Clintons incite all sides in clemency case
By Mimi Hall and Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY
The fate of most of the 16 Puerto Rican nationalists offered clemency by
President Clinton may have been settled Tuesday, but the controversy
created by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to speak out
against her husband's offer is sure to linger.
And the Clintons will face criticism from all sides: Republicans who say
president never should have offered clemency, Democrats angered by the
first lady's sudden decision to oppose the offer and members of the news
media questioning whether the White House got involved in a political
effort to help the president's wife with her Senate campaign.
In Washington, GOP lawmakers plan to hold congressional hearings next
week into Clinton's decision to offer clemency to the pro-independence
nationalists convicted in connection with about 100 bombings in the USA
in the 1970s and 1980s.
Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., said on Tuesday that he'll introduce a
resolution on the House floor condemning Clinton's action.
"If anything, the president of the United States should be sending a clear
signal around the world that terrorism is not tolerated on our soil," he said.
For Hillary Clinton, most of the heat will come from New York. In
Manhattan, the heart of the first lady's expected campaign for a U.S.
Senate seat , some Latino officials gathered Tuesday to rail against her
opposition to the release of the prisoners.
"Hillary Clinton's statement was wrong; it was inappropriate," said state
Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez, referring to her Saturday statement
opposing the clemency offer on the grounds that the nationalists hadn't
agreed quickly enough to comply with a White House condition that they
Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., said he is rethinking his support for the first
lady's candidacy. "I am disappointed," he said. "I am angry."
At the White House, officials insisted the initial offer was not made to
the first lady curry favor with Puerto Rican voters. "This was not a partisan
maneuver," spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
The administration says it was responding to appeals that those offered
clemency had served enough time.
Despite the backlash, Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that she stands by her
opposition to the clemency deal.
But Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer warned that she could pay
politically. "I told her she made a huge mistake."