In the spirit of the season, and in the hope of a fresh start-with malice toward none, with charity for all-in the new year, I hereby purge myself of various vexations left over from the old year.
• President Bill Clinton's bold transcendence of all previous standards of shamelessness in his virtual auctioning off of prizes-nights in the White House's Lincoln Bedroom, smaller slices of face time with the president, posts on piddling presidential panels-to the highest bidders from Wall Street to Djakarta. This from a man who said in his Inaugural Address: "Let us resolve to reform our politics so that power and privilege no longer shout down die voice. of the people."
• Vice President Al Gore Jr.'s slimy effort to make political hay out of his sister's death from lung cancer. Telling tearful delegates at die Democratic National Convention how he had knelt by die two-pack-a-day smoker's bed while she "breathed her last breath" in "nearly unbearable pain," Gore said, "That is why, until I draw my last bream, I will pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the dangers of smoking."
This from a man who during the six years after his sister's 1984 death had taken some $16,000 from the tobacco industry-which had also helped to fund the very convention at which he spoke. A man who had continued growing tobacco on his own land after his sister's death, and who had rhapsodized at a 1988 campaign rally about how he had "shredded it, spiked it, put it in the bam and stripped it and sold it"
A man who-when asked to reconcile ail this-spun cartwheels of cant, including a bland explanation that "people are becoming more willing to give some respect to the importance of the way people feel and to try to balance emotions and logic in a more artful way," and that "it took me a few years after my sister's death to grow into the deeper awareness of how strong I felt about what had happened to my family and my sister."
A man as phony as a three-dollar bill.
• The recruitment by California Civil Rights Initiative opponents of former Klansman David Duke to speak in favor of CCRI-so that opponents could tar as Klan sympathizers all others who supported it- which was just one wrinkle in a campaign by purported champions of civil rights that ranks among the dirtiest and most dishonest in recent memory.
• Then there was the smear of (recently defeated) black Rep. Gary Franks (R-Conn.), by black Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.), as a "foot-shuffling, head-scratching, 'Amos & Andy' brand of Uncle Tom" and "a Negro Dr. Kevoikian" who seeks "to maim and kill other blacks for the gratification and entertainment of... ultra-conservative white racists." Franks is, you see, a conservative.
• Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's cluttering of her majority ©pinion in United States v. Virginia-which requited die Virginia Military Institute to admit women-with a sloppily overbroad constitutional analysis the cost a shadow over all public (and government-assisted) single-sex education and after justifiable gender classifications;; that flirted with an unprincipled double standard faming all-female programs while striking' down all-male ones; and that took smug potshots at dead white males like Plato, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, for sharing the male supremacist views that were nearly universal in their times.
• James Carville, the partisan hack Democrat who is making a lucrative mini-career of attacking Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as a "partisan hack Republican." While it's no secret that Starr is a partisan Republican-which makes him a less-than-ideal man for this job-nothing about his investigation so far warrants Carville's reckless smear tactics, tacitly condoned by President Clinton. To borrow from a British officer's evaluation of a subordinate, Carville 'has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig."
• The president's smarmy bid for victim status when he likened his being pestered with questions over suspect campaign contributions from foreigners to the plight of Richard Jewell-a real victim, who was tarred by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and news media as the probable perpetrator of the Olympic Park bombing.
• Bob Dole's cynical, last-minute effort to exploit the California Civil Rights Initiative as a "wedge issue" (Dole's words) in the hope of reviving his pathetic campaign by exploiting racial divisions. Dole's motives were so transparently political that he only brought discredit upon CCRI, apparently cutting its margin of victory by hundreds of thousands of votes. Cynicism wrapped in ineptitude-a fitting symbol of the whole sorry Dole campaign.
• Dole's even more cynical push to persuade Congress to let states throw the children of illegal immigrants out of public school. The proposal's cruel idiocy-it would have left these children to grow up on the streets of America, trained for nothing but lives of crime or dependency-was mitigated only by its dishonesty: Dole's aim was not really to get his proposal enacted this year, but to draw a Clinton veto that he could exploit on the campaign trail by appealing to the worst instincts of nativists and xenophobes.
• Jack Kemp's sellout on fee same issue to win she vice presidential nomination Kemp renounced his previous views that common decency and fee national interest call for educating these immigrant -children as long as long as they're here.
• The shamelessly partisan bid by House Republications to criminal policy differences when they sent the Justice Department unsupported suggestions that National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, his deputy Sandy Berger, and other officials may have perjured themselves with respect to their (unwise but legal) decision not to tell Congress about the Clinton administration's decision to wink at Iran's arming of the beleaguered Bosnian Muslims.
• The cruel excesses of the Republican "welfare reform" law that President Clinton signed with a lame and unrealistic promise to fix it later. Rather than pushing welfare mothers out of a culture of dependency and into jobs, as advertised, it will push them and more than a million of their children deeper into poverty while doing nothing to create or find jobs for the mothers. The law will also deny almost all federal assistance to legal immigrants-including those who paid their taxes for years before becoming disabled-and will take food stamps away from another million poor adults.
• The unwillingness or inability of some white Southerners to understand how deeply offensive it is to black people to continue flying the Confederate flag-a symbol to some whites of bravery in a lost cause, but to most blacks of slavery and racial hierarchy-atop the statehouse in South Carolina.
• Speaker Newt Gingrich's efforts to dismiss as a mere partisan Democratic vendetta the House Ethics Committee's investigation of his multiple alleged ethical lapses and questionable fund-raising gimmicks. This from a man who climbed to power in part by driving Democratic Speaker Jim Wright into disgrace for actions no more sleazy than those alleged against Gingrich.
• The can-you-top-this cynicism with which President Clinton-who does right-wing and left-wing claptrap with equal verve-joined Republicans in calling for a "victims' rights" amendment to me constitution, Other than the facts that such an amendment is unnecessary to protect victims' rights, would dangerously cloud the meaning of the Bill of Rights, could undermine protections for innocent (as well as guilty) defendants facing imprisonment or even death, and might compromise the abilities of prosecutors to use plea bargains to fight crime, it's not a bad idea.
• More right-wing Clinton claptrap: His acquiescence in Republican use of a so-called anti-terrorism bill to weaken federal habeas corpus protections for death row prisoners and others claiming to be innocent victims of unconstitutional state kangaroo-court proceedings, all for the purpose of looking tough on crime; his sellout of civil liberties on other fronts, including censoring Internet smut and locking up small-fry, first-time drug offenders for long mandatory minimum sentences; and his campaign commercials boasting that he had signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which he had previously denounced as gay-bashing.
• The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Bennis v. Michigan, upholding the forfeiture of Tina Bennis' half-interest in a family car on the ground that her cheating husband had used it one night to pick up a prostitute and buy oral sex. The majority included the usual four conservatives. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg supplied fee fifth vote, while writing a strange little concurrence that sowed speculation that she is summing to be she neat chief justice by posing as tough on crime, or on Johns, or both.
• Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, the steaze-encrusted prober of Clinton sleaze.