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AllPolitics E-Wire -- September 15, 1997

A weekly briefing on U.S. politics:

Bowing To The Inevitable

President Bill Clinton wanted to send him to Mexico. Sen. Jesse Helms kept him in limbo. Now William Weld has decided to go back to the private sector, withdrawing his name Monday as the president's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Mexico. All summer long a contentious battle has waged between the GOP moderate and the man some call "Senator No," but the former Massachusetts governor failed to get a hearing out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms. Helms made it abundantly clear in a stormy committee meeting last Friday that he had no intention of granting a confirmation hearing to Weld. Helms had been forced to convene the meeting, but under Senate rules he cannot be compelled to give any nomination a formal hearing. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott closed off Weld's last possible route to Mexico City -- an end run around Helms -- despite a presidential phone call to Lott Saturday evening. As for his future, Weld is not expected to disappear from the political stage but for now he is returning home. Washington, he said, is "a funny town" that he's had enough of "for the next little while."

Double The Fun

The spotlight on 1996 campaign fund-raising abuses will shine twice as bright starting this week as the Senate hearings into possible violations enters its seventh week, while the House is scheduled to begin its public sessions on Wednesday.

Last week, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee heard testimony from the most prominent Democratic figures yet, including former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Don Fowler and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. This week's witnesses are expected to be questioned about the infamous White House coffees.

The House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), will focus its intitial investigation on "straw donors" -- people who funneled illegal donations into Democratic coffers. The lead-off witness is scheduled to be Manin Foung, sister of controversial Democratic contributor Charlie Trie.

Gore's Approval Rating Down

The latest CNN/TIME poll indicates that Vice President Al Gore is being damaged politically by the Democratic campaign fund-raising flap. Although the vice president is still the front-runner for the 2000 Democratic nomination, his support among Democrats nationwide has dropped by 8 points since March, and his approval rating has also fallen significantly. More Americans polled do not think Gore is a strong and decisive leader, nor do they think he is bringing needed change to government. There is some good news for the vice president: Most Americans think he is honest and trustworthy enough to be president. The number of Americans who think Gore would make a good president has actually increased since March, according to the survey of 827 adults conducted Sep. 10-11, 1997. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Empty Nest

Bill and Hillary Clinton will escort their only child, Chelsea, to Stanford University this week where the first daughter will enroll as a freshman. Chelsea leaves her sheltered Washington life 3,000 miles behind in hopes of experiencing as "normal" a college life as possible for the child of the president, trailed by a Secret Service agent. The Clintons are expected to join other parents at the official welcoming ceremony and parents' lunch before heading back to an emptier White House.

Quotation Of The Week

"We do dumb things from time to time, but we are not certifiably crazy." -- White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, denying that the White House had anything to do with an IRS audit of Paula Jones

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