Dispatches > The Buzz

Ups & Downs of the week

Issue: "Linda Chavez," Jan. 20, 2001

PRESIDENTIAL TRASH TALK: Bill Clinton went down last week swinging. Appearing in Chicago with Al Gore's campaign chairman Bill Daley, the outgoing president complimented Mr. Daley for doing "a brilliant job in leading Vice President Gore to victory." Come again? "They thought the election was over, the Republicans did. By the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida." All this must depend on what the definition of voting is.

SENATORIAL TRASH TALK: Ted Kennedy, flush from partisan victory over Linda Chavez, knows he won't even draw blood against George W. Bush's Education Department nominee Rod Paige. But the Massachusetts Democrat couldn't resist tossing a dart at the voucher-supporting Mr. Paige: "[P]rivate school voucher schemes ... are divisive issues that lead to needless partisan conflict." Mr. Paige held his fire and deferred to Sen. Kennedy. But he explained during the Senate hearing on his nomination: "What I am trying to find is what works. I think there is room for us to talk about this."

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: The latest entrant in the liability lottery is Teresa Reed of Murphysboro, Ill., who is suing a local McDonald's franchisee, Wal-Mart, a cup manufacturer, and her own mother ... over spilled coffee. A hot cup of java she bought at the drive-through spilled and scalded her after she placed it in a cup holder in her mom's car. According to her lawsuit, the local McDonald's did her wrong by serving her "too hot" coffee; the cup maker for making an inferior cup; Wal-Mart, manufacturer of the cup holder, for making an inferior cup holder; and her mother, for failing her "duty of care for the safety of others riding in her vehicle." If all this sounds familiar, that's because it is. In 1994 a woman in New Mexico successfully sued McDonald's over a coffee spill. Stella Liebeck won a $2.9 million verdict by a jury; a judge later reduced the award, and she eventually settled for an undisclosed sum that was reportedly under $600,000.

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