun. "Look at what other Republicans have had to say about Mr. Fitzgerald's views," she said. "As Sen. Bob Dole said, 'It's a contest between the mainstream and the extreme.'" What makes Mr. Fitzgerald seem so "extreme" to Sen. Dole? He supports the Republican platform on abortion and gun control. Mr. Fitzgerald says: "Republicans run best when we run as Republicans. We need never be defensive or apologetic about what our party stands for."
Freedom for me
The day after White House spinner Sidney Blumenthal opened his libel lawsuit against online muckraker Matt Drudge, Mr. Blumenthal jetted to San Juan to attend a journalism conference. At the Inter American Press Association meeting, journalists swapped stories of official intimidation and violence they face in doing their jobs. The IAPA president noted that since the group's last meeting in October, 12 journalists have been slain in the Americas. IAPA delegates said that in Mexico City, one reporter had written about police corruption shortly before he was murdered. Mr. Blumenthal didn't feel the least bit out of place among the true persecuted. His hair-raising tale: being summoned by Independent Counsel Ken Starr's panel to appear before a grand jury, and ordered to divulge his media contacts. Back in Washington, that's precisely what Mr. Blumenthal's lawyers forced Mr. Drudge to do. Mr. Blumenthal seeks $30 million in damages because of a false Drudge report.
All deliberate speed
Faster is not necessarily better. In January, President Clinton tossed a fit about the Senate's supposed foot-dragging in considering his nominees to the federal bench. But last week, a little foot-dragging paid off. Under fire, a soft-on-crime nominee, Frederica Massiah-Jackson, stepped aside. The Judiciary Committee cleared her nomination last fall, but that was before the Philadelphia district attorney released a 250-page critique of her work as a common-pleas judge, citing 49 particularly egregious cases. Senators gave her a second hearing to respond. In one case, Ms. Massiah-Jackson wept after a jury found guilty a defendant who had raped a 10-year-old child. "It's not that I think the rape didn't occur. But five years is a lot of time," she said, referring to the prison term the convict faced. After he finished serving his time, the man raped a 9-year-old. Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) called the nomination "a shocking failure of quality control." He noted all that stood between the nominee and the federal bench was his senatorial "hold." Sen. Ashcroft said, "If I had permitted the nomination to go forward,Judge Massiah-Jackson would be a federal judge at this time."
Nation in brief
No crime, but a coverup
Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney is now a master sergeant headed for retirement. He was busted down one rank last week after a military court found him not guilty of all charges of sexual misconduct but guilty on one count of trying to cover up a crime jurors said he did not commit. The obstruction-of-justice sentence will likely cut his retirement benefits about 11 percent. "We did OK," Mr. McKinney said as he left the courtroom. In a civilian court, he hopes to do better. The day of his sentencing, he filed a $1.5 million libel suit against his first accuser, Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster. Witness Chung
The Justice Department's campaign-finance probe has a new witness. Johnny Chung, who pleaded guilty last week to charges that he funneled $20,000 in illegal contributions to the Clinton-Gore reelection bid, said he would cooperate with the investigation of Democratic fundraising abuses. He could face 37 years in prison and $1.45 million in fines when he's sentenced July 20, but plea bargains usually involve a request for reduced penalties. Mr. Chung was the fourth person charged in the scandal but the first to agree to cooperate in an effort to avoid a hefty prison term. Truce in the "reading wars"?
A government-commissioned panel of experts pleaded for an "end of the reading wars" and recommended last week that educators use a combination of both phonics and whole language in teaching students how to read.
397 to nothing
The United Nations Human Rights Commission opened its annual meeting in Geneva March 16. Its most outstanding feature: the absence of Western condemnation for China's human-rights record. The United States has sought such a resolution every year since China's 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, but has never come up with the support needed for passage. Last year the Clinton administration said the UN agency was the "appropriate forum" for addressing Beijing's human-rights abuses; this year both Washington and the European Union declined to do so. In the U.S. House, lawmakers passed a resolution, 397-0, disagreeing with U.S. foreign policy and urging President Clinton to reverse the decision. "This is an administration that says we'll have a national policy of trade without a conscience," said Rep. Linda Smith, R-Wash.
Nothing is mandatory
Capitol Hill's budgeting season officially opened last week, with the Senate Budget Committee starting to hash out its version of a 1999 budget resolution to counter the plan unveiled last month by President Clinton. A budget plan from the House is still weeks away. It's easy to be misled into believing these annual debates are about the entire federal budget, but that isn't the case. As Oklahoma Rep. Steve Largent-a member of the House Budget Committee-pointed out in WORLD (Feb. 14), congressional budget battles are almost exclusively over what's known in Washington-ese as "discretionary" spending. Such spending, accounting for only about 30 percent of total outlays, encompasses everything from national defense to snail-darter research. About 15 percent of spending goes to pay interest on the national debt. So what about the rest, almost 55 percent? In effect, that percentage of the budget is on automatic pilot. Budgeteers call it "mandatory" spending, a term that covers expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm price supports, food stamps, and a host of other federal programs. "Mandatory programs make payments to recipients ... [who] are eligible and apply for funds," a publication from the Congressional Budget Office announces. "Payments are governed by formulas that are set by law and are not constrained by annual appropriations acts." In other words, Congress turns on the spending spigot, walks away, and allows all who will to come slake their thirst. Calling such an arrangement "mandatory" (adj. Required; obligatory) is stretching the meaning of the word. "Constitutionally, there is no mandated spending," economist Walter Williams told WORLD, "simply because Congress"-which passed these spending laws in the first place-"can change the law." Indeed, in a 1960 court case, the Supreme Court ruled that, as a legal matter, Congress is under no obligation to pay Social Security, no matter what citizens may believe about having paid in advance for their benefits. The rights of a Social Security beneficiary, the Court said, "cannot be soundly analogized to that of a holder of an annuity." The bottom line, at least legally, is that Congress has the right to change "all programs and their spending levels ... at any time," explains Kenneth Clarkson, director of the Law and Economics Center at the University of Miami. But what Congress is legally empowered to do and what is politically possible are two different things. With so many Americans now reliant on "mandatory" spending programs (half of the population now receives direct payments from the federal government), such programs have acquired a goodly number of "veto groups"-to use a phrase from Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.)-that stop them from being altered. "Often, you can't even discuss [proposed changes]," laments Sen. Moynihan, who last week began trying to build support for his new plan to avert the projected 21st-century collapse of Social Security. In Washington, he complains, "Stasis is the norm." The norm? Yes. But mandatory? No.
In observance of Women's History Month, CNN is airing on four Sunday nights A Century of Women: Justice for All, hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton and featuring perhaps the most one-sided, biased, and distorted view of women ever seen on television. Among the women showcased are actresses Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Glenn Close, and Jodie Foster (who recently announced her unmarried pregnancy), Maya Angelou, Grace Slick, and R-rated author Erica Jong, who apparently believes true equality for women means being able to talk as dirty as the proverbial sailor. Also included are the grandchildren of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whose advocacy of birth control and abortion is praised, but whose racist views and endorsement of eugenics to produce a "master race" is conveniently ignored. The only conservative woman on the series is Phyllis Schlafly, whose name is misspelled "Schafley" in a CNN press release. When men appear, they are opposed to women's rights and equality. They are abusers, rapists, and insensitive brutes. Mothers who choose to stay at home with their children because they regard this as a higher calling than a career that pays in currency are treated with disdain when they are considered at all. Mrs. Clinton, whose heroine is Eleanor Roosevelt, was featured prominently in the March 8 broadcast. In a revealing comment with contemporary overtones, historian Blanche Wiesen Cook said that when Mrs. Roosevelt discovered that her husband was having an affair with his social secretary Lucy Mercer, "her knowledge of the affair frees her to pursue her own life...." CNN's First Lady Jane Fonda commented: "Mrs. Roosevelt looked beyond her family for fulfillment." That's the message liberal women want all women to get, and it is repeated in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Nowhere was the propaganda as intense as in the abortion segment, where Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court, was interviewed. It was conveniently overlooked that Ms. Weddington lied to the court about her client, Norma McCorvey, who claimed that her pregnancy resulted from a gang rape, though it did not. That fact, along with Ms. McCorvey's conversion to the pro-life side and reasons for it, were ignored. From Ms. Weddington we got the usual "back alleys" line about where some illegal abortions were performed before Roe. The history of women is a good subject, but CNN's treatment is more ideological than documentary. Real history is played out on a wider screen. A Century of Women is part of CNN's Perspective series. Unfortunately, it is largely one perspective that could have been titled A Century of Liberal Women. Those who thought that Jane Fonda had mellowed since she married Ted Turner were wrong. Her platform has merely shifted from a seat on an anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi to a perch at the top of an American television network.
"V" for victory?
Will the V-chip help child-proof America's TVs? This silicon-plated silver bullet is the Clinton administration's proposed solution to the rise of extreme content on TV. The FCC just approved technical standards for the device. In two years, every set 13 inches or larger must by law include one, at a cost to purchasers of $5 to $20 per set. The V-chip lets Mom and Dad block out programs based on two factors: age-based ratings (TV-Y, appropriate for all children; TV-Y7, for youth over 7; TV-G, general audience, all ages; TV-PG, parental guidance, unsuitable for younger children; TV-14, unsuitable for children under 14; and TV-MA, for "mature audiences" only, unsuitable for children under 17) and content codes based on violence (V), sex (S), language (L), and suggestive dialogue (D). Thus, parents can regulate how much of each category is acceptable. Ratings started popping up in the upper lefthand corner of TV screens on the first day of 1997. They are based on the G/PG/R system used with feature films, but are handed out by networks and producers on their own shows. The result is alphabet soup. NBC gives ratings, but ignores content codes. ABC's Nothing Sacred gets TV-PG (L) while Fox's The Simpsons scores TV-PG (V). That's the same rating as sister network FX's Mission: Impossible reruns. Beverly Hills 90210 scores a triple play of TV-14 (S,L,D), but Melrose Place only raunches up to TV-PG (L,D). It gets hazier. Ratings can vary from episode to episode and from network to network. NYPD Blue gets a TV-14 from ABC, but appears to get more graphic with age: Reruns on FX are TV-14 (D,L,V). FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani claims the system was created to help working parents of latchkey kids. "The V-chip is essentially a remote control device with a longer range," she says. Expect the V-chip to fall into disuse fast. A recent Associated Press poll says seven in 10 adults pay little or no attention to TV ratings. Soon they will generate the same backlash as movie ratings and CD warning labels. Media moguls will use the system as a smoke screen while harsh content increases.
Spock: pediatrician, pacifist
Benjamin Spock, author of the 50-million-copy bestseller Baby and Child Care, died March 15 at age 94. First published in 1946 at the dawn of two revolutions, the Baby Boom and mass-market paperbacks, the tome was released in six editions. What was Dr. Spock's message? Dare not to discipline. "Children need friendly, accepting parents," he wrote. While he denied to the end that he promoted permissiveness, he argued strongly for sparing the rod. "Schools should stop grading," his afterword reads. "Parents should avoid punishment." To Dr. Spock, children only turn bad because they aren't loved enough by their parents. So corporal punishment is a natural no-no. Firmness and consistency were Dr. Spock's substitutes. "The American tradition of spanking may be one cause of the fact that there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation," Dr. Spock wrote. But in an unusual burst of consistency, his book advises that kids be kept away from watching explicit sex and violence. In 1962, Dr. Spock's image shifted from pediatric guru to pacifist when he joined the board of SANE in protest of JFK's nuclear-testing policy. He quit his teaching job at Cleveland's Western Reserve University in 1967 to work full-time in the antiwar movement. The next year, America's Baby Doctor was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to violate the Selective Service Act. His conviction was later overturned. Dr. Spock's last hurrah of New Leftism was his 1972 presidential campaign as the candidate of something called The People's Party. Critics charged that his philosophy of parenting created a generation of long-haired rebels. Undaunted, Dr. Spock kept making revisions to his work. With co- author Michael Rothenberg, he added a chapter called "Divorce, Single Parenting, and Remarriage," along with advice about contraception, homosexuality, and the evils of second-hand smoke. Dr. Spock's book lives on: Edition seven is scheduled to hit bookstores on May 2, the day that would have brought a 95th birthday party for the author.
World in brief
Death in the camps
Eight people, including three relief workers from the Lutheran World Federation, were killed in a new Rwanda settlement set up for Tutsis exiled after long-standing war with Rwanda's ruling Hutus.Thirty attackers, believed to be Hutu insurgents, sneaked into the settlement near the Tanzanian border and attacked the victims, all Rwandans, with guns and machetes. In Thailand, refugee camps were attacked by Burmese government soldiers and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army troops. Two people were confirmed dead and dozens were injured. Most of the camp was razed, leaving nearly 9,000 people-mostly Christian Karens-without shelter. The attacks are thought to be part of a long-term strategy to chase Karen refugees back into Burma, where they face subjugation by the Buddhist majority. In dire straits
Four Cuban baseball players and a pitching coach disappeared in the Florida Straits after attempting to escape Cuba and raft their way to freedom. The crew, all members of Cuba's national baseball team, have not been seen since their departure Mar. 10. Rescuers from both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue, a private group that searches by air for Cuban rafters, said rough waters and stormy weather made it nearly impossible they could survive.