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Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 1999 /15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Chris Matthews

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The Curse of the Bubba -- CALL IT the Curse of the Bubba. No matter how good their chances or how hard they try, Bill Clinton's rivals seem doomed to self-destruction.

Peruse the casualty list:

George Herbert Walker Bush. He's the father. When Bill Clinton launched his run in 1991, Bush was the victorious liberator of Kuwait. By November 1992, Clinton's target was the defeated captive of recession. The man who won 54 percent of the vote in 1988 would end his political career with 37 percent of the same electorate.

Bob Dole endured his own death of the soul in 1996. Worse than suffer defeat at Clinton's hands that year, he found himself imprisoned in a campaign in which he himself did not believe.

New York Sen. Al D'Amato. The first national politician to probe Bill Clinton's role in Whitewater, he was also the first to feel the boomerang. D'Amato learned too late the costs of prosecuting the Clintons, including the one now running for his old job.

Newt Gingrich. He once promised to mention Bill Clinton's sex-and-cover-up scandal in every speech. Then came the election of last November that cost Republicans House seats in a year they expected to win them. Today, Gingrich's tie to a young female House aide stirs mercifully little interest for the cruel reason he is no longer tied to the speakership.

Bob Livingston. Before he could fill Newt's shoes, the Louisiana congressman was forced to take a walk for his own sexual misconduct.

Henry Hyde. He chaired the House impeachment hearings on Clinton only to see his own "youthful" affair exposed.

Fred Thompson. He entered the Senate with the cachet of a Watergate investigator, the star quality associated with a movie career. When he launched those 1997 hearings into illegal Chinese campaign money, he threatened to catch fire politically. He fizzled.

Ken Starr. Imagine the hair shirt this man has been forced to wear: to depart the
independent counsel's office far less trusted even than his prime suspect.

Every key Republican who has dared go mano a mano with Bill Clinton these past seven years has met the same grim fate. Like the Boston Red Sox, who made that accursed sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees eight decades ago, the anti-Clinton teams have gotten nastily close to triumph over the years.

For a while, this year's Red Sox team looked like it just might do it. Sitting in Fenway Park, two Sundays ago, a friend wished hopefully that its young players, many of them Latino, would be immune to the Curse of the Bambino.

Republicans must wish the same of George W. Bush, a fresh political talent who is either too charmed to fear the Curse of the Bubba or too callow to sense its potency.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews, chief of the San Francisco Examiner's Washington Bureau, is host of "Hardball" on CNBC. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

©1999, NEA