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The Nunn Factor Here’s a Candidate for the Scoop Jackson Crowd BY JAMES RIDGEWAY Washington, D.C. CONSER.VATIVE DEMOCRATS, veterans of many a failed attempt to elect their favorites as President, are mobilizing behind Sam Nunn for Vice President. The Democratic right wing, having been rejected at the polls this year, is busily at work in the back rooms. In the view of official Washington, Nunn would afford the party a chance of winning back the South, and more importantly would return the Democratic Party to what the pros against most evidence insist is its true nature and the source of its appeal, namely the Cold War ideology whose Democratic patron saint has been the late Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. At first blush, Nunn might indeed appear to be an attractive, eclectic blend of New South politics, a wily Senator in the Sam Erwin mode. When Reagan sought to reinterpret the ABM treaty in order to accommodate Star Wars, Nunn’s adroit maneuvering in the Senate saved the treaty and put a brake on SDI. However, once Nunn had outperformed the administration he stunned his admirers by proposing his own, more limited form of Star Wars. This year, Nunn has stood firmly behind the INF treaty, working hard to clarify its language in order to forestall future reinterpretations of the treaty that would accommodate Star Wars-type projects. Nunn’s powers of persuasion are known to be great, given that he convinced both Hubert Humphrey and Frank Church to support the neutron bomb. He’s among Congress’s conventional-warfare enthusiasts, is for development of chemical weapons, and has raised anew the prospect of a draft. He’s politically shrewd, or at least slippery, having voted both for and against the B1 bomber: for it at the behest of important constituents and against it in deference to then President and fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, it’s hard to believe Nunn didn’t know what was going on in Nicaragua; on the Iran-Contra committee, he at least gave the appearance of being an eager and surprised student. On litmus-test domestic issues, he voted against Bork, Renhquist, and Manion, and even opposed Ed Meese’s confirmation as Attorney General. Former Virginia Governor Chuck Robb, James Ridgeway’s column, “The Moving Target,” which appears first in the Village Voice, is a regular feature of the Observer. GAIL WOODS Sam Nunn who heads the Democratic Leadership Council and concocted the idea of Super Tuesday, wanted Nunn to run for President. Such disparate figures as Barry Goldwater and I. F. Stone say they’d vote for him to be President. Al Hunt, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, is wild about Nunn and thinks American governmental practice ought to accommodate him as Vice President and Secretary of State simultaneously. For the black political establishment of Atlanta, who watched Jesse Jackson’s march across the South toward Super Tuesday with illconcealed trepidation, Nunn is a native son they know and can support. “We in the South certainly want to see Senator Nunn run,” Congressman John Lewis, a black former civil rights leader, told the Washington Times last year. “Because of his expertise, particularly on defense issues, he would make a great leader.” As it turned out, of course, Nunn didn’t run, instead supporting Al Gore. The fiasco with Mayor Koch in New York left the Georgian unmoved. “I still support Al Gore,” he said recently. “Mayor Koch’s support was sought by Senator Gore, and I know it was appreciated.” Unfortunately the positions that endear Nunn to pols and pundits may alienate the Senator from the party’s wider base, and in particular from black voters. Consider U.S. policy toward southern Africa. In 1985, Nunn, siding with the covert warriors in the Reagan Administration, supported the successful repeal of the Clark amendment, which had banned aid to Jonas Savimbi’s guerrilla army UNITA, which with South African support is fighting the government of Angola. As blacks in South Africa rose in a broad-based movement against apartheid, Nunn vied with Reagan to see who could be more reluctant in supporting the movement. During the sanctions debate in August 1986, Nunn voted against the Cranston amendment, which would have banned all trade with South Africa, mandated disinvestment, and terminated landing rights for South African airlines. This measure had passed the House but was successfully beaten 65 to 33 in the Republican-controlled Senate. Having opposed sanctions, Nunn went out of his way to back Jesse Helms in a veiled effort on behalf of the apartheid government he promoted a Helms amendment to support South African negotiations with groups other than the ANC and PAC, the two main opposition groups. These positions put Nunn in close alignment with the Reagan Administration on southern Africa, not to mention directly at odds with Jesse Jackson’s campaign. Nunn has a poor civil rights record predictable behavior, perhaps, from a man who backed Wallace for President in 1972. An analysis by Congressional Quarterly reveals that in 1973 Nunn was one of 13 Senators who opposed renewing the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act put an end to obvious voter discrimination and gave the federal government authority to monitor election practices in states with a history of racial bias. Nunn said the legislation would punish the South and discourage efforts by state officials to get blacks to register. He claimed the legislation contained a “built-in inequity to seven states in this country.” In the end Nunn voted for the voting rights bill, but he supported most of the weakening amendments, and he voted against ending a filibuster against the bill. In housing policy, Nunn cast a December 1980 swing vote to continue a successful filibuster against legislation that would have given the Department of Housing and Urban Development new authority fines and injunctions to stop housing discrimination. In 1982 Nunn again joined Jesse Helms, this time on a bill to prohibit federal courts from hearing cases involving public-school prayer or challenges to proposed antiabortion laws seeking thereby to leave authority in the more conservative state and local courts. On two different occasions he has voted against the Equal Rights Amend 4 JUNE 17, 1988