On Clinton, Bush, taxes, drugs, 'yo mama,' the 12t

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Mar 08, 2001 12:00 AM
Making the rounds of the news columns, with here and there a gentle observation.... Dubya kept hitting 'em into the seats as he took his swings last week before Congress. "An artist using statistics as a brush could paint two very different pictures of our country" - one with warning signs, the other full of blessings. He went on to get most everything mostly right.... And about time, too. As we have learned during the past weeks the true nature of Bill Clinton's darkly dubious legacy, Clinton has diverted the spotlight from President Bush. From Feb. 5 through Feb. 21, for example, the three principal networks' evening news shows devoted 76 minutes to Clinton and just 47 minutes to Bush. That makes it tough for a new president with a new program and a new tone. Going right along with what most people think of Clinton these days, Arkansas is retiring as fast as it can highway signs welcoming motorists to "Arkansas, the natural state, home of Bill Clinton" - most Arkansans evidently preferring, if not to forgive, then to forget what Clinton in a "natural state" reminds them of. You might think major newspapers would publish on page one the principal finding of the first of two major news organization reviews of Florida ballots. Yet The New York Times put the story on Page 19, The Washington Post on Page 24. That couldn't be - could it? - because the USA Today/Knight Ridder review concluded Al Gore would not have gained enough ground in Miami-Dade County to overcome Bush statewide. Some sectors still comfortably believe, with good Clinton buddy (and now Democratic National Chairman) Terry McAuliffe, that last year "we won seats (in both houses of Congress), as well as the presidency." President Bush is right in wanting to deep-six the death tax. Why is giving government half the value of an estate over several million dollars (and thereby confiscatorially taxing much of it twice) better than allowing the deceased - through his or her will - to designate where the entire estate will go? There's another paint-fight involving "art" at the publicly funded Brooklyn Museum. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani terms "Yo Mama's Last Supper," depicting a nude woman as Christ, "disgusting," "outrageous" and "anti-Catholic." Giuliani's critics say he once again is seeking to stifle free expression. The more prudent point is that taxpayer-funded museums (such as Brooklyn's) should police themselves with particular stringency, leaving to private museums and galleries displays of whacked-out drivel and tripe. Is America obsessed with the stock market, or what? This spring General Motors - in a deal with Fidelity Investments - will begin offering via its OnStar in-car communications system the option of checking portfolios, even trading, from behind the wheel. As if we didn't have enough problems with drivers telephoning, applying makeup, glomming TV and doing their hair. Decennial redistricting will be in the news big-time beginning next month. One hot issue among many will be whether to use actual 2000 head counts or statistical skews (adjustments) of raw data based on sticking one's licked finger in the air. And the Supreme Court may weigh in - this time with a decision on race and geographic compactness. The question relates to the extent to which redistricters may legally go in drawing lines to give districts minority majorities. May congressional districts such as North Carolina's 12th - drawn as shown, based on 1990 Census figures, to give it a 57 percent black majority (and redrawn twice as a consequence of litigation) - meander 160 miles down an interstate, passing through 10 counties along the way? Soon, yet again, the Court may pronounce. On drugs: (1) The newest drug of fashion in rural areas throughout much of the East is a prescription cancer painkiller called OxyContin. A page one New York Times story says, "Addicts favor the drug because they have learned to circumvent its slow time-released protection and achieve a sudden, powerful morphine-like high. ... Police say that when dealt illicitly on the street, it can cost as much as heroin or more. The abuse of the drug, which has been tracked over the last 18 months, has set off a wave of pharmacy break-ins, emergency room visits and arrests of physicians and other health-care workers." Still (2) the ever-helpful American Bar Association voted last month to oppose "zero tolerance" policies under which schools typically brook no illicit drugs or instances of illicit drug use. Yet (3) the biggest drug problem in the nation's middle and high schools may not be alcohol or illicit drugs, but the prescription behavior modifier Ritalin. Vice President Dick Cheney, on what he and President Bush are trying to do: "We don't mind debating our opponents - we both did that last fall, and it worked out pretty well. He and I are going to make our case as vigorously as we can. But we take seriously the responsibility to be honest and civil. ... I've found that time runs fast here in Washington - that opportunities not seized are quickly lost. President Bush and I are grateful for the privilege we've been given. And I leave you with our pledge to use it wisely, in service to the ideals we share and the country we love."