The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 24, 1998 · Page 17
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March 24, 1998

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 17

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Tuesday, March 24, 1998
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THE PALM BEACH POST TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 1998 17A Clinton's claim Grammar cops aren't the answer f privilege may e his undoing By defiantly asserting that he and his aides are above the criminal law the essence of his claim last Friday of "executive privilege" Bill Clinton ha 5 increased the likelihood of their indictment and his impeachment. Pitting his soaring poll ratings against bedrock juqicial principle, he offers the other two branches of (government the choice of the rule of Clinton or Mary Ann Bailer once saw a teenager shoplifting in a store near her home in southwest Washington. She didn't know him from Adam, but that didnt-stop the diminutive Bailer from striding right up to the strapping 1 lad and telling him (in a teeth1 clinched whisper): "If you don't put that back, I'm going to kick you up your butt." The boy smiled sheepishly ? and did as he was told. William Raspberry rS the rule ot law. That is the meaning of his decision to place his coverup crew beyond the reach of a grand jury. Not since Richard Nixon tried to withhold incriminating taped evidence and was torced by the unanimous Supreme Court to respond to the subpoena of a grand jury has a president presumed to wrap personal wrongdoing in the cloak of official William Satire Firestorm, anyone? Not yet; most are hung up on I thought about Mary Ann : (now a grandmother four times !q over) the other day when I read of ; a controversial new proposal from a member of the Prince George's County (Md.) school board. Marilynn Bland would re- ;ti quire teachers in that Washing-M ton suburb to correct students ..! when they speak improper En- ,5 glish not just in classrooms but j also in cafeterias and hallways. , trashing the background of women accusing the president of misconduct to grasp the constitutional - , -- - i " KAHNBK. 1 import of Mr. Clinton's blatant attempt at the usur pation ot power. Perhaps his reach for unlimited immunity has littlgTM the human interest of a sex dispute. But what MrCBnton crudely groped at last week is an idea called equal justice under law. To try to stretch presidential prerogatives to subvert the course of a criminal investigation goes beyond ordinary cnmi-nal.acts to reach the level of a "high" crime. Despite being committed under the secrecy of an unconsidered judicial seal, Mr. Clinton's claim of As GOP rises, one party's extremist is another's winner unprecedented privilege is not denied by the president's fleet of lawyers. We know it has taken place. If Mc;. Clinton can get away with this, any future president would be able to get away with anything. JHe will declaim piously that he seeks only to protect the confidentiality of official advice. That's sophistry because he is blocking inquiry into a conspiracy of witness-tampering, which is not in his job description. By Richard L Berke WASHINGTON The loudest hurrahs for Peter Fitzgerald, the new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, came not from within his party but from Democrats who think he is so conservative he will be a pushover against Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun in November. In the primary last week, the Republican leadership had sided with Fitzgerald's centrist opponent, Loleta Didrickson, figuring she would pose a more robust challenge in a state that has not sent a Republican to the Senate since Charles Percy, a centrist Ms. Bland, who like three- , quarters of the county's students, is African-American, thinks the ; schools aren't doing as much as they could to develop students' ; language skills. And she's certain the youngsters particularly j:j black youngsters will pay the price of that neglect: in lost op-, , portunities and lost respect. iSj Yes, but no :u I agree with her on both",, counts. But I don't support herivi proposal. ft How can I say that while re-membering the Mary Ann Bailer incident so fondly? Two reasons. First, the Bailer incident hap-J. pened a lot of years ago, and things are not quite the way they ;j4 used to be. Second, not every- body is a Mary Ann Bailer. This J woman had has the special . gift of communicating not just! disapproval of the misbehavior 'v but also genuine caring for the misbehaver. I might care as much as she, ' but I couldn't count on instant recognition of that fact. Trying to , mimic her approach, I might wind 1 up getting punched out by some petty thief. Nor is it just the fact f that I'm a man. Few women could, t get away with what Mary Ann j routinely gets away with. Not just with teenage boys, but anybody, fl Perhaps Mary Ann could get away with correcting grammar in." the corridors and cafeterias of the ; j Prince George's schools, but I ' j don't think she'd try. She used to ' use her combination of love and sternness to correct the behavior of people she was certain knew better. She didn't so much teach ' people as encourage people to act ' on what they already knew. ' ,; 1 Public humiliation . ' who was defeated in 1984. Democrats are hoping that Mr. Fitzgerald will do for them what Al Salvi accomplished two years ago: Mr. Salvi upset a more moderate Republican rival for the Senate nomina tion, only to be thrashed by the Democratic candidate, Richard Durbin, who attacked him as out of the mainstream. Perhaps. But the Democratic as sumption that Republicans get stuck with extreme, unelectable candidates may be overblown and overly optimistic. While it helps to start with a Didrickson, the state comptroller, was the perfect candidate. "If Loleta Didrickson never showed up, Republicans would have been very content with Fitzgerald," Mr. Cook said. "He is not nearly as far to the right as she is to the left." Sen. Moseley-Braun, he added, "is still in serious trouble." Perhaps the biggest problem for Mr. Fitzgerald is not that he is a fierce opponent of abortion and gun control, but that his campaign will be haunted by attacks leveled by his own party during the primary that are bound to resurface in Sen. Moseley-Braun's campaign commercials. Former Sen. Bob Dole, for one, attacked Mr. Fitzgerald as "out there on the fringe." Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar said, "His campaign and views are a distortion." Democrats hope the Illinois race will mirror what happened in a recent California race to fill the seat of the late Rep. Walter Capps, a Democrat. The Republican hierarchy backed a centrist to take on Rep. Capps' widow, Lois. A more conservative candidate won the primary but lost to Ms. Capps this month. Yet there is no guarantee that the party-backed candidate, Brooks Firestone, would have won either. One Democrat who never learned his lesson was California Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Sr. In 1966, when Ronald Reagan took him on, Mr. Brown dismissed him as "fond of embracing far right-wing Republican celebrities and attitudes." Mr. Brown lost. In a book published 10 years later, Mr. Brown predicted that Mr. Reagan would never be president: "I remain certain that the large majority of Americans outside the radical fringe of Reagan's own party will reject the man and his philosophy if given the facts about his record and his radical political thought." The lesson: Democrats should be careful what they wish for. They are saddled with probably the most conservative Congress in history, filled with members they thought were too far out on the fringe to reach Capitol Hill. Richard L Berke is a reporter for The New York Times. of conservatives. His is now considered a safe seat That same year, Democrats were overjoyed when Rod Grams, an abortion foe, became the Republican nominee for Senate in Minnesota. But in November, voters, who were already comfortable with Mr. Grams from his days as a local television anchorman, were drawn to his folksy approach. And he managed to depict his sometimes dour Democratic opponent, Ann Wynia, as more extreme on the left than he was on the right. He is now Senator Grams. The Democrats also got their wish that year in Michigan, when a conservative, Spencer Abraham, won the Republican primary for Senate, and later the general election. "(Mr.) Abraham won because he is extremely articulate," said John J. Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont-McKenna College in California who is a former Republican party official. "And it's very difficult to portray him as a ring-wing nut." Two years later, Kansas' Republican party backed a moderate, Sheila Frahm, for the Senate, but a conservative firebrand from the House, Sam Brownback, won the nomination and triumphed in November. Conservatives often excel in primaries because their supporters are more energized, particularly in low-turnout primaries, than their opposite numbers. The candidates are sometimes particularly savvy and organized about using phone and targeted mail drives. If the turnout this November is as low as experts predict, these advantages could help the most ideological candidates. That is why Sen. Moseley-Braun should not rest easy. The senator has been dogged by an assortment of accusations about ethical lapses and financial irregularities that began even before she was sworn in and virtually guaranteed that she would be vulnerable against any Republican. Mr. Fitzgerald, a state senator, won the chance to take her on in part because he is a millionaire who spent nearly $7 million on the primary race. Charles E. Cook Jr., editor of a nonpartisan political newsletter in Washington, said Republican leaders made out Mr. Fitzgerald as an extremist since they believed that Ms. candidate who appeals to the widest swath of the electorate, other factors We can hope that the Supreme Court, in a U.S. vs. Clinton, will again deny a presidential power-grab (and this time Justice William Rehnquist need notrecuse himself). But Mr. Clinton hopes his stall will get him past the Paula Corbin Jones trial and the midjerm elections. To pay for his bid to run out the clocjk of his second term, this self-weakened president is willing to force the court and the Congress to weaken the presidency permanently Why take such a risk to keep his aides from talking? Only one logical answer He sees a greater risk tn letting them tell the truth. .Note the difference between his defiance of the independent counsel, who is unpopular, with Mr. Clinton's more cautious approach to delaying the Congress, which now nearly matches his own popularity. Bruce Iindsey, Mr. Clinton's longtime Mr. Fixit, who 'refuses to answer the grand jury's questions, alstf Invoked a spurious executive privilege when deposed by the staff of the House committee looking Into campaign scandals. Chairman Dan Burton once' before brought a contempt of Congress resolution against a White House counsel, who caved in at the last minute. Under the same threat, Lindsey has agreed to return to testify April 6 about conversations with Clinton about James Riady's influence.. Behind the talk of a select committee to replace Judiciary in considering impeachment is this: He usf rules require a two-thirds vote to grant wit-ne ses immunity and force them to testify. In Judi-cia ry, Clinton die-hard Barney Frank has the votes to )lock such vital grants. That's why a new committee, headed by Judi-cia ry chairman Henry Hyde, will likely be appointed with two-thirds Republicans. Otherwise, the parade of 89 witnesses taking the Fifth or fleeing the country would continue and no serious inquiry coi ild proceed. Example: Rep. Burton's Government Reform Committee is considering offering immunity to John Huang limited to violations of the Hatch Act and federal election regulations (not more serious potential crimes like espionage or helping Mr. Clinton hush up Web Hubbell). If Democrat Henry W4xman blocks immunity to get Mr. Huang's testimony, then Mr. Clinton's Lippo connection could be handed off to House Oversight, which is 6-3 Republican. The prospect of Mr. Huang's talking has coverup conspirators profoundly worried. If impeachment comes, Mr. Clinton's power-aba si ve attempt to carve out a personal privilege that places him above the law the high crime perpetrated last week will be remembered as the beginning of his end. I j William Safire is a columnist for The New York Times. can be just as critical, such as money, political skills and trends and who actually turns out to vote. Beyond tactics, conservatives may benefit because many voters are simply more conservative these days. "People thought I was a right- wing fanatic, and the Republicans had people working pretty hard against me behind the scenes," recalled Rep. Joe Scarborough of Pensacola, who in 1994 became the first Republican ever elected in his North Florida district. After defeating an establishment Republican whom party officials considered more electable in part because unlike Rep. Scarborough she favored abortion rights, Rep. Scarborough easily won the general election. His first order of business in Washington, he said, was convincing colleagues and the news establish ment that I didn t foam at the mouth three times a day." Rep. Scarborough, of course. rode the wave launched by the Con tract with America along with dozens Court ruling against credit unions incites banking fee-for-all schnerk, is that rich folks will not documents, banks collected $30.9 Surely some of the students who would be corrected under the Bland proposal would know ' better already. Just as surely, many of them wouldn't, and the almost unavoidable humiliation 'i of being corrected in public by '" someone not your own teacher does not strike me as the most ' effective way to teach English. ' 1 j Still, I'm a lot closer to Ms. '-5 Bland than to some of her critics n who have complained that she -'P wants students to sound white. in I think she wants them to sound intelligent no doubt be-' ! cause she understands that the way we use language determines') to a very great extent how people judge our knowledge, our intelli- gence and our competency. Good English, carefully spoken and written, can open more doors than a college degree. Bad En- glish can slam doors we don't even know about. WTiat is true 7 generally is doubly true for minority youngsters. Maybe Ms. Bland will con- J, sider a compromise. Let her en- i courage teachers to establish their individual classrooms as , total-immersion language labs, where no street or playground language is permitted, where . verbal precision is encouraged and where every grammatical lapse is corrected. The difference is this: Ms. Bland's proposal would establish what amounts to language police, locking teachers '; and students into a sort of adversarial relationship, even during , nonclassroom time. Mine could , make the whole thing a sort of not-in-here-you-don't game that might also involve having stu- -. dents mimic careful speakers of their own choosing. It would get them used to the sound of good English, not just its rules. But whatever the approach, one notion has to be squelched right away: the insane idea that good English is "white," and not to be urged on self-respecting , African-Americans. William Raffrbcrry is a CuSm- 't nistfor The Washington Post j New and more horrible corporate rip-offs lurking in near future! Banks win big, and guess who pays? Thanks to the pinheads on the Supreme Court, big banks are in a better position than ever to continue to rip us all off. A monster case First National Bank and Trust vs. the National Credit have to pay bank fees, but you will. And in a new and more exciting wrinkle for the bankers. Congress has ordered the government to electronically deliver all federal benefits payments, except those from the IRS, effective Jan. 2, 1999. No more paper checks for Social Security recipients or veterans. Unfortunately, about 10 million Americans, most of them poor, don't have bank accounts. Think how surprised they are going to be when they open an account so they can get their checks and their checks suddenly start getting whittled away by banking fees. You think not? Check out what your bank charges you if you bounce a check. Consumer groups estimate that the actual cost of processing a bad check is less than $1. What's your bank's profit ratio on those things? Mdly Irins a a CfJumnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. billion in fees in the first nine months of 1997, up 15 percent from the same period a year earlier. Numero Two-o, what's the biggest trend in employment today? Temps, of course "contract workers," subcontracting, hiring fewer and fewer full-timers who would be eligible to be in a credit union. Ergo, fewer credit union members and more poor fish for the banks. But, wait didn't we just read that NationsBank Corp., one of the Very Bigs, is cutting its fees? Well, yes, we did, but read the fine print According to Knight-Ridder Tribune Business News, Nations will no longer charge its best customers $25 to stop payment on checks. $5 for copies of checks they've written or N for incoming wire transfers. CEO Hugh Mc-Coll Jr. told Knight-Ridder, -We need to treat people differently based on how much business they do with us. and we have to be willing to cut tees." What that means, you pMr Union Administration was recently decided in favor of banks and against credit unions. I Molly Ivins I Credit unions were formed, and given special tax treatment, to fcerve groups with "a common bond" most commonly all the folks working for one large employer. They wanted to be able to open their doors to a variety of groups so a single credit union could serve multiple groups with multiple common bonds. We're not talking about all the guys on a sof:ba!l team but, saycmployees of smaller companies that don't hav credit unions. savings accounts, and they charge us to find out what's in our accounts. Banks have not only been running record profits for six straight years now. but according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as reported by the Gannett News Service, the percentage of those profits accounted for by fees has gone up from less than 25 percent in i.N4 to almost 40 jxr-cent in 1W7. According to I DIC But the court said no. There are two reasons this is bad. First, fees. Study after study shows that doing business with a credit union saves mucho dinero. I would say the banks are nickel-and-diming us to death with fees, but it's more like $5 here and $25 there. They charge us for using their ATMs, and they charge us if we go in to fee a cashier. They charge us for our checking accounts, they charge us for our

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