Impeachment Trial and State of the Union

  • Capital Connections ®
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  • January 22, 1999

by Karen Feld

Impeachment Trial and State of the Union Bring VIP Visitors to the U.S. Capitol

The impeachment trial is the hottest ticket in the nation’s capital this week – long queues to catch a 15 minute glimpse of history – but some spectators in the gallery attracted more attention than the attorneys on the Senate Floor. Actress Whoopi Goldberg (a FOB-Friend of Bill) and her significant other, actor Frank Langella, watched the entire defense presentation from the VIP section of the Senate Gallery. And Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne made his first ever visit to the U.S. Capitol for the occasion. Former Clinton flack Dee Dee Myers showed him the ropes. Mr. Dunne, Nancy Reagan’s best friend since the days of the O.J. trial, related that the former U.S. First Lady looks very frail but wasn’t timid about expressing her opinion on the subject at hand: “Clinton brought it on himself.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was on deck for a triple-play Tuesday – hearing arguments at the Supreme Court, presiding over the impeachment trial, and attending President Clinton’s State of the Union Address. However, he opted to skip the latter, along with several Republican Members of the House including Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde and Bob Barr (both House trial managers for the prosecution). But where was Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo? This Kennedy in-law and son of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo was the only Cabinet Member missing from the traditional Joint Session of Congress. That’s because he was the designated absentee, the person whom the president asks to stay behind. It’s a safeguard just in case the Capitol is bombed while most of the Members of Legislative, Judiciary and Executive branches of government are inside. This way, at least one top government official would survive to run the country. Mr. Cuomo had a full presidential Secret Service detail while he watched the speech on TV from his living room. White House guests Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon who wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 44 years ago, and baseball slugger Sammy Sosa, who struck up a friendship with fellow Chicagoan Hillary Clinton last October in the Dominican Republic where both were assisting hurricane victims, hit home runs on both sides of the aisle. While everyone scanned the gallery crowd to get a glimpse of a dreadlocked Whoopi Goldberg, Rosa Parks was just another faceless spectator until President Clinton recognized her as a hero.

A refreshing twist from the tense hoopla of Washington this week. . . Newly-elected U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had a rude awakening when his newly assigned security detail went to check out his house in Illinois. They found there had never been any locks on the doors so they had to install them. Whoever said Members of Congress weren’t honest?

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