Glenn's payload payoff

October 30, 1998|By Walter Shapiro

TUESDAY'S Wall Street Journal lead editorial, "Glenn's Reward," bravely described John Glenn's space spectacular as "one of the most cynical political transactions of the Clinton years." What the Journal was referring to was Mr. Glenn's all-but-forgotten 1997 efforts to scuttle Fred Thompson's investigation of the Clinton fund-raising scandals.

The Journal rightly suggests that Mr. Glenn's liftoff yesterday has every appearance of a payoff for the lift that the Ohio Democrat gave the White House during the campaign hearings.

This is one rare case where the facts are even more one-sided than the Journal editorial. On July 6, 1997, the Sunday before Mr. Thompson's hearings began, Mr. Glenn used his appearance on "Meet the Press" to publicly lobby for his last-hurrah launch into space.

He was followed on the broadcast by NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin who purred, "I want to tell you John is an outstanding astronaut and a great American. He has a burning desire to go back into space. And we're giving it very serious consideration."

Where this went was toward a month of nonstop obstructive tactics by Mr. Glenn patently designed to block any serious examination of Mr. Clinton's campaign fund-raising abuses.

No explicit quid pro quos were needed. While Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman won plaudits for his fair-minded approach to the hearings, Mr. Glenn willingly took the role of an aggressively partisan mouthpiece for the Clinton spin machine. After a quarter-century in politics, Mr. Glenn didn't require any sign-on-the-dotted line promises from NASA. He knew all too well how the Washington favor-trading game is played.

This is an excerpt of a Slate magazine column written by Walter Shapiro.

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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