When President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in November, 1993, the South Lawn basked in a bipartisan glow. Designed to overturn the Supreme Court's widely criticized decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held, in 1990, that the state of Oregon could forbid Native Americans from using illegal peyote as part of their religious rituals, RFRA was supported by an improbably broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans, from Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy to the National Islamic Prison Foundation and B'nai B'rith.
At the Supreme Court arguments on Monday, January 13, in Clinton v. Jones, the justices seemed inclined to delay Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit until the president leaves office, because the president is a busy man. But even if President Clinton is temporarily spared the mortifying task of answering Jones's complaint, his trial in the court of popular opinion has already begun.
It is late afternoon on Christmas Eve and the West Wing of the White House is almost empty except for Rahm Emanuel, who is sitting in his office, taking and making his own phone calls and, as always, looking out his window. It is, perhaps, the best window in the building. From it he not only can monitor who comes and goes into the West Wing (he especially loves the military flag ceremonies that accompany the visits of foreign dignitaries), but he can also see who is being interviewed by the TV reporters from their stakeout positions on the North Lawn.
The police won't cut baby Jesus any slack. When Rita Warren, a 69-year-old gadfly religious activist who lives in the nearby Virginia suburbs, pulls up to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol, the guards play it by the high-security book. They poke a metal detector under the chassis of her 1981 Oldsmobile station wagon. A bomb-sniffing dog checks out the almost-lifesize figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, a shepherd and two sheep crammed inside the car. "How you doin', Rich?" Warren calls out to one guard. "Have a nice weekend?" "It was quiet," says Rich. "The baby was sick.
On November 27, three weeks after the citizens of California ratified the California Civil Rights Initiative, Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco enjoined Governor Pete Wilson from enforcing it. Invoking a Supreme Court decision from 1982, Washington v. Seattle School District No.
Am I right that this Thanksgiving there was less of that guilt-burdened anxiety which has suffused Thanksgivings of the recent past? No one at my dinner table asked: What do the American Indians have to give thanks for? (The absence of this question is already something to give thanks for this year.) Apparently, even the chichi-est private schools were permitted to celebrate the Pilgrim fest without apologies or embarrassment.
After Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972, Democrats accused Arthur Burns, whom Nixon had appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1970, of rigging the election by overstimulating the economy. Burns, they charged, had produced a temporary reprieve from recession, but had also built up inflationary pressures that would burst forth later and produce an even sharper recession. In coming years, Republicans may make similar charges against Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's secretary of the Treasury.
During the past decade, an academic movement called critical race theory has gained increasing currency in the legal academy. Rejecting the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 1960s as epiphenomenal, critical race scholars argue that the dismantling of the apparatus of formal segregation failed to purge American society of its endemic racism, or to improve the social status of African Americans in discernible or lasting ways. The claim that these scholars make is not only political; it is also epistemological.