July 15, 1996
The end of obscenity
On June 11, three judges in Philadelphia struck down parts of the Communications Decency Act. The decision, ACLU v. Reno, is being justly celebrated as the New York Times v. Sullivan of cyberspace, an occasion for dancing in the chat rooms. The three judges understood how the old First Amendment battles are being overtaken by new technologies; and in an endearingly self-dramatizing touch, they had their separate opinions distributed on floppy disks.
Welcome to the Olympic Village
Matthew Cooper talks about race and the Atlanta Olympics
Loathing In Las Vegas
On the airplane, I caught sight of someone reading the latest issue of U.S. News and World Report, with a cover story on "How to Raise a Moral Child." It sounded like typical middlebrow sermonizing, based on the assumption that morality (that is, morality as defined by the editors of the magazine) could be taught in the same way as spelling or darts. It's not that simple, as I could attest. Here I was traveling to Las Vegas with a polygraph expert to interview a man who, I believed, did not have an adult sense of right and wrong.
July 08, 1996
Reed in the Wind
Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American Politics by Ralph Reed (The Free Press, 311 pp., $25) The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore (W.W. Norton, 191 pp., $22) Ralph Reed is Pat Robertson's boy, but his new book contains not a trace of such Robertsonian concerns as Armageddon, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Warburgs and the Rothschilds, or, for that matter, God. Rather than propose that the United States become a theocracy, Reed heatedly renounces the idea.
Poor Justice O'Connor! For the past three years, she's struggled ineffectually to split the difference between four liberal Justices, who think that the Constitution doesn't prevent the states from drawing voting districts on the basis of race, and four conservative Justices, who think it does. But last week, in striking down majority black congressional districts in Texas and North Carolina, she found an ingenious solution to her dilemma.
June 24, 1996
What Right to Die?
It's hard not to be moved by emotional accounts of how laws prohibiting assisted suicide can drive pain-wracked people to desperate ends. A year ago, in The New Yorker, Andrew Solomon wrote eloquently about how he and his brother helped their mother take sleeping pills to spare her the final agonies of ovarian cancer, an ordeal made even more harrowing by the fear of prosecution. All of the jurors who acquitted Dr. Jack Kevorkian in May similarly said they were influenced by videotapes in which two women suffering from chronic pain described their anguish and pleaded to be allowed to die.
May 27, 1996
"He talks a great game, and right now 55 percent of the people view him as a moderate. We need to change that. That's why we're talking about his liberal judges." --Bob Dole, The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 1996. Judicial bashing, by and large, is a wholesome tradition in American democracy. Jefferson's attacks on the "sappers and miners" of the Federalist judiciary helped to chasten a rabidly partisan Justice Samuel Chase. FDR's saber-rattling hastened the "switch-in-time" that saved the New Deal.
May 20, 1996
The Third Rail
LARRY KING: "Can a three party system work?" ROSS PEROT: "There won't be a three party system. One of these parties is going to disappear. One of those special interest parties will have a meltdown." KING: "Are you saying the Republicans or the Democrats are going to disappear?" PEROT: "Two will last. That is my fearless forecast." Here in Washington, campaign junkies obsess about whether Ross Perot's candidacy will help Clinton or Dole.
The Normal Person of Tomorrow
Ralph Nader makes his mark on the 1996 campaign.
May 13, 1996
"I weep for you," the Walrus said: "I deeply sympathize." With sobs and tears he sorted out Those of the largest size Holding his pocket-handkerchief Before his streaming eyes. "He's very upset," says a senior administration official of President Clinton's decision to sign the "Effective Death Penalty and Public Safety Act of 1996." "It breaks his heart." On the one hand, Clinton was reluctant to go down in history as the president who signed the first statutory limitations on habeas corpus since Magna Carta; on the other hand, there was Oklahoma City.