- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2000

Watts up

Besides Elian Gonzalez, it's been a tough week for the other kids in Washington, too.
After all, you can't even visit the National Zoo anymore without fear of coming near uncaged animals. That's exactly what happened Easter Monday: seven youngsters, participating in an annual celebration of black families, were shot by a teen-age gang member barely tall enough to see into the lion cage.
Within seconds of this latest outburst of youth violence, Vice President Al Gore drew gasps and no doubt, a few more dollars after announcing the shootings at a Democratic fund-raiser also attended by President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
He then took the opportunity to call, once again, for handgun safety trigger locks (obviously of the opinion that a disturbed kid on a zoo safari wouldn't think to remove the lock prior to his hunt).
But this is an election year, and a good time to forget that the chilling rise of youth bloodletting has occurred on Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore's watch.
House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican, isn't forgetting.
He says it's time Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore stopped politicizing children and took a closer look at the nation's culture crisis.
"Tragedies like the one at the zoo aren't about gun control they're about a breakdown in society," says Mr. Watts. "This culture we live in, where kids are killing other kids, is about children who need guidance, supervision and leadership.
"I hope Democrats and the vice president will quit the gun-control rhetoric and focus on the real problem. We need leaders who will serve as role models not opportunistic politicians."
As for Mr. Gore's calls for stricter gun control, somebody should remind him that handguns already are illegal in Washington.
"Al Gore and his Democrat friends who grew up in Washington should know the gun laws where they were raised," Mr. Watts says. "Handguns have been illegal in Washington, D.C., since 1977. And children aren't allowed to own guns anywhere.
"What kind of increased gun control could he possibly have in mind that … would have stopped this tragedy from occurring?"

Constitutional crime

A proposed constitutional amendment regarding crime victims' rights was up for debate in the Senate this week, where a senior Democrat, of all members, aimed to shoot it down.
"Slow down on this idea of amending the Constitution. Slow down," admonished Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont. "This is a wonderful document. Don't change it. Don't change it."
The Democrat finds it distressing that his colleagues continue to ignore James Madison's guidance on the Constitution, as seen by "almost 60 proposed constitutional amendments pending before this Congress alone, including an amendment to make it easier to adopt other amendments in the future."
Mr. Leahy recently became the 21st person to vote 10,000 times in the Senate, 10,000 votes that he admits "were not all necessary for this country."

Two Hardballs

Chris Matthews yesterday sent over transcripts of "Hardball" from CNBC Tuesday night, when guest Bill Bennett suggested it would be smart for the Miami family of Elian Gonzalez to hire his brother, Clinton attorney Bob Bennett, as opposing counsel to Juan Miguel Gonzalez's hotshot attorney, Greg Craig.
"It would be nice to see some big-time Washington lawyer go up against Greg Craig," said Mr. Bennett. "Bob Bennett would be my choice."
Actually, we informed Mr. Matthews that his previous night's guest, Sally Quinn, was far more impressive, given what she has to say about first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's run for the Senate in New York.
If one is to believe Mrs. Quinn, some of Mrs. Clinton's "best friends," women in particular, privately admit that they'll be pulling Rudy Giuliani's lever on Election Day.
Says Mrs. Quinn: "So many women, women who are similar to Hillary in background and position, women who you'd think would really be in her corner, are just outraged and offended that she is running for the Senate."

He better hope so

"The president feels that we have an unprecedented opportunity this year to get things done."
Senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in the White House briefing room yesterday.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or by e-mail: mccasl@twtmail.com.

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