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CLINTONS BADLY PANDERING TO PUERTO RICAN VOTERS

Dispensing forgiveness can be a tricky business. Witness the Clintons. President Clinton has offered clemency to 15 Puerto Rican activists, many of whom belonged to a terrorist group responsible for 130 bombings and at least six deaths in the United States. The reason? According to some administration officials, Clinton is responding to a campaign mounted by prominent human-rights advocates. . . . They believe the 15 -- convicted in the 1980s of sedition and weapon charges, but not murder -- have been in prison long enough.

But the timing of Clinton's offer -- during the superheated speculations on whether Hillary Clinton will run for the Senate in New York -- has quite properly, in our view, led to charges of pandering to New York's Hispanic vote. And not very smart pandering at that. The Clintons seem to be assuming that Puerto Rican voters in New York actually want to see these members of the radical leftist group, the FALN, released from prison. . . . "If there is one issue that unites all Puerto Ricans, it is getting these people out of jail," Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez once told the New York Daily News. . . .

But there are plenty of Puerto Ricans who would much prefer that the militants . . . serve their full prison terms. Among those opposed is Puerto Rico's pro-statehood governor, Pedro Rossello, who would have to deal with a reinvigorated, and possibly violent, independence movement if the militants are released. . . .

Likely Senate opponent Rudolph Giuliani said he doesn't have enough information to form an opinion on the clemency deal, but he very much favors releasing Jonathan J. Pollard, who was convicted for spying for Israel. Sensing an opening, some Jewish leaders are now calling on Hillary to get Pollard out. . . .

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