A Dramatic Irish Easter, Thanks to Bill Clinton

Peter King is a Republican Congressman of Nassau County who believes that English should be declared the official language of the United States, who opposes legal abortion and who supports free trade. He figures he votes with the Republican majority about 80 percent of the time. Oh, every now and again he’ll say something amounting to heresy, something that rattles the nerves of the good old boys who run Congress. For example, he has been known to suggest that labor unions are not necessarily the last redoubts of beret-wearing left-wingers determined to establish an American soviet. This, of course, came as news to some of his colleagues.

Mr. King’s dangerous tendency to think independent thoughts does not mean, however, that he is some sort of Rockefeller Republican intent on moving the G.O.P. leftward. He is a plain-spoken, blue-collar conservative populist on social, cultural and economic issues, a soldier in the Republican revolution.

And what, do you suppose, does this conservative Republican member of Congress have to say about the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

“I have found him agreeable, personable and always very friendly,” Mr. King said. “He’s been very friendly with my family. And in any dealings I’ve had with him, from Nafta to Bosnia, I’ve always found that he plays it straight. He’s a decent guy to work with.”

A decent guy! And where, perchance, has Representative King been these many years? Doesn’t he know that he should be protecting his family from President Clinton’s various debaucheries? Has he been so burdened with the irrelevant work of lawmaking that he has missed the ravings of the cable-television news crowd? Where was he on the night of April 10, when one of these boom-box political programs featured somebody named Chris Matthews, who apparently believes that any discussion of the President’s sex life ought to be discussed in decibel levels intended for the hearing-impaired?

Actually, on the very night in question, while Mr. Matthews was shouting at Susan Estrich about some urgent matter-something to do about all the President’s women or some variation on that theme-Mr. King was reviewing some bit of trivial news from some little country across the Atlantic. Earlier that day, Mr. King’s longtime friend and ally, Gerry Adams, had joined with other politicians in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain in reaching a settlement that may yet bring peace to that tortured province.

Mr. King had spent much of April 10-Good Friday-and the day before talking to Mr. Adams and others involved in the peace process. Mr. King has been working for justice in Ireland from this side of the Atlantic for years, and in pursuit of that worthy goal, he reached out to Mr. Adams long before the Sinn Fein leader became a media celebrity, the subject of glossy-magazine treatments. Mr. King invited Mr. Adams to his Congressional inauguration in January 1993, but Mr. Adams couldn’t make it-Washington, in deference to Britain’s wishes, wouldn’t allow a onetime member of Parliament to visit these shores.

And now, of course, all is changed, changed utterly as a certain Irish poet wrote of another dramatic Irish Easter. Mr. King, the conservative Republican from Nassau County, gives all credit to President Clinton, that nefarious, fornicating schemer whose friends have this unfortunate habit of getting murdered or going to prison or disappearing. (The latter 19 words have been brought to you by the Scarf Family Foundation, which paid this writer an undisclosed sum to consult the archives of the Drudge Report before preparing this column.)

Mr. King said that at about 7:30 on Thursday night, April 9-the deadline for a settlement in Belfast-Mr. Adams told him by telephone that Sinn Fein was prepared to walk out of the talks. Sinn Fein’s opposite numbers on the Loyalist side were demanding too much, and apparently getting their way. A chance for peace was on the verge of collapse.

Mr. King placed a few calls to his contacts, letting them know of the urgency. He did a radio interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation from his Washington apartment, and he said that Sinn Fein was on the verge of walking out. A short time later, Mr. Clinton called Mr. Adams twice-Mr. Adams later told Mr. King that the President assured him that Washington would remain intimately involved in this new Irish order. There would be no Sinn Fein walkout after all. “Without those calls, I don’t think Adams would have signed on to the settlement,” Mr. King said.

There have been suggestions, many of them understandable, that the Clinton Administration will be remembered more for sex and scandal than real achievement. But that may be more a comment on ourselves than on the President. For on a day when Mr. Clinton helped broker peace in a land that has known war for 800 years, people like Mr. Matthews were shouting about the President’s private parts.

The issues that concern television’s loud mouths mean little to Mr. King, conservative Republican from Long Island. After talking with Wise Guys, he was off to Dublin to talk about matters of war and peace.