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web posted December 18, 2000

Linda Tripp: "I have no regrets"

Linda Tripp, whose secret tape recordings triggered the Monica Lewinsky scandal, says she would do it all over again, "only better and sooner."

"I have absolutely no regrets about what I did," Tripp told George magazine. "What's important is that a president of the United States was willing to fix a court case" to save himself.

Her comments come six months after a Maryland judge's ruling forced prosecutors to abandon their criminal case against Tripp for illegally taping Lewinsky confiding a sexual relationship with President Clinton.

Tripp said she intentionally waited until after the November 7 presidential election to give the interview, "hoping people would be less inclined to think my motivation political."

The tapes Tripp gave to Independent Counsel Ken Starr led to the perjury and obstruction of justice probe of Clinton, his impeachment in the House and a Senate trial that acquitted him.

In testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, Clinton had denied having sex with Lewinsky. An Arkansas Supreme Court committee is seeking to strip Clinton of his law license because of those sworn denials.

Hillary Clinton rules out White House run in 2004

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said December 11 she won't be making any moves to grab back the keys to the White House -- at least not for the next six years.

Hillary ClintonIn an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," she repeated her pledge to serve her full six-year term as the new senator from New York.

Clinton -- elected to the Senate with a victory over Republican Rep. Rick Lazio -- has been mentioned repeatedly as a possible Democratic presidential contender in four years. That possibility had been touted as particularly strong should Republican George W. Bush win the disputed presidential election over Vice President Al Gore.

During the interview, however, Clinton definitively ruled out a run for the White House in 2004.

"Let's say Gore loses. That means the Democratic Party has no incumbent. Are you interested in that office in '04?" King asked Clinton in an interview taped at the White House.

"No, I'm not," she replied.

"Not at all?"

"No. I am intent upon being the best senator that I can be. That is what I want to do," Clinton said.

Clinton said she had promised New York voters she would serve out the full six-year term and that she intended to keep that vow. That was "as definitive as I can get."

Asked by King what she thought about the stalemate in the presidential election in Florida, Clinton endorsed Gore's view that all of the votes have not yet been counted.

"I think that from everything I've seen and heard, more people probably did intend to vote for Vice President Gore," she said. "And I would hope that there will still be an opportunity to have the votes counted, because I think that's best for whoever is inaugurated as president."

Citing a decades-old trend of declining voter turnout, Clinton said a resolution was needed that would restore confidence in the process.

"It's critical that people have confidence in our electoral process," she said. "I just don't think that we can afford to tell people that their vote won't be counted literally and absolutely."

Clinton also repeated her belief that the Electoral College should be eliminated and that the presidential election be based strictly on the popular vote -- which Gore leads over Bush.

But she said she did not expect such a change, because it would involve a constitutional amendment.

"That's why I favor doing everything we can to make our electoral system as fair and accurate as possible," she said.

Clinton, the only first lady ever to achieve elected office, revealed that she will not receive any special treatment as a rookie senator. She will not jump to the head of the line for working space, and she faces a long wait before she moves into a prime office location in the Senate.

The waiting list is based on seniority, she said, and "I'm down towards the bottom of the line."

Traiters again! Boston, Smith & Wesson settle gun violence suit

Smith & Wesson, the nation's largest gun maker, agreed December 11 to set aside 2 percent of nationwide firearms sales to develop safer guns and to make it impossible for the average 5-year-old to pull the trigger of one of its weapons.

The agreement with the city of Boston mirrors one the company reached in March with the Clinton administration and some other states and cities. It promises external gun locks on new production and internal locks within two years.

Some 190 municipalities have sued gun companies in recent years seeking damages for gun violence. Smith & Wesson was dropped from many of those suits after the March agreement.

"The agreement with the Feds basically got parties speaking about these issues, and it led to us talking to the city of Boston about doing this in a specific lawsuit," said Smith & Wesson attorney Jeff Nelson.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino called on other gun makers to follow Smith & Wesson's lead.

"We hope that all these companies will show the same spirit, the same commitment that Smith & Wesson has, that they will follow suit," Menino said.

Boston filed its lawsuit in June 1999, seeking $100 million in damages from 31 companies for gun violence.

Nelson said Smith & Wesson still faces about 30 lawsuits and hopes the agreement with Boston will encourage settlements in those cases.

The Springfield, Mass.-based company also set out training rules dealers and distributors must follow in order to sell Smith & Wesson products.

"This document is not about conditions that make it impossible to do business in the firearms industry, or to keep a legitimate purchaser from buying a handgun," the company said in a news release. "It is about insuring that those that obtain Smith & Wesson firearms do so in compliance with the law."

Most gun makers have been disinclined to settle lawsuits and some have criticized the Smith & Wesson policy, as has the National Rifle Association.

NRA spokesman Andrew Auarulanandam said the organization had no comment on the Boston agreement.

Canada's Stockwell Day accuses Liberals of hidden agenda on guaranteed income program

Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day says the Liberals are harbouring a hidden agenda on social spending, citing news reports that suggest the prime minister wants to create a guaranteed income program.

The reports quoted high-level Liberal sources saying Jean Chretien had asked a committee to study the possibility of merging various income support tools into one larger program. But senior officials said December 11 that Chretien had given no marching orders regarding such a plan. They say bureaucrats are simply reviewing current programs to assess their effectiveness.

The idea of a guaranteed income is "way too far down the road" to consider at this point, said one source on condition of anonymity.

"It would take a tremendous amount of effort and I really don't buy it."

Day criticized Chretien for even considering such a plan without having mentioned it during last month's federal election.

The Alliance leader was dogged by the Liberals during the election campaign for keeping a so-called hidden agenda on issues such as abortion and health care.

The concept of an all-encompassing program that would ensure the most disadvantaged had a base income was toyed with during the 1970s under Pierre Trudeau, and then again under Chretien in 1994.

After the last review, it was deemed that a guaranteed income program would be too costly to implement.

At the time, the Reform party - the Alliance's predecessor - had included the idea in their own platform.

"I'm more interested in the legacy of this nation, and the legacy of our citizens, rather than someone trying to make a name for themselves," Day said before convening a meeting of new MPs.

"If that is really the purpose, let's find a mountain to name after Jean Chretien, but let's not approach this item in this particular way with a hidden agenda."

Alliance Finance critic Jason Kenney reacted harshly to the potential for such a plan, saying it would put promised tax cuts in jeopardy.

"This would be the largest single fiscal action this government will have undertaken during its tenure, and to not mention it in a campaign is an act of unbelievable dishonesty and that's where the real hidden agenda is," Kenney told reporters.

Randy McCauley, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, said the tax cuts the Liberals committed to before the election have already been put into effect.

A ways and means motion passed before the Commons was dissolved for the Nov. 27 election enabled some of the measures to come into effect without going through the full parliamentary process.

Billionaire battles authorities on access to beach...private property exists for environmentalists now?

As the state of California moves to secure public access to the beach at hundreds of locations along the its shore, it finds its toughest challenge coming from a surprising quarter--the billionaire environmental philanthropist who recently bought Santa Barbara's daily newspaper.

In twin lawsuits making their way through the California courts, Wendy P. McCaw charges that the California Coastal Commission and Santa Barbara County have illegally combined to create a 500-foot-long public easement on the beach in front of her 25-acre estate.

McCaw's appellate court challenges could keep the public off her own beach and also throw into doubt beach access at hundreds of locations from Oregon to Mexico.

"This is symptomatic of what is happening all along the coast," said Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission. "There are increased conflicts between visitors and residents. People who can afford to live along the coast often have extensive means, and they can make it difficult for public agencies to defend public access rights."

Lawyers for the McCaw trust that owns the estate in exclusive Hope Ranch say they are not against the public's use of beaches. Rather, they say even an environmentalist--as McCaw has styled herself--must object when an overbearing government infringes on private property rights.

"There is a fundamental difference between citizens voluntarily working to improve the environment and increasing the public's ability to enjoy the environment," said attorney Mark Haddad, "and having the government come and take your property from you on grounds the Supreme Court has [previously] called out-and-out extortion."

The reclusive McCaw was not available for comment. Haddad said that the dispute is one of principle and that the Stanford Farms Trust--which holds title to the property for McCaw--does not object to visitors walking on the beach.

But Douglas called it "disingenuous and hypocritical" to suggest that the coastal property owners fight beach access for merely theoretical reasons. "What it basically means," Douglas said, "is 'We don't want the great unwashed masses on the beach, in our backyard.' "

The controversy stems from a decades-old policy by the California Coastal Commission of trying to open the coastline to visitors. As it approves development projects, the agency often requires property owners to agree to grant easements for public use--sometimes a pathway from the street to the strand and sometimes a stretch of beachfront, allowing the public to walk above the mean high-tide line and onto private property.

McCaw, the ex-wife of cellular telephone magnate Craig McCaw, bought the Santa Barbara estate in 1995 for $9.1 million. Her Stanford Farms Trust outbid Disney chief Michael Eisner for the property, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Fifteen years earlier, the home's previous owner went to the Coastal Commission for permission to add a sun room and deck. To get the agency's approval, the owner agreed to offer a 500-foot-long easement along the beach, which lies 60 feet below the bluff-top estate.

Similar easements have been offered over the years on nearly 1,300 coastal properties. But the Coastal Commission has suffered something of a public access crisis. The vast majority of the easements have gone unclaimed by local governments, meaning no one has stepped up to open the properties, to maintain them and to post signs for the public.

The easement in front of the McCaw property was one of those that remained unsecured.
That changed in 1998. It was then that Santa Barbara County moved to claim more than 70 coastal properties--fearing that, if it did not, 20-year deadlines on the easements would expire and the public's rights would be lost.

A few property owners, including McCaw, sued to block the action.

The challenge relies on a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Nollan vs. California Coastal Commission, the high court said the state agency cannot infringe on private property rights, unless it can show that a construction project somehow limits public access to the beach.

McCaw's lawyers said it is absurd to believe that the addition of a deck and sun room at a house several hundred feet from the sand hampered visitors. "There is just no way the Coastal Commission could show there was any impact on the public's ability to get to the beach from this small home addition," Haddad said.

But Santa Barbara County and Coastal Commission attorneys argued that the courts had no right to intervene in the question now, so many years after the previous owner had agreed to the easement.

"I find it particularly troublesome because this offer to the public has been there for years," said Deputy Atty. Gen. Joe Barbieri. "Any buyer [of the property] would have knowledge of that requirement."

A Santa Barbara Superior Court judge last month agreed, throwing out the McCaw lawsuit as having been brought well after the 60-day period for litigation allowed under the state Coastal Act.

The stakes in the dispute were raised when McCaw's trust in late 1998 filed legal documents to revoke the public access offer. The Coastal Commission, in turn, issued a cease-and-desist order, which could lead to fines of up to $6,000 a day.

The McCaw trust's loss in court last month in Santa Barbara was just its latest setback. Last January, a San Francisco Superior Court judge also rejected its suit against the Coastal Commission as being too late. That court later rejected the contention that the commission had abridged McCaw's free speech rights with its cease-and-desist order. The latter issue is now pending in a state appellate court.

Those rulings fit a pattern in which California courts have been unsympathetic to constitutional challenges and repeatedly upheld beach access agreements.

The McCaw trust attorneys acknowledge that the California courts have not been kind to their position. But they note that the U.S. Supreme Court later this year will hear arguments in a Rhode Island case that could open the way for lawsuits against improper private property "takings," even belated ones.

Joseph L. Cole, trustee of the Stanford Farms Trust and publisher of McCaw's Santa Barbara News-Press, said in a written statement that the lawsuits will proceed until the Coastal Commission and Santa Barbara County "stop thumbing their nose at the U.S. Supreme Court. . . ."

As to Douglas' criticism that the action targets the masses who merely want to enjoy the beach, Cole responded: "One wonders how Mr. Douglas would feel if, in exchange for permitting him to build a bird feeder in his backyard, the public was given the use of his entire front lawn at will."

Conrad Black named winner of the Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal

The National Citizens' Coalition announced on December 13 that newspaper publisher andbusinessman Conrad Black has been chosen winner of the Colin. M. Brown Freedom Medal for 2000.

The NCC presents the award annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement or defence of Canada's political or economic freedoms.

NCC Chairman, Colin T. Brown, says Conrad Black was an obvious choice to receive the honour.

"Through his newspapers, and particularly through his founding of the National Post, Conrad Black has opened up the print media to conservative voices," says Brown. "For the first time, Canadian conservatives have a truly national platform to express their views and opinions."

Brown also notes that Conrad Black has the courage of his convictions and unlike many others in the business community, he is willing to buck the trend and to challenge the political correctness of the establishment.

"Conrad Black is fearless when it comes to defending his values," says Brown. "He is a blunt, outspoken champion of freedom and free enterprise. He won't back down from anyone or from any fight."

Last year's Freedom Medal winner, Peter Worthington, echoed Brown's sentiments.

"While possibly controversial, there seems little doubt that Conrad Black is committed to the ideal of freedom -- economic, political and personal. He has created jobs, saved newspapers and encourages debate and differences of opinion in his papers," says Worthington.

A formal public presentation of the award will be made next year at a date yet to be determined.

The Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal commemorates the late founder of the NCC, who first started his crusade for "more freedom through less government" in 1967. Mr. Brown died on March 4th 1987.

Previous recipients of the award have been: Peter Worthington, Ted Byfield, David Somerville, Mike Harris, Diane Francis, Ralph Klein, Merv Lavigne, Michael Walker, Thomas Bata, Lubor Zink, Stan Waters, John Crosbie and Barbara Amiel.

Millions of Canadian firearms owners 'refusing to participate' in new law

As many as half of Canada's gun owners could be in violation of federal law on Jan. 1, the deadline for obtaining firearms licences.

So far, 1.7 million people have enrolled with the federal government's gun registry, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported from Edmonton.

The exact number of Canadians possessing firearms is unknown, but estimates range from fewer than 3.3 million to as many as nine million.

In any case, it appears that far more people own guns than are participating in the registry under the controversial legislation, still often referred to by its legislative name, Bill C-68.

''They've got a heck of a mess on their hands,'' Jim Hunter, president of the National Firearms Association, told the newspaper. ''I think it proves that there's literally millions of Canadians who are just refusing to participate in what they see as a bogus law.''

As of Jan. 1, gun owners without licences cannot buy ammunition. Penalties for someone found possessing a firearm without the proper paperwork range from temporary seizure of the weapon to five years in prison.

The application of the law promises to be uneven. Police forces across the country are responsible for enforcing it, but are deeply divided in their support.

Provincial Crown attorneys are charged with prosecuting alleged offenders, but Alberta and some other provinces want federal Crowns to handle prosecution.

A group of provincial and territorial governments, led by Alberta and supported by gun organizations, challenged the law all the way to the Supreme Court, but failed in June when that court ruled the legislation constitutional.

The licensing and registration program has cost $327 million since the law's passage in 1995, to April 1, 2000.

The law requires that all owners of long guns (rifles and shotguns that had been previously exempt) obtain possession licences by Dec. 31, 2000, or after their existing firearms acquisition certificates expire.

Then, by Dec. 31, 2002, people must register each of their guns, a provision that is even more controversial than licensing.

Montgomery lets village ban public smoking

The Montgomery County Council on December 12 approved the nation's strictest tobacco ban, prohibiting smoking on all public property, including sidewalks and streets, in the village of Friendship Heights.

Under the measure, anyone caught smoking or discarding any tobacco product on village property will receive one warning before being fined $100. The law takes effect immediately, but fines won't be levied until a public education campaign is completed.

The council's 5 to 4 vote in favor of the ban raised the battle against tobacco to new heights, and a spokesman for the tobacco industry said the village should be prepared for a swift legal challenge.

"See you in court," Bruce C. Bereano, a lobbyist for the Maryland tobacco industry, said to village Mayor Alfred Muller after the council's decision. "Believe me, you're far from victory."

The law doesn't prohibit smoking in vehicles, on private lawns or on residential balconies and patios. Nor does it apply to Wisconsin or Willard avenues, which the county and state maintain. But lighting up will be illegal just about everywhere else in the 34-acre village.

"It's a public health issue," said Muller, a physician who has served as mayor for 25 years. "We don't have the right to outlaw tobacco, but we're doing what we can within our rights."

Friendship Heights is a community of 5,000, with many residents who live in high-rises and who frequent the high-end shopping district along Wisconsin Avenue just north of the District line. Because it is a special taxing district and not a municipality, all its ordinances must be approved by the County Council.

Muller and the other members of the Friendship Heights Village Council drafted the measure four years ago, but they didn't forward it to the county until July. Muller said recent county approval of smoking bans in offices and restaurants (now under court challenge), as well as a new law requiring most stores to put tobacco behind the counter, led him to believe that the council would be receptive to the outdoor smoking ban.

The four council members who voted against the measure said they believe the law crosses the line on what local government should regulate.

"I don't think we're justified in prohibiting someone from smoking so broadly at all times of the day," said council member Philip Andrews (D-Rockville). "When laws go too far, they lose the respect of the public."

The village's 220-member civic association recently voiced opposition to the outdoor smoking ban, arguing that there is little evidence suggesting that small amounts of smoke in open areas are a health risk.

"This is ridiculous, just ridiculous," said Cleonice Tavani, president of the civic association and a longtime Muller opponent. "We don't like the impression it makes. We are not a community of extremists. We are not radicals."

Like it or not, the village is on the forefront of the anti-smoking movement. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, an advocacy group based in California, maintains a database of about 1,000 local smoking ordinances throughout the country. Although several cities ban smoking in outdoor areas where people regularly congregate, none go as far as Friendship Heights.

"I haven't seen any community that has cleared the air of smoke to this extent," said Tim Filler, the organization's program manager. "It will be interesting to see how it works, and I think public education will be the key."

Educating the public about what will prompt a fine will be one of Muller's first challenges. For example, chewing tobacco wouldn't warrant a fine, but if the tobacco was spit on the sidewalk, it would be a violation because the law says it is illegal to discard tobacco products on public grounds.

The county added one amendment to the bill Muller presented, effectively clearing itself of the burden of enforcing the law or defending it in court. Village security personnel--not county police officers--will be responsible for issuing fines, and the village will pay for legal counsel if the measure is challenged.

Bereano said that Muller should expect someone to light a cigarette in Friendship Heights soon. If that person is fined, Bereano said, a lawsuit will be filed in circuit court challenging the law.

Premiere Radio Networks picks up web columnist Drudge

One month after ABC Radio said it would drop the weekly talk show hosted by Internet columnist Matt Drudge when his contract expires, radio talk show syndicator Premiere Radio Networks on December 13 gave him a new home.

Premiere, the syndicator of talk radio shows hosted by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (news - web sites), Michael Reagan and Rush Limbaugh, said it will syndicate "The Drudge Report," a two-hour political news and opinion show hosted by Drudge, beginning February 4.

The show will air Sunday nights on more than 150 radio stations nationwide, Premiere said in a statement. Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Premiere is a subsidiary of radio station giant Clear Channel.

"Drudge is a great source of information, entertainment, listener satisfaction, and high ratings on radio," Premiere President Kraig Kitchin said in a statement.

Drudge, whose brief stint as a cable television host ended a year ago in a dispute with the Fox News Channel, had been hosting an ABC-distributed radio program airing Sunday nights in 135 stations around the country, including eight owned by ABC.

Drudge had called ABC's move to drop his show at the end of his contract on Dec. 31 "punishment" for his occasional criticism of the network and its parent, Walt Disney Co. But ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover said on Wednesday that it was strictly a business decision.

"We raised the idea about moving him to a weeknight or weeknights but he was never enthusiastic and ultimately we weren't either" because talk shows don't do well weeknights, she said.

Now that Drudge has found another syndicator, ABC stations are free to carry his show based on the preference of each station manager, Hoover said. "Our station managers are free to program in the most effective way that they can and if they want to keep Matt Drudge on the schedule they are free to do that," she said.

Drudge gained notoriety by running accounts of President Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky before they surfaced in the mainstream press.

Bush lays claim to power, promises 'spirit of cooperation'

On December 13, finally triumphant in an extraordinary post-election brawl, Republican George W. Bush laid claim to the White House, declaring, "I will give it my all."

Thirty-six days after the polls closed, Bush definitively seized the mantle of power in a speech to the nation from the Texas House of Representatives chamber. He said he accepted Vice President Al Gore's concession and wished his Democratic opponent well. Reaching out to congressional Democrats, Bush vowed to bring a "spirit of cooperation" to the nation's capital.

George W. Bush"Our nation must rise above a house divided. Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements," Bush said.

"Now it is time to find common ground and build consensus to make America a beacon of opportunity in the 21st century," he added.

"Our country has been through a long and trying period, with the outcome of the presidential election not finalized for longer than any of us could ever imagine," Bush said. "Vice President Gore and I put our hearts and hopes into our campaigns. We both gave it our all. We shared similar emotions."

Gore addressed the nation earlier that night from his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

"Just moments ago, I called George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States," Gore said in his speech.

According to an aide to Bush, the call lasted less than two minutes. Gore's comments were described as "gracious." Bush closed his telephone conversation with the vice president by telling Gore, "I look forward to working with you to heal the nation."

"For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession," Gore said in his speech, adding that he accepted the finality of the outcome of the election.

Gore's announcement formally ended his five-week legal battle, which bounced back and forth between Florida courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. During his concession speech, Gore said that while he strongly disagreed with the final decision from the nation's highest court, he accepted it.

Gore and Bush are to meet in Washington on December 19. In his speech, Gore called on all Americans -- particularly those who supported him -- to "unite behind our next president."

Before Bush spoke, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said of Gore's address, "I've never seen him better" and that he expected an equally good speech from Bush. "But then we've got to sit down and we've got to settle on an agenda that we can agree on, and campaign finance reform has got to be the first one, and it should be a bipartisan effort."

Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, praised Gore's concession speech and vowed to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress.

"Passions ran high during the election, and views on both sides of the aisle may have hardened during this legal process," the two men said in a written statement. "But it's time for our nation to come together and heal. One of the greatest testaments to our democracy is that, following a national election, all Americans join together. We are prepared to do that starting today."

Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia, wrote Bush to offer congratulations. "I would like to offer my sincere congratulations and pledge my support to work across party lines with you to bring this country together and move it forward," Miller wrote. "You will be my president, and I wish you the very best."

House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, R-Oklahoma, urged both political parties to "bury the partisan rhetoric."

We must now heal America's political wounds and carry on the business of establishing a new administration with President-elect Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney," said Watts.

Bush, 54, will be the first president since 1888 to gain an Electoral College majority -- at 271 votes, one more than needed to win the office -- while losing the popular vote nationwide.

But while Americans were deeply divided at the voting booths, a poll finds them united behind Bush.

According to a CNN/ USA Today/Gallup Poll, 80 percent said they accept Bush as a legitimate president now that the Supreme Court decision has ended the legal wrangling over manual recounts of undervotes.

The poll of 633 adults was taken before either Bush or Gore had spoken. And 59 percent of respondents agreed with the vice president that he should concede.

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