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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday September 14, 1999 (Vol. One; No. 16)

Puerto Rican Willie Hortons?; Bradley’s "Hollywood Location Shoots"; Cybill For President?

1. Deborah Rosenberg and Michael Isikoff surveyed the fallout from President Clinton’s decision to grant clemency to convicted terrorists in Newsweek, yet incredibly managed to join the Clinton staff in imagining a "new round of Willie Horton-style Republican attack ads" on the FALN.

2. Newsweek highlighted the Clinton administration’s failed system of background checks, and took shots at the National Rifle Association and Dan Burton in their Waco coverage.

3. Time showcased the mythical small-town world of Bill Bradley, but allowed that it feels more like "like Hollywood location shoots -- superimposed on a place."

4. In U.S. News & World Report, Michael Barone looked at the liberal legacy of Richard Nixon and praised him for his "positive" effect on America. Although he "still personifies the evil politician" to many, Nixon was the nation’s "most enduring post World War II" political figure.

5. Hype for another liberal Hollywood star for the White House. This time it’s not Warren Beatty.

6. Newsweek offered glib house warming advice for the Clintons and Monica Lewinsky.

7. In its "Washington Whispers" section, U.S. News noted Terry’s McAuliffe’s $1.35 million dollar loan to the Clintons and mentioned the "critics who suggest he’s been angling for future chits from Clinton."

For their September 20 editions, Newsweek featured "E-Life" on its cover, Time led with a popular children’s book hero in "The Magic of Harry Potter," and U.S. News looked at Richard Nixon’s legacy in "Rethinking Nixon."


Deborah Rosenberg and Michael Isikoff surveyed the fallout from President Clinton’s decision to grant clemency to convicted terrorists in the Newsweek story titled "Forgive Us Our Revolution," yet managed to join the Clinton staff in imagining Republicans unleashing a "new round of Willie Horton-style Republican attack ads" on the FALN.

Rosenberg and Isikoff summarized the week’s events: "An overwhelming majority of Congress denounced the deal and scheduled hearings this week. Republicans accused Clinton of playing politics to win Hispanic support for Vice President Al Gore and for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate bid. Gore remained silent, but Hillary tried to distance herself from her husband's decision, telling friends that when she initially supported the clemency offer she assumed that her tough-on-crime husband had the backing of law officers."

As for the first lady, "Hillary's feeble retreat didn't help her cause. It angered Puerto Rican leaders in New York, yet she could do little but apologize for not consulting them before making her decision. Her camp groused privately that the president and his aides had blindsided them and that Hillary had been cut out of the loop. The First Lady's campaign aides could just imagine the FALN members starring in a new round of Willie Horton-style Republican attack ads."

Hillary’s role in the clemency deal was central: "The First Lady's change of heart actually may have persuaded some of the inmates to accept the clemency deal. FALN advocates had complained that the prisoners should be freed, not paroled like common criminals. But when Mrs. Clinton backed away, the inmates decided to take what they could get and accepted the parole offer. They will likely remain free regardless of what Congress thinks: granting clemency is a presidential prerogative and the prisoners cannot be jailed again unless they violate the conditions of their parole."

Rosenberg and Isikoff concluded: "Still, with Congress demanding to know why Clinton released the prisoners and how dangerous they might still be, Justice officials are exhaustively searching for tapes of the inmates' phone calls to determine what else they might have said. It's still unclear why no one bothered to search earlier, before Clinton released the nationalists. But now they have their freedom, and Hillary Clinton may be left to pay the political price."

U.S. News hammered Hillary on her mishandling of the Puerto Rican clemency offer in the derisive "Next time, do your homework," helpfully subtitled for readers, "For Hillary, a hard lesson in N.Y. politics." Angie Cannon averred: "After the first big blunder of her campaign last week, the first lady’s skin presumably got thicker as a choir of angry voices blasted her switch."

Cannon offered the first lady some pedantic advice in the form of some lessons learned from the clemency imbroglio. One, she lectured Hillary, "Breaking up is hard to do." In other words, she should have declared her opposition to clemency sooner. Two, "Know thy terrorist-and thy opponent." Translation: "You come off looking really soft on crime if you back such a group, especially when the victims and their families step up to publicly protest." Finally, "Kissing local pols’ rings is tricky business."


Remarkably, Newsweek criticized the Clinton administration for its gun control policy in "Holes in Clinton's Safety Net for Guns." The piece pointed out a flawed system of background checks: "Flanked by police chiefs and mayors, Bill Clinton looked triumphant when he unveiled a new gun-buyback program last week and announced that the computerized ‘instant check’ system (NICS) had blocked 100,000 illegal gun sales in its first seven months. But among those who do background checks, there is a growing sense that NICS is full of holes. For one thing, the system is only as good as the records entered into it, and many local courts are lax about reporting convictions. And despite original plans, NICS isn't linked to state mental-health records. That's significant in light of surprising new research on suicides, which account for the biggest chunk of gun deaths. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin are finding that more than half of those who shoot themselves buy the guns less than a month before. Early data suggest that a third have a history of mental illness -- which means a check of state hospital records might keep some from buying guns. Officials point out that no screening system will be 100 percent effective. Unfortunately, the gun usually is."

Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman looked at developments in the Waco case and the appointment of John Danforth in "A Fire that Won’t Die." In sum, "The Feds made mistakes and then exercised painfully poor judgment by covering their tracks, making their motives look more suspect than they probably were. After it was revealed in court papers last month that FBI agents at Waco had in fact used incendiary devices -- and that elite units from the Army's secretive Delta Force may have played a larger role than was previously acknowledged -- an angry Reno made a show of seizing evidence from FBI headquarters, embarrassing FBI Director Louis Freeh. Last week, amid calls for her resignation, she tapped former Missouri senator John Danforth, an upright Episcopal priest and Republican, to lead an unfettered probe into the Waco catastrophe. His mission: find out what really happened...Virtually every right-wing antigovernment group points back to Waco as the moment that Washington waged war on its own people. Even the Oklahoma City bombing has its roots in the faith that the Branch Davidians were murdered by the FBI after they had fended off the ‘jackbooted thugs,’ as the National Rifle Association once referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms."

In addition to the NRA, Klaidman and Isikoff couldn’t resist a dig at Dan Burton: "If Danforth says there were no ‘dark crimes,’ as he put it, most critics may listen. Then again, maybe not. Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, who spent years chasing an alleged plot to kill Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster, has taken up the Waco cause and is consulting with filmmaker [Michael] McNulty. Thanks to the mishaps at Justice, the Waco conspiracy lives on."


Time showcased the mythical small town world of Bill Bradley but allowed that it feels "like Hollywood location shoots -- superimposed on a place." In "Bradley’s Twilight Cruise," Eric Pooley reported on Bill Bradley’s bid for the presidency but did not get entirely seduced by the mythology of the candidate: "Welcome to the official walking tour of Bradley's old hometown, where this morning he announced (again) what everyone already knew: that he is trying to snatch the Democratic nomination from Al Gore...Events such as this, designed to show off a candidate's small-town heart, tend to feel like Hollywood location shoots -- superimposed on a place. Bradley wants to prove he has a real connection to this one." After taking a walking tour of Crystal City with Bradley, his wife and one hundred members of the press, Pooley concluded: "That's it -- we've seen everything except the shrine: the basketball hoop in Bradley's backyard, where young Bill worked on his shots until all hours. At the beginning of the tour, he mentioned it and said, ‘I'm sure you don't need to see that.’ He wouldn't want to be accused of exploiting his myth. Besides, in the morning he'll be holding a press conference underneath the basket."

In U.S. News, Roger Simon looked at the relative success of the Bradley campaign in "Democrats worry they might have a choice." Simon noted Bradley’s success in captivating the press: "Bradley is raising unexpectedly large amounts of money, is doing well unexpectedly well in some polls, and last week delivered one of the best speeches of his life." Bradley has been able to "impress the media." Simon also noted the disgust within the he Gore campaign about the allegedly unfavorable press they think the Vice President has been receiving: "With the exception of the week when the media swivelled their guns onto George W. Bush and his cocaine fumblings, it is hard to find a really positive week for Gore...The campaign insists Gore is not really as beleaguered as some headlines suggest."


Michael Barone looked at the legacy of Richard Nixon and praised him for his "positive" effect on America. Although he "still personifies the evil politician," Nixon was the nation’s "most enduring post World War II" political figure (Ronald who?) and helped alter the country’s political landscape by talking right, but moving the country left: "He embraced many of the goals of the new environmental movement and institutionalized it by creating the Environmental Protection Agency. He transformed American Indian policy from one seeking assimilation to one seeking tribalization. Nixon created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and supported the National Endowment for the Arts. He instituted racial quotas and preferences...and pushed hard for [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan’s Family Assistance Plan, which would have provided a guaranteed annual income for welfare recipients."

Barone scolded Nixon from the right on wage and price controls: "But not all of his policies endured. In some cases he assumed, wrongly, that policies that had worked in the early postwar period would work in the 1970s: The prime example is wage and price controls."


Cybill Shepherd for President? The speculation is no joke according to Newsweek: "As if the prospect of Warren Beatty in the White House isn't weird enough, Hollywood may offer another wacky presidential candidate: Cybill Shepherd. Shepherd, the movie and sitcom actress, says she's ‘seriously consid-ering’ a run against Al, Bill and whoever else may go out for the Democratic nomination, in large part to promote women's issues, such as abortion rights. Potential competition from that other Hollywood pretty face doesn't seem to bother her one bit. ‘Whether Warren runs won't affect whether Cybill runs,’ says Shepherd's lawyer, Gloria Allred. Wouldn't it be too cute if they ran together?"


Newsweek offered glib house warming tips to the Clintons and Monica Lewinsky in a brief item straight out of People magazine in its "Periscope" section: "Monica chose Greenwich Village, Bill and Hillary, Westchester: worlds apart, but with equal need to decorate the new pads. PERI asked five prominent interior designers to lend the impeachment-indebted trio a few home hints. Washington D.C.'s Barry Dixon would give the Clintons instant class with a (hand-blown) glass chandelier. Alexa Hampton puts privacy first for both parties, and suggests simple bamboo shades. ‘Prince of Chintz’Mario Buatta restores focus for all with an upstanding four-poster bed. And L.A.'s Katie Brown reflects Monica's slimmed-down esthetic, while Dixon paints the wall ‘lipstick red.’ Christopher Lowell on Chappaqua:‘Start with comfortable seating and put the Ozark stuff upstairs.’"

Meanwhile, Newsweek devoted about the same space to U.S.-Sino relations: "All is forgiven: let's get back to our usual rancor. That was the gist of an hour-long meeting between President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin last week at the Pacific Rim summit in New Zealand... But the issues that haunted relations before the [Chinese embassy] bombing -- spying allegations, a widening trade deficit and Taiwan -- have not gone away."


In its "Washington Whispers" section, U.S. News noted Terry’s McAuliffe’s $1.35 million dollar loan to the Clintons and mentioned the "critics who suggest he’s been angling for future chits from Clinton." When asked why no one else came forward to aid the Clintons, "McAuliffe says other financier-friends were afraid of getting bad press."

What press?

-- Mark Drake



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