This Week

Issue: "The tolerance police," Dec. 19, 1998

Appealing to the high court

Police no longer have the right to search people and their cars after merely giving them traffic tickets. Such a search-without an officer's having probable cause of other wrongdoing-is unreasonable and unconstitutional, according to a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. The case involved Iowa motorist Patrick Knowles, whose car was searched after he was stopped for speeding (police found marijuana and a pipe). Concern for officer safety may justify ordering a driver and passengers out of the car but "does not by itself justify the often considerably greater intrusion attending a full field-type search," Chief Justice William Rehnquist said. Police may still pat down a motorist if the officer suspects he is armed. "Which of us has not at some point gone over the speed limit or made an illegal left turn?" commented Brooklyn law professor Susan Herman. Chief Justice Rehnquist himself was ticketed in Virginia in 1986 for driving 41 mph in a 30 mph zone. The Supreme Court also denied an appeal by a lawyer who filed a $5.4 million lawsuit after women used men's restrooms during a Billy Joel and Elton John concert at Jack Murphy Stadium in 1995. Lower courts ruled his civil-rights lawsuit frivolous and ordered him to pay $2,000 in sanctions to the city of San Diego, plus $2,000 to the concessions company the man blamed for selling him the beer that made his trip to the men's room necessary.

Fear of phobia

Barnard College changed a promotional brochure that boasted that graduates of women's colleges are more likely to marry and have children than women at coed schools; two students had protested that it makes lesbians feel unwelcome. "Marriage in our culture is seen as the pinnacle," said campus homosexual-rights activist Shannon Herbert, who circulated a petition arguing that the claim reflects an "unfounded fear that attending an all-women's college will inevitably result in lesbianism or spinsterhood." Barnard President Judith Shapiro claims the brochure was intended to fight stereotypes about the school; Barnard has the reputation of producing a bumper crop of ultrafeminist alumnae. Ms. Shapiro says, "The real message we want to send is that women can have it all."

The Warren court

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Judge Ray Warren of the North Carolina Superior Court announced his homosexuality after narrowly losing a bid for higher office. Fellow Republicans say he betrayed the party. He separated from his wife in September and left his children, ages 6 and 8, without a father in the home. "Ray Warren stood before the Republican Party executive committee on July 25th and professed to be a born-again Christian," said Lee Currie, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. "We trusted him." Judge Warren says his political philosophy is "neo-libertarian," but he complains "old Puritans" run the GOP. He also says his political future is cloudy: "As long as Jesse Helms is the senior senator, I probably wouldn't get any federal appointments."

Another court says no

New Jersey lawmakers overrode Gov. Christie Whitman's veto of a partial-birth abortion ban in December 1997, only to have it thrown out by a federal judge. Twenty-eight states have passed similar laws, according to the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Pro-abortion legal activists in 19 states have won court or state action to partially or totally block these laws, however, using claims that they are vaguely worded or lack health exceptions. The New Jersey version would not have punished women who receive the abortions, but abortionists risked a $25,000 fine and losing their licenses.

High drama on high crimes

The House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry had its moments-from Chairman Hyde's preventing California Democrat Maxine Waters from turning the hearings into the "Henry and Maxine Show" to Rep. Lindsey Graham's complaint that the president's conduct has loosed a "thousand million" ribald jokes into the public domain. Here are the highlights and lowlights:

  • The Humpty Dumpty Award: JARROLD NADLER (D-N.Y.) for turning things upside down. One slice of conventional wisdom in Washington held that President Clinton should simply tell the truth by admitting he lied. Mr. Nadler, however, won White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff's assent to his proposal that telling the truth would be unethical: "When we hear people saying, forget about these legalisms, forget about the hairsplitting" that would allow the president to avoid punishment, "just say you did.... For the president to do that, that would be betrayal of his oath, would it not?" RUFF: "Indeed, indeed."
  • The Super Sleuth Award: LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), over Democratic cries of "point of order," for putting forth a theory that President Clinton was behind a White House operation to smear Monica Lewinsky. He described a scheme-to portray the former intern as a sex-crazed stalker-that began with a conversation the president had with aide Sidney Blumenthal. According to Mr. Blumenthal's testimony before the grand jury, the president told him that other interns knew Miss Lewinsky as "the stalker." The president tried to plant a seed in the mind of his secretary Betty Currie that Miss Lewinsky was the one demanding sex from the president. Press stories, sourced to the White House, repeated those false assertions and referred to Miss Lewinsky as a "stalker." Mr. Graham concluded that Miss Lewinsky was saved by a blue dress. Comparing her likely treatment to that of a rape victim in a courtroom, Mr. Graham appealed to all representatives, particularly women, to read Mr. Blumenthal's testimony and compare it to numerous press reports.
  • The "We're No Fools" Award: MAXINE WATERS (D-Calif.) for taking umbrage at colleague Lindsey Graham's suggestion that the women of America should take umbrage at the White House strategy of trashing Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Graham, Ms. Waters said, was out of line in suggesting "what every woman on this committee should do and how we should feel." She then went on to make her own suggestion: "I would like to say that every member of this committee should be offended" by Mr. Graham's suggestion. But there was more at work than mere male chauvinism, Ms. Waters suggested. Congressman Graham was "attempting to somehow send a message to Monica Lewinsky that she's been undermined by the president of the United States and thus set her up to be angry at the president in case she's called as a witness. We're no fools."
  • The Frankly Speaking Award: BARNEY FRANK (D-Mass.) for admitting that he was not persuaded by White House legalisms on whether the president was ever "alone" with Monica Lewinsky. "I think the president simply wasn't being truthful when he-I think he waffled past the point of the line on that," Mr. Frank said.
  • The Save the Children Award: MARY BONO (R-Calif.) for asking presidential lawyer Gregory Craig how he explains to his children "that your president has lied and that it's OK?" CRAIG: "Oh, it's not OK to lie, Congresswoman. I say that it's the most important thing in the world to tell the truth all the time." BONO: "The whole truth and nothing but the truth." CRAIG: "The whole truth. And I tell them that one of the reasons that the president is in such trouble is that he did not. He misled the American people. He misled his family. He misled his colleagues. And that was wrong.... And that's a very important lesson to the children of this country, I think."
  • Sky's the Limit Award: CHARLES SCHUMER (D-N.Y.) for taking the risk of speaking extemporaneously and trying to help a witness make his point about the necessity of legal hairsplitting: "The earth has a blue sky except for ... one little square mile way down there in Antarctica where the sky is pink. And you ask a witness, 'Is the sky blue?' And the witness says 'no'-even though it's quite logical that the witness knows the rest of the sky is blue and there is just that one little part that is pink, clearly misleading. But it seems to me, if you value our system of laws, if you are not hairsplitting, that that is not perjurious, per se, unless you could get inside that person's head and know that they never saw the pink square of sky or didn't believe that pink square mile of sky existed. I don't know if that's the right example."
  • The Get-to-the-Point Award: BOB INGLIS (R-S.C.) for demanding an honest answer to an honest question: "Did he lie?" Mr. Inglis never got an answer.

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