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Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2000 / 19 Adar I, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Clinton remains No. 1 issue


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IN A SPEECH to the California Democratic Convention, Al Gore accused rival Bill Bradley of political treason.

"Sen. Bradley claims he's doing us a service because he doesn't want to see Democrats bashed in the fall," he told the party faithful. "His proposed solution is to bash Democrats in the spring."

With those words, Gore defined the 2000 race for president. In Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf's phrase, he "shaped the battlefield." Any Bradley attack on the Clinton-Gore fund-raising sleaze of 1996 is an attack on "Democrats."

John McCain agrees with those terms of war. He's made clear that the 2000 Republican nominee should be the one most ready and able to launch a frontal, all-out attack on what the Arizona senator calls "the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore."

The Democratic and Republican candidates will be judged, both Gore and McCain agree, by their proximity to the current president.

Any shot by Bradley for booting the health-care issue in 1994 or shaking down Buddhist nuns two years ago is being made by Gore to boomerang against the challenger.

Meanwhile, the feisty McCain scores points on Bush by divebombing those "truth-twisters" currently in office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Clinton, true to character, refuses to acknowledge his role as the campaign's prime target of opportunity for attacker and defender both.

Here is what a National Public Radio reporter asked at last week's first-of-the-year White House press conference: "I'm wondering if you could comment on both aspects of your influence, both the negative, the fact that everybody seems to be running against your behavior, and also, on the other side, why everyone seems to sound like you when they discuss policy."

"Well, I think for the Republicans it's probably good politics to do that," Clinton answered, "because they spent years and years trying to tell everybody how bad I am. However, people are very smart, and it's pretty hard to convince them that they should hold anyone responsible for someone else's mistake, particularly a personal mistake."

Once again, Clinton is dismissing as a faux pas not just his months-long behavior in a West Wing hallway with a young White House intern on the presidential payroll a young woman brought in to learn, ironically, how government really works but his decision to recruit his staff, Cabinet, friends and party into a year-long campaign of cover-up.

Just "personal"?

Public conduct that laid the basis for impeachment by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives? Votes to remove him from office by 50 Senate Republicans and a censure resolution signed by 29 Democratic U.S. senators, including most of the party's big-name liberals?

Instead of taking public responsibility for "personal" acts, it could be argued, President Clinton must take personal responsibility for what were undeniably public acts.

Until he bites that bullet, his chosen successor must keep on defending the tainted Clinton-Gore administration, and Republicans will continue to beat his veep "like a drum."



JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

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