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California and the West | CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / U.S.

GOP's Issa Refers to Clinton as a 'Slut'

State Treasurer Matt Fong, who is also seeking the nomination, plans to make president's behavior a focus of his speech today.


SACRAMENTO — President Clinton suddenly came in for some knocks Tuesday in the GOP fight for the U.S. Senate nomination, with political newcomer and apparent front-runner Darrell Issa referring to him as a "slut."

Issa, a millionaire car alarm manufacturer, told a civic group here that his wife described Clinton that way and said, "I will not disagree with my wife in public."

The emergence of Clinton's behavior as an issue may be only a pause in a campaign waged over California matters, but Clinton will again be a target today in a Los Angeles speech by Issa's main rival, state Treasurer Matt Fong.

Backed by quotes from the Koran, Confucius and the Bible, Fong's prepared remarks say Clinton should clear up all mystery about "illicit sex in the Oval Office" and possible obstruction of justice, and then seek the public's forgiveness.

Republican consultant Ken Khachigian, unaligned in the Senate race, said Issa and Fong "are expressing the frustration of a lot of Republicans that Clinton is getting away with violating a lot of social rules."

"I think it [Clinton's conduct] is very much an issue," Khachigian said. "On the whole, our party has been rather timid in confronting him."

Issa, an Army veteran, called Clinton "this I-couldn't-go-in-the-military- because-I-had-to-go-to-Oxford president."

The businessman's remarks came in response to questions from a luncheon audience at the Comstock Club after what his campaign had billed as his first policy speech: a 12-minute address about the war on drugs in which he advocated tougher penalties for offenders and more spending to combat smuggling.

Issa said that despite what he thought were egregious abuses of presidential power in controversies such as those over the White House travel office and FBI background checks of Republicans, he has no intention of joining any attempt to have Clinton ousted.

"Let's face it," he told a questioner from the audience, "if we get rid of President Clinton, we're just going to get Gore-d."

Issa also displayed a flair for the folksy. The recent transportation bill passed by Congress "has more pork than in the state of Iowa." And teaching Head Start students in Spanish, he said, "is about as dumb as you-know-what on a wart hog."

In his prepared speech, Issa blasted the Clinton administration and California's incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer for not shifting enough resources to drug interdiction at the Mexican border. He said he would have supported Sen. Dianne Feinstein's losing bid to have Mexico censured for not doing enough to keep drugs from flowing into this country.

"Tragically, it seems Barbara Boxer is more concerned with saving dolphins from Mexican fishermen than with saving our children from drug cartels," said Issa, referring to dolphin-friendly legislation that Boxer favored.

A spokesman for Boxer said she has voted repeatedly for increased funding for the Border Patrol and for the death penalty for drug kingpins and supported the bid to censure Mexico.

A spokesman for the Fong campaign said the Issa speech "doesn't have an original idea in it" and was a reprise of an anti-drug speech given by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) in February.

The Issa and Gingrich speeches did share some touches. Both stressed the need for more privately run drug treatment programs. And both branded Clinton's 10-year program against drugs as too little, too late.

Gingrich, in a radio address made in response to the president's anti-drug address, said that if the Civil War could be won in four years, it is wrong for the administration to take 10 years to battle drugs.

Issa cited a different war but offered a similar thought: "It took America less than four years to win World War II, yet Bill Clinton is content to wait twice as long."

The Gingrich echoes should not be surprising. Issa, 44, making his first run for elected office, has said he wants to go to Washington and kick-start the "Republican revolution" of 1994, a movement he believes has lost momentum.

Asked which government agencies he would eliminate, Issa mentioned the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Rural Electrification Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.

"The more money government has," Issa said, "the more mischief it gets into."

Spending millions of dollars of his personal wealth on television and radio advertising, Issa has nosed ahead of his opponents, Fong and Rep. Frank Riggs (R-Windsor), in at least one opinion poll. Fong and Riggs have not been able to afford TV and radio advertising.

Issa even joked about his lavish use of his own money. In noting that government loves to "stick it to the rich" through taxes, he said: "By the time the campaign is over, I won't qualify" as rich.

In Fong's speech today, titled "Time for Truth," the treasurer will tell a group of bankers that Clinton should "come forward, tell the truth of what happened, admit behavior that was beneath the dignity of the office to which he was elected, and ask forgiveness, [and] my guess is that the American people would be forgiving."

As tough as the criticism from Issa and Fong may be, it falls short of the rhetoric of House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), who suggested Tuesday that Clinton resign.

* RESIGNATION SUGGESTED: GOP Rep. Dick Armey makes implicit call for Clinton to resign. A12

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