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The Notebook

The Peace Process: Why Can't We Just Be Friends?

(TIME, February 2) -- In Bill Clinton's initial 90-minute Oval Office meeting last Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the President chided his visitor for meeting with the Rev. Jerry Falwell and evangelical Christian groups at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington the day before coming to the White House. "Look, Bibi," said Clinton firmly. "You meet with Falwell [because] you think I am snubbing you. I could make the argument that you are gigging me." The television evangelist, who is anathema to Clinton, has distributed political videotapes that conspiratorially--and unconvincingly--hint, among other things, at the former Governor's complicity in an Arkansas killing. Moreover, Netanyahu asked Falwell and his conservative supporters to use their influence in Congress to lobby against Administration pressure on Israel to hand over West Bank land to the Palestinians. But the President was in a magnanimous mood, telling Netanyahu, "Let's forget about it. We've got a lot of work to do." Netanyahu agreed readily. The President's initiative in defusing the issue improved the atmosphere of the talks. Says a White House adviser: "Given the distractions around here, the extent to which [the President] bent his shoulder to the wheel was stunning."

--By Dean Fischer/Washington


Iraq: Squeezing Military Secrets Out of Saddam

Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow U.N. inspection of sensitive sites suspected of harboring secrets about his chemical- and biological-warfare capability has sharply raised the stakes in the confrontation with the U.S. "Sooner or later, something is going to give," President Clinton said publicly last week during one of the few escapes he got from Zippergate. Privately, White House aides are suggesting that U.S. military force may soon be unavoidable. "We're not going to stand by if we feel that our interests are profoundly threatened," says one. Administration officials believe Saddam's political and military authority would be disrupted by sustained bombing--even though they acknowledge air power alone is unlikely to eliminate his capability to resume production of chemical and biological weapons. But if the U.N. monitors are unable to perform their mission, little is lost by resort to force, they argue. In the end, even the gulf states, though ambivalent about U.S. military action, are more concerned about their security than about the reaction on the Arab street. Their attitude has helped convince Washington policymakers that failure to respond to Saddam's seemingly endless provocations would have profound security implications for the oil-rich region.

--By Dean Fischer/Washington


Footnote

The last unknown soldier? 1st Lieut. Michael Blassie's 138th combat mission ended in flames near An Loc, South Vietnam, in May 1972, when the enemy blasted the wing off his plane. What is unknown is whether Blassie, then a 24-year-old Air Force Academy graduate, now rests beneath a sacred marble slab in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. That possibility got a boost last week as veterans detailed their hunch that, through snafus and an eagerness to anoint a Vietnam-era vet as an unknown, the Pentagon ignored evidence that could have determined if the six bones buried at Arlington are Blassie's. The two World Wars and Korea generated thousands of unknown candidates for the tomb. But by Vietnam, improved forensic science had precluded nearly all anonymous KIAs. Pentagon officials note that in 1984, when the Vietnam unknown was selected, the DNA "fingerprinting" used today didn't exist. But because of the Pentagon's desire to satisfy the Blassie family, there is a good chance the remains will be exhumed to see if they are his. If so, his family wants to rebury him back home near St. Louis, or perhaps elsewhere in Arlington. Pentagon officials believe such a move would signal the end of a military tradition.

--By Mark Thompson


Wag The Clinton

Much has been made of the similarities between the movie Wag the Dog (one of the stars: Robert De Niro) and the brouhaha in Washington (one of the stars: Vernon Jordan). But a comparison reveals that Tinseltown fantasy is far tamer than inside-the-Beltway reality.

MOVIE: Offscreen, President fondles "firefly girl" in back room of White House.

REAL LIFE: On tape, intern allegedly recounts tales of oral sex with President in back room of White House.

MOVIE: Events in Albania distract nation from scandal.

REAL LIFE: Scandal distracts nation from events in Cuba, Ireland and Iraq.

MOVIE: Mr. Political Fix-It (De Niro) is brought in to manage scandal.

REAL LIFE: Mr. Political Fix-It (Jordan) is accused of being part of scandal.

MOVIE: President makes it through crisis to happy ending.

REAL LIFE: Well, this ain't Hollywood.


Giving A name To The Whole Awful Mess

A scandal is nothing 'til somebody names it, and scandals make good TV. Upon news of the latest presidential indiscretion, the best minds in television spent fevered hours devising the slickest titles, graphics and theme music since Nightline's America Held Hostage. To honor that distinguished crisis franchise, we've awarded one to five Khomeinis to each network:

ABC News
Rating: [Three Khomeinis]
Crisis in the White House is a little vague--there could be a war, a terrorist, or somebody may have forgotten to take Buddy for a walk. But the tight White House shot effectively evokes tension; ABC News' theme music--do do dodo--feels a little tired. Paging Danny Elfman!

CNN
Rating: [One Khomeini]
You'd think the network that brought you the Gulf War could do better. Investigating is too mild a verb; it suggests a medical checkup. The gray border is monochromatic and nondescript, like something stamped on an official document or government-approved meat.

Fox News
Rating: [Two Khomeinis]
Would you expect anything less from Fox and Rupert Murdoch? No mention of Clinton, no mention of Whitewater, just sex and scandal, baby. This could be a promo for Dawson's Creek, if that show weren't on the WB.

NBC News
Rating>: [Two and a half Khomeinis] Classy graphic includes presidential seal and nice shot of anguished Chief Exec. But hold on, doesn't this scandal allegedly involve oral sex? Nice music, but title loses points for lack of originality. (See CNN.)

CBS News
Rating: [Five Khomeinis]
One word: gravitas. O.K., two more: phallic symbol. Combines a sweeping cityscape (Washington is in trouble!) with some tabloidy heat (under fire!). No wonder this network is on the rise, but what would Roma Downey think?


Verbatim

"Dad never demonstrated any fear, although my sisters and I lived in terror he'd be killed by an assassin."
SUSIE BLACKMUN, daughter of retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, on the impact of the Roe v. Wade decision

"It's clear that cracking the genetic code would be of significantly less benefit if we allow our moral code to become cracked as well."
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE, proposing a federal ban on genetic discrimination in the workplace

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: February 2, 1998

Sparking The Scandal
Lucianne Goldberg: In Pursuit Of Clinton
Hot Off The Wiretap
Is The Prosecutor Running A Starr Chamber?
The Burden Of Proof
It's the Sex, Stupid
Truth or...Consequences
Oh, Behave!
In Defense of Matt Drudge
When Sex Is Not Really Having Sex
Enablers And Enforcers: The Two White House Cultures
The Reckless and the Stupid
The Notebook
The Master Fixer in a Fix
Ken Starr, Gumshoe
The Days Of Her Life
Politics Made Me Do It





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