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MOLLY IVINS What Did B. Rapoport Want? The proverbial visitor from Mars landing in Washington last week would have had no trouble concluding that the fruitcakes have taken over the loony bin. The Senate confirmation hearings on Anthony Lake’s nomination as head of the CIA looked like the roller derby. Some crackpot con gressman from the Midwest was foaming at the mouth about “lesbian pornography” at the National Endowment for the Arts, which keeps funding clog dancing in an effort to avoid controversy. Meanwhile, another bunch of fun Republicans was laying plans to impeach federal judges who have made decisions they do not like. This year’s budget deal became unstuck over a two:year-old memo written by a guy no longer with the administration. The plan to balance the budget is largely based on a scheme to cut cost-of-living increases for pensionersa scheme that the Old Repubnounced as a “gimmick” and “smoke and Mirrors” anyway. As Senator Tom Daschle put it, the goal of the R’s “continues to be a huge tax break for people who don’t need it, paid . for with spending cuts from people who.can’t afford them.” Senator Trent Lott, who is not the sharpest pencil in the box, said that President Clinton lacks courage and leadership because he won’t winkle billions away from senior citizens. Bring back Leon Panetta. The White House was plagued by mysterious “failures to communicate”who knew what and when did they know it concerning some scheme that may or may not exist concerning efforts by the Chinese \(mainland or Taiwaneseit’s a little unfor a purpose that is also unclear. Or it may have been some other kind of Asians having to do with China, but then again, it may be just some fast-talking self-promoters, you see? The press is busy huffily demanding straight answers about all this. By way of rational response, Congress decided to Git Tuff on. Mexico. Now, here’s a little lesson for all . you Clinton-haters who have gone so far around the bend that you see conspiracy every where. The right has been making a mighty stink over the news that after Web Hubbell left Washington and before he got sent to the hoosegow on charges of fraudulent overbilling \(which appear to be the result are known “associates” of Clinton provided money and employment to Hubbell. Hush money! pronounced the conspiracy buffs. Hubbell knows something that will bring down Clinton, so Clinton arranged for his friends to pay Hubbell off. Ken Starr’s prosecution team called in these benefactors and grilled them for hours: What was the payoff? Then, I saw who was on the list of those ONE OF MY HOBBIES IS KEEPING A RUNNING COUNT ON THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN HELPED BY B. RAPOPORT; I EVEN KNOW ABOUT SOME HE HAS LONG SINCE FORGOTTEN. helping Hubbell out and started laughing. In case you’ve never run across him, Bernard Rapoport is the only Jewish, socialist insurance millionaire in Waco, Texas. He is also a force of natureloud, blunt, profane, bull-headed. He talks a mile a minute; he’s twice as smart as the average bearand, I confess, a man I love dearly. What did B. Rapoport want or expect in exchange for helping out the president’s friend Web Hubbell? Nothing. I know because one of my hobbies is keeping a running count of the people who have been helped by B. Rapoport; I even know about some he has long since forgotten. One of the many subsets of B.’s generosity is people who have been chewed up and spit out by the vagaries of political “morality” in this country, starting at least as far back as the late John Henry Faulk, who was blacklisted in 1954. And B. never asked for a thing in return. Never asked for a thing from former House Speaker Jim Wright, either, whom he supported when Wright was in power and supported when Wright came home in “disgrace.” Never asked for anything from at least a dozen Texas liberals I can think of off the top of my head who were felled in electoral combat and needed jobs. Never asked for anything from the Observer, which he generously supported for years. B. heard that Hubbell’s kids, who were bright enough to get accepted at Stanford University, would have to drop out of school. Rapoport, who until recently was chairman of the University of Texas board of regents, believes in education with a fervor that only the son of a Russian-immigrant peddler can manage. He not only picked up the tuition tabhe put Hubbell on retainer for the insurance company he built himself from nothing. And what did he want? He’s already been invited to the White House so many times that he can’t remember. He has almost as much money as God. He’s not running the insurance company anymore, so he can’t use business favors. I have a life-size vision of B. Rapoport explaining all this to Ken Starr’s office. I bet a million it sounded like this: “You people don’t understand a thing. I wound up rich because I’m smart and I worked hard. There’s a million people smarter than me who worked harder and wound up with nothing. Why shouldn’t I help them? Whattaya think I am, some like Donald Trump? Here’s a guy, this Web Hubbell guy, he gives up the bigmoney job, he goes to Washington, he tries to help straighten out the country and he winds up broke and under indictment. Am I supposed to treat him like a leper just because he screwed up? And what about his kids? What about their education? If you Republicans had ever tried to do a thing about justice in this country, about opportunity in this country, Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist for the Fort Worth StarTelegram. El 71 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 28, 1997