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Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2001 / 17 Teves, 5761

Joseph Perkins

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Lame ducks can leave big wakes -- WHEN George W. Bush arrives on his first official day at work as the nation's 43rd president, he will find the West Wing bare. Every desk empty. Every file drawer fileless. Every computer absent its hard drive. There will be no visible trace of the former tenant.

But that doesn't mean that Bill Clinton will be leaving nothing behind for his Republican successor. In fact, the lame duck president has taken a number of highly controversial actions during the final days of his presidency that Bush should negate as soon as he sits down in the Oval Office.

Among them:

  • Clinton's reversal of the five-year ban on lobbying by presidential appointees.

    On his first day in office in 1993, Clinton signed an executive order barring senior officials at the White House and other federal agencies from lobbying former colleagues for five years after leaving office. He vowed that those he appointed to high office would "uphold the highest possible ethical standards."

    Now that he is leaving office, Clinton deems the ban no longer necessary. This clears the way for all but his most recent appointees to start lobbying their former agencies immediately.

    And it's not just so-called "Clinton-bashers" who find the outgoing president's action hypocritical.

    "By waiting till the last moment of his administration to do this, the president demonstrates he knows it is wrong," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a public-interest group. "Clinton got the benefit of appearing to be tough on the 'revolving door' while in office," continued Wertheimer, "and then in his last days says, 'Nevermind.'"

    Once in office, President Bush should reinstate the five-year ban for presidential appointees -- past, present and future.

  • Clinton's recess appointment to the federal bench. Playing the race card to the very last, Clinton appointed Roger Gregory, a black Virginia lawyer, to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, without the Senate's consent. Gregory can serve on the bench for up to a year, but no longer, without Senate confirmation.

    Clinton should have left the 4th Circuit vacancy to be filled by his successor. But with Bush winning the presidency, he decided to make the pre-emptive appointment, even as the White House conceded that this late-term appointment of a federal judge without Senate vetting is "highly unusual."

    Indeed, it is not just the Senate Republicans, whom Clinton despises, who were offended by his recess appointment of Gregory. West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd recently declared, "I am opposed to judgeship appointments during a recess."

    "I will not support any administration, Democratic or Republican," the former Senate majority leader continued, "that attempts to fill federal judgeships while the Senate is in recess. I think that is playing politics."

    President Bush should pledge to make no recess appointments to the federal bench, and withhold support for Gregory on that basis.

  • Clinton's signing of a treaty establishing an International Criminal Court. Over the objections of not only Senate Republicans, but also his own Pentagon, Clinton gave his presidential imprimatur to a new world court, conceived by the United Nations, that will abrogate U.S. sovereignty.

    The court's mandate was established by a treaty signed by representatives of 120 nations at a U.N. conference in Rome in 1998. If ratified by half those nations, the court will be empowered to try individuals from any country on charges of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

    Clinton previously opposed the treaty, recognizing that the proposed court would subject American military personnel, diplomats and other officials to politically motivated prosecutions. He acknowledges that the treaty has "significant flaws," but he signed it nevertheless.

    A bipartisan group of distinguished statesmen, including Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Clinton administration CIA Director R. James Woolsey, warn that "the risk of international criminal prosecution will certainly chill decision-making by our government and could limit the willingness of our national leadership to respond forcefully to acts of terrorism, aggression and other threats to American interests."

Bush should urge the Senate to reject the treaty on the International Criminal Court.

JWR contributor Joseph Perkins is aSan Diego Union-Tribune columnist and television commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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