News & Reviews

Issue: "Quayle's presidential bid," June 19, 1999

7,000 troops slated for Kosovo
NATO peace wagon set to roll
What's a few thousand troops between enemies? That's what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered up last week when the United States signed on with seven other nations to staff another NATO-backed peacekeeping force. The Clinton administration will provide 7,000 American troops to help keep peace in Kosovo. As of June 9, the United States, Russia, and six other industrial democracies were moving to gain the UN Security Council's endorsement of the peacekeeping plan "as soon as possible," said Secretary Albright. Once a resolution is approved, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of Britain said a Serb withdrawal and a suspension of the bombing could be accomplished in a "few days." About 50,000 troops are expected to make up the peacekeeping force, which would oversee the return of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees uprooted in the conflict. Defense Secretary William Cohen called the commitment of American troops an "open-ended mission." Some U.S. military analysts say yet another American peacekeeping contingent is a bad idea. "We're stretched to the maximum already-not only in terms of our people, but in terms of their patience," says Earl Tilford, a historian with the U.S. Army War College. "We've got to pick our commitments very carefully. This is a big-time strategic commitment to an area of dubious value. We're interfering in an 800-year-old family fight with people we just made extremely mad at us by bombing them for 75 days. Now we're going to put Americans on the ground where [the Yugoslavs] can get at them." war powers
So sue me
A lawsuit by 26 lawmakers accusing President Clinton of violating the War Powers Act by bombing Yugoslavia went down in flames. A federal judge last week granted a White House motion for dismissal. The suit alleged that Mr. Clinton broke the law by not obtaining congressional approval for the "introduction into hostilities" of U.S. forces for more than 60 days. Mr. Clinton ignored a 213-213 congressional vote on April 28 that fell short of authorizing U.S. participation in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and kept the bombing campaign alive. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said that "congressional reaction to the air strikes has sent distinctly mixed messages." He noted that on May 20 Congress passed an emergency spending bill to help pay for U.S. military involvement in the Yugoslav conflict. Parental notice ok'd in Texas
See you in September
Starting this September in Texas, unmarried girls under 18 won't be able to get an abortion until Mom and Dad find out. The new law does not require parental consent, and a judge may give consent in lieu of parental notification. Such a law "helps establish a general pro-life attitude on the part of people in the state," said Darla St. Martin of the National Right to Life Committee. It's a small step forward. Of the 84,870 abortions reported in 1997 to the Texas Department of Health, about 5,500 were performed on minors. It's also a step forward for Gov. George W. Bush, who signed the measure into law. He's been criticized by fellow Republican presidential candidates as soft on abortion. "This law both respects families and protects life," he said during a signing ceremony. He also said that it will "involve parents in this major decision of their minor daughters." In March, Mr. Bush said he would back a pro-life constitutional amendment if more voters supported it, but "America is not ready to ban abortions." Notting Hill: Talking Points
Depravity, meet common grace
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by June 7 had sold $255 million worth of tickets, but last week the romantic comedy Notting Hill was running second. This Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant vehicle (plot: famous but unhappy American actress falls for witty British bumbler) took in $15 million over the June 5-7 weekend for a two-week total of $49 million. Is the success of Notting Hill (PG-13) a good or bad thing? It's easy to list its problems: One Christian group counted 41 obscenities and 12 profanities and noted also sexual discussion, a bedroom scene with implied fornication, and so on. Christians have many reasons not to see this film. At the same time, the box-office success of the movie offers a view into what our neighbors are watching and enjoying-and that view isn't entirely bad. Our neighbors are praising a movie that shows the benefits of family: Major characters desire true, permanent love, and appealing secondary characters (such as a paralyzed woman and her husband who lovingly stays with her and carries her up the stairs) show the advantages of marriage. Notting Hill shows that we live in an ungodly world where people use bad language and make light of what God says is sacred-but also a world where we are still made in God's image and have some sense, although often buried, of what is right and what is wrong. The film would be a great point of departure for conversations with non-Christians about the distinction between God's principles and those commonly accepted now. Do a clever script and skillful acting make the film better, because it is funny and moving in parts, or worse, because they put lipstick on a pig? Is bawdy humor something we should always frown at? (If so, what do we do with Shakespeare's Falstaff and some of Luther's comments?) Should we take any comfort that Notting Hill is doing better at the box office than its more foul competitors? Good questions for debate, and the answer is not automatic either way. Lawsuit targets racial profiling
Driving while Hispanic
After attorney Curtis Rodriguez saw five different Hispanic drivers pulled over on a 10-mile stretch of Highway 152 in Northern California, he became the plaintiff in an ACLU-backed lawsuit that claims white cops use color to decide whom to stop. "It was immoral, it was racist, and it's high time these practices stop," said Mr. Rodriguez, who was pulled over himself. His suit against the California Highway Patrol and the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement came just days after the ACLU issued a report claiming that "racial profiling" in New York is a dismal side effect of the war on drugs. "If you're a young black man there's three things you can count on in your lifetime: death, taxes, and police harassment," said ACLU lawyer Reginald Shuford. The group has more lawsuits pending in Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. What should be done? In the California suit, the plaintiffs asked for unspecified damages and an injunction forbidding profiling. The most controversial demand is that law enforcement collect data on the race and ethnic background of motorists stopped for traffic violations. A few police departments, such as the forces in San Diego and San Jose, are voluntarily keeping records. This has led to fears that cops might let dangerous criminals (including white ones) run free because an unstated racial quota is already full. Lawmaker wants to unplug Energy Dep't.
Danger: low voltage
Rep. Todd Tiahrt says that recent Chinese spying into American nuclear secrets is just one more reason to unplug the Department of Energy. The Kansas Republican has been targeting the agency for years, but his idea has received more attention since reports started flying about nuclear-arms secrets stolen from DOE labs. Mr. Tiahrt says that departmental waste and ineffectiveness have erupted into a national-security nightmare. He would dismantle the department by selling off some of its projects to private industry. More sensitive functions would move to various federal agencies; the nuclear-weapons complex would shift to the Defense Department. Prior to the China spy scandal, General Accounting Office studies detailed years of mismanagement. The Cato Institute estimates that the changes would save taxpayers $20 billion annually over the next five years. But even if Mr. Tiahrt's measure clears Congress, it faces a presidential veto. senator outraged by recess appointment of gay nominee
Fighting back
Bypassing the Senate's power to approve presidential appointments, President Clinton named James Hormel, meatpacking heir and homosexual philanthropist, ambassador to Luxembourg. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was outraged and pledged to block "every single [pending] presidential nomination" until the White House reverses course. Scathing newspaper editorials ("boneheaded," yipped the Chicago Tribune) and critical news reports have battered Sen. Inhofe. Some even blamed him for the slippage of the U.S. dollar on international currency markets, supposedly spooked by the prospect that Sen. Inhofe's action threatens departing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's replacement. So what's the big deal about Mr. Hormel? The Washington Times details the new ambassador's gay advocacy:

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