What others say

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2001

Chavez created own downfall by not being candid about situation

In the best Washington tradition it wasn't the crime, it was the cover-up that snared Linda Chavez. She is kaput as George W. Bush's nominee for labor secretary not so much because of her ties to an immigrant named Marta Mercado, but because she allegedly coached a neighbor to mislead the FBI about the Guatemalan woman. ...

The Wall Street Journal ... said FBI agents were investigating a telephone conversation Chavez had in late December with a former neighbor who had hired Mercado to do household work when Mercado lived with Chavez's family.

The Journal, citing sources familiar with the neighbor's account, said Chavez told the neighbor she might be appointed to a high federal post and didn't plan to raise the Mercado matter if she became the subject of a background check. Implicit was that the neighbor might want to keep quiet, too.

If that's true, it is indefensible. Unfortunately, when Chavez held a press conference to announce she was withdrawing, she offered no confirmation or denial of the Journal report. ...

It's understandable that Chavez felt compelled to help Mercado, as she has others who are down and out. ...

What's not understandable, or forgivable, is selective amnesia. Chavez simply wasn't candid. ... If Chavez wanted to rebut the Journal's reporting, she had ample opportunity during her press conference. That she did not do so speaks volumes. So Chavez's career at Labor dies on the vine.

-- Chicago Tribune

Jan. 10

Power sharing by another

name is political gridlock

Democrats made a lot of noise about apportioning Senate committees on a 50-50 basis with Republicans, to match the chamber's split between the two parties, and it worked.

Despite misgivings expressed by Sen. Don Nickles, R-Ponca City, and others, GOP leader Trent Lott gave in to Democrats' demands. Senate committees will be equally divided, with Republican chairmen.

Even with the understanding that tie votes in the committees will not prevent legislation from going to the full Senate, it's a bad deal. As of Jan. 20, Republicans will control the Senate with the help of Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote, and as such they should have had majorities on its committees.

Democrats call the 50-50 split ''power sharing.'' We call it a recipe for gridlock.

The potential for stalling legislation is great. Same for judicial nominations. It may be difficult for George W. Bush to put judges in place who share his conservative view of the federal judiciary's role.

Democrats are in control because until Jan. 20, Vice President Al Gore breaks tie votes. It's too bad they couldn't see the need for real leadership, even if by the narrowest of margins, after Cheney takes Gore's place. Along with leadership comes accountability. Someone must lead or else chaos or gridlock can result. ...

-- The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

Jan. 9

Sen. Clinton must decide what role she wants to play

The U.S. Senate is a unique culture, one that has its front-runners and its backbenchers. Backbenchers are the lawmakers who remain in the background, rarely heard from in public. ... Front-runners are those who aren't bashful at all about their role as a member of the ''World's Greatest Deliberative Body.'' They speak whenever possible. ...

First lady-turned-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is in a most unique position. She is an immediate star in the Senate, being the first first lady elected to public office. Millions of Americans want to hear what she thinks about a lot of things.

Here, though, is the rub: As first lady, Sen. Clinton has been remarkably reticent about talking to the media. Perhaps that is understandable in recent years, inasmuch as many Americans have wanted to know what she thought about the philandering of her spouse. She surely doesn't want to talk about that.

Now, as she makes the transition from presidential spouse to a highly visible member of the Senate, the question becomes one of positioning. Will she remain on the back bench or on the front rank?

If she sits quietly at the back of the room, her silence will be conspicuous and will raise many more eyebrows. If she moves to the front of the room where the TV klieg lights shine brightly, then she will expose herself to the kinds of questions she has avoided in recent years.

And to think the first lady actually campaigned for the opportunity to face this dilemma.

-- Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News

Jan. 6

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