Common threads in Clinton pardons

Posted: Feb 28, 2001 12:00 AM
A novel defense has emerged for Bill Clinton's tawdry last-minute rash of pardons. Some are maintaining that since Clinton didn't grant a pardon in every case in which one of his major donors or relatives were pressing for it, he must not have been acting improperly in the ones he did grant. I'm not making this up. James Carville, on the "Today Show," sporting a straight face, argued that since many people with a lot of money tried unsuccessfully to obtain clemency from Clinton, he must have carefully weighed each application on its merits. Similarly, the Washington Post trotted out a story that not all of Hugh Rodham's clients were granted pardons, even some with "sterling Clinton connections." Is the implication in this "news" story not obvious? Not all those with Clinton connections received pardons; therefore, none of the pardons was improper. To put this in perspective, if it could be shown that '60s mass murderer Richard Speck spent quality social time with some other student nurses without murdering them around the time he cashiered those eight in the Chicago loop, he would not have been guilty of killing those eight -- no matter how many smoking guns (or bloody knives) could have been produced to show he did. But it is true that not every Clinton-enabler who requested a pardon got one, to wit: Webster Hubbell. So, what were the criteria? What was the common denominator? In the first place, I think it is absurd to suppose that there is complete consistency in anything Bill Clinton does. This is especially true with these pardons, which he executed in a mad scramble during the last waking hours of his regrettable eight years in office. But I do believe that a good number of the pardons were motivated by certain aspects of the twisted Clinton mindset. I know I'm not a psychologist, but neither are the scores of others who try to analyze this guy, so please indulge my amateurish speculations. I think that Clinton, on one level, knows full well when he is acting improperly. Even though as a sociopath he is apparently immune from guilt, he still seems compelled to justify his behavior, both to himself and others. This is where his persecution complex comes in handy. It's always someone else's fault; someone is always trying to do him in. He has probably harbored this "us against them" mentality since his Vietnam protesting days. Closely related is his obvious contempt for authority and for its institutions, including law enforcement and the military. So here we have the ultimate irony: a guy who loathes cops, the Secret Service and the military, in charge of all three for eight years. (Considering that fact, by the way, we're lucky he didn't do more damage than he did.) I've had suspicions about Clinton's paranoia for some time, but I was reminded of it when reading a couple of recent articles about Clinton's final days. Fox News reported that Hollywood director Wes Craven produced a short film of Clinton's final moments in power. One source who observed the filming (which ought to be titled "Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue") said, "We were a little nervous in places, thinking about what went on there. At one point, Clinton said something like, 'back when they were trying to get rid of me,' with no apparent guilt." Notice the two things there? No remorse, and his accusers were the real criminals. A story in Newsweek, "Backstage at the Finale," confirms that Clinton's contempt for authority led him to believe he was a kindred spirit with some of the pardon applicants. At least, that's the inference I drew from the story, which reveals that one "argument that hit home with Clinton" was that certain people, such as Marc Rich, had been victims of overzealous prosecutors. "For weeks, reflecting on his own misfortunes, the president had been stewing about the unfairness of a legal system that gave prosecutors such wide-ranging powers. He resolved to send a message to prosecutors and independent counsels -- pardoning more than a dozen people who had never requested clemency and who had no idea Clinton had put them on the list." Is this not sick? Clinton the victim, the prosecutors the villains. He evened the score by cramming these pardons right down their throats. In your face, Ken Starr. It's as if Clinton were contemptuously mocking us one last time, daring us to "catch me if you can." Perhaps finally, we have.