New York Post - September 9, 1999
HILLARY Clinton's FALN headache is about to get worse - because Sen. Chuck Schumer has come out for clemency for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Schumer joins Mayor Giuliani - Mrs. Clinton's likely Senate foe - who has called for clemency for Pollard, thus putting new pressure on Mrs. Clinton on an issue dear to many Jewish voters.
"After years of studying the issue, Sen. Schumer believes Jonathan Pollard meets [the] criteria," his office said in a statement yesterday when The Post asked where he stands.
The statement said Schumer supports clemency only if three conditions are met: "no danger is posed to society, real contrition is shown and the sentence is disproportionate to others who have committed similar crimes." He believes Pollard fits that bill.
Pollard's advocates argue that since FALN got clemency, he should too, because he has done more than 13 years in jail for spying for a friendly country - and was never linked to a terror bombing group.
Pollard advocates began calling on Mrs. Clinton to push her husband to free him while she was still backing her husband's offer to free the FALNers - before belatedly flip-flopping when the deal came under fire.
The first lady is waffling on Pollard, taking - as she put it yesterday - a "wait and see" stand.
Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, the man whose seat Mrs. Clinton wants, opposes clemency for Pollard and says he should apply for parole rather than seek special political treatment.*(N.B. This is absurd. See Why No Parole Possible.)
Moynihan also opposed Clinton's FALN clemency from the start - so the first lady can't argue that she stands with Moynihan on the issue because she initially backed her husband's FALN deal.
Schumer also has called on Clinton to release the documents behind his FALN decision, saying otherwise it's impossible to tell if clemency was justified. Aides say there's considerable public information on Pollard so Schumer feels comfortable taking a position.
The demand for the FALN files is bound to get more intense with The Post's revelation today that John Cardinal O'Connor - cited by the White House as advocating FALN clemency - says he never backed the idea...
A Washington wag wonders: If Mrs. Clinton can't even get her husband to listen to her on the FALN, how would she do as a freshman Democratic senator lobbying George W. Bush?
After all, every poll shows Bush clobbering Gore - by 19 points (56 to 37 percent) in the latest ABC News poll. More ominously, Gore seems permanently stuck under 40 percent, just like hapless GOPer Bob Dole in 1996.
And the FALN could be a 2000 issue because Clinton's clemency grant explicitly says that it "may be voided" and the FALN members re-jailed if "a future president" - say, Bush - deems they violated their parole.
The FALN flap also looms as a new test of how far Dems are ready to go to defend the Clintons as House Republicans push for a speedy vote on a resolution denouncing FALN clemency.
The only FALN defenders are a handful of the most liberal Democrats in Congress while key Dems such as Moynihan, Sens. Pat Leahy of Vermont and Joe Biden of Delaware line up against it.
Any test vote risks leaving Clinton isolated on the left edge - there aren't a lot of Dems who want to seek re-election in 2000 on a platform of FALN clemency. And as polls show growing "Clinton Fatigue," some Dems may be glad to find an excuse to break with him.
If Dems desert Clinton, that could also force Veep Al Gore - who so far is waffling on his boss' FALN deal - to take a stand. Or pay a price for refusing to join Dem rival Bill Bradley in blasting the deal.