- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

Watershed moment

"What do you mean, if the president doesn't cave? This president not caving in? Are you kidding me? This will be the final example that we have taken control in the Congress, we have seized it from the executive branch, and we will make him a lame duck for the last two years of his term. This is the crucial moment at which the Congress demonstrates its power."

The hollow promise, it turns out, of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, was recalled for the first time this week by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican.

Mr. Bennett reveals that he and other senators pressed Mr. Gingrich during a private meeting about his plan to deliver the "coup de grace" to the Clinton administration slowing down the appropriations process until the president was forced to accept a balanced-budget agreement.

It was a "massive miscalculation," the senator says in retrospect, setting into motion a partial shutdown of the federal government ultimately blamed on Republicans.

"Senator [Bob] Dole's instincts were right, and Speaker Gingrich's instincts were wrong, and the Republicans paid an enormous electoral price … in the 1996 election," Mr. Bennett says. "We frittered away our opportunity to win back the presidency, and we saw our margins in the House of Representatives go down in that election."

Senator Clinton?

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, with no security in tow, walked to a Capitol Hill parking lot yesterday, climbed into a Mercedes Benz, and drove away.

Seconds later, Republican Sens. Craig Thomas of Wyoming and Conrad Burns of Montana invited a reporter to share a seat in an otherwise empty U.S. Capitol subway car. Across the platform, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania melted into a group of tourists.

Such is the daily routine in the U.S. Capitol, and senators prefer it that way. The question now, asks Congress Daily AM, is whether this "undignified dance" of lawmakers will come to an end if New Yorkers elect first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Senate in November.

"As the wife of a former president, Clinton would have the right to Secret Service protection," says the publication. "Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson, 87, still uses it more than 30 years after she returned to private life… .

"If Clinton wins this November, the two security operations [U.S. Capitol Police and the Secret Service] will have to figure out whether corridors will be closed off and subway cars restricted."

Says Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat: "I'm pretty new here, but some of these senior guys won't put up with that."

Every vote counts

We didn't intend to leave Sen. Craig Thomas, Wyoming Republican, out of this week's discussion about politicians who deliver politically strategic commencement addresses.

Mr. Thomas reveals that he spoke last weekend at a commencement in Chugwater, Wyo., population 197.

"There were 12 graduates at this school," says the senator, who for the record is up for re-election.

Yankee tradition

It was almost one year ago that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton shocked the world by abandoning the Chicago Cubs.

"Well, now, the fact is I've always been a Yankees fan," she explained.

Only four months before, the first lady, who grew up outside Chicago, invited Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa to be her personal guest for President Clinton's State of the Union address. One month earlier, Mr. Sosa helped the first lady light the national Christmas tree.

"Being a Cubs fan prepares you for life and Washington," Mrs. Clinton once said. "I'm glad I learned to play hardball as a little girl."

"She's a big Cubs fan," agreed the first lady's former spokeswoman, Lisa Caputo. "They're her hometown team, and she used to go see them play at Wrigley."

And if you thought the crowd at Wrigley was stunned by Mrs. Clinton's switch hit, imagine how Yankees fans felt. Chief among them, we now learn, is Rep. Rick A. Lazio, the Long Island Republican battling Mrs. Clinton for a New York Senate seat.

Mr. Lazio is such a big Yankees fan that two years ago this fall, in the afterglow of the team's thrilling world championship, Mr. Lazio told local reporters to meet him at the Little League field in Brentwood, N.Y.

Despite the Yankees' win, the congressman was upset. There were reports that Cablevision would buy the Yankees, and Mr. Lazio was worried that if the company owned both the team and the cable outlet it would gain a monopoly over other cable companies. It could then charge exorbitant fees to cable viewers for Yankees games, which had always been televised for free.

"Since I was a little boy on Long Island, I have watched Yankee games on TV with my family," said Mr. Lazio. "Long Island Yankee fans deserve to be able to watch the Yankees as a family with our children, as we did growing up with our own parents."

The Yankees didn't sell.

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