When Vice President Gore struggled to answer a voter's question about Juanita Broaddrick and her accusation that President Clinton sexually assaulted her, the Republican National Committee sprang to action.
RNC press secretary Mike Collins, who was staking out Gore's town hall meeting Tuesday night in Derry, N.H., stayed up until 4 a.m. making a transcript from his tape of the session. Within hours, GOP aides were blast-faxing the exchange around the media world.
"Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and Fox were all interested in it," said RNC communications chief Clifford May. "Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw were not."
Broaddrick charged in February, in interviews with NBC, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, that Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted her in 1978. Clinton denied the charge in a statement from his lawyer.
When the question surfaced in New Hampshire, Gore laughed awkwardly and appeared uncomfortable. The RNC seized on his hesitancy, including every "uh" and "um" in its transcript of Gore's response on Broaddrick: "Well, I don't know what to make of her claim, because I don't know how to evaluate that story, I really don't . . . I didn't see the interview. No. Uh-uh. . . .
"There have been so many personal allegations and such a nonstop series of attacks, I guess I'm like a lot of people in that, I think that enough is enough. . . . I'm taught in my religious tradition to hate the sin but love the sinner. I'm taught that all of us are heirs to the mistakes that are prone to the mistakes that flesh is heir to." He said again he had felt "anger and disappointment" toward the president.
Why didn't major news organizations report the exchange? "The charitable explanation would be Clinton fatigue," May said. "The uncharitable explanation would be Clinton protection."
Populist Approach to Fund-Raising?
Meanwhile, Al Gore's spin doctors had something to crow about Wednesday night as they swigged beers, munched fried food and bragged about their guy's truly populist approach to fund-raising.
The vice president, his aides proudly noted, charged just $35 a person for supporters to hear Aaron Neville, Donna Summer and Al Franken at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon. A pretty sharp contrast to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's $1,000 event at the same tavern last night, they noted. (Hint to voters unable to translate the spin: $35 events mean you are a man of the people; charge $1,000 and you're just another money-hungry pol.)
But it turns out Gore just segregated his supporters, putting the high-rollers upstairs, safely protected from reporters and the average Joes who gave a mere $35. In fact, many in the balcony haven't just given the vice president $1,000; they've raised tens of thousands for him. Gore reliables such as Peter Knight, Sonny Cauthen, Clarke Jones, Johnny Hayes, Don Fowler, Alan Solomont and labor leaders wore the coveted red passes that enabled them to travel up the flight of stairs to Gore's more exclusive gathering.
Gore raised $1.6 million at the saloon; Bush aides estimated their take at $700,000.
Buchanan Would End Sanctions
Reform Party presidential hopeful Patrick J. Buchanan is not generally known for his kinder, gentler brand of conservatism. But the party-switching former Republican said yesterday that he would free "rogue nations" including Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Libya and Sudan from economic sanctions to ease the burden on their oppressed citizenry.
"Saddam Hussein is undeniably a tyrant," Buchanan said in a foreign policy speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "but sanctions have failed to remove him from power. . . . Saddam is holding the Iraqi people hostage while America kills the hostages."
And Cuba? Buchanan said 37 years of sanctions (eased somewhat in recent years) have been a total failure: "Our embargo continues to give Fidel Castro a scapegoat for his own socialist failures."
So would a President Buchanan do nothing to influence ill-behaving tyrants, short of declaring full-scale war? Hardly. But instead of sanctions that directly affect civilians, Buchanan said he would seize the bank accounts of rogue leaders, cut off World Bank and IMF loans, deny Export-Import Bank credits and put tariffs on the principal exports of hostile governments.
Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.