Former President Bill Clinton told "60 Minutes" Sunday night: "It cost over $70 million, and we were exonerated in Whitewater, exonerated in the Vince Foster suicide, exonerated in the campaign finance reform, exonerated in the White House travel office deal, exonerated in the FBI file case. The judge ruled that the Jones case had absolutely no merit." It was a virtuoso performance -- unchallenged by interviewer Dan Rather -- by Bill Clinton, professional victim.
Figure it all depends on what the definition of "exoneration" is. Clinton is right, the special prosecutor's office never indicted either Clinton or his wife for breaking the law in the collapse of the failed Whitewater real- estate development (which contributed to losses paid by taxpayers when the connected Madison Savings & Loan collapsed.) Still, the 14 Whitewater-related convictions of such notables as former Clinton aide Webster Hubbell and the special prosecutor's assertion that both Clintons made "factually inaccurate" statements discredit the "exoneration" claim.
Yes, a special prosecutor reported that (former Clinton aide) Foster killed himself -- thus discrediting conspiracy theorists who suggested Foster was murdered. But that's because the probe did what it was supposed to do -- figure out how and why Foster died.
Clinton was hardly exonerated for his fund-raising excesses. In fact, some 14 Democratic donors and fund-raisers pleaded guilty to fund-raising abuses, many more invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before the Senate, while others simply fled the country.
As C. Boyden Gray, counsel to the first President Bush, quipped of Clinton's exoneration claim, "By that measure, Reagan was exonerated in Iran-Contra." The travel-office scandal? Since it was legal for the new administration to fire employees in order to replace them with cronies, the investigation didn't find any criminal wrongdoing. Still, the Republican chair of the investigating committee William F. Clinger observed that the Clinton White House "abused its powers to smear innocent citizens."
Clintonia was exonerated in the probe of a low-level White House personnel official who obtained confidential FBI files of former Republican staffers. But the probe was necessary. As Barbara Comstock, who worked on the investigation, noted, Washington has to investigate when confidential FBI files might be used for partisan reasons. "People forget. You had The New York Times and The Washington Post calling for the Whitewater investigation, calling for the campaign finance investigation," she noted.
Yet Clinton only sees a vast right-wing conspiracy.