- December: Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich complains that a heart pump
Conservative smear campaigns
"invented in Denmark increases by 54% the number of people given CPR who get to the hospital with a chance to recover. The Food and Drug Administration makes illegal [the pump] that minimizes brain damage, increases the speed of recovery, and saves money." Unfortunately, Gingrich has his facts skewed. The pump is manufactured by an American company, which has never applied for approval from the FDA, mostly because tests on the pump conducted by the University of California show the pump "to be of absolutely no value." (Al Franken)
Conservative smear campaigns
Gingrich also shocks audiences with his oft-repeated claim that 800 babies a year were being abandoned in dumpsters in Washington, DC. Gingrich is off by 796; in 1994, four babies were found in Washington dumpsters, all rescued and cared for by government health care and social workers. (Al Franken)
- December 4: Going along with the above Gingrich anecdote is the pack of whoppers he proclaims on NBC's Meet the Press.
Conservative smear campaigns
The claims he makes on a variety of issues are, well, just complete garbage.
- Gingrich tells a tale designed to "prove" that government regulations are bad, period. He brings up the subject of a first-aid heart pump. "What I want the American people to understand," he says, is that this pump that was "invented in Denmark increases by 54% the number of people with CPR who get to the hospital with a chance to recover. The Food and Drug Administration makes illegal [a product] that minimizes brain damage, increases the speed of recovery and saves money." Using this pump is just "common sense," Gingrich insists, implying that the FDA's intransigence costs lives. In fact, the heart pump in question was invented by two Americans who licensed it to a Danish company that still hasn't applied to the FDA for permission to test it in the US. Field tests show, according to test supervisor and cardiologist Michael Callahan, that on 859 patients "unfortunately showed the pump to be of absolutely no benefit." The FDA halted the study, says Callaham, "but we talked with them about it for five months, during which time we went ahead with our trials, as they knew we would. So the process worked well enough. The FDA's job is to protect the public. They're appropriately tough. You don't want bad stuff on the market." Strike one anti-regulation fairy tale.
- Gingrich also believes that the more power in the hands of the states, and the less in federal hands, the better. To illustrate, state governors routinely urge Washington to "send welfare back home," where they will "get people into work, and it will be dramatically less expensive." The reality is different. While states have shown that they can often handle many goverment functions better, Gingrich's example of welfare is false. Gingrich brings up Massachusetts' success in cutting in half its $200 million-a-year program that supports disabled welfare recipients. "The first thing they said is, you have to go to a doctor before we approve you," Gingrich reports. "The following month 25% of the people dropped off the program, because they knew if they went to see a doctor they wouldn't be approved, and that doesn't even count the ones doctors turned down." What Gingrich fails to note is that Massachusetts remodeled its system after the one used by the federal government. "We finally got smart," says an aide to Massachusetts governor William Weld, a Republican. "Before we changed, it was like Lucy -- 'The shrink is in for 5 cents.' All people had to do was come in with a note asserting a disability. Now claims are reviewed by a panel of doctors. We modeled our program on the one used by the feds; it works." Strike one anti-government fairy tale.
- Gingrich has come out many times in favor of orphanages; his example today gives him a chance to restate his lie about 800 Washington, DC babies a year abandoned in dumpsters (see item above). First Lady Hillary Clinton, he says, should "rent Boys Town," an uplifting but highly idealized movie about the Nebraska home run by a priest who insisted "there are no bad boys." Gingrich says that orphanages are better than dumpsters, and reiterates his claim that in Washington alone, 800 babies a year were left in the trash. Of course, Gingrich's claim is not true. According to the district's human-services department, there are currently 1,200 children in foster care, wards of the city because their parents neglected them. There are currently only nine "border babies," infants born to drug-addicted mothers unable to care for them. In just four well-publicized cases were kids actually placed in dumpsters this year. Yet because of liberal policies, Gingrich thunders, "we say to a 13-year-old drug addict who's pregnant, 'Put your baby in the dumpster; that's okay." Strike one total lie.
- Gingrich wants a constitutional amendment permitting prayer in schools, and claims that "most people don't know it's illegal to pray. When they learn that a 10-year-old boy in St. Louis was put in detention for saying grace privately over his lunch, they think that's bizarre.... That's what we used to think of Russian behavior when they were the Soviet Union." In reality, children have always been allowed to pray in schools. Only organized prayer and worship services are banned at public schools. Prayer is perfectly permissable as long as they don't disrupt other student activities -- i.e. singing and chanting. In the St. Louis case, school officials say that the child in question was disciplined for behavioral problems unrelated to praying. Strike one for government-mandated religion.
- Gingrich then tackles the American economy. Combining Reagan's supply-side economics and Ross Perot-like visual aids, Gingrich offers a chart to support the supposedly painless fiscal proposals he says will balance the budget by 2002 without draconian spending cuts. "We're never, ever talking about cutting spending," Gingrich says. "We're talking about a slower rate of growth." Again, Gingrich is dead wrong. He does say correctly that current projections assume a 5.4% increase in federal spending over the next seven fiscal years and a $319 billion deficit in 2002. Hold the growth rate to 3.2%, as Gingrich proposes, and the budget could indeed be balanced -- but only if one fails to factor in Gingrich's proposed increases in defense funding along with the sharp tax cuts he wants. An even bigger problem comes when one figures in the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare. Gingrich ignores the fact that during the next seven years, 6 million more Americans will become eligible for Social Security. Gingrich doesn't allow for a dime of spending for them. To pay for their retirement, massive cutbacks would have to be done -- if one leaves Social Security, Medicare, and defense spending alone, all other programs would have to be cut across the board by a staggering 43%. Instead of acknowledging the facts, Gingrich calls such economic reality a product of "socialist" accounting practices. Money will pour in once taxes are cut because investors will have more to spend, he says. But that didn't work during eight years of Reaganomics. In the wake of Reagan's huge revenue cuts, income tax receipts went down until 1986. To the degree overall revenues rose in the mid '80s, the increase was due almost exclusively to the stunning and regressive rise in payroll taxes imposed in five of the six years before 1987. Strike one for Newtonomics.
- Gingrich also claims, as he has repeatedly, that "a senior law-enforcement official says that up to 25% of White House staffers" used drugs in the four-to-five-year period prior to their current work. Gingrich hasn't backed off the claim, although his aides quickly point to the qualifying words "up to." The real fact: almost none of Clinton's White House staffers have faced any sort of drug use charges. Gingrich now says he "regrets" saying something that had "a larger effect than I intended." Of course, his wild claims about drug use running rampant through the Clinton White House have had exactly the effect he intended. Strike one for truth coming out of Gingrich's mouth.
- Five days before his Meet the Press encounter, Gingrich said, "I am learning that everything I say has to be worded carefully and thought through at a level that I've never experienced." But Gingrich is more than just a serial liar. He is doing exactly what he has set out to do, whip up a frenzy among credulous Americans by using anecdotes and fabrications that, though absolutely false, advance his own political agenda. He is following the guidelines he himself set years ago, a set of guidelines that he has urged on other Republicans. Gingrich today controls a political action committee, GOPAC, that trains candidates to attack their opponents like pit bulls. GOPAC's how-to textbook, which Gingrich calls "absolutely brilliant," advises candidates to "go negative" early and "never back off." Use "minor details" to demonize the opposition, it suggests, citing as a good example the 1988 GOP campaign attack on Michael Dukakis for allowing Willie Horton out on furlough.
- The White House is, as usual, floundering in combating Gingrich's scorched-earth political tactics. Chief of staff Leon Panetta likens Gingrich to an "out-of-control talk-show host," an unsubtle reference to Rush Limbaugh. Time reporter Michael Kramer writes, "But Limbaugh is also the most popular of the breed -- and like Rush, it doesn't seem to matter that a lot of what Newt says is mostly not true. Audiences love it -- as they loved Reagan -- even when they know that what they're hearing is often baseless. For many who applaud Gingrich and Limbaugh, the catchy rantings are acceptable caricatures of a caricature they already despise -- government. Falsity is forgiven because the target of Gingrich's critiques (like Limbaugh's and Reagan's) is deemed worthy of vituperative attack. As an aspiring congressional candidate in 1978, Gingrich admonished a gathering of college Republicans. 'Don't try to educate [the public],' he said. 'That's not your job.' Gingrich clearly sees his job as acquiring and holding power for as long as possible by any means necessary. Ronald Reagan is surely smiling." (Time)
- December 6: Texas governor George W. Bush receives a belated $25,000 political contribution from Thomas Hicks, the chief executive of Hicks, Muse, Tate, and Furst, a Texas investment partnership.
George W. Bush
In return, Bush supports Hicks's takeover of the financial assets of the University of Texas. Hicks will create the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) and use it to secretly invest UT funds in a plethora of Republican corporate and political areas. Oilman Donald Evans, a longtime Bush fund-raiser, is named to oversee the entire UTIMCO operation; Evans will later run the Bush "Pioneers," the group of Bush heavy hitters who donate $100,000 or more to his campaign, and will be rewarded in 2001 with a post as Secretary of Commerce. Hicks, his family members, and business partners will contribute over half a million in total to the Bush campaign. In 1998, Hicks will pay about $250 million for the Texas Rangers, three times the price Bush and his partners paid in 1989. Bush's own payout will be six times what he paid in, fattening his wallet to the tune of $15 million. (Joe Conason)
- December 8:
Whitewater / Lewinsky and related "scandals"
The Starr investigation leaks to the press the fact that several investigators from the Resolution Trust Corporation are themselves being investigated by Starr in conjunction with the RTC's own investigation of Whitewater. The leak is designed to pressure the RTC, who is involved in a lawsuit against Starr's law firm. (CNN/James Carville)
- December 10: A mail bomb from the "Unabomber" kills ad executive Thomas Mosser.
Months later the "Unabomber" will publicly claim responsibility for the bombing, claiming that Mosser was targeted because of his firm's work for Exxon, the company whose tanker spilled oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. (Unabomber Timeline)
- December 30: Anti-abortion fanatic John Salvi walks into two Brookline, Massachusetts abortion clinics with a rifle and opens fire, killing receptionists Lee Ann Nichols, 38, and Shannon Lowney, 25, and wounding five others.
In both instances, he gains entrance, asks if this is the clinic (Planned Parenthood and Preterm Health Services, respectively), and then opens fire, using a customized Ruger pistol with hollow-point bullets to maximize the damage caused. "He was shooting everyone," says an eyewitness, a woman at Preterm who says she would have been shot if a woman in front of her had not been struck instead. Nichols is shot at least five times, and dies almost instantly, while Salvi yells, "This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!" Clues to the murderer's identity come up almost immediately, as Salvi abandons his weapon and a duffel bag while fleeing the scene. Several witnesses identify Salvi as an anti-abortion protester who has been to both clinics to protest; the FBI determines that Salvi is a well-known anti-abortion extremist, nicknamed "Atomic Dog" by his cohorts, with a long criminal record of violence associated with abortion clinics. Massachusetts governor William Weld, a moderate Republican who supports anti-abortion legislation, says, "This man is nothing other than a terrorist. "No one is going to settle moral arguments by violence in Massachusetts.... Nobody's cause was advanced today." President Clinton also condemns what he describes as "domestic terrorism." He says, "Violence has no place in America. No matter where we stand on the issue of abortion, all Americans must stand together in condemning this tragic and brutal act." Sentenced to life in prison without parole after attempts by his lawyers to have him released due to "insanity," and his own attempts to portray himself as a victim of a purported anti-Catholic conspiracy, Salvi will kill himself in prison on November 29, 1996.
- As with so many other abortionist murderers, Salvi becomes a cause celebre for other anti-abortion radicals. A January 1995 rally outside the Norfolk jail housing Salvi features angry speeches, applause for Salvi's murders, and talk of "justifiable homicide" and talk of "war." The Reverend Donald Spitz of Pro-Life Virginia yells through a megaphone towards Salvi's cell, "John Salvi, we care about you. We love you. We support you." He calls the murders "a righteous deed." On the other hand, anti-abortion supporter Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston calls for a moratorium on clinic protests. "It's my judgment that it would be good to refrain from such manifestations at this time. We need to restore a sense of calm." The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman writes of the increasing incidence of murders and attempted murders of abortion providers, "[I]t's a moral crisis for the movement that has called itself pro-life, a movement that has inherited the wind of its own escalating rhetoric." Of Salvi, she writes, "It's true that the antiabortion movement didn't pull the trigger. The suspect, called 'John-boy' by his family, appears to have been a desperate, angry son who fought bitterly with his parents on Christmas. But the would-be hairdresser with the pro-life bumper stickers, with the photographs of fetuses, with experience as a clinic protester, seems to have skidded down a road paved with the language and logic of 'pro-life philosophers.'"
- Goodman writes, "It's time for those who regard themselves as responsible opponents of abortion to permanently cut the ties that make them allies of extremists. It's time to turn their energy and resources to fighting their own violent cohorts. And it's time for them to draw an explicit line between persuasion and terrorism, between protest and assault. I don't doubt that most antiabortion leaders are appalled by murder. But what about threats, what about clinic burnings, what about stink bombs, what about harassment, what about videotaping, what about thrusting picket signs in the path of women, screaming in their faces, writing down their license plates? Before we accept the pleas for calm as legitimate, a checklist is in order. Before we accept the title 'antiabortion moderates,' we have to hear them turn on the extremists as everyone's enemies. ...The test for the movement that calls itself pro-life will be whether its leaders have the conviction and courage to excise the fringe and oppose the militants as what they are: outlaws." (CBS, Washington Post, Washington Post, Boston Globe/Washington Post, Washington Post, Washington Post)
- December 31: Jocelyn Elders resigns as Surgeon General.
Conservative smear campaigns
Elders, the highly effective former director of the Arkansas Department of Health (ensuring that a tenfold increase in the number of early childhood screenings annually and almost a doubling of the immunization rate for two-year-olds in Arkansas), became involved in controvery from right-wing critics when the outspoken Elders, an advocate of legal abortion, of teaching children about their sexuality and the study of possible legalization of some prohibited drugs, was asked during a United Nations conference on AIDS whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and replied infelicitously, "I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught." Right-wing critics chose to interpret her statement as Elders's advocacy of teaching masturbation in public schools, and the manufactured outcry, aided by Elders's being lampooned on such shows as Saturday Night Live, led to Clinton reluctantly asking for her resignation. Elders will be succeeded by the less controversial Audrey Manley. (Wikipedia, Al Franken)
"When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interest to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests, we will not." -- future UN ambassador John Bolton, 1994
"Probably nothing." -- Jeb Bush, during his losing 1994 bid for Florida Governor, when asked what he would do for black people, quoted by Salon and cited by Brandi Mills