'Net comes of age
Bill Clinton's pain was the Internet's joy. A market research company, Relevant Knowledge, estimated that 5.9 million people read independent counsel Ken Starr's report on the Internet. Only 606,000 people read the White House defense of President Clinton. Many attempts to access these documents failed, as users overwhelmed government computers containing the report. Meanwhile, Barnesandnoble.com was selling bound copies of the report for $8 a pop. CNN reported its biggest online weekend ever. ABCNEWS.com said its traffic doubled because of the Starr report. While hundreds of news sites were reaping a harvest of hits, many of them wondered how to handle the explicitness of Mr. Starr's revelations. TV reporters and anchors frequently warned viewers about the nature of the report while steering them to Web sites for complete details. Many sites ran the report verbatim without disclaimers. Many included ads, so Mr. Starr could help bring in needed revenue. Others included warnings. "Some of the language in these documents is sexually explicit," Washingtonpost.com told its readers. The Los Angeles Times included both ads and a warning; in this case, a letter appeared from the paper's editor. "The Times is presenting it on our Web site in full without any deletions, although some of the material might disturb readers. We urge parental guidance for children reading the full report." Donna Rice Hughes, who was Gary Hart's mistress over a decade ago and now works for the anti-pornography group Enough Is Enough, says some information in it is "inappropriate" and should have been kept confidential. "Hey, if I didn't have to read it for my job," she says, "I wouldn't read it."
Statistics of the week
The estimated cost-from Jan. 15 through Aug. 31-of the independent counsel's probe of the Clinton-Lewinsky perjury and obstruction of justice scandal. Members of Congress indicated last week they might demand the president pay restitution to cover some of these costs-which do not include the costs the administration bore fighting fruitless legal battles with Kenneth Starr, the future costs of witness reimbursements, or other aspects of the probe. Former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos said: "It's clear that this private matter had public costs over the last seven months. So, like with Speaker Gingrich, the president should pay a fine for prolonging the inquiry over these seven months for the public costs." Speaker Gingrich was assessed $300,000 for filing misleading documents with the House Ethics Committee. 97
The number of newspapers around the country calling on President Clinton to resign. At least one paper in each of 34 states and the District of Columbia carried editorials suggesting the president leave office voluntarily and spare the nation a bruising impeachment battle. Among those papers were USA Today and eight with Sunday circulations of more than 250,000, including the Seattle Times, the Des Moines Sunday Register, and the San Jose Mercury News.
Nation in brief
The first woman vice presidential candidate and former television personality Geraldine Ferraro called her political career quits last week after losing a Democratic Senate primary. Gun-control advocate Charles Schumer outpolled Ms. Ferraro in a New York contest to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Alphonse D'Amato. Also last week, Ted Mondale, son of former Vice President Walter Mondale (who chose Ms. Ferraro as his 1984 running mate in the failed bid against President Reagan), lost a three-way primary in Minnesota for governor. Hubert Humphrey III, another son of an ex-vice president, won that Democratic primary. IMF: Insufficient Monetary Fund
The proposed International Monetary Fund bailout for ailing foreign economies was shortchanged last week in the House. Republicans approved only a sixth of the requested amount; the White House seeks $18 billion. The fund, having made $26 billion in new loans last year to prop up failing economies, is running on empty. But Republican strategists hinted GOP lawmakers would be willing to support full funding in exchange for other compromises-such as placing restrictions on abortion funding-when the foreign-aid bill goes to a House-Senate conference. Whose money is it, anyway?
A House committee voted last week not to shortchange the American taxpayer. Using a tiny slice of the projected $1.6 trillion budget surplus, the Ways and Means Committee last week moved a 10-year, $80 billion tax cut one step closer to the president's desk. Senate approval will set up a showdown with the White House, which insists that all the surplus be poured into the Social Security system.
Waiting for the translation
Czech President Vaclav Havel, the poster-boy for democracy movements in Eastern Europe, fell a few paces back when confronted with cowboy democracy in Washington. At a joint press conference with President Clinton, Mr. Havel looked tired and resigned to playing the straight man in Mr. Clinton's first direct encounter with reporters since he admitted to having a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. "The situation of the contemporary world is very complicated," Mr. Havel said at the outset. When questioned specifically about whether his views of Mr. Clinton had changed since the controversy broke, Mr. Havel professed difficulties in translation. "Excuse me, I'm a little bit tired. I prefer to speak in my language," he told reporters. He dodged questions about moral authority, on which Mr. Havel, a former playwright, has written extensively, then changed the subject by congratulating baseball sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for real heroics. Then, hesitating and through a translator, he said: "I believe, first, that this is a matter for the United States and for the American people-who will be their president. When I have made a friendship with someone, I remain that person's friend no matter which office he or she holds or doesn't hold." For President Clinton, authority as a world leader is on ice, in spite of feigned confusion from other leaders about his problems at home. Germany quickly nixed a Clinton proposal to coordinate among the Group of 7 nations interest rate cuts, said to be a balm to ailing economies in Asia and Russia. The Journal of Commerce reported that the Clinton proposal "crashed and burned" only hours after Mr. Clinton proposed it in a Sept. 14 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Bundesbank officials said the plan would not work and they wanted no part of a "reflationary game plan." In addition to rate cuts, Mr. Clinton said G7 nations should "stand ready" with up to $15 billion in emergency loans through the International Monetary Fund, in case the "Asian flu" spreads to Latin America.
Church and state never looked worse
It can be dangerous to be a leader's religious counselor. In the case of Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More was executed after he refused to push for Catholic Church approval of the king's divorce, and to acknowledge Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England. At Richard Nixon's end, he had only Rabbi Baruch Korff and Billy Graham standing with him. When Mr. Graham heard the tapes, even he expressed shock and disbelief. Now it's Bill Clinton's turn. If it is true that the final refuge of some scoundrels is religion rather than patriotism, then surely we are witnessing Mr. Clinton's last stand before he is shown the door. Mr. Clinton feels about religion the way he feels about sex. He likes the kind that makes him feel good but requires nothing of him. That's why some of his best friends are the liberal clergy who cloak him with the mantle of respectability even while he lives and lies as he pleases. The president is employing a trinity of "personal spiritual advisers" he says he'll meet and pray with weekly (see p. 19). The purpose, one concludes, is to keep him from chasing skirts. If so, the three will need to work eight-hour shifts, seven days a week. One of the chosen is Tony Campolo, a liberal Baptist who teaches sociology at Eastern (formerly Baptist) College in St. David's, Pa. About those who claim they are being used and manipulated, Mr. Campolo says: "It would not be the first time that Christians have been taken in. But we would rather be men of faith who believe that God is working in the life of the president than to join that army of cynics, many of whom are religious leaders, who cannot accept a plea of forgiveness at face value." Which face? The other face is bringing in a new team of legal and political advisers. While one team thinks it can save the president's soul, the other team will try to save his behind. Church and state never looked worse together. Some preachers don't get it. Too many love the limelight and think that they will be the ones to influence the king. In the process they get their theological pockets picked.
by Cal Thomas, © 1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate
A changed man
George C. Wallace, one of the most divisive political figures in American history, died at age 79 after years of health problems. The former Alabama governor had been cursed by the civil-rights movement and immortalized by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" ("in Birmingham, they love the guvnah!"). Mr. Wallace proclaimed upon his 1963 inauguration the stance that would weld him into history: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" That same year, he made his "stand in the schoolhouse door'' trying to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama. In 1964 he tossed a scare into the Democratic Party by entering the presidential primaries. In the next three campaigns, he threw himself into the race for the White House, proclaiming himself a champion of the little guy against the establishment. Mr. Wallace referred to student protesters as "pointy-headed intellectuals who can't park their bicycles straight" and won standing ovations from his fans. Auburn University historian Wayne Flynt says that Mr. Wallace's opportunism became a factor in the retreat of liberalism in electoral politics. "I think Wallace was a genius at seeing where American public opinion was going and shifting his course with the public opinion," Mr. Flynt said. Republican campaign strategists saw in Mr. Wallace's success a sign that Southern voters in that region were becoming disaffected with the Democratic status quo. Political strategists like Kevin Phillips saw an "Emerging Republican Majority" and began reaching out to Southern voters. The resulting "Southern Strategy," frequently dismissed as racism, became an integral part of presidential campaigns from Nixon to Bush. Mr. Wallace himself changed after Arthur Bremer's 1972 assassination attempt. Left paralyzed in the legs, the governor started to contemplate a world beyond human government. Billy Graham was with Mr. Wallace on the day in 1983 when Christ transformed the man whose segregationist rhetoric had won him votes: "I remember reading to him the verse: 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?'" The Christian George Wallace condemned racism. Mr. Graham said, "Gov. Wallace stands as a shining example of what a conversion to Christ can do in a man's life." In 1994, Mr. Wallace said, "I was wrong, and I'm sorry." George Wallace's 1960s defiance was straightforward. So was his confession.
Lawmaker: Bringing yet another Clinton to justice?
Bringing a Clinton before the bar of justice is nothing new for Arkansas Republican congressman Asa Hutchinson. Mr. Hutchinson was the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas who prosecuted and sent to prison presidential brother Roger Clinton on cocaine charges in 1984. Now a first-term congressman, Mr. Hutchinson will play a key role in deciding whether Congress impeaches President Clinton in connection with a perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office case. Last week, Mr. Hutchinson recounted a trip with President Clinton last year in which Mr. Clinton remarked that "that prosecution [of Roger] probably saved his brother's life." The president said, during a flight aboard Air Force One to inspect tornado damage to Arkansas, that the drug bust was "the best thing that ever happened" to Roger, because it forced him to face up to his personal problems. Mr. Hutchinson may now contribute to a similar turning point in the life of President Clinton. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which is likely to begin an impeachment inquiry against the president (see cover story, page 14). "The prosecution was very tough on the family and then-Gov. Clinton responded to it as a loving brother would," Mr. Hutchinson said. "I haven't followed Roger that closely, but I know he's made an effort to change directions." Clinton biographer David Maraniss reported Asa Hutchinson's contention that the Roger Clinton bust-he plea-bargained his punishment down to two years' imprisonment in exchange for testimony in other cocaine-related cases-helped stem a growing cocaine problem in central Arkansas. "Here the brother of the governor was saying, 'Hey, nobody touches me, look who I am!'" Mr. Hutchinson is quoted as saying in the book. "And the people had come to think it was all right. The case was important in showing people they couldn't do that."
Big question mark
Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) gave the federal government its latest report card on the Year 2000 computer problem. And Washington's efforts earned a "D"-a barely passing mark. "This is not a grade you take home to your parents, and it is definitely not a grade to take back to the voters and taxpayers," said Mr. Horn, chairman of a House panel overseeing technology issues. According to an Office of Management and Budget report, half the government's 7,343 "mission critical" computers already have been fixed, replaced, or were unaffected by the bug. That leaves a question mark hanging over the rest. Government officials, like executives in many companies, know it is already too late to fix every piece of software by December 1999. So by a system of triage, the systems considered most important are scheduled for repairs. The rest will be looked at on a case-by-case basis if something malfunctions in the Year 2000 or later. The entire government's highly optimistic deadline for repairs is next March. OMB said seven large agencies aren't making adequate progress: the Departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, State, and Transportation. Also included on OMB's list was the State Department's Agency for International Development. Much of the government will not be ready in time, according to the General Accounting Office, and disruptions could snarl airline flights, delay tax refunds, and tangle student loans. President Clinton's Year 2000 czar, John Koskinen, says the federal government will spend $5.4 billion rushing to prepare for the new century. That figure, about $400 million more than earlier reports indicated, is expected to rise. The bill for the Defense Department alone is just under $2 billion. Things could get worse. "It will probably still go up as we move into the last year," Koskinen says. "We're going to discover as we move through this last 15 months more things that need to be done."
World in brief
Depressed over Asia
Economists in Asia are beginning to use the D-word. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's regional economist in Hong Kong, Tim Condon, said, "A handful of countries are under depression," with unemployment and prices clearly beyond recession. "People's expectations are adjusting downward," continued Mr. Condon. "They're close to the point of despair." Unemployment rates have more than doubled in Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. For Indonesia, in particular, analysts predict that unemployment could reach 40 percent of the labor force by next year. Getting global religion
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan put a new slant on the meaning of prayer. He told an audience gathered at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York that the challenges before the UN "give prayer a rightful place in the work of the United Nations. For prayer is compassion and concern; it is thanksgiving and atonement; it is yearning and relief," he said. Mr. Annan addressed world leaders representing many religions, including Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, yoked together with Jewish, Christian, Jain, Sikh, and Native American groups. All participated in the service, the UN-sponsored second annual "Global Religious Service for Peace." Indonesian rampage
Three thousand Indonesians on the island of Sumatra went on a rampage Sept. 15, burning shops, houses, and government buildings in a fit of frustration over the country's economic crisis. Police say 31 people were arrested for looting and untold numbers injured. The target of the violence was Sumatra's ethnic Chinese minority, which controls the fishing industry and employs indigenous Indonesians. Attacking Chinese across the country is becoming endemic, as the immigrants control most of the country's wealth and have more ably survived Indonesia's year-long financial turmoil. Adventist Press Service reports that in spite of ongoing riots, which have included church burnings, outreach services have continued to draw large crowds, more than 1,300 nightly, and growing numbers-more than 200 per service-are professing faith in Christ.