- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2001

Private chats
Bill Clinton, in phone talks in December and January with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, made it clear that he knew all the reasons why fugitive billionaire Marc Rich should not be pardoned, Newsweek reports.
But the president also made it clear he was determined to pardon Mr. Rich, according to National Security Council transcripts obtained by congressional investigators.
"I'm trying to do something on clemency for Rich, but it is very difficult," Mr. Clinton told Mr. Barak on Jan. 19, the day before Mr. Clinton's term as president ended.
When Mr. Barak asked whether Mr. Clinton might "move forward" with the pardon, Mr. Clinton replied: "I'm working on that, but I'm not sure. There's nothing illegal about it, but there's no precedent. He was overseas when he was indicted and never came home."
In an earlier conversation concerning Mr. Rich, the president told Mr. Barak that he was "working on it," but "it's best that we not say much about that." Mr. Barak was urging a pardon because Mr. Rich had made "philanthropic contributions" to Israeli institutions.
Mr. Rich, who fled an indictment for tax fraud and racketeering, was pardoned on Jan. 20.

Mfume's future
Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP, says he is not leaving the civil rights organization for the world of television, despite a pilot program he videotaped last month for Hearst Argyle Television.
In a statement, Mr. Mfume further held that there is no conflict of interest, and he will continue his fight for "greater network television diversity."
"I am not seeking a network television job. I intend to continue to lead the NAACP and to keep the networks' feet to the fire when it comes to diversity," the former Maryland congressman, a Democrat, said Friday.
Mr. Mfume noted that he has been affiliated with Hearst Argyle Television for nine years, as a result of a weekly television show he began hosting on WBAL-TV in Baltimore when he was a member of Congress. Hearst Argyle owns WBAL.
"Hearst Argyle asked me to do a pilot last month, but there was no agreement for future shows, no promise of a deal, and I received no compensation," the black leader added.

'Quite paradoxical'
Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, in an appearance on CNN's "Evan, Novak, Hunt & Shields," was asked whether the Bush administration will have to dip into the Social Security surplus this year.
Pundit Al Hunt said the Congressional Budget Office may soon announce just such an eventuality. He asked Mr. O'Neill if President Bush's "huge tax cut" is responsible for this revised thinking.
"No," Mr. O'Neill replied. "First of all, it's not clear to me that CBO is going to say we're dipping into Social Security. I think the number is still looking like $160 billion worth of surplus for the federal government for this fiscal year," which ends Sept. 30.
The Treasury secretary went on to say he finds it "really quite paradoxical that people are wringing their hands when we're running $160 billion surplus, that they don't think it's enough."
Mr. O'Neill, former CEO at Alcoa, said he finds it "really quite good that we're able to run $160 billion surplus when we have, effectively, zero growth in the economy or something close to that."
"What it means is we're going to generate substantial surpluses beyond Social Security revenues when the economy returns to a more natural rate of real growth," the Cabinet secretary said.

"An absurd debate is going on in Washington over who is to blame for the horrors of a declining federal budget surplus. The truth is that the fall in the surplus should be welcomed, given the current state of the economy, and politicians should be trying to take credit for it," writes Robert M. Dunn Jr., an economics professor at George Washington University.
"The evidence is now overwhelming that the American economy started to slow in the early summer of 2000 and that we are now in, or close to, a recession," Mr. Dunn said in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.
"A federal budget surplus should decline in an economic downturn like this one, and attempts to 'protect the surplus' by cutting expenditures, as some Republicans wish, or by increasing taxes, as Democratic leaders in Congress have suggested, are madness."
Mr. Dunn added: "Some Democratic senators risk becoming reincarnations of Herbert Hoover [who raised taxes in 1932 to balance the budget] by arguing that we must increase taxes to protect Social Security from problems that will emerge after 2020. Are they really suggesting that we prolong and deepen a recession in 2001-2002 to deal with problems of retirees in 2020-2030? Even by Washington standards that is nutty."

A long time coming
Now that House Minority Whip David E. Bonior has announced he is running for governor of Michigan, his House Democratic colleagues may vote on his replacement as early as next month, Roll Call reports.
That is probably a good thing, because Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi have been competing for the position for years now. Long before the 2000 elections, House Democrats assumed they would win back their majority that year and Mr. Bonior would move up to become majority leader. It never happened, but Mr. Hoyer and Mrs. Pelosi have been battling for support ever since.
"Frankly, I just want to get this thing over with," California Rep. Joe Baca told reporter Ethan Wallison. "It's time to have this election." Mr. Baca is supporting Mrs. Pelosi.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, said: "I'm told we'll be having this election in September."
Said Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat: "I think the best alternative is to have the election sometime when we return [from August recess], so at least we have a whip-in-waiting. That way David can make his decision whenever it's good for him."

Media bias
Former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan caught some "unconscious media bias" in a New York Times story last week about the 1996 Immigration Act:
"Before passage of a Republican-backed law five years ago, only an immigration judge could order the deportation of someone who arrived without valid travel documents," the Times wrote. "Now an immigration officer can exercise that power, called expedited removal, on the spot, a move intended to cut down on fraud."
A "Republican-backed law"? Mr. Sullivan points out that the 1996 measure passed the Senate by a vote of 97-3 and the House by 333 votes to 87, and was signed into law by President Clinton.
"That looks pretty bipartisan to me," Mr. Sullivan observed on his Web site (www.andrewsullivan.com ). "So why the completely arbitrary nailing of Republicans?"

Sharpton's challenge
The Rev. Al Sharpton plans to announce the creation of a presidential exploratory committee today.
"I think that the real issue is with voter disenfranchisement in last year's election," Mr. Sharpton said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday." "There is no way I can see that we not challenge the powers that be in the Democratic Party."

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