Times Swoons for Bible-Thumping Clinton - September 15, 2003

Times Watch for September 15, 2003

Times Swoons for Bible-Thumping Clinton

Bill Clinton visited a Los Angeles church to boost beleaguered Gov. Gray Davis. Times reporter John Broder took down the oratory in a story on Monday, nothing the former president, who has appeared several times at the church and in countless other black churches, clutched a Bible and looked utterly at home.

Broder reverently took down the preachers words: [Clinton] warned that the election was not a sideshow and not merely about who occupied the governor's chair in Sacramento. If you do this recall, you may create a problem that you won't get over for a long, long time, Mr. Clinton said. This spreads instability and uncertainty among your people and among people around the country. He repeatedly invoked Scripture in his argument, using the tale of Jesus and the harlot to suggest that those behind the recall were not entirely blameless for the state's troubled political and economic condition. Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone, said Mr. Clinton, who knows something himself about sin and redemption.

Times Watch knows all too much about Clintons sin, but we must have missed the redemption part. And its rather amusing that the Times, which worships at the wall of separation between church and state, is happy to give space to religious metaphors politicians make on behalf of Times-approved causes.

For the rest of John Broders story on Clintons California church trip, click here.

California | Bill Clinton | Gov. Gray Davis | Recall | Religion

The Beaches of Ohio?

Saturdays column from Nicholas Kristof, Baked Alaska on The Menu? takes a rather dire view of the weather. In his latest dispatch from Alaska, Kristof writes: In the past, I've been skeptical about costly steps (like those in the Kyoto accord) to confront climate change. But I'm changing my mind. The evidence, while still somewhat incomplete, is steadily mounting that our carbon emissions are causing an accelerating global warming that amounts to a major threat to the world in which we live.Global warming is still an uncertain threat, but it may well become one of the major challenges of this century. Certainly our government should do more about it than censor discussions of climate change in E.P.A. reports. Unless we act soon, we may find waves lapping the beaches of Ohio.

For the rest of Nicholas Kristofs column from Alaska, click here.

Columnists | Environment | EPA | Global Warming | Nicholas Kristof

No New Tax Cuts!

Sundays front-page story by David Firestone, Dizzying Dive to Red Ink Poses Stark Choices for Washington-How a Huge Surplus Became a Vast Deficit, Fast, tries to make the federal deficit and Bushs tax cuts a campaign issue.

Firestones story opens with this loaded language: When President Bush informed the nation last Sunday night that remaining in Iraq next year will cost another $87 billion, many of those who will actually pay that bill were unable to watch. They had already been put to bed by their parents. Administration officials acknowledged the next day that every dollar of that cost will be borrowed, a loan that economists say will be repaid by the next generation of taxpayers and the generation after that. The $166 billion cost of the work so far in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has stunned many in Washington, will be added to what was already the largest budget deficit the nation has ever known.

Firestone notes the deficit has become a constant refrain among all the Democratic candidates, who use it to attack the administration's tax cuts and financial stewardship. (None, however, have proposed a cutback in spending or a serious rethinking of big-ticket entitlement programs.)

More of the Times newfound frugality: With no extra money available for the foreseeable future, real choices are being illuminated on Capitol Hill-choices between electronic bombs and electrical grids, between low taxes now and lower retirement payments later. Should Washington reconstruct Iraq's schools and hospitals, lawmakers are asking, or America's? Should it pay for more than 100,000 American troops to stay in Iraq, or for 40 million seniors to be offered prescription drugs through Medicare?

That paragraph ends with this payoff line: And if it tries to do it all, should it keep cutting taxes? Amidst all the hand-wringing about deficits, one suspects the Times real message to the Bush administration is more like this: No new tax cuts!

For the rest of David Firestones story on Washingtons dizzying dive to red ink, click here.

Democracy Slipping Away Without Campaign Reform?

Times editorialist Adam Cohen sees dangers everywhere these days. Last month it was conservative Supreme Court justices depriving Americans of constitutional rights. This time, its the loss of American democracy if the court fails to uphold the campaign finance reform legislation McCain-Feingold.

Cohen used to be a lawyer for the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, and his political priorities are clear. In Buying a High-Priced Upgrade on the Political Back-Scratching Circuit, regarding McCain-Feingold, the campaign finance reform law under review before the Supreme Court, Cohen writes: Every American should read what are known as the Internal Political Party Documentsand be prepared to be outraged if the court strikes down McCain-Feingold's modest attempts to fix our broken democracy.

Later, Cohen suggests conservative causes have too strong a voice in the current system: [The documents] also offer a disturbing explanation for why certain issues, like Arctic drilling, won't go away on Capitol Hill, and others, like gun control, get so little traction. Most important, they show how large campaign contributions are rotting American democracy at its foundation. If McCain-Feingold loses in the Supreme Court, it could be an epic defeat for efforts to clean up American government.

Cohen pays no heed to the First Amendment questions McCain-Feingold raises. Instead he links the Supreme Courts Bush-Gore decision, which he evidently dislikes, with the courts possible rejection of McCain-Feingold as unconstitutional: When historians look back on the Rehnquist Court, they will no doubt begin with its decision in Bush v. Gore, stopping the vote-counting in a presidential election. That case was decided in the heated atmosphere of a crisis, but this one will not be. If the same five justices who stopped the Florida count rule that even minimal, bipartisan campaign finance reform is unconstitutional, they will be writing their legacy-as the court that allowed American democracy to slip away.

For the rest of Adam Cohens editorial, click here.

Iraq = Vietnam

Mondays front-page story by Adam Nagourney, Across the U.S., Concern Grows About the Course of War in Iraq, begs the question: Is it quagmire watch at the Times again?

From Omaha, Nagourney writes: A week after President Bush's speech seeking to rally support for the campaign in Iraq, the nation appears increasingly anxious about the war effort and worried that the United States may be trapped in an adventure from which there is no evident exit, according to interviews during the last five days with Americans across the nation, historians, social scientists and pollsters. Some people went so far as to suggest a comparison with an earlier military action that had an unhappy history: the war in Vietnam. Now where could they have gotten that idea?

Nagourney does note: Historians and sociologists said comparisons with Vietnam were overblown, at least for now. For one thing, that conflict was far longer and deadlier: the Iraq war has produced fewer than a hundredth of the combat deaths of Vietnam. For another, there has been no evidence of the breakdown of confidence in the government that was intertwined with opposition to Vietnam.

He adds: Still, the comparison was raised frequently in interviews. (Though the phenomenon is apparently more prominent among liberals: Of the two citizens Nagourney quotes comparing Iraq to Vietnam, one voted for left-wing Ralph Nader in 2000 and the other was identified by Nagourney as a Democrat.)

For the rest of Adam Nagourneys story on Iraq and Vietnam, click here.