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American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Whatever President Clinton’s sins and indiscretions, a growing majority of Americans appear to feel that he, and they, have been punished enough. Among other things, the recent four-hour televis9d grilling of Clinton ,y. by a hostile battery of grand jury prosecutors seem t have backfired. The broadcast would have been unprecedg …t,. ing for any chief executive. Immediately after witnessing uses, the al ready substantial majority against impeachmel pKefx points in at least one poll. A solid two-thirds now Regardless of what they may thing st say they’re tired of the prolonged investigation and don’t w r any more about the tawdry sex affair. Most believe that th president did wrong but don’t believe he should be impeached. They feel there are more important subjects for Congress to consider and want their law-. makers to get on with the nation’s business. That’s what people are telling pollsters. The overpowering tragedy of the shabby scandal that has dominated Washington this entire year transcends the personal grief that its persistent focus has visited upon the principals and their families. Far worse is the injury that our preoccupation with the sordid subject inflicts on the nation. It has affronted the public taste, cheapened the national dialogue, drowned out other important information, and polarized Congress into hostile, bitter, partisan camps. Real harm has resulted from the yearlong absence of any serious congressional attention to a host of genuine national problems. The noisome babble obscures a mounting backlog of unattended public business. Obsessed with their incessant game of political “gotchar, congressional leaders have managed to shirk doing anything about important national needs that affect people’s lives. Here are a few of those real problems ignored by newscasters, commentators, and lawmakers while they’ve chattered, trance-like, about Monicagate. Alarming stock market plunges and sharp currency devaluations in Japan, Russia, and much of the developing world. These are impoverishing millions and drying up America’s foreign markets, If long unattended, they could bring on a worldwide economic depression from which America could not immunize itself. Remember the 1930s, when economic panics gave impetus to the rise of military dictatorships, including those of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Josef Stalin? The looming crisis in the Social Security trust fund, about which we’ve all been duly warned. This crisis is preventable if we act soon enough. The best possible time would be in this moment of budget surplus. But all year long this subject has been ignored by Congress. The negotiated tobacco settlement, now moribund. It offered a fleeting chance, and some needed revenues, to begin protecting the nation’s youth from tobacco’s addictive menace. Congressional leaders, mindful of tobacco company contributions and apparently mesmerized by the tobacco industry’s ad campaign, have quietly closed the window of opportuni premeditated inaction while a distracted public was looking thq,0 The proposed Patients’ Bill of Rights. Intended ti right to choose a doctor and the physician’ company pressures, to prescribe nee posal, too, has fallen by the wayside :Ti of Americans, was so watered down by the little resemblance to its original purpose. The slow strangulation of America’ long of democracy, by ever-bigger co intent on controlling elections for their ow powerless to pass reforms. Twice this ye has voted to close the gaping “soft mone corporations and others with axes to gri nd=,’ , litical campaigns. Each time, however, the m leadership maneuvers. House Speaker Newt ity Leader Trent Lott have put the reforms in de travagant binge of campaign excesses. Substantial majorities of the American people want prom to each of these priorities. But GOP congressional leaders have that they are safe in ignoring these needs because press and pit fixated on the sensational pornography of impeachment hear nation’s top newscasters, competitively thirsting for ratings, h. public attention distracted from our country’s serious business constant, repetitious stream of chatter about Monicagate. And the public is saying, “Enough!” No other American president neither Richard Nixon nor Andrew; Johnson was ever hounded as long, harassed as persistently, or at -‘ tacked as viciously as Clinton has been. From the moment he became president, determined critics have been out to discredit and remove him from office by any means available. Clinton’s enemies accused him of financial improprieties over the Whitewater investment; of unnamed sins for replacing White House travel agents; of selling out U.S. interests to China for campaign contributions; and even of personal culpability in the suicide of his lifelong friend, Vince Foster. A Unable to prove any of that, Kenneth Starr now claims that Clinton ob-1 strutted justice by helping Monica Lewinsky get a job, Yet Starr mysteriously left Lewinsky’s sworn testimony on this out of his report. “No one ever asked me to lie, and I was never promised a job for my silence,” she testified to the grand jury. Maybe the people are right. Clinton has been punished, and we should get the focus back on this nation’s unfinished business. Jim Wright, Fort Worth Democrat, is former speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives. This article first appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on September 28, THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 6, 1998