This Week

Issue: "Clinton's great escape," Feb. 6, 1999

Pope and president

The pope was received in North America like a rock star and surrounded by cheering fans from Azteca Stadium in Mexico to the Trans World Dome in St. Louis. At a St. Louis rally, young people were jubilant: weeping, squealing, jumping up and down and waving handkerchiefs. Other Missourians were respectful, if not as expressive. The governor commuted a death sentence that had been scheduled to be carried out during the 30-hour papal visit, out of deference to John Paul II's opposition to capital punishment, which along with abortion and euthanasia, he says, is part of the "culture of death." Abortionists, however, did business as usual. The pope invoked the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision of 1857. It ruled that slaves were property and not citizens, and "Today the conflict is between a culture that affirms, cherishes, and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings-the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped, and others considered 'unuseful'-to be outside the boundaries of legal protection." Welcoming John Paul II to the United States were President and Mrs. Clinton, who the previous week celebrated the 26th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade by lauding the work of pro-abortion activists and announcing a plan to provide $4.5 million in taxpayer money to make abortion clinics safer and pump $50 million more into abortion industry coffers by way of "family-planning" aid. The pope also spent about 20 minutes alone with President Clinton. According to a White House spokesman, abortion only "came up in passing" and l'affaire Lewinsky wasn't mentioned. During his St. Louis visit, the pope raised other social concerns. But while he has condemned U.S. airstrikes against Iraq, references to this were deleted from his prepared remarks in front of the president. In two months, the pope will be back in the United States-on compact disc and home video. Titled "Abba Pater," it will feature 11 tracks with snippets of the pope mixed with music. One selection featuring the pope saying the Lord's Prayer will be released as a music video.

They luv their attitude problem

If last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is any indication, conservatives are through with being dejected and demoralized. Now they're just mad. The annual conclave is one of the biggest gatherings of activists from the Republican Party's right wing-though not necessarily the religious right. With GOP hopefuls scrambling to toss their hats into an already crowded ring, this year's meeting was something of a presidential beauty contest. But there was more attitude on display than pulchritude. Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, John Kasich, and Lamar Alexander took turns knocking not only the Democrats, but other Republicans as well. Mr. Forbes criticized acknowledged frontrunner Texas Gov. George W. Bush and near-candidate Elizabeth Dole by blistering the performance of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole: "Twice [they have] faced Bill Clinton. Twice they have abandoned conservative ideas. Twice they have lost." Despite the hits, however, Gov. Bush placed second in straw poll of attendees, just four percentage points behind gold medalist Mr. Bauer, who not only addressed the meeting but held a reception with live bluegrass music and bused in young supporters from across the country. Several days after the conference, journalists reported that Mr. Bauer's PAC provided $90 "scholarships" to pay the conference fee for some supporters, and the story created a minor tempest. Tim Goeglein of Mr. Bauer's Campaign for Working Families emphasized to WORLD the payments to supporters were not in exchange for their support. "I want to make it plain: We never asked any of those people to vote for Gary in the straw poll." Mr. Forbes placed third in the poll, followed by Mrs. Dole, Alan Keyes, Mr. Quayle, Mr. Kasich, and Pat Buchanan.

Voucher victory

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The school-choice movement won a major victory when the Arizona state supreme court upheld the state's private-scholarship tax credit. Now proponents hope to have similar laws passed nationwide. The credit, passed in 1997, gives income-tax breaks of up to $500 for scholarships donated to religious and other private schools. It was intended as a substitute for failed plans to give cash grants for tuition. "It's the closest thing you can get to a full-blown vouchers program," said Arizona lawmaker John Huppenthal. The credit plan in other states goes by names such as the Parental Empowerment in Education Plan or the Public School Relief Act. Opponents, including teachers unions, claimed the credit violates laws against tax dollars funding religious education, but the court rejected this in a 3-2 decision. Chief Justice Thomas A. Zlaket observed that the authors of the Arizona constitution did not intend "to divorce completely any hint of religion from all conceivably state-related functions, nor would such a goal be realistically attainable in today's world."

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