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BU Bridge Logo

Week of 22 January 1999

Vol. II, No. 20

In the News

As Congress prepared to impeach President Clinton, two BU historians offered the perspective of their craft in the Los Angeles Times last month. On December 13, reviewing past presidencies of perceived moral or political mediocrity, Bruce Schulman, CAS associate professor, says, "Today's partisans oust their opponents through legal proceedings rather than elections. Their disgust and disdain for Clinton may even remove a sitting president and tarnish the constitutional system." On December 14, CAS Professor Robert Dallek, speculating how "historians will struggle to make sense of what will seem like relatively trivial reasons for the current assault on the president," points to the significance of the end of the Cold War. "It is almost inconceivable that an opposition Congress would be calling for his head if the nation were still in the midst of a serious struggle abroad," he says.


In the January 10 Boston Globe, prompted by the release of A Civil Action, a movie about the Woburn toxic waste trial, which he covered, COM Associate Professor of Journalism Christopher Daly draws parallels between the legal tactics illustrated in that trial and those of President Clinton. "In neither case can it be said that the parties joined in a search for truth. Instead, Clinton has acted much the same as the corporate defendants a decade earlier -- that is to say, withhold evidence, cover up, appeal, battle over procedures and rules, prevaricate, quibble, and delay, delay, delay. . . . The point is that Clinton is not acting as if he were above the law. He and his lawyers are simply playing by the prevailing rules."


Other areas of Clinton's activity are under scrutiny as well. Calling it "a peculiar blend of hypocrisy, forbearance, and accommodation," Andrew Bacevich, CAS professor of international relations, says in the January 3 Washington Post that the "don't ask, don't tell" formula also defines "the essence of civil-military relations in the Clinton era." He illustrates his point by referring to what he calls the "elaborate sham" of Operation Desert Fox. Asserting that Clinton's military advisors recognize the sham, Bacevich concludes, "Given the terms of the reigning civil-military compact, they are no more likely to communicate that view to the president than he is to press his generals to develop military options that hold the promise of ending once and for all the threat posed by Saddam. The president won't ask and they won't tell."


An accountability system for Massachusetts public schools, tied to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test results, is being contemplated by the state board of education. A system that could ultimately bring chronically underper forming schools under state control is "tough, but it's also necessary," says Douglas Sears, superintendent of schools in Chelsea, in a January 11 story in the Boston Herald. The Chelsea public schools are being revitalized in partnership with Boston University. "Parents need to know how their students are doing," Sears says, "and taxpayers need to know how their school districts are doing."


"In the News" is compiled by Alexander Crouch in the Office of Public Relations.