- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Camp Chelsea?

First daughter Chelsea Clinton played a much bigger role than advertised in her father's failed 15-day Middle East summit at Camp David, cyber-snoop Matt Drudge is reporting.

The White House hotly denies it, but Mr. Drudge cites an unnamed member of the Israeli delegation who called Miss Clinton's heavy presence at the sensitive talks "very disconcerting."

"It was 'Chelsea this' and 'Chelsea that' " the negotiator recalled, according to Mr. Drudge, who reported that the Israeli delegate also complained: "Bill Clinton is not only giving his young miss a front-row seat but a seat at the table."

It was well known that Miss Clinton, who is taking time off from her studies at Stanford to campaign for her mother in New York this fall, spent a large amount of time at the Camp David summit while the Israeli-Palestinian talks ground on. She watched the baseball All-Star game with her father after one early negotiating session, and attended several dinners with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the talks, sitting at the head table with her father.

But White House spokesman P.J. Crowley, asked if Miss Clinton participated in substantive talks at Camp David, replied, "Of course not. The president was assisted by a team of senior aides who have spent years, if not decades, working on these issues."

Mr. Crowley called Chelsea Clinton an "extraordinarily assured young woman," but said she was at the presidential retreat to "spend quality time with her father at the social dinners and in the breaks between negotiations."

Still, Miss Clinton was prominent in official photos released by the White House during the talks. Mr. Drudge's Web site www.drudgereport.com features another photo of Miss Clinton sharing a couch with White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger at the White House last week as her father announced the collapse of the summit.

Norma the Plumber

Democrat Norma Holloway Johnson, the federal judge who routed sensitive political cases involving the Clinton administration to Clinton-appointed judges, has conducted a leak investigation "even more chilling than in the days of the Nixon 'plumbers,' " New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

Judge Johnson's target: Charles Bakaly, the former spokesman for Kenneth W. Starr, who is accused of lying about leaking information to the press.

"Consider: she makes an accusation of criminal contempt and asks the Justice Department to prosecute her target in her court. Reno Justice knows her charge is an egregious mixture of petulance and arrogance, sure to be rejected by a jury, but does not exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline. Why? Because Reno political appointees owe Johnson plenty for steering Clinton cases to Clinton-appointed judges, and Justice's career lawyers are terrified of her wrath," Mr. Safire said.

"So Justice and the out-of-control judge, perhaps in collusion, make the criminal charge petty enough to rate only six months in the slammer, which takes away a defendant's right to trial by jury. Result: the accusation is made by Norma the Plumber, the trial is conducted by Norma the Plumber, the verdict is rendered by Norma the Plumber, and the sentence is meted out by Norma the Plumber.

"If that is justice in Washington, D.C., something is rotten in the state of the Judicial Branch."

Smiling delegates

The delegates to the Republican National Convention appear to be all smiles and serenity, the Wall Street Journal observes. Right now, the GOP "looks like the upbeat party, while the Democrats seem the cranky party."

The newspaper, in an editorial, offered this explanation: "The Republicans have come to believe that the Bush train really will take them politically where they want to go. That in turn means that the issues that have divided Republicans in the past, such as abortion, have been willingly subsumed in a larger enterprise. We don't think it's merely a matter of believing Gov. Bush can win. It's something bigger and more substantial. Gov. Bush looks willing to lead the party. Leadership trumps wedge issues."

The Journal added: "To be sure there is a shared desire to end the Clinton era (and the broader electorate may similarly want a change of scenery in the presidency just now). But what has become plain from Gov. Bush's willingness to push beyond the conventional wisdom on matters like Social Security, cutting taxes and abandoning the ABM Treaty is that what he has in mind is a governing conservatism. This convention reflects a party no longer willing to settle for the politics of insurgency. It seems to believe it is getting close to stitching together a majority that can last. Thus the smiles."

Finally, controversy

The conservative Parents Television Council yesterday urged the Republican Party to throw the World Wrestling Federation's "The Rock" out of the convention ring.

The Rock is the star of what the council referred to as "the most violent and vulgar program on prime-time network television." The Rock is scheduled to join House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert in calling delegates to their seats tomorrow night.

"It is deplorable that at a time when corporate America is deserting this show due to its graphic violence and vulgarity, the Republican Party would embrace the WWF," Brent Bozell III, chairman of the Parents Television Council, said in a prepared statement.

"By giving 'The Rock' such a prominent role at the convention, the GOP is in effect saying that the values of the WWF violence, profanity, graphic sexuality, the demeaning of women, and the promotion of racial stereotypes are shared by the party."

Miller time

Newly minted Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, said yesterday he supports the Republican effort to abolish the tax penalty for married couples and the estate tax and would vote to override a threatened veto by his old friend, President Clinton.

"Many, many couples, including me and Shirley, have always both of us had to work, and there's a lot of couples like that and it's just not right to tax them both," Mr. Miller said. He said eliminating the estate tax is "a kitchen-table issue" and "not just for some superrich billionaires."

"I will support the Democrats whenever I think they are right, and I will oppose them whenever I think they are wrong, and the same way with the president and his programs," Mr. Miller told the Associated Press in Atlanta.

"This idea that I'm going to go up there and vote the straight party line or be a lap dog for Bill Clinton anybody that knows me ought to know that that's not how I'm going to do," said Mr. Miller, Georgia's governor from 1990 to 1998.

Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes named him to replace Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell, who died July 18. Mr. Miller faces a Nov. 7 special election to fill the remaining four years of Mr. Coverdell's term. Republicans have not agreed on a challenger.

Laboring for Hillary?

Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from New York, has been focusing on what she calls the sagging upstate economy. So when the state government reported high job growth there, the federal Department of Labor apparently felt it had no choice but to start an investigation. At least that's what the Republican administration of Gov. George E. Pataki thinks.

"It's clear to us the Clinton administration is playing games," Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon told the New York Post.

Job growth in the private sector of upstate New York grew by 2.5 percent in 1999, the state told the federal Labor Department back in March. The statewide figure was 2.9 percent, far above the 1.8 percent originally projected by the state.

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