The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on March 26, 1998 · Page 21
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 21

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Thursday, March 26, 1998
Page 21
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THE PALM BEACH POST THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 1998 21A Senate should oust civil rights interloper Lee Preoccupation with more glandular scandals is preventing proper scrutiny of a constitutional scandal. The matter of Bill Lann Lee illuminates a recurring dereliction of duty by the Senate and underscores the importance of West Virginia's Robert Byrd, the Senate's senior Democrat, as a defender of that institution's integrity. On Jan. 20, 1997, Deval Patrick resigned as assistant attorney general for civil rights. His deputy, Isabelle Pinzler, became acting assistant attorney general. On July21, after Ms. Pinzler had served 181 days, President Clinton nominated Mr. Lee to Mr. Patrick's post, with Ms. Pinzler continuing to serve until Mr. Lee's confirmation. George Will The Judiciary Committee, pursuant to the Senate's constitutional duty to render advice and consent regarding such nominations, held hearings. A committee majority concluded that Mr. Lee's policy preferences are seriously inappropriate and his interpretations of existing laws are mistaken. The committee did not recommend his confirmation, so his nomination never came to a Senate vote. It was returned to the president Nov. 13, on the eve of adjournment of the first session of the 105th Congress. On Dec. 5, Sen. Byrd wrote to the president, I Sr: vc-.s I -1 v 'mWfj I "I f I iM ?lfZ : - LJ : iW" "W -"1 arguing that a recess appointment of Mr. Lee would be an abuse of the constitutional provision permitting such appointments. (Article II, Section 2, Clause 3: "The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.") Sen. Byrd argued that the recess appointment provision was intended to allow normal govern Sen. Byrd THE ASSOCIATED PRESS1998 FILE PHOTO The Rev. Jesse Jackson boards Air Force One Sunday for the presidential visit to South Africa and parts of western Africa. Jackson on equatorial mission ment functioning in the nation's early days of the young Republic, when transportation was difficult , and recesses often lasted months. Sen. Byrd said there was no emergency justify Maureen Dowd told me as he waited for the president to speak to Ugandan grade-school children here Tuesday. "Some can turn pain into despair. He can turn pain into energy." Rev. Jackson said the president was not distracted. "He doesn't have one eye in his forehead, like a Purple People Eater. He can be circumspect." He was asked how Mrs. Clinton peachment, Mr. Clinton reached out to Rev. Jackson, inviting him to watch the Super Bowl at the White House. Some jaded souls have wondered if the scalded Mr. Clinton had allowed Rev. Jackson to "pastor" him as a way to shore up his base and curry favor with blacks, who ing a recess appointment, and that the next session of Congress would begin in a few weeks. So a recess appointment "would smack of the desire to circumvent the regular nomination process." The president chose a different circumvention. On Dec. 15 he announced the naming, by Attorney General Janet Reno, of Mr. Lee as acting assistant attorney general. On Dec. 17, Sen. Byrd wrote to Ms. Reno noting that the order installing Mr. Lee made no reference to the Vacancies Act of 1868, and asking if she thought the act, with its 120-day limitation on the . tenure of someone appointed under that act, applied , to the Justice Department. Sen. Byrd knew the answer. He has been a senator for almost 40 years and knows that Ms. Reno is not the first to attack the Senate's advice-and-consent prerogative duty, actually by claiming the department is "inde--pendent of, and not subject to" the Vacancies Act. Ms. Reno's department has reiterated a claim,, made off and on for more than 25 years, that where Justice is concerned, the Vacancies Act is not the only statutory means of filling offices. The thin reeds on which Justice leans this claim are provisions, in the 1950 statute that reorganized the department, that "all functions" of officers, agencies and employees of Justice "are vested in the attorney general," who may authorize "the performance by any other officer, employee or agency" of the depart m "'"if keep Mrs. Currie happy. The secretary, who does not ordinarily travel with the president, is an honored guest on the Africa tour (designed to make all American blacks happy). Sometimes she is seen hanging out with her fellow grand jury expatriate Bruce Lindsey. The president even singled her out in a speech he made in Ghana, talking about how she used to work for the Peace Corps in the African division. Rev. Jackson says he has prayed with the prayerful Mrs. Currie. "She's not Vernon 0ordan), who could collect himself for the cameras," he said. "She's not a professional. She's not into the politics of confrontation. She's an humble spirit, a basic, Christian, just comes-in-and-does-her-work sort of woman." The man who counsels the president on sex has empathy, at least. His wife, Jackie, also told reporters to back off when they began asking about womanizing rumors during the 1988 campaign. And Rev. Jackson says he understands the extremes of politics adulation at a big speech and then the loneliness of a hotel room. The reverend, decked out for the African sun in navy safari suit and khaki safari hat, said he and Bill had been praying together. "Obviously, ' MUKONO, Uganda Jesse ' Jackson smiled contentedly as he :' got off Air Force One and sauntered j along the crooked red carpet on the ' tarmac at the airport in Ghana. The ambulance-chaser of American politics had snagged a couple of juicy cases. Monica and .Africa. Astride the equator, Rev. Jackson, an ordained minister, was ; back in full plumage before the cameras he loves. He is the president's spiritual u guru, guiding Mr. Clinton through k. the turbulence of Monica Lewinsky. And he is the president's special envoy to Africa, guiding Mr. Clinton through the turbulence of sub-Saharan politics. At the airport on Monday, when the sprawling delegation from Washington arrived, Sam Donaldson kiddingly asked the Spiritual Adviser whether the sinner in the , White House would ever repent. "Don't bring that mess over here," Rev. Jackson replied with a grin. "Leave that mess at home. You're in the Mother Country now." Rev. Jackson and Mr. Clinton make a fascinating pair. For a long time they circled each other uneasily, with occasional public flashes of hostility. But in that vertiginous weekend after the Monica story broke, when there was much grave talk about resignation and im- did, in the end, overwhelmingly Mrs. Currie can bear to get up in the morning. "She believes in him," he replied. They grew up together, fighting for a vision of America. She really believes they are in a war, that there is a right-wing conspiracy against him." Referring to Kathleen Willey, he added, "On the one hand, you get the big drama of 60 Minutes, and the next week this same person who was the paragon of virtue kind of. comes apart. So Hillary has been in the ebb and flow of this." He recalls praying with Chelsea over the phone. "Chelsea has a certain toughness, with tenderness, that grows out of experience. If she had been weakened by it, it would have had a devastating effect on Hillary and Bill." So what is the moral of the story? "Sex is not the one string on the guitar," Rev. Jackson replies. "There are nine more Commandments." Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times. stick with the president. Some jaded souls have wondered if a panicked White House needed Rev. Jackson, who is friendly with Betty Currie, to run interference on conflicting stories and help smooth over tense relations with the president's secretary after she suddenly disappeared and turned up as a cowering witness before Kenneth Starr's grand jury. The president has tried to shift blame for Ms. Lewinsky's visits and presents to Mrs. Currie, and his fate, to a large degree, is in her hands. Mr. Clinton certainly wants to ment or any function of the attorney general. Sen. Byrd demolishes that meretricious argument by noting that nothing in the logic or legislative history of the cited language suggests exemp- tion from the Vacancies Act. Indeed, when in 1988 ' Congress amended the act, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's report reaffirmed the supremacy of the act as "the exclusive authority" for filling offices subject to Senate confirmation. The implication of Justice's argument is that there was a lot of torment there," he 1 1 WFKO0T Petty punditry makes case for do-it-yourself ! If the roller coaster in Washington proves nothing else, it's that citizens need an antidote to the pomposity that passes for most political analysis. With "experts" taking everything so seriously, it's easy to forget that the first intelligent response to much of today's "news" is an ear-piercing scream. What's needed is anti-punditry that showcases the charades that infest our public life and that trumps the blowhards. I Matthew Miller sending Mr. Lee's nomination to the Senate in the first place was a mere optional courtesy. What if the departments of Interior, Labor, Commerce and Health and Human Services make the same claim of exemption from the Vacancies Act? They could base . their claim on language in their reorganization statutes that is identical to the language on which Justice bases its claim. Sen. Byrd notes that of the 320 positions in Cabinet-level departments that are subject to Senate confirmation, 59 (18 percent) are currently being filled in violation of the Vacancies Act. Thus the Senate's advice-and-consent responsibility, which the Supreme Court has called "among the significant structural safeguards of the constitutional scheme," is being vitiated by the Clinton administration's distinctive lawlessness. And as Sen. Byrd concedes, the Senate's passivity makes it complicit in this assault on the system of checks and balances. The Senate should pass his legislation to affirm and enforce the fact that the Vacancies Act supersedes all other provisions of law. And surely the Senate could find a way and summon the will to evict Mr. Lee from the office he illegitimately occupies. George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post http:www.grimmy.coni Berry's World PO YOU UKf LIVING IM A GATED COMMUNITY? ,' To put you in the vanguard of this grass-roots drive for sanity, I humbly offer the following framework for parsing each week's events. But be warned: whatever your politics, youH find that viewing the world through this prism could actually Sield insight into reality, not just obscure it Do you ave the courage to be your own pundit? If so, primp a little, smile into camera 3, and focus on the week's: . POLICY HOAX. The surest mark of the citizen-pundit's rebellion is to start with policy, not politics. Remember the much-ballyhooed Kennedy-Kassebaum health reform of 19? Both parties said it would guarantee access to health care for 25 million Americans when they changed jobs or lost coverage, even if they had preexisting conditions. Well, last week the nonpartisan General Accounting Office reported that only a handful of folks are being helped because the bill assures only theoretical "access" to insurance, not premiums that are affordable. As it turns out, insurers are hiking rates for people with preexisting conditions by 140 to 600 percent. So much for that cheery bipartisan signing ceremony in the Rose Garden. MEDIA MAYHEM. Holding the media accountable is a citizen-pundit priority. Whatever you think of Bill Chnton or Kathleen Willey, for example, her 60 Minutes interview was irresponsible in two respects. First, CBS gave us no real inkling of w hat might have motivated Ms. Willey to come forward. Ye her lawyer hasleen shopping a $300.000 ook the capital. Last week, for example, New York's Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan floated a plan to fix Social Security. Sen. Moynihan would cut payroll taxes 2 percent and let folks use that money to open individual retirement accounts; he'd pay for the tax cut by fixing the overstated consumer price index used to adjust benefits each year. By partly embracing the conservative idea of private accounts, and sensibly paying for them via accurate (but controversial) changes to cost-of-living adjustments. Sen. Moynihan has single-handedly made the world safe for Republicans to enter the debate. His impeccable liberal credentials now make it much harder for Democrats to demagogue Social Security as they did Medicare in 19. Sen. Moynihan has committed that rare thing: a genuine act of leadership. Hoaxes, mayhem, insults to our intelligence and the real McCoys. Get in the habit of finding them weekly, and your do-it-yourself commentary will be a thousand times more edifying than the pros". Matthew Miller, a senior uriterfor U.S. News & World Report, is a former btulget oficial untM the Clinton administration, f deal for months. This doesn't mean Ms. Willey 's story isn't true, but it's obviously relevant in judging her credibility. Then there was the mistreatment of Bob Bennett, the president's lawyer, who looked shifty and weird in his response to Ms. Willey. This interview featured Mr. Bennett and Ed Bradley set against a black backdrop, as if they were conversing in the same room. What you didn't know was that Mr. Bennett was actually in a different city, talking only to a camera (which is hard) and looking sideways as instructed by a producer. Why on earth did 60 Minutes fabricate this illusion? INSULT TO OUR INTELLIGENCE. Here we toast official pronouncements so patently ludicrous they deserve a prize. Last week's winner Trent Lott. for insisting that a tobacco deal that raised the price of a cigarette pack by $1.50 would not involve a "tax." Why can't Sen. Lott just say that while Republicans are generally opposed to tax hikes, this one is tolerable for various reasons, instead of you guessed it insulting our intelligence? REAL MCCOY. Armchair pundits shouldn't get cynical and act as if nothing worthwhile happens in my

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