Under the Dome

Book says Clinton shrugged off Helms' slight

From staff reportsSeptember 29, 2009 

Former President Bill Clinton was not too upset about U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' comments suggesting he was unfit to be commander-in-chief or that it might not be safe for him to travel to a North Carolina military base, according to a new book, "The Clinton Tapes."

The book, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Taylor Branch, is a collection of private conversations he taped with Clinton during the White House years and agreed not to publish until years later.

"For different reasons," Branch writes, "the president said he muted his response to a televised attack from Senator Jesse Helms, who called Clinton 'unfit' to command the armed forces. Helms was a significant national figure -- the incoming chair of the Foreign Relations Committee -- and to denounce him from the White House would magnify conduct suited to a banana republic."

"Clinton told me he appreciated General [John] Shalikashvili of the Joint Chiefs, along with many leading newspapers, for statements of support, but Helms defiantly escalated the rhetorical assault. He warned that President Clinton would not be safe on any military base in North Carolina."

"The president shrugged off the ominous barb, even professing a touch of fondness for 'ol Jesse.' Incredulous, I pressed him about false bravado. Surely, Helms violated some taboo in civil-military relations, if not basic decorum. His veiled threat, I said, delivered on the anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, could be construed as incitement to crackpots or even military contempt, impervious to political balance or constitutional norms. He said insult was their program, and Helms was just more honest than his fellow Republicans."

Perdue fills position

Gov. Beverly Perdue has named Angella Dunston the new director of the Office of Citizen and Faith Outreach.

Dunston has worked for the past nine years at the N.C. Justice Center's Education and Law Project.

Perdue said that Dunston will be in charge of outreach to constituent groups and the faith-based community.

She will also be responsible for making sure there is a diverse pool of applicants for state boards and commissions.

"Angella will make sure that we continue reaching out and listening to the ideas and concerns of as many North Carolinians as possible," Perdue said in a statement.

Dunston's salary will be about $70,000, according to a Perdue spokesman.

Talking about energy

Half a million people want a say in how or whether the Obama administration develops energy from the Outer Continental Shelf along the nation's coastlines.

The Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service said 530,000 people have responded in the public comment period about the issue.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in February that he was extending the Bush administration's timeline for developing a plan on drilling for oil and natural gas off the nation's coastlines.

Salazar also announced that the administration would expand its review of offshore energy to include the potential for wind, wave and currents.

According to studies, the coastline off North Carolina's Outer Banks has some of the best wind potential in the nation. Previous studies have indicated reserves of natural gas and possibly oil in the same region.

After the administration reviews the comments, its next step is an environmental analysis for a five-year plan, as required by law, for oil and gas development in the Outer Continental Shelf.

Voting for bad bills

It's only September, so we can't call it March Madness.

But the Civitas Institute has started its own form of bracketology. You may now enter the institute's "bad bill of the year tournament."

The conservative think tank has pulled together what it considers the 32 worst bills introduced in the recent legislative session.

It is setting the bills up in brackets -- much like those in the NCAA basketball tournament -- and asking people to vote for their choice for the worst bill of the year.

You can cast your vote at www.nccivitas.org/bad-bill-year-tournament-bracket.

By staff writers Rob Christensen, Barbara Barrett and Bill Krueger.

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