Tide turns against Clinton nominee
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Monday 13 February 1995
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Even so, there is no sign the nomination will be withdrawn, despite the nearly unanimous view across Washington's political spectrum that Dr Foster cannot be confirmed.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.
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