- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2000

Snookered again

"Has President Clinton snookered another speaker?" Paul Bedard asks in U.S. News & World Report.

"House Republicans say Speaker [J.] Dennis Hastert has been telling allies that he 'can trust Clinton' when it comes to budget negotiations. He's so high on the prez that he asked the House Appropriations Committee to call the Office of Management and Budget to get the bottom line on what Clinton will accept on the outstanding spending bills," Mr. Bedard writes.

"Subcommittee clerks last Friday followed orders. The White House reply, says one GOP-er: 'What are you guys smoking? We aren't going to sell out our guys and negotiate with you.' "

A stunned president

One of President Clinton's longtime friends says Mr. Clinton was "livid, off-the-wall angry" about disbarment proceedings against him, the New York Times reports.

"On more than one occasion, the president would be 'in a terrific mood' until the disbarment issue came up, the friend said. 'His mood immediately darkens,' said the friend, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

"Mr. Clinton, this friend said, is especially concerned that if he is disbarred, he will go down as the first president in American history to lose his law license while in office, a punishment that was not even visited upon Richard M. Nixon, who surrendered his license after he left the White House."

Reporter Neil A. Lewis added: "Another longtime Washington associate who spoke only on the condition of anonymity said that the president's pointed unhappiness over the disbarment case also reflected a kind of weariness and annoyance that his acquittal last year in the Senate impeachment trial did not end the grind of formal legal proceedings. 'He thought, well, we all thought, this thing was over with,' this person said.

"Two associates said that President Clinton was so stunned on the afternoon of May 22 when he learned that an Arkansas bar committee formed by the state Supreme Court had recommended his disbarment that he responded by likening the recommendation to the imposition of the death sentence for a minor crime."

'Very proud'

A woman at the center of one of Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising controversies says he should be proud that he visited the Buddhist temple where money was illegally raised for the Democratic Party.

"He shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed of relating to the temple," Maria Hsia told the New Yorker magazine in her first interview since her March conviction for making false statements in the case. "He should feel very proud of himself."

She praised Mr. Gore for reaching out to all cultures and advised, "He should say, 'Look, this is no different from people visiting the black churches or any churches or a Jewish temple. There's nothing wrong.'

"All politicians are cowards," she said. "But they could be better cowards."

Hsia, pronounced "sha," is awaiting sentencing on five felony counts of causing false statements to be filed with the Federal Election Commission. Each charge carries a five-year maximum prison term. She has asked for a new trial.

A Justice Department task force continues to investigate 1996 campaign-finance activities and Mr. Gore's role in them, but Attorney General Janet Reno declined to appoint a special counsel.

Cool relations

Pundit Al Hunt says he's been told by Democrats that the "personal relationship between Al Gore and Bill Clinton has clearly cooled," and he asked White House Chief of Staff John Podesta about those reports Saturday on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields."

"I'm told that the president was upset that … he [Mr. Gore] didn't even talk to him about the vice-presidential choice. I'd like you to comment on that," Mr. Hunt said.

Mr. Podesta did not address that issue. But he said, "I wouldn't describe the relationship as having cooled at all… . They talk frequently… . The president is actually, I think, probably the vice president's No. 1 cheerleader."

Co-host Robert Novak later asked Mr. Podesta if Mr. Clinton's decision to change his voter registration from Arkansas to New York is final. "Some of his friends in Arkansas hoped that he'd come back and run for the Senate against Sen. [Tim] Hutchinson. Will that completely rule out the possibility that the president could change his registration back to Arkansas and run for the Senate?" Mr. Novak asked.

"I don't think he has any plan to do that. I would think that that's completely ruled out… . He wants to be a good citizen, as he's fond of saying. But he has every intention of moving to New York and supporting Senator Clinton up there," Mr. Podesta said.

'Big difference'

Rep. Rick Lazio, New York Republican, yesterday defended his handshake with Yasser Arafat, insisting that there was a "big difference" between his greeting of the Palestinian leader and the greetings he has criticized the Clintons for giving Cuban President Fidel Castro and Mr. Arafat's wife.

The White House over the weekend released a photograph of Mr. Arafat clasping the grinning Republican's hand. The photograph, which first appeared in yesterday's New York Post, was taken by a White House photographer in 1998 during a trip Mr. Lazio took to the Mideast with the Clintons and other U.S. officials.

The photograph was released a day after Mr. Lazio, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's opponent for U.S. Senate, criticized the president for shaking hands with Mr. Castro at the United Nations last week.

"I would not have shook Fidel Castro's hand," Mr. Lazio said Friday. Mr. Lazio previously has attacked the first lady for hugging Mr. Arafat's wife during a visit to the Middle East. Mrs. Clinton has said that the hug was a formality akin to a handshake.

Wrestling Wellstone

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who made the rounds of political talk shows yesterday to promote his new book, "Do I Stand Alone?" told Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" that he's "leaning" toward running for re-election "at this point in time."

"In a year and a half, I'll make that decision," he said.

Mr. Russert then noted: "Democratic U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota is considering running against you. He says he's a real wrestler, a college wrestler, as opposed to your professional wrestling career. How do you respond to that?"

The Minnesota governor did not seem at all concerned about the potential competition. But he obviously was very annoyed that Mr. Wellstone is comparing their wrestling backgrounds.

"Don't you think that's a personal shot, Tim? What has that got to do with politics? What does that have to do with governing? That's a personal shot," Mr. Ventura said. "What my response is to it is simple. While [Mr. Wellstone] was doing real college wrestling, I was serving in the real United States military."

Putting down Forbes

Newsday has endorsed the Democratic opponent of former Republican Rep. Michael P. Forbes of New York.

The newspaper, the largest on Long Island, home of Mr. Forbes' congressional district, backed Regina Seltzer in the Democratic primary, saying, "There are a lot of Democrats unhappy with their party's choice for Congress, Rep. Michael Forbes of Quogue, a conservative Republican turned Democrat."

Newsday went on to agree that, as Mr. Forbes' opponent has put it, he is a "crass opportunist" who "shouldn't be on the Democratic line."

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