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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2000 / 29 Shevat, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Fodder For the GOP --
IN THE LAST DESPERATE DAYS of the New Hampshire primary, Bill Bradley raised two excellent points about Al Gore: (1) Regarding the foul Clinton-Gore 1996 fund-raising operation, "Unless a Democrat who's been involved in that is open and explains, the Republicans will nail us in the fall"; and (2) regarding Gore's distortion of both Bradley's record and his own, "Why should we believe you would tell the truth as a president if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?" Bradley's points will form the base for the Republican attack against Gore, and the Republicans will have plenty to work with.

On campaign finance, in the first contest for the White House since the exposition of the Democrats' fund-raising activities in 1996, the Republicans have a clear story to tell: The Clinton-Gore team trashed the people's house and sold the person of the president to any and all bidders, at great embarrassment and real harm to the nation. The Republicans have an endless supply of subplots to choose from.

Here is one: As detailed by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff in a new afterword to his book on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, "Uncovering Clinton," John Huang, an employee of James Riady, the wealthy Indonesian head of the Lippo Group, has testified that Riady, during an August 1992 limousine ride, offered to give his old friend Clinton $1 million in soft money for his race against George Bush. Clinton, you will recall, was at the time running on a platform denouncing the fact that "on streets where statesmen strolled, a never-ending stream of money changes hands," to quote "Putting People First," the Clinton campaign manifesto.

All in all, according to Isikoff, Riady directed $986,000 to the Clinton operation in 1992, much of it arguably illegal contributions laundered through Lippo employees in the United States or funneled through personal checks from Riady and his wife to Democratic state parties. These contributions made Riady, whose interests are intertwined with those of Chinese state corporations, the largest single donor to the Clinton effort by a factor of 2 to 1. Although Attorney General Janet Reno has known of Huang's testimony concerning Clinton's direct involvement in the 1992 scheme for more than a year, the Justice Department has taken no discernible steps to investigate the matter.

The Pavlovian response to stories like this by Clinton's defenders and by some who echo the Clinton line in the press has been to smear the motives of anyone who tells the truth. Isikoff himself has been so smeared, in a new book by New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin, who with no evidence has accused Isikoff of being motivated to uncover the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky stories solely by "greed"-driven desire to make money out of a book "about the president's sex life." Similarly, Gore responded to Bradley's exposure of his lies by attacking Bradley as a negative campaigner. But the act is wearing awfully thin.

And it will wear thinner yet; there are so many stories out there. The Boston Globe ran a front-page piece last week exploring Gore's long record of uttering misleading or exaggerated statements about matters of both public policy and personal history, noting that Gore's predilection in this regard sufficiently concerned several aides during his 1988 presidential run that they wrote him a memo warning him to stop.

John Warnecke, a former colleague of Gore's on the staff of the Tennessean, has claimed in interviews with Newsweek reporter Bill Turque and with the Weekly Standard that Gore has repeatedly lied about the tedious matter of just how many tokes over the line he ever went. Fortune magazine has just come out with an article arguing that a "set of documents collected by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee leaves scant doubt that" Gore's 1996 visit to a Buddhist temple near Los Angeles "was a Democratic Party fund-raiser--and that Gore knew it."

Other recent stories have examined Gore's record on abortion and have concluded that he has, over the years, systematically misrepresented his past views and actions, at times resorting to outright lies--as in a Feb. 21, 1988, appearance on "Meet the Press," when he flatly denied that he had voted for a 1984 bill that sought to amend the Civil Rights Act to define "the term 'person' [to] include unborn children from the moment of conception," and again in a Sept. 16, 1992, appearance on "Meet the Press," when he falsely asserted that the 1984 amendment he had voted for concerned only "procedures in the third trimester."

Four more years, the Republicans will say to voters if Gore is the Democrats' man in the fall, you really want four more years of this?

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

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