This Week

Issue: "Clinton: Final straw?," March 28, 1998

Sorry, Bob

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

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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.


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