Jewish World Review May 1, 2000 / 26 Nissan, 5760
Thomas H. Lipscomb
As the cynical Talleyrand put it in another case of abuse of power: “It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.” With their usual arrogance Clinton-Reno will arrive at their Waterloo just in time to wake up the electorate and unfortunately for them the battle will be fought out on a fast clock in the Atlanta courtroom of the 11th Circuit. They will now get a lesson in what “saving the Constitution” is really all about and the GOP will get the benefit of seeing its opponents’ moral pretensions demolished by blistering statements the media will have to headline because this time they will come from the independent judiciary.
So far the media-clueless Republican Party has been unusually smart in avoiding the urgings of Custer conservatives to make headlines of its own with a lot of wild statements about the Elian snatch. Tom DeLay took an immediate hit from the press because he had questioned the existence of the warrant Reno’s team had yet to show anyone two whole days after the event because the press and Congress were too trusting, too lazy, and too incompetent to demand a copy of it. Like Charley Brown and Lucy’s football, the media refuse to learn from their experience with Clinton’s lies. Lawrence Tribe’s, Alan Dershowitz’s and Richard Sharpstein’s examination of the same issue showed DeLay was on the right track. And DeLay may end up technically correct. Is a warrant obtained by Reno’s fraudulent representations to a carefully shopped magistrate really a warrant? We’re about to find out.
A look at the Clinton press claque that confronted Florida Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack at a Tuesday Senate press conference shows just how difficult it is even to attempt a bipartisan consideration of the facts of the case. A respected Democratic Senator, on the short list for Gore’s VP, Graham found himself continually challenged by reporters mouthing statements by our perjuring president and his co-dependents after he sadly admitted Clinton had lied to him in an Oval Office meeting.
Certainly any hearing led by Orrin Hatch is unlikely to go anywhere. Hatch has spent his declining years as the nation’s number one non-Democratic apologist for Janet Reno. And the thought of Trent Lott bringing his full intellectual talents to this endeavor is even more underwhelming. The central problem is that the understandably media-shy GOP has practically no one who can frame an argument, much less declaim it. Without one or two spellbinding communicators who can lead an uphill fight, there is no safety in numbers of indignant, tongue-tied GOP Congress critters muttering darkly on some committee that is doomed to irrelevance because of “partisanship” before it begins.
Fortunately there is a far better approach that has the advantage of being totally bipartisan. On the 27th of April, just hours after the Clinton-Reno snatch of Elian, a duly elected United States Senator from the great state of New Hampshire presented himself at the gates of Andrews Air Force Base and was refused entry. Upon appealing to the base commander, he was told that this Defense Department installation was now under the authority of the Department of Justice. And while a United States Senator was turned away, agents of Castro’s official Cuban DGI intelligence service came and went at will.
The issue of “senatorial privilege” alone exercised by a single Senator, has kept bills off the floor and the appointments of some hopefuls moldering for Mesozoic eras, and it is honored by senators on both sides of the aisle. And one wonders how the Congressional Armed Services Committees might feel about finding out one of their Air Force bases is missing? And how about the Intelligence Committees concern over having a base penetrated by Cuban agents that not only handles Air Force One and Two, but the top secret flying Presidental Command Center in the event of war?
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Thomas H. Lipscomb is the director of the Center for the Digital Future in New York. An an editor and publisher for many years, most recently as head of Times Books, he is also the founder of two public companies in digital technology. To comment, click here.