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Jewish World ReviewOct. 8, 1999 /28 Tishrei, 5760

David Corn

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http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- HOW REASSURING to see Republicans act like Republicans. But then budget fights do bring out the worst in Washington, for that’s where the money is.

Last week, as the GOP-led Congress wrestled with the legislation that funds the government (measures that should have been passed weeks earlier, before the Oct. 1 deadline), the Republicans in the House passed spending bills that gutted Bill Clinton’s 100,000-new-teachers initiatives and the AmeriCorps volunteer program. They also whacked at funds for low-income housing, cut money for the Wye River Middle East peace accords and revived a plan to delay the benefits of an earned income tax credit for the working poor. Despite all this activity, they were not too busy to shove into these bills numerous provisions that weaken environmental regulations. These riders would allow mining companies to dump more waste on federal lands, permit companies to log in national forests before wildlife surveys are conducted and defund international efforts to fight ozone depletion.

So here we have the GOPers cutting money for teachers, student volunteers and the poor and protecting polluters. It was almost enough to make one believe there is a difference between the two parties.

But then Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who’d previously supported the congressional Republicans’ budget-busting tax-cut scheme, denounced the House Republicans for their attempt “to balance their budget on the backs of the poor.” Here was Bush ripping off a Bill Clinton riff.

Remember how Clinton tried to distance himself from congressional Democrats? Welcome to GOP triangulation. Will Republicans desperate to win the White House with W sit back and take it? I hope not. There’s always room for more infighting within the Republican Party.

Gore Caves

Several months ago, I noted in this column that Vice President Al Gore was part of a U.S. government effort to force South Africa to cease efforts that would make AIDS medicines more affordable and accessible to its citizens. Responding to the health crisis ravaging southern Africa, the South Africans had passed legislation that would allow the manufacture of generic AIDS medicine and the import of AIDS medicines from countries where they’re less expensive. Drug companies were not keen on these steps, which could cut into their massive profits, and the administration threatened South Africa—where as many as one out of six people may be HIV-positive—with trade sanctions. Because Gore is the co-chairman of a U.S.-South Africa binational commission used by Washington to bully South Africa, AIDS activists and others directed protests at him. Demonstrators interrupted his presidential announcement in June. At other Gore campaign events, they chanted, “AIDS Drugs for Africa” and “Gore’s Greed Kills.” The pressure was too much for Gore and the Clinton administration. Recently, the U.S. trade representative and the South African government announced the United States would end its campaign against the South African laws. Score a win for citizen activists.


JWR contributor David Corn, Washington Editor of The Nation, writes the "Loyal Opposition" column for The New York Press.

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