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Monday, June 02, 2003  

News and views

*Clinton is still presidential

Liz Marlantes has written a superb article for the Christian Science Monitor about my favorite president within my life time. You do remember presidents being elected and some achieving that twice with no help from the Supreme Court? Bill Clinton, now considered one of the most popular chief executives in our history, is still being presidential.

After being sidelined in 2000 by a vice president wanting to distance himself from his mentor's moral failings, Mr. Clinton is taking an increasingly active role in the current presidential race. He's strategizing with party leaders at closed-door meetings, and offering advice - both public and private - to candidates.

Just three years after he defiantly completed his second term, he has rebounded despite the mainly contrived scandals his enemies tried to saddle him with. As an inveterate reader, I knew Whitewater and the other 'gates were scurrilous all along. I did not approve of President Clinton's inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky. However, I consider it more of a personal than a political failing -- one made by many of the men who grasp power in the U.S. and other countries. A roving eye seems to come with the male Type A personality.

Among those renewing their appreciation of President Clinton are the new crop of Democratic candidates.

Meanwhile, Democratic hopefuls are invoking his name on the stump with growing frequency, as they contrast the lost jobs and slow economic growth under President Bush with the boom years of the 1990s.

Many campaigns freely admit to seeking out Clinton's political counsel, calling him an invaluable resource. "If Yoda's in the neighborhood, you might as well give him a call," says David Axelrod, an adviser to Sen. John Edwards.

Makes sense to me. Ignoring him would be self-defeating for them. No one living is a better repository of political know-how for moderates and liberals than Bill Clinton. However, Ms. Marlantes sees a potential hazard in Democratic candidates embracing the last president from their party.

Yet his ongoing presence could prove as much of a burden as a boon for Democrats, particularly if he winds up overshadowing the current field of presidential contenders. Lately, he's captured the media spotlight with remarks criticizing the Bush tax cut, and suggesting that the 22nd amendment (which limits US presidents to two terms) should be overturned.

I believe that discomfort is because of our lack of experience in having presidents young and vigorous enough to remain in the spotlight after they leave office. George H.W. Bush was silent after his defeat until his son was installed in the White House. Ronald Reagan became senile while holding the presidency. Richard Nixon? Well...

Some observers are blaming failures of the Democrats nationally on President Clinton. They say he is the reason the Democrats don't have a "coherent vision."

Although Clinton won two terms in the White House, the Democratic Party been far less successful in the past decade. "Democrats lost more ground during the Clinton years than during any period since the early 1920s," says Allan Lichtman, a presidential scholar at American University. When Clinton came into office, Democrats controlled the presidency, the House, the Senate, and most governorships, he notes. "Look where they stand now."

That strikes me as sloppy thinking. There is no obvious connection between President Clinton's success, including his revived popularity, and the party's doldrums. If a Democratic candidate is displeased with his 'centering' of the party, that candidate should attempt to move the party Left. It is up to each individual candidate to develop and promote his own "coherent vision." If that candidate is a contender, other people, including party officials, will recognize it and become supporters. So far, the only candidates that is happening for are John Kerry and Howard Dean.

*Right Wing terror suspect in custody

One of America's own terrorism suspects has fallen into the hands of the police. Eric Robert Rudolph is suspected of violent crimes dating back seven years, though he was not indicted until two years after the most notable of them, the bombing at an Atlanta Summer Olympics event in 1996.

Fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph, the man charged for the 1996 Olympic Park bombing , was arrested early Saturday in connection with that bombing and three others -- after cops approached him while he scavenged for food behind a grocery store.

After a massive manhunt that included infrared scopes on helicopters and logs rigged with motion detectors, it was ultimately a rookie officer on patrol at 3:27 a.m. who spotted a man with a camouflage jacket, blue work britches and a stubbly beard behind a Save-A-Lot food store.

The man who has been on the run for more than five years took off running one more time and finally gave up behind a pile of milk crates.

Rudolph was apprehended near the North Carolina mountains he was intially thought to be hiding out in. However, it is possible that like other anti-abortion terrorists, he was helped by a network of far Right extremists in the U.S. and beyond. The area where he was taken into custody is a haven for extremists.

Rudolph is thought to be a follower of the white supremacist Christian Identity religion that is rabidly anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-Semitic.

"My heart aches for him. What he did was wrong, I know, but I understand where he was coming from," said 63-year-old Sarah Greenfield of nearby Marble. "People around here, they take care of their own. You can't put a price on a man's head, and I don't know anybody who would have given him up, even for a million dollars."

I am curious to see whether the Right blogosphere, which has been quite hostile to Muslims accused of terrorism, will defend Eric Rudolph.

John Mays of Bob the Bear isn't defending him.

Its about time, and I hope this moron gets the death pennalty. Whereas he might be "right" on his views about abortion, and other things, he is a terrible public image of those who are pro-life and I hope he gets what he has coming to him.

Other Right Wing blogs I checked are silent on the issue. We will see if they find their voices.

*Media concentration: How many are too many?

Dave Stroup at Founding Issues has done us the favor of rounding up recent news and commentary about media concentration. You may recall the Federal Communications Commission vote on new ownership rules is today, so this is a good time to revisit the topic.

Dave asks several questions that should be on the minds of all of us interested in Big Media.

Perhaps all of this is related to larger question: How should the radio spectrum be governed? Is the current scheme the best? The Economist takes a look at this question in a recent article. It's a good read that brings up some interesting questions.

What do you think? Do we need regulation, or should the free market mechanism be trusted to produce the best (and how do you define best?) outcome?

I have watched the government's position on media monopolies shift to where it is today over the years and I'm not all that old. Perhaps belated pressure, in the form of unwanted attention, is the only way to return any semblance of fairness to what megacorp can own how many of what mediums. (Yes, I know it is ridiculous that that is what we will be trying to limit.) The attention the issue is receiving from print media, as detailed in Dave's entry, is encouraging.

Cowboy Kahlil of the ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose, a self-declared independent, believes liberals might find some allies in regard to this topic.

Right now, with this issue, if liberals would remove the partisan overtones and say "look, it's not about right vs. left; it's about freedom of communication, tied both to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, tied to antitrust philosophies that have always produced legislation that increases competition, increases the choices of things we'll get to see and hear," then maybe we can work together and kill this piece of trash legislation.

It does look like a no-brainer. We all lose when most of what is available from the media is pabulum. That is what further consolidation of broadcast media will lead to. However, can those on the Right be convinced they are in the same shoes as we are in this regard?

12:30 AM