Why Bush should pardon Bill Clinton

Debra J. Saunders

8/23/2000 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Independent Counsel Robert Ray should dismantle the grand jury that is exploring whether to indict President Clinton for perjury. If Ray can't see his way to do that, Republicans should try an end run around him. Don't get me wrong, I think Clinton is guilty of perjury. He lied in his deposition in the Paula Jones case -- Judge Susan Webber Wright fined Clinton for not telling the truth -- and before a grand jury. His lies have hurt the country. His apologists' justifications have given perjury a new respectability as Democrats have argued that perjury is acceptable if needed to cover up a stupid affair. What's more, the party of the little man now demands lenient treatment for the mighty, yet was mute when the full weight of the law threatened to crush lesser beings such as Linda Tripp and former Ken Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly, who faces criminal charges for allegedly leaking a story to the New York Times. Before the House impeached Clinton, some Democrats argued that if the president broke the law, he should be tried in a court of law after his term in office -- not impeached and removed. To protect their power base, they were willing to treat America to an ugly civics lesson: Yes, kids, a man can commit a felony, get caught and still remain in the Oval Office. That was then, this is now and Democrats are outraged that a prosecutor might indict the soon-to-be ex-president. The process some once urged as expedient they now discard as vindictive. Actually, it's not so much vindictive as stupid. If a jury actually convicted Clinton -- and what are the odds of that? -- it would turn the Big Creep into a martyr. And if a jury did acquit, not only would Clinton get off -- again -- but also he'd be able to claim that an American jury had cleared him of all wrongdoing. Yuck. Last week, when America first learned of Ray's grand jury, White House spokesman Jake Siewert basically accused Ray's office of leaking this news to rain on Al Gore's convention parade. When federal Judge Richard Cudahy -- a Carter appointee who was once chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party -- admitted that he ``inadvertently'' leaked the story, Siewert told the Washington Post, ``We may never know the full story here.'' Clintonia will never let a fact stand in its way when it can smear people whose main crime is to see the White House for the corrupt club it has become. Gov. George W. Bush showed how the opposition can react with class. He denounced the leak before its origins were known. Clearly Bush understands that the public has had enough. Which is why Dubya should announce that, if elected, he would end any and all probes into the Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and Whitewater cases. Better yet: promise to pardon Clinton for any crimes explored by this grand jury. Assuage the Right by promising to pardon Tripp and Bakaly as well. Call it compassionate conservatism. It would be a great way to show up Al Gore, who only knows how to weasel on the pardon question. He says he doesn't have to say whether he would pardon or not because Clinton wouldn't accept a pardon. Is there a 12-year-old in America who buys that? Of course, Gore can't say he'd pardon Clinton without looking like an even bigger toady, and he comes across as a pretty big toady as it is. Sometimes the only way to win is to admit defeat and move on. If Bush announced he'd pardon Clinton for perjury, he could give the public what it wants -- an end to the scandals -- and at the same time, deny Clinton what he wants, which is to paint himself as the underappreciated victim.