Tide turns against Clinton nominee

Washington - The White House is braced for a further tide of opposition against Henry Foster, following the revelation that Bill Clinton's nominee for Surgeon-General, already criticised for having performed abortions, had sterilized a number of severely retarded women in the 1970s, writes Rupert Cornwell.

The new disclosure capped a disastrous week for Mr Clinton and his advisers, summoning memories of the bungling and sloppy staff work of the early months of his administration. While Republicans quietly delighted in Mr Clinton's embarrassment, even normally loyal Democrats were publicly and savagely critical of how the White House had handled proceedings.

Even so, there is no sign the nomination will be withdrawn, despite the nearly unanimous view across Washington's political spectrum that Dr Foster cannot be confirmed. "We will fight for this nomination," Leon Panetta, the White House Chief of Staff, declared yesterday. Mistakes had been made, "but Dr Foster too is in this to the end. He is a good man, he ought to be given a chance for this nomination."

Mr Panetta insisted the fact that the 61-year old obstetrician-gynaecologist had carried out hysterectomies on a small number of mentally retarded patients had not affected Mr Clinton's support. "This was accepted medical practice in the 1970s. Since then views have changed, and Dr Foster's views have changed as well."

For all the respect Dr Foster commands among his peers, even the administration's wellwishers are astounded that it did not foresee the controversy his involvement with abortion would arouse. The appointment of a not especially important official has become a gruesome spectacle, distracting attention from other issues and advertising the very White House shortcomings which Mr Panetta's arrival was supposed to correct.

One consolation for Mr Clinton is that the affair could cause major problems for the Republicans. For the moment they are united against Dr Foster. But abortion is now centre stage in the run-up to the 1996 election, and threatens to reopen the rift between the conservative and moderate wings of the party.

The Republicans' defeat in 1992 is partly ascribed to internal feuding on abortion and other social issues. A tacit agreement had emerged to keep the topic out of the coming campaign. But the Christian Coalition, standard-bearer of the religious right, served notice it would not back any Republican presidential candidate who did not oppose abortion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'