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Summer Amusement

By Rustin C. Silverstein

Despite what we think, the world does not stop as we head into the time warp known as reading period. Nor is the news put on hold for our upcoming three months of freedom. In fact, in the next few months, there will be enough real-world entertainment to replace the boring diversions of TV reruns and the interminable games of our national past-time. As a helpful guide for what to expect, I present, in reverse order, the Top Ten Political Side-Shows of the Summer.

10. Ken Starr's Investigation. Having given up his post at Pepperdine Law School, he's not going anywhere for a while.

9. Iraq. Saddam Hussein never manages to stay out of the news for very long. If he complies with the latest weapons inspections deal, look for a fight over lifting U.N. sanctions on Iraq. If he doesn't, round up the posse, it's time for more old-fashioned American Big-Stick diplomacy.

8. Budget Surplus. Tax cuts, pork, Social Security reform--after years on a fiscal diet, watch Congress try to divide the spoils of these fat years as it hungrily eyes the unexpected revenue filling the government's coffers.

7. California Governor's Race. In a political culture that favors government by proposition over experienced leadership, and has strict fundraising rules that weaken candidates who can't drop 10 to 20 million dollars of their own money on their campaign, multimillionaire Democratic gubernatorial candidates Al Checchi and Jane Harman just might succeed in buying their way into the governor's seat.

6. Massachusetts Governor's Race. In a state where politics is sport, it looks like Massachusetts voters are going to be forced to make the pitiful choice between Republican acting-Governor Paul "Right-Place-at-the-Right-Time" Cellucci and one of a faceless herd of uninspiring Democrats now vying for the nomination. If for no other reason than our own amusement during the fall campaign, let's hope that something shakes this pathetically boring race up.

5. China. The president's summer travels will also take him to the People's Republic. In the first visit of an American president since Tiananmen, the world will be watching and wondering if Clinton will confront the Chinese on issues of human rights on their own turf. If he doesn't you can be sure that those protesters that greeted President Jiang here at Harvard and around the country last fall will be waiting for him when he comes home.

4. Northern Ireland. President Clinton will be campaigning this month in Northern Ireland to convince voters in this long-trouble region to approve the American-led peace initiative in an upcoming referendum. If successful, the trio of Haiti, Bosnia and now Northern Ireland would go far in solidifying Clinton's place in history as the peace-making President.

3. NATO Expansion. Speaking of Europe, should America's sons and daughters die defending Warsaw, Prague or Budapest? Surprisingly, few outside elite foreign policy circles seem to care that America is considering expanding our European security agreement to include Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Is greater piece-of-mind for those countries worth the risk of provoking a struggling and paranoid Russia? If Cold War-like tensions do arise once again, this decision--whichever way it goes--could become one of those fateful moments that historians will one day study and wonder "How could they have been so stupid?"

2. Tobacco. In the tobacco companies, Congress has found a group that is even more demonized than itself. In its zeal to capitalize on this unusual advantage, our elected representatives have proposed a harsher version of the deal struck last summer between the companies and numerous states to reduce teenage smoking. In response, the tobacco bosses have threatened to pull out of the negotiations with Congress and plead their case before the public. The O. J.-like contortions needed to convince us that these merchants of death are deserving of our sympathy will be so absurd that it'll be hard not to be amused.

1. Campaign Finance Reform. To many Americans, campaign fundraising reeks of corruption. The Republican leadership in Congress, by killing every major attempt at campaign finance reform, hopes that voters won't care enough to punish them in November. Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, for example, claims that voters in his home state of Mississippi "don't ask me about this subject." When representatives return home for summer recess and begin campaigning, we'll see if they're correct. If not, look for the Republicans to meet the fate of their Democratic predecessors who once thought voters didn't care about budget deficits either.

Hopefully, with this list in hand, you can at least find the good stuff in the newspaper as you try to whittle away the time in that mindless summer job.

Rustin C. Silverstein '99 is a government concentrator in Lowell House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.

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