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web posted February 7, 2000

Gore, McCain tops in Granite State

After months of anticipation and preparation, the people of the frosty northeastern state of New Hampshire spoke out the night of February 1, making Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain their choices for their respective parties' presidential nominations.

Gore won an uncomfortably tight race against former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, while McCain posted an impressive 16-point win over Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who holds commanding leads over McCain in polls conducted in other areas of the country.

"I think we finally have a poll without a margin of error," a smiling McCain told a jubilant crowd attending a victory party in Nashua. "We have sent a powerful message to Washington: Change is coming."

"This is the beginning of the end of the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore," McCain said. "Our wonderful campaign in New Hampshire is at an end. Our nationwide crusade is just beginning."

"During the day today, some people said this was going to be like the Super Bowl -- that we were going to fall a yard short," Gore said on victory night at his raucous victory celebration.

The pointed reference recalled the National Football League championship game, in which Gore's home-state Tennessee Titans lost 23-16 to the St. Louis Rams after mounting a heroic offensive effort in the last seconds of the fourth quarter. What would have been a game-tying drive was stopped a yard short as time ran out.

"Well, let me tell you, this Tennessean is in the end-zone, and it feels good," Gore said. "And you ain't seen nothing yet!"

In his concession speech, delivered early in the night in Manchester, Bush congratulated McCain for running a "good" and "hard" campaign, and thanked his New Hampshire supporters prior to departing for South Carolina. He reminded them that though he may have lost in New Hampshire, he was still the Republican front-runner in the rest of the country.

"New Hampshire has long been known as a bump in the road for front-runners," he said. "This year is no exception."

Bradley, in a spirited concession speech, congratulated his Granite State supporters for their efforts, and told them he would continue his campaign with no thoughts of throwing in the towel.

"Al Gore has run a strong campaign and I congratulate him," Bradley said. "But we are smarter and better-prepared."

Bill Clinton waxed nostalgic for his days as a candidate after a meeting with congressional leaders, saying no one could predict how the voters of New Hampshire would exert their will, and all presidential hopefuls should give a 100 percent effort when campaigning.

"I don't need to tell them anything," Clinton said. "You've just got to go up there and work your heart out and hope it comes out.

Cuban grandmothers express anguish over visit with Elian

The grandmothers of shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez have complained that their visit with the boy was continually interrupted and cut short. They also angrily denied claims they were manipulated by the Cuban government.

"We are not hostages. We are acting freely," paternal grandmother Mariela Quintana said during a 90-minute broadcast on February 1 on Cuban state television.

Their comments came in response to those of Jeanne O'Laughlin, a nun of the Dominican order who hosted their meeting the week before with the child they hope to bring home to Cuba.

In an NBC television interview shown in part during the Cuban broadcast, O'Laughlin suggested that the two women were under pressure from the Cuban government in the struggle to wrest the 6-year-old from his great-uncle's family in Miami.

"She is the one who is not free," said maternal grandmother Raquel Rodriguez, who wept while recalling the meeting with Elian. "She is a lying person. It's a lie ... so many lies."

The boy has been at the center of an international custody battle pitting his father and grandparents against the great-uncle's family almost since he was rescued from an innertube off the Florida coast on November 25. His mother and 10 other people died when the boat carrying them from Cuba to the United States sank.

The grandmothers complained that the child -- who lived most of his life in their homes -- seemed quiet and withdrawn when he was brought to meet them on January 26 at the home of O'Laughlin, president of Barry University.

"He looked frightened ... His face was sad. He was not the boy we knew," Quintana said.

They said that the boy's second cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, of Miami, apparently remained with O'Laughlin and another nun in a room next door and could listen though an open entryway, despite an agreement that members of the Miami family would not be at the meeting.

In a column published in the New York Times the same day as the interview aired, O'Laughlin said she now favors keeping Elian in the United States with his second cousin partly because the boy "has transferred his maternal love to her" following the loss of his mother. She said the grandmothers seemed fearful -- apparently of their own government.

Rodriguez said Elian seemed nervous when the grandmothers questioned the presence of his cousin. "He said, 'Look grandmother, this is my cousin.' He said it as if the boy was depending on her, that he could not be without her."

Quintana said that Marisleysis Gonzalez had almost no relationship with Elian before the November shipwreck.

The women said their meeting with the boy was repeatedly interrupted by the nuns offering food or bringing messages. Rodriguez said one nun entered three times with the same message, asking them to meet members of the Miami family.

They said that the boy was starting to warm up when O'Laughlin halted the meeting after 90 minutes, short of the two-hour minimum reportedly agreed to.

The grandmothers said they remained cheerful during the farewell for the boy's sake, but when he had gone, "We cried a lot. That was terrible," Quintana said.

The two also complained that a nun and policeman took a cellular telephone from them just as the boy was starting to speak to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, in Cuba.

Quintana said they had been unable to speak with the boy by telephone either from the United States or Cuba, being told when they called that the child was either sleeping or out.

She said that the boy's father, however, had managed to speak to the boy twice in recent days.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has ruled Elian should be returned to his father, but the Miami relatives are trying to block that action in federal court. U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler will hear arguments February 22 on whether their lawsuit should be dismissed.

The Children's Rights Council, a Washington-based child advocacy group, said it will file a brief within a week to support returning the child to his father, arguing that only the father has legal standing in the case.

"We realize Cuba is a dictatorship, but the child would not be living with Fidel Castro, he'd be living with his dad," said the group's president, David L. Levy.

White House: Clinton will veto Taiwan military bill

The White House says President Bill Clinton will veto a congressional bill that would expand military ties between the United States and Taiwan.

"It would upset the very delicate and the central balance that has existed for 25 years across the Taiwan Straits," National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said February 2.

The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act comes at a time when the United States is trying to shore up support for permanent trade relations with China, which still considers Taiwan a province -- and the White House fears the bill could get in the way of that goal.

The bill, which passed the House on February 1 by a veto-proof vote of 341-70, would establish direct military communications between Washington and Taiwan's capital, Taipei, and expand U.S. training of Taiwanese military officials.

It would also require the president to report to Congress annually on Taiwan's defense requests, making it more difficult for the administration to limit arms sales to the country.

Supporters of the bill say it's needed to counter a reported military buildup by the Chinese near Taiwan that included missile tests in 1996 prior to the presidential election there.

"Since then, a massive Chinese missile and military build-up across the Taiwan Straits has served as a constant threat," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "Waiting for the next shoe to fall would be a very costly mistake."

CIA Director George Tenet said that fear could be well founded. "The catalyst for these tensions is the Taiwan election on the 18th of March, which Beijing will be monitoring for signs that a new president will retreat from Lee's statements or further extend the distance from reunification," said Tenet.

Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui declared last July that his island's relations with the mainland should be conducted on a "state-to-state" basis. China reacted angrily and threatened the use of force to bring Taiwan back under its rule.

Nevertheless, the White House says it has enough authority under current laws to provide Taiwan with defenses and, therefore, another bill is not needed.

China's leadership in Beijing has complained about the bill.

The House vote came at a time when the United States is trying to improve badly strained relations with China after NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the alliance's air strikes on Yugoslavia.

The legislation also comes at a time when the United States is trying to get Congress to approve permanent trade relations with China, leading to that country's entry into the World Trade Organization.

"People who have concerns about China in the Congress have expressed their concerns through their vote on this bill. Now it's time for them to move on and get WTO for China," said former U.S. Ambassador to China James Lilley.

The White House does not believe the House vote will affect its push for permanent trade relations with China, and senior White House officials say it's likely the bill will not make it through the Senate and then to Clinton's desk.

Bauer ends White House bid

GOP conservative Gary Bauer ended his presidential bid on February 4, after a poor showing in both the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses.

"I will not go away," Bauer said at a news conference at a Washington hotel. "I'm going to stay in the arena. That's the important thing."

Bauer finished with only 1 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. Two days later, Bauer's campaign called a news conference for the next morning.

He declined to endorse one of his former opponents, although he called Arizona Sen. John McCain "a good and decent man" and said Texas Gov. George W. Bush "has put together a tremendous national campaign."

"I'm not going to endorse anybody until I see one of these candidates move toward the issues that I've outlined today," Bower said. He prefaced his withdrawal announcement by going over the issues that were the centerpiece of his campaign -- his strong opposition to abortion and his concerns about liberalizing trade ties with China.

His bid for the presidency failed to jell in either of the two key early contests -- he finished last to New Hampshire and next-to-last in the January 24 Iowa caucuses to Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who subsequently dropped out.

In the days before the New Hampshire primary, as it looked more likely he would finish last, Bauer insisted he would stay in the race. "I plan on going to the (Republican National) Convention in Philadelphia," he said Monday.

But every remaining GOP candidate has had more success at drawing conservatives than Bauer.

New Hampshire exit polls show that Bauer drew only 1 percent of the vote from GOP voters who considered themselves "somewhat conservative," and only 3 percent from those who listed themselves as "very conservative." Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the New Hampshire winner, drew 45 percent of the vote from "somewhat conservative" voters and 21 percent from "very conservative" voters.

Bauer's decision means he no longer will be able to dog Texas Gov. George W. Bush at debates about whether Bush will appoint anti-abortion judges to the federal bench. His questions to Bush on the subject had become a near-certainty at debates; Bush has responded by saying he would appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution in their rulings.

George W. Bush said that he didn't anticipate a major change in the dynamics of the race with Bauer gone, and dismissed the notion that Bauer's criticism of his position on abortion rights in the many GOP debates may have hurt him among social conservatives. Bush said his record as governor of Texas was proof of his commitment to the "pro-life" cause.

Bauer is on leave of absence as president of the Family Research Council, a group active in socially conservative causes. He held several positions during the administrations of Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan, including director of the White House Office of Policy Development in 1987 and 1988, and undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education from 1985 to 1987.

His departure leaves only four major candidates in the GOP race: Bush, Forbes, Keyes and McCain.

GOP senator pushes for victims' rights amendment

The Senate will vote soon on a constitutional amendment to prevent crime victims from being hurt twice -- first by a criminal and then by a justice system that fails to protect them, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said on February 5.

"Unless these victims' rights are in the same federal Constitution as the defendant's rights, they will never be of the same legal status," Kyl said in the weekly Republican radio address.

Proposals to amend the Constitution require approval by two- thirds of the House and Senate, followed by ratification by three-fourths of the states. Few such proposals survive the process.

Kyl said Arizona and 32 other states had passed protections for crime victims, who under the Constitution have no right to be present at trial or to be informed of hearings in their case. They also have no right to be heard at sentencing or parole hearings, and they have no right to challenge delays in their case.

The proposed amendment would establish these rights and also ensure that victims are notified of their assailant's release or escape from custody. Victims would also be entitled to restitution from a convicted offender.

In addition to victims rights, Kyl said the nation should follow Arizona's lead by enacting a tax credit for teachers, who often have to pay for classroom materials out of their own pockets. He said the average K-12 teacher spends more than $400 in personal funds every year.

"Shouldn't every teacher in America be at least partially reimbursed for these financial sacrifices for our nation's children?" Kyl said. "This isn't the answer to all of our problems in education, but it's a start."

Court: Park's Jesus statue is unconstitutional -- even on private land

An appeals court ruled that a statue of Jesus Christ that stands on privately owned land within a city park violates the law because people could assume the city government endorses a religion.

A group of citizens paid $21 726 to buy the small piece of the parkland under the statue after an atheist group sued the city in 1998.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled February 5 that that statue still violates of the constitutional separation between church and state, even though it isn't directly on public property.

The layout of the park could lead "a reasonable person to conclude that the statue is a part of the public park and that the government, rather than a private entity, endorses religion," Circuit Judge Michael Kanne wrote.

The court did not order the removal of the statue, but suggested that a fence or wall be erected with a disclaimer making clear that the statue in Praschak Wayside Park is owned by a private group. The appeals court did not impose a solution, but it asked a district court to consider it.

David Lasker, an attorney for Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, said that the court's ruling affirms that the statue was "a blatant violation of the Constitution."

"This clear violation of the establishment clause was continuing despite a real estate transaction that nobody would have any reason to know about unless they were looking over the fine print of a document at the register of deeds," Lasker said.

"We're disappointed that it isn't over with," Marshfield Mayor Nate Norberg said February 6. "It's dragged on pretty long."

Clinton running for U.S. Senate

Surrounded by her family, Hillary Rodham Clinton officially announced on February 6 that she is running for New York's open U.S. Senate seat, making her the first wife of a sitting president to seek public office.

President Clinton and daughter Chelsea, along with the first lady's mother Dorothy Rodham, joined the candidate for her announcement at the State University of New York at Purchase, not far from the Clintons' newly purchased home in the New York City suburb of Chappaqua.

Mrs. Clinton is running for the seat made vacant by Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who has endorsed her candidacy.

The day before, the White House announced that President Clinton had helped his wife write her speech, but he would not speak during the event. "This is her time to be front and center," said White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

Her planned candidacy became the worst-kept secret in national politics after Mrs. Clinton told a teachers' union conference on November 23 that she would declare her intention to run in a matter of weeks.

"Yes, I intend to run," she said to enthusiastic applause.

The first lady's colorful life and broad background as a lawyer and a political activist has come under close scrutiny by the New York press and most of the state's citizens, many of whom have expressed some amount of wariness about why a native of Chicago, who has lived most of her adult life in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Washington, would want to take up residence in the Empire State.

Mrs. Clinton's expected Republican opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is also perhaps one of the most recognizable up-and-coming figures on the national political stage.

The New York mayor has not yet announced his intention to run for the open seat, but rumors have swirled about his plans for nearly 18 months -- before anyone suggested Mrs. Clinton would be a viable Democratic candidate.

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