- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Court speculation

There are signs that the fallout from Bush vs. Gore has become a factor in at least one Supreme Court justice's yearnings for retirement, USA Today reports.

"Sandra Day O'Connor has told people close to her that in her two decades on the court, she has never seen such anger over a case. O'Connor, more than any justice, has seemed disturbed by the public wrath directed at the court," reporter Joan Biskupic writes.

"People who know the 70-year-old justice's personality and politics say they believe that the election fallout and a desire to spend more time with her husband, John O'Connor, as he faces health problems could lead the nation's first [female] justice to retire as soon as this summer, when the 2000-2001 term ends. John O'Connor, 71, a lawyer, had a heart pacemaker implanted in 1999 and has had more health problems since, say people close to the couple.

"Justice O'Connor refuses to comment on such speculation and has gone about hiring staff for next year. If she were to leave the Supreme Court, it would give President Bush a chance to have an immediate impact on the court. Bush says he wants judges who will conservatively interpret the Constitution, and he has held up Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as models."

Show him the money

New York Post columnist Neal Travis doubts that the pardon of fugitive billionaire Marc Rich had anything to do with the fact that Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise, was a huge fund-raiser and contributor to former President Bill Clinton and the Democrats.

Mr. Rich fled the country in 1983 before he could be prosecuted on massive fraud and tax-evasion charges.

"The best intelligence I have suggests that Marc may have promised a huge and untraceable donation to Clinton's grandiose and financially lagging presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.," the columnist writes.

"Maybe that's what Michael Milken, a man who DID deserve a pardon, should have done," Mr. Travis added.

Forgiveness included

Bill Clinton's last full day in office "was permeated by general relief at the plea bargain, and the widespread wish that he had averted impeachment by admitting years ago that he swore falsely," New York Times columnist William Safire writes.

"But then another, related story broke: that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had fathered a child out of wedlock at the very time he was counseling Clinton about the Monica scandal.

"Let's cut the snickering. Jackson and his biographer-staffer faced the consequences of their moral lapse with courage. They did not abort; he privately acknowledged paternity and provided child support; and when the news came out, Jackson immediately told the truth and publicly expressed his sorrow. Would that Clinton, in a less testing personal crisis, had acted as honorably," Mr. Safire said.

"Bush's unpublicized call to comfort Jackson presaged a theme of civility, which he defined in his inaugural as 'the determined choice of trust over cynicism.' That included 'forgiveness.' "

Bush and Jackson

President Bush's phone call to civil rights activist Jesse Jackson was the subject of questions at yesterday's White House press briefing.

On Thursday, Mr. Jackson admitted fathering a child out of wedlock.

Mr. Bush called Mr. Jackson at his Chicago home on Friday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"He noted the stories, and he called up, and said that 'You're in my prayers,' " Mr. Fleischer said.

He said Mr. Bush and Mr. Jackson had spoken several weeks ago about the prospect of meeting once Mr. Bush was in office "as part of the outreach that the president is going to engage in."

No date for such a meeting has been scheduled, Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Jackson said in an interview Saturday that Mr. Bush had contacted him, and he appreciated the gesture.

"I think about the troubles Mr. Bush has had, and all of us have had, as free human beings, all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God," Mr. Jackson said.

A new era

"By reaching out to Democrats, President Bush means persuading them to join his goals," Wall Street Journal editor Robert L. Bartley writes.

"At first blush, this seems a steep task, with blacks, environmentalists and labor castigating his nominees, and his predecessor grandstanding in the wings, rubbing every sore he can find. But in the Senate a centrist coalition is gathering under John Breaux of Louisiana.

"Teddy Kennedy seems to have broken his pick on the Ashcroft nomination, lacking the Democratic votes necessary to sustain a filibuster. Mr. Bush's chances with the Democrats may not be hopeless after all; many of them seem relieved that the burden of defending Bill Clinton has been lifted from their shoulders," Mr. Bartley said.

"The outgoing president did steal a lot of inauguration attention, but with the words 'So help me God,' George W. Bush assumed the mantle and powers of the presidency. The scene reminded me of Ronald Reagan's first inaugural, when the headlines went to the release of the Iranian hostages that bedeviled President Jimmy Carter, already sagging from the 'energy crisis' and 'malaise.' The outgoing histrionics overshadowed the incoming president, but in the end they proved to be the death throes of an old era."

Bradley's endorsement

Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who was Al Gore's only real competition for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, has endorsed Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson's underdog bid to become Democratic Party chairman.

That puts the ex-senator from New Jersey at odds with former President Bill Clinton, who hand-picked his personal fund-raiser, Terry McAuliffe, for the job.

Mr. Bradley, in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post yesterday, argued that the Democratic Party's share of elected offices at all levels had plummeted over the past eight years because of a perception that the party was more interested in money than values.

Better to give …

"The Clintons accepted a massive $190,027 in gifts last year, most of it in furniture, art, rugs and flatware that could fill much of their new mansion in Washington," reports Kenneth R. Bazinet in the New York Daily News.

The final financial-disclosure statement of the Clinton presidency showed that former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, set a new record for gifts, more than tripling the $52,853 in gifts received by former President George Bush in 1992.

Big-ticket gifts to the Clintons included two coffee tables and two chairs estimated at $7,375 from New York songwriter Denise Rich whose fugitive billionaire ex-husband received one of Mr. Clinton's last-minute pardons.

Movie mogul Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, gave the Clintons china worth $4,920, while husband-and-wife actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen gave the Clintons $4,787 in flatware.

Also, insurance magnate Walter Kaye, who helped Monica Lewinsky get a White House job, gave the Clintons $9,683 in gifts including a humidor. (That's a cigar holder, folks.)

Dream team

"As Republicans see it, President George W. Bush has assembled a national-security dream team, featuring Dick Cheney as vice president, Colin Powell as secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser," the New York Times observes.

"But as Phil Jackson, the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, could tell Mr. Bush this season, putting superstar players on the court does not always guarantee harmony or success. Indeed, as former presidents like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter can attest, high-powered advisers often end up battling over everything from policy to access to the Oval Office.

"Given the mix of strong personalities and potentially competing policies in the new administration, Mr. Bush may have to deal with more friction than he expects," the newspaper said in an editorial.

Punch line

On NBC's "Tonight," Jay Leno observes: "Jesse Jackson has admitted to fathering a 20-month-old child with a woman that he worked [with] at the Rainbow Coalition. Maybe he should try some rainbow contraception… .

"It gives a new meaning to affirmative action. She said, 'You want some action?' He said, 'Affirmative.' "

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