The Clinton legacy lives

Posted: Oct 04, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- From his taxpayer-funded exile in Harlem, William "The Zipper" Clinton lives the good life of a deposed monarch. His wife has been installed in the U.S. Senate, his bagman, Terry McAuliffe, runs the Democratic National Committee, and publishers proffer millions for his memoirs chronicling conquests over a multitude of maidens. Hollywood starlets and interns still coo his name. When not vowing to "fight and die" for Israel (something he wouldn't do for America), he hints at playing the Apollo. Meanwhile, the party he left behind must deal with his "no rules" legacy. The decade of the 1990s and the "Clinton Economy," as the adulterer's apologists liked to call it, was a massive house of cards. From corruption in the White House and Wall Street fraud to phony Middle East "peace accords," the unstated but guiding principles of the Clinton Era were that truth didn't matter, wealth needn't be earned and national security wasn't important. What Bill and Hillary didn't take from the White House, they sold: the Lincoln Bedroom, missile secrets, presidential pardons and everything in between. Perhaps most disturbing, the Clintons sought to smear and destroy those who tried to tell the truth about their abuses. FBI files were purloined and perused, and IRS audits were ordered, while Hillary hissed about a "vast right-wing conspiracy" and Bill blamed conservatives for the Oklahoma City bombing. Meanwhile, real terrorist networks flourished in the United States. Unfortunately, the "no rules" era Bill Clinton brought to Washington didn't depart with him. Far too many of today's Democrats learned far too much from their lip-biting, finger-pointing, tutor. Protege-in-waiting, Al Gore, has forsaken conventional canons about political differences stopping at the water's edge and launched a vicious attack on President Bush for the way he is prosecuting the war on terror. In a trip worthy of Jane Fonda's Hanoi visit during the Vietnam War, Democrat Reps. David Bonior of Michigan, Jim McDermott of Washington, Mike Thompson of California and Nick Rahall of West Virginia -- who should all seriously consider changing their political affiliation to the Ba'th Party -- trekked to Baghdad to kiss Saddam Hussein's ring while American pilots maneuvered to avoid Iraqi missiles. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., threw a hissy fit on the Senate floor, politicizing the war against terrorism. And Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., launched his own rhetorical harpoon at the commander in chief after receiving guidance from the Democrat's dancing diva of diplomacy, Barbra Streisand. Not content with simply skewering President Bush, Babs also tortured the English language and the works of William Shakespeare. Thankfully, out in the heartland, Americans aren't buying it anymore. Earlier this year, pollster Stuart Rothenberg called the group of former high-level Clintonistas seeking office this year the "Big Six." But now, with a month before election, the Big Six are falling like dominoes. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo quit the Democratic gubernatorial primary in New York when he couldn't close a 20-point gap with his opponent. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich failed in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nod in Massachusetts. Janet Reno was knocked out of the Florida gubernatorial race by a little-known Democratic rival. Former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, running against Elizabeth Dole for North Carolina's open Senate seat, lags in the polls, and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson is locked in a tight gubernatorial race in New Mexico, a state President Bush narrowly lost in 2000. Only former White House advisor Rahm Emanuel is favored to win a Chicago-area congressional seat where Democrats reign like the old Soviet Politburo. That doesn't mean that the "no rules" crowd of Clinton cronies has given up. When Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., abruptly dropped his faltering re-election bid last week, New Jersey Democrats ignored a state law requiring withdrawal at least 51 days before the election and installed former Sen. Frank Lautenberg in his stead. Torricelli, mired in scandal, now faces a re-opened federal criminal investigation. And who is his role model? At his surreal swan song, Torricelli apologized "to Bill Clinton that I did not have his strength" to defy the law and public opinion. He'll be lucky to join Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., in retirement, instead of living with ex-Rep. James Traficant of Ohio in prison. And the list goes on. In California, Democrat Gov. Gray Davis continues to test the outer-limits of "no-rules" political fund raising. Last February, he shocked members of the California Teachers Association by asking for a $1 million contribution in the middle of a policy discussion about education. A month later he tried to shake down UC Berkeley students for $100 each to have photos taken with him. In Iowa, a former aide to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin secretly recorded a strategy briefing of his Republican opponent, Rep. Greg Ganske. After initially denying involvement, Harkin's campaign fired two staffers, including the campaign manager. And in Maryland, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has equated her Republican gubernatorial opponent Rep. Bob Ehrlich's opposition to race-based hiring quotas with support for slavery, lynching and Jim Crow laws. Next month's election isn't just a test over which party will better "manage the economy" or "protect U.S. national security." It's also a chance to decide whether Americans really want to continue the "no rules" legacy of the last administration. From what I've seen traveling around the country, the Clinton era is finally over.