A little too late
The "Real IRA," a splinter group from the larger, Catholic-dominated Irish Republican Army, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 15 car-bombing at Omagh, Northern Ireland. The group announced four days later a ceasefire in its terrorist activities. That was too little too late for the families of 28 people killed in the attack and more than 200 injured. The splinter group said it was not targeting the civilians in the attack; British and Irish authorities, however, said they would target the Real IRA, drafting new laws and tougher enforcement designed to put the group out of business.
Changing the subject?
Commander-in-chief Clinton ordered knockout strikes against suspected terrorists camps inside Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for car bombs that destroyed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Aug. 7. Whether motivated by word from national security advisers or-as Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) suggested-the need for cover from sex scandals and perjury charges, President Clinton called for the attacks after he received intelligence briefings linking to the bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam a Saudi multi-millionaire and terrorist guru named Osama bin Laden. Mr. bin Laden operates from a mountain hideaway in Afghanistan and is believed to control a network of up to 5,000 Islamic militants bent on crippling American interests abroad. In a June interview with ABC's John Miller, Mr. bin Laden vowed to attack U.S. interests in coming weeks and said, "We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States." Mr. bin Laden's Afghan compound, which included six sites housing up to 600 people, was targeted and apparently destroyed by U.S. military units. It was not immediately known whether or not Mr. bin Laden survived the U.S. strike. The other site targeted by U.S. air forces was an industrial compound north of Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, believed to house production facilities for chemical weapons. Hours after the Aug. 20 strikes, White House officials said the operation was successful and described it as complete. "We are sending a very small signal," said Defense Secretary William Cohen. "Those who attack our people will find no safe haven." Pentagon officials would not say which forces or kinds of weaponry had been used in the attack. They said persistent threats against U.S. installations overseas, coupled with evidence that Mr. bin Laden's network was involved in past attacks on U.S. targets, including two against military installations in Saudi Arabia, led to the swift response. Critics will wonder. The timing of the U.S. strikes seemed over-hasty for a president whose foreign policy has rotated around coalition building within NATO and the United Nations. The administration had never undertaken any unilateral military moves until the week following Mr. Clinton's grand jury testimony concerning Monica Lewinsky and growing demands for impeachment proceedings.
The moment of truth
President Clinton wore what aides call his "game face": stiff posture, eyes glaring into the camera, jaw set. He sat in silence and awaited his time to deliver the unprecedented address last week from the White House Map Room. It might have been called instead the Wiggle Room. For earlier in the day of Aug. 17-in the course of a "voluntary" four-hour session with prosecutors from Kenneth Starr's Office of Independent Counsel-Mr. Clinton read from a prepared statement outlining his "inappropriate" relationship with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He reportedly acknowledged a specific sexual act involving Miss Lewinsky. Piecing together numerous wire-service and newspaper accounts, it was clear that Mr. Clinton bobbed, weaved, and counter-punched in the grand-jury session, took several breaks, conferred at length with lawyers, and in the end refused specifically to concede lying in a January deposition. As Mr. Clinton argued in the Monday night address, his answers were "legally accurate." But were they? Mr. Clinton's legal team is employing a novel legal theory that the sex was one-way and that the president was a passive partner. That reportedly hurt Miss Lewinsky, who returned to the grand jury last Thursday, three days after the president's bombshell admission of adulterous relations. Ms. Lewinsky's credibility now intact, prosecutors sought to bore in on important details of the president's grand-jury testimony-and perhaps establish obstruction of justice and witness tampering by Mr. Clinton. One line of inquiry concerned a gift given by Miss Lewinsky to the president. The New York Times reported that on the day Miss Lewinsky testified for the first time, Mr. Clinton, presiding over a televised ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, wore a gold-and-navy tie that Miss Lewinsky told prosecutors she had given the president. Prosecutors wanted to know whether Mr. Clinton was sending Miss Lewinsky a signal by wearing it. In addition, prosecutors focused on presidential secretary Betty Currie's collection of gifts the president gave to Miss Lewinsky during their inappropriate relationship. That could also be key evidence of obstruction of justice. Also last week, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris appeared before the Starr grand jury. Mr. Morris said he testified about five conversations with Mr. Clinton after the Lewinsky scandal broke seven months ago. On television in January, Mr. Morris said Mr. Clinton admitted to him that he did "do something" with Miss Lewinsky, despite his public denials. "I just slipped up with that girl," Mr. Morris said on Fox News Channel, quoting the president. Even as calls intensified for the president to step aside, reports surfaced that his would-be successor, Vice President Gore, may be in hotter water. Facing a possible contempt citation by Congress, Attorney General Janet Reno was said last week to be reconsidering seeking appointment of an independent counsel to probe Mr. Gore's role in soliciting illegal campaign donations. Justice Department officials leaked word to The New York Times that they have uncovered a memorandum that may establish that Mr. Gore knew he was acting unlawfully. The new memo may allow Ms. Reno to change her mind on the independent counsel without looking like she had caved in to congressional pressure. Public pressure on the independent counsel, meanwhile, began to mount. About two-thirds of Americans want the investigation to end-69 percent in an ABC News poll, 65 percent in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, and 63 percent in a CBS News/New York Times poll, all taken after Clinton's address to the nation. And the president's job-approval ratings remain steady, above 60 percent. But while polls also claim to show American citizens are tired of news about the Clinton scandals, other data show the opposite. Nielsen Media Research estimated that more Americans watched the presidential address than watched President Nixon deliver his resignation speech in 1974. More than 67.6 million viewers watched the "spectacle" the president says now the public should turn away from. On the Internet, CNN's Web site reported 20.4 million "hits" the day of the president's testimony; that is 31 percent higher than CNN.com's heaviest day ever. On television, the upstart Fox News Channel's speech coverage and analysis drew the network's highest viewership since its launch in October 1996. CNN said its TV ratings were the highest since the 1995 verdict in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial. The slow-speed Starr probe has finally hit the accelerator.
The honorable thing
While many in the nation's capital waited for polling results to give them their opinions, the response of Washington's conservative and Christian leaders to President Clinton's statement Monday night was swift and severe. Some, in fact, called on Mr. Clinton to resign. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) was "offended that our president-the commander-in-chief-lacks the courage and the integrity to hold himself to the same standards of conduct that we demand of our men and women in uniform. The honorable course of action would be to resign." Sen. Coats took issue with the contention that the president's conduct was merely a private matter, because "he took extreme sexual liberties with a 21-year-old White House intern in the Oval Office and then lied to the American people." Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) agreed that resignation would be the "honorable step," as did the Family Research Council's Gary Bauer: "It is time for the president to finally act honorably by leaving the stage." Many believed Mr. Clinton only gave the speech because he had to, not because he was truly sorry for his actions. House Majority Leader Dick Armey charged that Mr. Clinton "made a concession, not an apology, that appeared to be a cold calculation designed to protect himself from legal and political harm." Mr. Armey noted that "nothing really has changed regarding his fundamental approach to this investigation-deny, deny, deny, delay, delay delay, until forced to make a concession." It was clear to Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition, that "deep remorse and repentance were not the motivating factors" in Mr. Clinton's public statement. Mr. Tate said the president "ripped the rug out from under his statement by pointing his finger and trying to shift the blame to the independent counsel." Mr. Bauer worried that America's children would "come away from this episode with the message that they need only tell the truth when it can no longer be denied or when it suits their purposes." For Mr. Bauer, the scandal merits a response that "transcends the script of his Hollywood producers." Martin Eppard of the National Clergy Council was less than impressed with Mr. Clinton's apology: "The word but does not belong in a confessional. You cannot say, 'I have sinned, but,' and then bring someone else into the confessional and say it was their fault and this is why it happened. That's called blame shifting." Shifting blame to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was "vintage Clinton," said Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation. "The problems he has are not really of his own making, but caused by a partisan effort to get him. This statement, however it may rally his supporters in the short run, won't fly in the long run. Bill Clinton blew it." What must be most ominous for Mr. Clinton is that some of his fellow Democrats joined conservatives in sharply criticizing him. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California sounded a note of personal betrayal the day after the president's address. "I was present in the Roosevelt Room in January when the president categorically denied any sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky. I believed him," she said. "His remarks last evening leave me with a deep sense of sadness in that my trust in his credibility has been badly shattered." Rep. Paul McHale (D-Pa.) went further. "Perjury is not excused by an apology compelled by overwhelming evidence and delivered under pressure," he said. "The president entered into a morally repugnant relationship, he lied under oath, and he almost certainly used government resources and employment opportunities to encourage Monica Lewinsky's silence." Even though "we could spare the country a great deal of pain by abandoning the rule of law," that would be "too high a price," Mr. McHale argued, as he became the first congressional Democrat to conclude that "President Clinton should resign or face impeachment." ±
Compared to other recent high-profile apologies-Jimmy Swaggart's "I have sinned" and Ted Kennedy's owning up to a lifetime of spring-break fever-President Clinton's nationally televised Monday night statement fell short. It didn't even qualify as an apology. Where was the repentance? Where was the promise not to have extramarital sexual relations of any kind again? The value of a confession decreases the closer one gets to being caught. For seven months, the president delayed telling the truth and lied to the public and everyone close to him. His explanation for doing so was strictly political. All of those who swore they believed the president and who attacked his accusers ought to apologize for being co-conspirators in a grand cover-up. The president spoke to the country only after he testified before a grand jury and finally admitted that in his testimony under oath in the Paula Jones sexual harassment deposition he lied about not having sex with Monica Lewinsky. Whoever thought we would long for the quaintness of Jimmy Carter's promise, "I'll never lie to you"? Bill Clinton has been a serial liar all his life. He lies about everything, from the innocuous to the important. Then, when caught, he employs biblical language and religious imagery to get himself off the hook. In his speech, he didn't even ask for the public's forgiveness, preferring the lower moral road of taking "full responsibility" for an inappropriate relationship. This is the language of lawyers and spinners, not the words of one who feels conviction in his heart. Those who still defend this man for political reasons now call on the public to forgive him, though he has not made the request himself. But forgiveness without repentance is cheap grace. It says that what he did to himself, his family, and the nation is as acceptable as the behavior of those who remain faithful to their spouses and a good example to their children. When what we used to call "sin" is lightly tolerated, we get more of it. Like cancer, it must be detected early and dealt with or it will spread. Mr. Clinton's generation has indulged in and tolerated in others the most outrageous behavior, and so we get more of it. His generational contemporaries are reluctant to tell him he is a bum because they would have to confront their own immorality. A truly repentant leader would emulate Israel's King David. In a delightful irony, American Movie Classics ran the film David and Bathsheba Sunday night on the eve of Mr. Clinton's grand jury testimony. When David was confronted by the prophet Nathan about David's sexual acts with the married Bathsheba and his sending her husband to the front lines to be killed, David confessed his sin to God and to the world and repented. The most beautiful words of contrition ever written are found in the Psalms. Only dissembling words are found in Clinton's grudging admission. His continued attacks on Ken Starr, a duly authorized legal authority, are proof that his sole regret was getting caught. It is the president, not his accusers, who has produced this blot on his presidency and his life. Now he demands that we leave the scene of the accident he's caused without further consequences. He must not be allowed to get away with hitting and running, no matter what some opinion polls say. It will soon be up to the House of Representatives to decide if there's enough evidence to proceed with impeachment hearings. If members lightly regard the law, we will get more lawlessness in the future. -by Cal Thomas, © 1998,
Los Angeles Times Syndicate
The bug as tax deduction
As American businesses rush to fix their Y2K bugs, they may find a silver lining: a tax deduction. The IRS says it will allow full tax deductions in a single year for businesses fixing software. Other improvements still fall under the three-year rule. Figuring out the difference between repairs and improvements can be tricky. Individuals can deduct expenses if they use their home computers for business purposes or run a home business. But whether IRS will accept anyone's specific deduction is anyone's guess. "It's going to be a fine and fuzzy line between improving your software and converting it," said Hannah Carvey, a Washington tax attorney. For businesses across America, the millennium problem threatens to disrupt everything from inventory to elevators. And there are fewer than 500 days left to fix computers. Meanwhile, America's manufacturers got a green light from the Feds on a Y2K strategy. The Justice Department approved a plan that lets them share information about resolving the computer glitch problem. It said this would not threaten competition and could cut costs and speed up repairs. Many companies, like AT&T, are reportedly winning the battle of the bug; others are far behind. Some are just beginning to analyze the problem. More than 80 percent of America's big businesses are behind schedule in fixing their computer bugs, according to the consultants at Cap Gemini America. Alex Patelis, an associate economist at Goldman Sachs, predicts economic disruptions comparable to the trouble caused by a major natural disaster. This technological hurricane will be serious, but not enough to start panic or a recession. President Clinton's Y2K Czar, John Koskinen, says the outcome of the millennium bug is unknown, but could be serious. "Over the last 20 years, we've grown more and more reliant on information technology," he says. "We're able to produce all sorts of stuff for less than we used to, but it comes with a risk. Everything is interconnected." Both Mr. Koskinen and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) say that one of the biggest dangers could come from overreaction. If everybody freaks out, fears of disaster could become self-fulfilling. "Civilization as we know it is not going to end," Mr. Bennett says. "I'm not yet ready to build a shelter in the backyard. But it might not be a bad idea to have a little extra food and water.
WORLD senior writer Edward E. Plowman interviewed many leaders following the presidential address last week. Here are some key responses:
- Luis Palau, Portland, Ore., international evangelist (who has discussed biblical issues with President Clinton in the past):
"This is a warning to all of us not to play with the peripheries of temptation: Sin will find us out. Without immediate and sincere repentance, we reap what we sow. There must be a proper confession, an examination of conscience, genuine sorrow for committed sins, and a renouncing of sin. No deflection of blame to third parties. The statement was not a proper confession. It needs to be as public as the sin is publicly known. He didn't say, 'Please forgive me.' I didn't hear a real expression of sorrow.
"But we who listen and watch need to beware of self-righteousness, which can be a bad sin in itself. After all, 'there but for the grace of God go I.' We too are vulnerable. So, be careful: We can protest 'too much.'"
- Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Seminary:
"We now have a president who has admitted that he lied to his family, his friends, and his country under oath, and that he has been sexually involved with a White House intern young enough to be his daughter. To the president, I urge, look to Jesus for forgiveness, and you have our prayers. To Americans who say that the economy is all that matters, I simply remind you that God judges nations when they abandon his moral principles."
- Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary, National Council of Churches:
"Our long experience in pastoral care has taught us the wisdom of protecting personal life from public display. I hope that, as a nation, we are now learning that truth. The private lives of our public leaders are best left private or we will have none allowed to lead.
"In such a painful time, the Clinton family deserves our quiet support. Our churches invite all people to join us in private and caring prayers."
- Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
"The president missed an enormous opportunity in his address to the nation. Instead of drawing us together, President Clinton polarized the nation anew with his short and insufficient address. The president appeared more combative at being forced to acknowledge his wrongdoing than contrite over truly shameful behavior, more angry at being embarrassed than apologetic about having lied to and misled his family and the nation. The president appeared to be making concessions to the evidence rather than confession of personal sin. True repentance means you're sorry you did it, not just sorry you got caught."
- Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
"The statement was an apology. But no matter what he says, many will be unsatisfied. No reparation will be enough."
- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Seminary:
"It was not sufficient. His statement was an argument disguised as an apology. The sexual relationship between the president of the United States and a young intern under his care represents grievous sexual exploitation and the betrayal of his most sacred trust to his own family, and to the American people. Sadly, the element most missing from President Clinton's address was a message the nation desperately wanted to hear: 'I'm sorry.' Instead, his response to sin is spin. He should come face to face with the reality of his sin and turn in repentance."
- Jerry Falwell, the Lynchburg, Va., pastor and conservative activist whom Hillary Clinton accused in January of leading a "vast right-wing conspiracy" to topple the president:
"The president should step aside and allow Mr. Gore to come in and attempt to restore some level of moral sanity and dignity to the White House that has been so maligned and denigrated the past five years."
- Richard Cizik, executive, National Association of Evangelicals Office for Governmental Affairs:
"We did not see true repentance reflected in the statement nor appropriate contrition for the offenses committed."
- Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist and author of a recent book, Character Is the Issue: How People with Integrity Can Revolutionize America:
"It is a sad day for America and the presidency. Either Bill Clinton lives under different rules than the rest of us, or America has a different set of values than when it reacted to Wilbur Mills, Bob Packwood, Gary Hart, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and others."
- Robert Schenck, an Assemblies of God pastor and general secretary of the 4,400-member National Clergy Council:
"He does not need to be consulting more lawyers, pollsters, and politicians. He needs to consult pastors who can lead him toward proper confession, repentance, and forgiveness. This crisis can only be resolved morally. It will never be resolved politically, or even legally. His habit of stonewalling, of misleading by omission or concealment or fabrication or failure of memory has been the source of virtually all this administration's troubles."
Rex Horne, pastor of the president's church in Little Rock, declined to comment on the president's remarks, according to a church staff member Aug. 18. Among other clergy who have been identified as providing the president with spiritual counsel in recent years, no statements were being issued Aug. 18 by Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago; Tony Campolo, professor of sociology at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pa.; and Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, Calif. In each case, their office personnel said they were out of town. Gordon MacDonald, pastor of Grace Chapel in Massachusetts, said through his secretary that he doesn't wish to make any comment regarding the president's admission. Nor was a statement being issued by Billy Graham, a spokesman said; or James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo., as of Aug. 18.
U.S. intelligence sources detected a huge secret underground complex in North Korea they say is the centerpiece of a revival in the communist country's frozen nuclear weapons program. The complex may represent an effort to break vows with the Clinton administration. Four years ago, North Korea entered a dubious agreement with the president, accepting $6 billion in Western aid and non-military technology as a payoff for giving up its nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang now says the United States has not provided ample fuel shipments under the terms of the agreement. The United States is currently providing more food aid to North Korea than any other country. But in an apparent bid for more, government officials told a visiting U.S. congressional delegation that North Korea would stop exporting missiles if compensated for lost earnings. Undeterred by a reputation for not keeping their word, North Korean officials mentioned a figure of $500 million a year as an adequate payment. The delegation, composed of aides to members of the House International Relations Committee, returned to Washington with video footage showing the effects of North Korea's three-year famine. The group estimates that up to 2 million have been killed by starvation and starvation-related diseases. If true, that equals 10 percent of North Korea's population. International aid agencies are feeding every child under age 7, according to the delegation.