Whitewater: Smoking Gun or Squirt Gun?; A Long Way from His Shoeshine Stand
WHITEWATER: SMOKING GUN OR SQUIRT GUN? As government intrigues go, Whitewater is still not in the same league with Watergate. But some of the rhetoric, at least, seems suddenly reminiscent of the Watergate era. First, Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York declared that his Senate Whitewater Committee had a "smoking gun" when it discovered that in November 1993 David Kendall, Bill and Hillary Clinton's personal attorney, had shipped three Whitewater-related files to the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock. Vincent Foster, the deceased deputy White House counsel who worked at the Arkansas firm with Hillary Clinton, had taken the files during the 1992 presidential campaign. The White House dismissed D'Amato's allegation as a "squirt gun" and said that the contents of the files--which it released--were innocuous.
That showdown merely set the stage for the larger drama that unfolded when the White House refused to comply with the terms of a committee subpoena for notes from a Nov. 5, 1993, meeting about Whitewater. The White House says the meeting, between Kendall and four of the president's advisers, is protected under attorney-client privilege. Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, the Clintons' chief defender, accused D'Amato and the other Republicans on the panel of needlessly trying to "provoke a constitutional confrontation." Nonetheless, on a party-line vote of 10 to 8, the committee adopted a resolution asking the full Senate to enforce its subpoena. If the Senate complies, Congress and the White House will go to federal court to see who gets the documents.
A LONG WAY FROM HIS SHOESHINE STAND When he was an 11-year-old shining shoes in a small Texas town, some of Willie Brown's white customers paid him with quarters that they dropped into a spittoon. He fled to San Francisco at 17, went to college, became a lawyer and served nearly 15 years--a record--as speaker in the California Assembly. Now, at 61, he is the newly elected mayor of San Francisco--a 57 percent winner over incumbent Frank Jordan--and a figure sure to become a leading spokesman for urban affairs.
December elections also produced two new tenants for Capitol Hill. Chicago's Jesse Jackson Jr., the 30-year-old son of the civil rights leader, easily won the House seat vacated by Mel Reynolds, who was convicted of sexual misconduct. In the San Jose area of California, Republican Tom Campbell decisively won a House seat held by Democrats for two decades--after repelling attempts to tar him as a Newt Gingrich clone. Analysts suggest that the strategy failed because Campbell distanced himself from the House speaker with non-Newtonian positions supporting environmental regulations and abortion rights.
This story appears in the December 25, 1995 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.