Clemencies for votes? Crudely put, that's what a New York City cop has accused President Clinton of doing: offering clemency to some jailed Puerto Rican rebels in exchange for Hispanic votes for his wife's Senate bid.
Richard Pastorella, an officer who was blinded in a 1982 Puerto Rican terrorist bomb explosion in New York City, made the allegation Monday. He accused Clinton of "really, truly pandering to the Hispanic community."
He made the allegation with the city's police commissioner, Howard Safir, at his side. Safir, for his part, said the city's mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, supported the police position. Giuliani, fund-raising in Rochester, weighed in later, calling Clinton's clemency offer a "mistake." Giuliani is the likely Republican Senate opponent of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The White House denies any relation between her Senate bid and the offer of clemency, which was made Aug. 12.
The 16 convicted rebels were part of the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN, in Spanish), which exploded numerous bombs in the 1970s and early 1980s for the cause of Puerto Rican independence. Those offered clemency were not involved in attacks that resulted in fatalities or injuries. Rather, they had been sentenced for seditious conspiracy and weapons possession. Human rights activists and religious figures have lobbied for years for their release, saying the sentences of 15 to 90 years were too harsh. Victims of FALN bombings have lobbied against release.
The clemency offer from Clinton, the subject of long negotiations, is conditional: they must sign statements renouncing violence and pledging to abide by all conditions of parole. That has left some Latinos with "a degree of disappointment" that the 16 are not being pardoned, said Juan Figueroa, president of the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy.
But the 16 have not accepted the terms of clemency so far. They reviewed Clinton's offer with their lawyers Monday, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said yesterday, and White House officials "expect to hear from them quite soon."
Sen. Bennett Apologizes to Utah NAACP
Ten days after the fact, Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) apologized for his comment that the only thing that could keep Texas Gov. George W. Bush from the GOP nomination was a deadly accident or a salacious scandal, like "some woman comes forward, let's say some black woman comes forward with an illegitimate child that he fathered within the last 18 months."
The Utah NAACP did not take kindly to the remark and demanded an apology. On Monday, the organization got just that after meeting with the senator for an hour. Bennett said he was sorry in the meeting and later repeated the apology before reporters. "When I make a mistake, it's a beaut," Bennett said. "There's no question this was a mistake. I had no intention of offending anyone." NAACP leaders said they accepted his apology.
Bennett made the Bush comments during a meeting with the editorial board of the Ogden Standard-Examiner. Shortly afterward, Bennett issued a statement in which he did not apologize, but suggested that he "certainly regrets" the comments. Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP's Salt Lake City branch, said that it was wrong for Bennett to single out black women and pushed for a further apology.
Bennett said he had been thinking about the movie "Primary Colors," which includes a fictional account of a president who has an affair with a young black woman who becomes pregnant.
Bradley Takes Race Message to Harlem
Former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley has made racial unity a centerpiece of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Monday night he took that message to Harlem.
Racial unity, he told a crowd of 500 people gathered by Al Sharpton's National Action Network, "is not for me a political position. It's who I am. It's what I believe, it's what I care most about, it's one of the main motivations for me to get into politics in the first place."
Last week in an interview in Iowa, Bradley said race was one of four or five major themes that he'll carry into his battle against Vice President Gore. In Harlem, Bradley said that as president he would work on lifting children out of poverty, pushing for more gun control, raising the minimum wage and banning racial profiling.
For that, he got several rounds of applause and a standing ovation at the end of his speech. In one rough patch during the two-hour forum, which included former mayor Edward I. Koch, Bradley drew boos when he said he was not prepared to support reparations for blacks for slavery.
In an interview yesterday, Sharpton said Bradley said all the right things. He said he particularly liked Bradley's assertion that as president he would be the boss, and those in his administration wanting to please the boss better demonstrate how they plan to promote diversity and inclusiveness.
"I thought he seemed very comfortable, and I thought it went very well," Sharpton said. "He's the first presidential candidate we've had. We've had a lot of state candidates, and he did better than most of them did."
Sharpton said the organization would make an endorsement after giving Gore an opportunity to speak--that invitation was extended yesterday.
McCain Supports California Reform Initiative
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a leading advocate of campaign finance reform, yesterday threw his support behind a California ballot initiative that would sharply limit campaign contributions to candidates there.
Sponsors of the initiative--Republican businessman Ron Unz and campaign finance reform advocate Tony Miller, a Democrat--hope to qualify the measure for the March 2000 ballot. McCain endorsed the proposed initiative even though GOP leaders in California have criticized it. If approved by voters, the measure would restrict individual contributions to statewide candidates to $5,000 (and $3,000 for other candidates) and limit fund-raising to prescribed periods.
Staff writers Terry M. Neal and Dan Balz contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley tells Harlem audience including activist Al Sharpton, left, racial unity "is not for me a political position. It's who I am. It's what I believe, it's what I care most about. . . ."