Worth a thousand words
Someone's missing from this year's group picture of Senate pages from Iowa-President Clinton. The pages' group shot is always taken in front of the Senate president's chair, with the official portrait of the sitting United States president in the background. This year, the high-school students who serve as pages voted to remove Mr. Clinton's portrait from the background because of the scandal surrounding the president's alleged relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "He's not the best role model for young people," said page Matt Johnston. "It was a majority consensus to remove his picture for our group picture." The pages returned Mr. Clinton's portrait to its traditional spot after a photographer took the group picture.
By the book
CBS did itself proud in coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament that concluded last week. From the dramatic early victories by Valparaiso through the dramatic second-half comebacks by eventual national champion Kentucky, viewers saw those made in God's image using their muscles and minds to the utmost. And many of the winners and losers did not fail to thank their Creator publicly along the way; CBS showed Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and guard Jeff Sheppard, the Final Four's most outstanding player, doing just that. CBS may have a different attitude, however, when covering athletes who quote what the Bible says about sinful behavior, as Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers did before the Wisconsin state legislature. Mr. White's outright condemnation of homosexuality (WORLD, March 28) generated a cryptic announcement by a CBS Sports spokeswoman about the network's "hard-and-fast corporate policy against bias of any kind." That policy must have escaped the notice of the news department-most of the reports that chronicled the flap showed bias of just one kind: that it's "controversial" to hold a biblical view of homosexuality and to express it publicly. But one sports columnist, Ron Borges of the liberal Boston Globe, although he disagreed with Mr. White's perspective, didn't take issue with his reading of the Bible: "The God of this book considers homosexuality a sin. That is not a comfortable thing to read if you're a homosexual, but it is what that book says. No one has to believe it, but it is what the book says."
Sick of scandal? Toss the standards
Gary Hart, the 1988 presidential candidate who was forced from the race when reporters discovered him emerging from a woman's home at suggestive hours, now tells George magazine that how a man treats his wife and children is more important than whether he has sexual affairs. Mr. Hart tells the magazine: "I got linked to people whose behavior was, in my judgment, much worse than mine, people who were involved in sexual harassment, for instance." He also suggests in the interview that if we make marital fidelity a standard for leadership, we will have mediocre leaders. Several things ought to disturb us about Mr. Hart's reasoning. First, he seems to be saying that there is no benefit to the man who fulfills his wedding-day promises to his wife and walks with integrity before his children. In this view, fidelity and promiscuity are morally equivalent. This is much easier for the guilty to rationalize than the innocent. Perhaps the wives of wandering men should be asked whether it's all the same to them if their husbands sleep at home or with someone else. Second, Gary Hart seems content to see our standards continue to fall. We live in a time when some suggest that grading students hurts their developing psyches, and so it is better to have a "pass or fail" system so no one will feel bad. The idea of competition is being challenged as injurious to the young because some will lose sporting contests and experience diminished self-esteem. But learning at an early age to deal with winning and losing, as well as pursuing virtue and integrity, equips the young for the experiences they will face later on. Should we demand that only men and women who have never made personal or professional mistakes hold high office? Of course not. But we should not want leaders who pretend there is no standard. There is always room for those who err, confess their guilt, and vow not to repeat their mistakes. This upholds the standard while keeping the door open for redemption. There should be no room for those who claim by their lives and words that there are not, or ought not to be, any foundational principles. They cause harm to their families and their nation. -by Cal Thomas © 1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
Just don't do it
President Clinton's law school alma mater put into effect earlier this year a new policy on sexual relationships between faculty members and the students they teach or supervise. Such relationships are now banned at Yale University, for legal-sounding reasons: They are said to constitute conflicts of interest. The change came after Yale was rocked last year by a sexual-harassment case involving a student and a professor, but the new policy also affects situations where the feelings appear to be mutual. One Yale dean summarized in two words Yale's advice on sex between those in positions of authority and the young people who look up to them: "Just don't."
World in brief
The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Belgrade. The move was intended to pressure Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic into concessions aimed at "substantial autonomy" for the majority Albanian population in Kosovo, where at least 80 Albanians-including 25 women and children-have died over the last month in police assaults on Albanian separatist strongholds in the mountains of central Kosovo. The embargo is symbolic, because both the Yugoslav government and Albanian militants are well-armed already. Riotous return
Ousted Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned to Cambodia to face national elections this summer, and his father, King Sihanouk, promised to return later this month in spite of threats from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which seized power from Prince Ranariddh last year. Hundreds of Ranariddh supporters rioted in the streets of Phnom Penh, while in the jungles remnants of Cambodia's communist Khmer Rouge movement have turned their guns on each other.
Battling the bug
In a March 30 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair took the strongest stance to date of any world leader about the Year 2000 bug. Saying that one-fourth of UK companies have done nothing so far, he announced a $160 million program to fight the problem. "I want to be sure that every company, every organization and every computer user in Britain is taking action to defuse this technical time bomb," Mr. Blair wrote in The Independent newspaper. (Mr. Blair's Action 2000 campaign has a "Busting the Bug" page at www.open.gov. uk/bug2000/.) Without an urgent response, the prime minister said the bug could chew a hole in the British economy and drive many companies into bankruptcy. Mr. Blair's plans include money to train an army of 20,000 "bug busters" by next April. The program will teach younger, older, and unemployed people the computer skills necessary to help businesses fix numerous lines of code and preprogrammed chips before Dec 31, 1990. "If we do not act, the result will be loss of money and influence on a disastrous scale," Mr. Blair said. He cited a survey by the World Bank, which said only 37 out of 128 borrowing member countries said they were aware of the 2000 problem. Critics say all this effort is too little, too late. This announcement came a day after Sunday Times of London reported about a Barclays executive who has warned people to prepare for an economic meltdown by selling their houses, hoarding cash, and buying gold. He told of a colleague who planned to "set up a commune and buy a shotgun" to escape looters. Over in the New World, Small Business Administration head Aida Alvarez was at the White House showing off the SBA's new Y2K bug Web page (www.sba.gov/y2k/). It greets visitors with a countdown clock and a picture of a melting computer. Her message: Get nervous now or your business will fail later. "Fixing most (year 2000) problems is not particularly complicated, but it can be labor intensive and time consuming," she said. "The clock is ticking and we are all facing a deadline that truly cannot be moved."
Woman knows not her time
Former member of Congress from Manhattan Bella Abzug died on March 31 after complications from heart surgery. She was 77. Critics and even ideological allies complained that Mrs. Abzug was too abrasive. A 1972 Ralph Nader report estimated her sponsorship of legislation could cost a proposal 20 to 30 votes. Nevertheless, her career spanned three decades-from 1961, when she founded the Women's Strike for Peace, to the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro and the 1995 Fourth World Conference at Beijing. Mrs. Abzug arrived in Washington in 1970 with her trademark wide-brimmed hats and an anti-war and pro-abortion women's-lib agenda. She said, "I think women will not give up this right, nor will men who promote the right of choice ... no matter what any court says, or any government or any church." In 1976, Mrs. Abzug ran for the Senate and lost to Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Democratic primary. She also lost two more congressional comeback bids and a candidacy for New York mayor. In 1979, President Carter fired her from her post as co-chair of the National Advisory Committee for Women after she criticized his administration. A year later, she criticized Mr. Carter's mild objections to abortion as "biologically inappropriate." When she endorsed President Clinton, she claimed that "the Republicans are advancing a pre-fascist state."
The white flag
More than 50 Christian organizations and churches in Israel made an unprecedented joint statement promising not to carry out missionary activity in the officially Jewish state. In reply, Israeli legislator Nissim Zvilli said he would drop his sponsorship of an anti-proselytizing bill that threatened freedom of religious expression. In an April 1 statement, the Christian groups said, "We believe that the covenant God concluded with the people of Israel was never revoked. We deeply respect the Jewish people in their identity and integrity and will therefore not engage in activities which have as their intention to alienate them from their tradition and community." The statement praised Israel for its "enlightened, democratic" policies and said Christians in Israel would continue to "exercise our right and duty to commend our faith to others." In response to concerns by the bill's sponsors that some Christian groups were offering material incentives for conversion, the Christian group called those accusations "maliciously framed and reported." "This is better than a law," Mr. Zvilli said of the compromise statement. Another ultra-Orthodox Knesset member and sponsor of the legislation, Moshe Gafni, rejected the compromise statement, however, leaving unclear whether the door had been closed on proposed legislation. The statement also did not derail another bill sponsored by a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and pending in Israel's Knesset, which would make attempts to convert someone to another religion subject to a 3-year prison sentence and fines.
April Fool's Day decision
On April 1, a federal judge ruled that even if then-Governor Bill Clinton summoned Paula Jones, a low-level female staffer, to a hotel room, exposed himself, and crudely solicited a form of sex, that would not constitute a "claim of outrage under Arkansas law." Judge Susan Webber-Wright also tossed out the two remaining federal claims by Mrs. Jones against President Clinton, taking it upon herself to decide the entire case wasn't worth a jury's hearing. By 4:23 that afternoon, the news first broke on CNN that the case was dead. Even the president thought the news-relayed to Africa via telephone by his attorney Robert Bennett-was an April Fool's joke. It wasn't. A sober presidential spokesman Mike McCurry deflected a barrage of questions from White House reporters gunning for details on the president's mood. He allowed that the president felt vindicated, but wouldn't even characterize Mr. Clinton as happy or smiling. But, Mr. McCurry deadpanned, "He wasn't crying." In Southern California, Paula Jones was. One of her lawyers said the famous plaintiff got the word by cellular telephone while driving. She pulled over to the side of the road, the attorney said, and wept. Many of the most outspoken combatants in the Jones case were at a loss for words. Former Jones attorney Joseph Cammarata, minutes after the news broke, was on CNN stammering, "It takes one's breath away." Her colorful spokeswoman Susan Carpenter-McMillan professed herself "completely blown away." Usually verbose Clinton attorney Bennett gave reporters just 102 words, including "thank you." He said only that the ruling was right and "the opinion speaks for itself." So what does the opinion say? Judge Wright assumed all of the facts as asserted by Mrs. Jones were true, and even under that assumption they merely painted a portrait of a "boorish and offensive" Bill Clinton. The facts, in her view, did not constitute (1) a violation of Mrs. Jones's federal civil rights; (2) a conspiracy to violate her federal civil rights; and (3) a sufficient "claim of outrage" and "emotional distress" under Arkansas law. Unless Judge Wright is reversed by a higher court, the ruling means that no jury will ever hear the case. And even if she is reversed-as she has been already by the Supreme Court in this case-it is unlikely a trial would go forward while Mr. Clinton is in office. All this came on the second-to-last day of President Clinton's Africa trip. A Fox News camera crew punctured the official White House line, spotting the president in his hotel room chewing on a cigar and banging on an African drum. Back in Washington, the drumbeat of instant polling continued. On the April Fool's edition of Nightline, Ted Koppel reported the ABC news poll "finds that 61 percent of those questioned supported the judge's ruling. Only 30 percent opposed it. On the question of whether independent counsel Kenneth Starr should continue his investigation, respondents were split just about down the middle. Forty-eight percent said yes; 50 percent said no. As for the president's job approval rating, it remains high at 66 percent, despite the fact that 61 percent of those polled think that the president has engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct." And the discordant beat goes on. -by Nickolas S. Eicher, for the editors
Fade to black
Primary Colors is losing money. The movie is a not-so-fictional political tale drawn largely from the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. As WORLD pointed out last week, a new book by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, Spin Cycle, is a much better guide to understanding the White House than Primary Colors, which seems like old news. Ticket sales are showing this: Bringing in so far just $22 million on a production budget of $60 million, not including advertising, Primary Colors can't compete with current scandal reporting. "If you're interested in the unfolding soap opera in Washington, you don't want to watch reruns," Andrew Hindes, the box office reporter at Daily Variety, told The Washington Post.
The road to congressional spending-as-usual is paved with pork. By a vote of 337-80, the House last week voted to approve a six-year $217 billion highway construction bill, overspending last year's balanced budget deal by $30 billion. Approved earlier in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by a stunning 69-0, the legislation bears the clunky title, Building Efficient Surface Transportation and Equity Act. The top Democrat on the committee, Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, said he liked the BESTEA acronym, but it should be renamed in honor of the Republican committee chairman: the "Bud E. Shuster Transportation for all Eternity Act," a delighted Mr. Oberstar quipped. To grease passage of the bill, chairman Shuster (R-Pa.) larded the legislation with 1,400 special projects totaling $18 billion in taxpayer funds-goodies he was able to dole out to coax specific members of Congress off the fence. House Budget Committee member Steve Largent preferred to stay off the wagon. "It stinks," Mr. Largent said, deploring the aroma of congressional pork-barrel politics. "This entire process is what our country is fed up with and it's everything that I ran against" in 1994, Mr. Largent said. "It makes me sick to my stomach." Fellow Oklahoman Tom Coburn, also elected in the '94 Republican sweep, had the same reaction. "This is a sick process. This is the kind of corruption I don't want to be associated with. And it is corruption." Both members refused to back the bill-and forfeited some $25 million in spending in their home districts. That the two lost the money underscored the point that the projects were the quid for the yes-vote quo. But Mr. Shuster took to the House floor to denounce his GOP colleagues as "pious" and deny there was any such specific cash-for-vote agreement. Mr. Largent said the understanding was "implicit." The Largent-Coburn money-if the bill survives a House-Senate conference and a threatened presidential veto-will stay in Oklahoma. It will go to a project favored by Republican J.C. Watts, a member of Mr. Shuster's committee.