Clinton's disgraceful departure

Posted: Jan 24, 2001 12:00 AM
My desire finally to follow the Clinton admonition "just to move on," is outweighed by my obligation to comment on the distasteful nature with which Clinton handled his last days (and few hours following) in office. Seriously, can you believe this guy? In terms of chutzpah, Clinton -- in his final 48 hours in office -- even put his previous eight years to shame. When taking office and pledging to lead the most ethical administration in history, Clinton issued an executive order extending from one to five years the prohibition on administration officials becoming paid lobbyists after retiring from government service. But, shortly before relinquishing the presidential reins, he revoked the order when it could no longer serve his political purposes. Why? Members of his administration could hardly be successful lobbyists with a new Republican administration. When issuing the original order, he made no such qualification. Anxious to secure for himself a legacy as the most environmentally friendly president, Clinton issued a spate of liberty-choking executive orders right up to the final hours of his tenure. In the last week he established six additional national "monuments," thereby confiscating over a million more acres of property for the rapacious federal government. And what about Clinton’s ballyhooed "admissions of guilt" to Independent Counsel Robert Ray in exchange for no criminal indictment and surrendering his law license for five years? Let’s set the record straight: We now know that the statement Ray extracted from Clinton had been the subject of intense, hands-on negotiations between Clinton and the independent counsel for more than a year. It was only announced at the last minute to allow both sides to avoid embarrassment. A quick perusal of the statement reveals the unique Clinton flavor in nearly every syllable. Far from contrite, it is self-serving, disingenuous and rife with denial of intentional wrongdoing. "I’ve already settled the Paula Jones case, even after it was dismissed as being completely without legal and factual merit." So, we are to believe that Clinton’s decision to settle was motivated by the same magnanimity he has shown his enemies throughout his career. Clinton also bragged that he paid his legal fees "even though [he] disagreed with the findings" of Judge Wright’s contempt order. In other words, "Judge Wright was wrong in finding me in contempt, but I acted as a statesman in not contesting her order." Now, get this one: "I will not seek any legal fees incurred as a result of the Lewinsky investigation to which I might otherwise become entitled under the Independent Counsel Act." That’s rising above and beyond the call of public service, Mr. Clinton. Or, how about: "I now recognize that ... certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false." Don’t you see? The timing of his awareness is critical. It turns multiple acts of perjury into some insignificant, negligent mistakes. What on earth was Robert Ray thinking? Clinton then closes with yet another profession of a past apology: "I have apologized for my conduct." I hope you weren’t expecting anything as forthcoming as a present apology. While I was not salivating over a possible Clinton indictment because of the false ammunition it would have provided his shrill defenders to taint George Bush’s early months in office, this statement and its inexcusable acceptance by Robert Ray is the worst of all possible results and a disgrace to the rule of law and to "equal justice under the law." But the worst of Clinton’s last-minute excesses were his unconscionable pardons. Sending the nation one last flip-off, Clinton nepotistically pardoned his brother Roger. Amazingly, ABC’s Cokie Roberts reacted, "If you can’t help your family, who can you help?" Clinton also granted clemency to Whitewater co-conspirator Susan McDougal. If you can’t exonerate your partners in crime, whom can you exonerate? And, he pardoned Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland in 1983 to escape a 65-count federal indictment for tax fraud, racketeering and tax evasion charges (maximum sentence: 325 years in jail). He never served a day in jail, but his wife, Denise Rich, contributed almost $1.3 million to Bill's, Hillary's and Al's campaigns and other Democratic causes. If you can’t repay your political friends, whom can you repay? Clinton gave himself one last pat on the back as he was indulging in one last farewell speech after Bush was sworn in: He intoned repeatedly, "We did a lotta good." No argument from Roger, Susan and Marc. But alas, today marks the fourth day of a new era and I’m feeling pretty good about it.