Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bland State of the Union Speech Upstaged by Simpson Verdict

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bland State of the Union Speech Upstaged by Simpson Verdict

Article excerpt

Minds were elsewhere during the State of the Union. Suspense about what President Bill Clinton might say was bumped by agitation over the impending verdict from the Simpson II trial.

A few paragraphs into the speech, it was obvious he wasn't going to say anything new, and both sides settled down to the routine of starting or withholding standing ovations.

Clinton was not the most fascinating figure in the room. His secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, newly fragile in the discovery that she was Jewish and her grandparents had been executed by the Nazis, displaced him. He was striking no cosmic themes; he was laying out a plan of action in education. The diplomats in the hall may have wondered if they had wandered into a PTA meeting. The occasion was curiously cozy. Who would not applaud his goal of having third-graders read on their own - and rallying an army of tutors to help them? And surely eighth-graders should be able to do math, even if under the aegis of the once-doomed Education Department. The idea of having college become routine is something to be in favor of. Maybe some have reservations, but the State of the Union is no place for nuance. You're either up or down; you must choose - although House Speaker Newt Gingrich found a compromise. He applauded while seated. Several diverting pantomimes were enacted. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., piously endorsing the president's rather noncommittal promise of campaign reform by the Fourth of July, paused in mid-clap to try to drag Sen. Al D'Amato, R-N.Y., to his feet for a show of support. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., co-author of the McCain-Feingold bill that Clinton has felt required to push in the wake of White House fund-raising scandals, leapt up at the first mention of reform. He was surrounded by non-budging Republicans. His upward gestures had no effect. But education is a safe subject. The verdict that was being delivered in Santa Monica, Calif., was a powerful argument for it. There is no substitute for knowing what you are doing, as the first Simpson trial showed so graphically. The verdict in the first Simpson trial need never have happened if there had been competent prosecutors and a sensible judge on hand. …

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