- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2000

The whole team

President Clinton shared the spotlight with his closest partners Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton at a $2 million fund-raiser last night. The vice president and the first lady embraced the president's tenure as "one of the best investments" ever made.

Mr. Clinton returned the compliment by passing the torch, the Associated Press reported.

"The theme song of this election year ought to be the first song Tony Bennett sang tonight, 'The Best Is Yet to Come,' " he said.

"The economic performance under President Bill Clinton has been so stunning that we've all run out of adjectives to describe it," said Mr. Gore, who was accompanied by his wife, Tipper. " 'Great' is the least of them."

The two couples strode into a Manhattan hotel ballroom together but schmoozed with donors from separate tables.

The president, perhaps betraying his longing to hold the stage, was halfway up the stage steps before realizing he was supposed to take a seat at Table 1.

Mr. Gore worked a bit of the room, packed by the Democratic National Committee with celebrities and tycoons at $1,000 apiece.

Taking the microphone last, Mr. Gore drifted on at length about the importance of future Supreme Court nominees, education reform and the use of public-private partnerships.

Brute force

Was the pre-dawn raid by armed federal agents necessary to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father? According to the first director of the Justice Department's asylum policy and review unit, Roger Pilon, the rationales offered by the Justice Department "do not withstand scrutiny."

Mr. Pilon, now vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute and director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies, was director of policy for the State Department's bureau of human rights and humanitarian affairs in the Reagan administration, during which time he focused especially on Cuban issues. Later, as head of the asylum policy and review unit, he wrote the asylum regulations cited Wednesday by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The Justice Department's night raid on the Miami home of Elian Gonzalez was an unconscionable exercise of police power, made all the worse by its exercise at the very moment a settlement was being reached," Mr. Pilon said.

"The plain reason for the raid was to change the posture of the legal case the Miami family had brought on Elian's behalf. When the 11th circuit panel decided unanimously last Wednesday that the INS had denied Elian his rights under the law, the department realized that it had to move quickly to try to moot the legal proceedings which it may have done, not by force of law but by brute force. This is a shameful episode in this nation's history."

The nation's shame

In caving in to Gregory Craig, the lawyer "who was hired by the left-wing church group serving Fidel Castro's interests," Attorney General Janet Reno "made three mistakes that discredited her office, disgusted the fair-minded and demeaned the United States," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"Mistake 1: I am the law. No executive officials can arrogate to themselves the notion that they are 'the law'; they merely execute laws passed by legislatures and interpreted by courts… . In this case, the Clinton administration circumvented a federal appeals court decision that encouraged the relatives' case; instead, the can't-wait enforcers took the law into their own heavy hands.

"Mistake 2: Treating Elian as a hostage… . For Reno to claim 'intelligence' (from the FBI?) that the Cuban-Americans' arguably legal defiance was backed up with hidden weapons and therefore that she was urgently required to launch a cruel and violent assault by a core of our most ferocious-looking agents is ludicrous. Clinton Justice plainly lost its head."

"Mistake 3: In the dead of the night, nobody would see. Clinton may have realized that by pressing Reno to smash into a peaceful citizen's home in darkness to search and seize, the only visible injury would be to the spirit of the Fourth Amendment. He counted, as usual, on not getting caught in the act. That was the crowning mistake: A photographer showed up to record the nation's shame."

Bill and Fidel

"Why did Clinton and Reno have to make a 6-year-old boy have nightmares for the rest of his life? … Because Fidel Castro can make Bill Clinton jump any time he wants to," writes Dick Morris, a former adviser to the president and Arkansas governor.

Mr. Clinton blames his defeat as governor in 1980 on his decision to hold Cuban prisoners, let loose by Castro, at Fort Chafee in Arkansas, Mr. Morris said in a column in the New York Post.

"Earlier this year, Castro again warned that, if provoked, he would dump more Cubans as the 2000 election approached. Once again, the warning seems to have sent Clinton into a tizzy."

Mr. Morris added: "The raid in Miami brings the fear of an abusive, intrusive, militaristic government home to the average, middle-class family. This was not an attack on religious nuts in Texas or right-wing militiamen in Montana. It was an assault on unarmed U.S. citizens, blood relatives of the boy, who were sheltering him after the death of his mother."

Bauer may run again

Gary Bauer enjoyed his unsuccessful, fleeting time on the presidential campaign trail so much that he's not ruling out another effort sometime, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

Mr. Bauer, the conservative Christian activist who pulled out of the Republican primary after a poor showing in New Hampshire, said a victory by presumptive Democratic nominee Al Gore in November could start him thinking about running again.

Regardless, Mr. Bauer said his experience has caused him to "cross the Rubicon," going from someone who commented on political issues from the sideline to a politician in the trenches.

"I would do it again," he told reporter Bill Straub. "For a janitor's son from Newport, Ky., to wind up being one of the last five or six candidates for a major party nomination, it shows this is an incredible country. I knew it wouldn't be easy and there would be a downside but I think I had a major impact on the debate."

For now, Mr. Bauer is on the job as chairman of the political action committee he formed, the Campaign for Working Families, which will provide him with the chance to remain politically active. He is making speaking engagements across the country and showing up on TV programs such as "Crossfire" on CNN.

Mr. Bauer also said he may write a book. For the time being, he is taking time to "catch my breath" and watch his son, Zach, play soccer and basketball.

Dueling donations

She's been criticized as a carpetbagger who never lived in New York before, but Hillary Rodham Clinton has gotten a higher percentage of her itemized Senate campaign donations from New Yorkers this year than rival Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to a newspaper report yesterday.

The Albany Times Union analyzed campaign finance reports filed in the first three months of this year and found Mrs. Clinton got 51 percent of her itemized donations of $200 or more from New Yorkers. The New York mayor got 31 percent of those donations from New Yorkers.

Senate candidates must itemize donations of $200 or more on their campaign filings. The records provide the donor's address.

Giuliani campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum said the analysis was fundamentally flawed, the Associated Press reports.

He also said the mayor's efforts early this year concentrated on direct-mail appeals that tended to focus on non-New Yorkers.

Just asking

"Why is it that the press never asks anyone what they think of the politician responsible for flying the stars and bars over the Capitol in South Carolina?" a reader asks.

"Ernest Hollings just sits back in the Senate chuckling about the stupid answers other politicians give as opinions on the flag. He started flying the flag as governor, years ago. How is it that you all never ask Clinton about the Confederate Flag Day established while he was governor in Arkansas?"

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or by e-mail at pierce@twtmail.com.

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