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Incoming House Speaker Bob Livingston confessed to adultery. "I have on occasion strayed from my marriage," he said. Roll Call broke the story (there are rumors it may have come through Hustler), and Livingston spilled the beans to his Republican colleagues to head off the story. Livingston's spins: 1) "I sought marriage and spiritual counseling and have received forgiveness from my wife and family." 2) "I was running for speaker, not sainthood." 3) "These indiscretions were not with employees on my staff." 4) "I have never been asked to testify under oath about them." 5) "To avoid harm to others," he won't say more. 6) "Individuals working together with the media" are out to get all us Republicans. 7) "I will not be intimidated." Journalists gleefully anticipated that Democrats would exploit the story in Friday's House impeachment debate. But Republicans embraced Livingston, said his case is different from Clinton's, and suggested that the real villains are Clinton defenders, who are leaking nasty stories about Republicans. (12/18/98)
The United States continued to bomb Iraq. Military briefers say the first day of missiles destroyed Saddam Hussein's military headquarters and four barracks at weapons sites. The international debate is over whether the attack was justified. Russia and China called U.N. weapons inspection chief Richard Butler an American pawn and demanded his resignation, but nobody seems angry enough about the attack to make a serious effort to stop it. The prevailing view is that force may not achieve success in disarming Iraq, but diplomacy had definitely achieved failure. (12/18/98)
The House began debating impeachment. The chief controversy is whether the impeachment vote and the Iraq bombing should be going on simultaneously. Republicans blame Clinton for bombing Iraq just when the GOP was about to begin the impeachment debate. Democrats blame Republicans for beginning the impeachment debate just after Clinton began the bombing. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott is taking the brunt of editorial criticism for questioning the bombing and Clinton's motives. Each party impugns the other's integrity and patriotism while calling the other party shamelessly cynical for impugning its own integrity and patriotism. For a roundup of the spins, see Slate's "Frame Game" on the latest "wag the dog" charges. (12/18/98)
Israeli implementation of the Wye peace agreement is collapsing. First, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted Israel's promised troop withdrawals from the West Bank because of Palestinian violence. Then President Clinton went to Israel and the Gaza Strip, supervised the Palestinians' annulment of their charter language calling for Israel's destruction, and urged Netanyahu to resume troop withdrawals. Netanyahu refused, arguing that Palestinian leaders must take further steps against terrorism and renounce their aspirations to statehood. Now Netanyahu says that if Israel's parliament fails to endorse his policies by next week, he will call new elections. The opposition Labor Party, which accuses Netanyahu of trying to kill the peace process, welcomed the opportunity to get rid of him. The idealistic spin: Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to accept his conditions so peace can go forward. The cynical spin: He wants the Palestinians to reject his conditions so he can posture against them in the election. (12/16/98)
Gov. Lawton Chiles, D-Fla., died at 68. He had a heart attack while working out on his exercise bike, just three weeks before he was to turn over his office to Gov.-elect Jeb Bush. The lieutenant governor, who lost to Bush, gets to be governor in the interim. Commentators lauded Chiles' civility and efforts on behalf of the environment, fiscal responsibility, and public accountability. Former Rep. Mo Udall, D-Ariz., died at 76 of Parkinson's disease. Commentators applauded his "liberal conscience" in the face of conservative public opinion. Judge Leon Higginbotham Jr. died at 70 after a stroke. He was one of the country's most accomplished black jurists. Commentators spoke approvingly of his "unambiguous liberalism," his stalwart defense of the downtrodden, and his attacks on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (12/16/98)
Pundits debated the fallout from the Clinton administration's latest lobbying and testimony before Congress. The spins: 1) Clinton's lies are offensive. 2) The Republicans' charges are excessive. 3) Clinton's lawyers refuse to admit anything that could put him in legal jeopardy. 4) Duh. 5) The pro-impeachment closing argument: The rule of law is at stake. 6) The anti-impeachment closing argument: The Constitution is at stake. 7) Impeachment is excessive, so vote instead for censure. 8) Impeachment without conviction is censure. 9) Impeachment is too serious to treat as censure. 10) Impeachment is only a vote for a trial. 11) A trial would be too awful because it would paralyze the government and force the Senate to delve into sexual details. 12) The impeachment juggernaut is good because it has scared the White House into embracing heavy censure. 13) Impeachment is good for the Democrats because it would hurt the GOP more than it would hurt Clinton. 14) Clinton will persuade the GOP not to impeach him because they both care more about their own skins than about the Democrats. (For more on a possible escape route for Clinton see, "The 'Coup' Bomb" in Slate. (12/14/98)