- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

Not a good week for Bill Clinton. First, his efforts to boost the candidacy of Ehud Barak via charismatic interview on Israeli TV didn't exactly motivate the Israeli electorate as planned. Next, the ex-president was said to be busy working the phones to see if the prime minister of India could use any assistance after last month's devastating earthquake. One has to wonder what Mr. Clinton offered in the way of aid to the quake-ravaged subcontinent overstuffed club chairs?

Speaking of overstuffed club chairs along with a showroom's worth of furniture that the Clintons "mistook" for personal gifts the financial machinations of "Sofagate" are beginning to take on a complexity that would challenge even a former Whitewater prosecutor. First, the Clintons offered to pony up $85,616 for the loot sorry, gifts that piled up during their final year in the White House before Mrs. Clinton's Senate rules kicked in to prohibit such shakedowns sorry, largesse. Why? "To eliminate even the slightest question," said a statement from Mr. Clinton's office.

Hate to say it, but not even the slightest question has been eliminated. Even the Clintons' figuring prompts questions. Take, for example, the wiggle room in the way they have valued their goodies. One custom-made red leather sofa cost the manufacturer $2,500 to make and the Clintons valued it at$1,088 on their disclosure statement. Go figure. Or don't bother. The Washington Post reported this week that some $28,000 in gifts the Clintons took with them were supposed to have remained in the White House to which they were donated in the first place.

Meanwhile, in Boca Raton, Mr. Clinton was supposed to kick off his post-presidential run on the gravy train sorry, lecture circuit with an easy, $100,000 speech at a Morgan Stanley Dean Witter convention. Turns out nothing's easy. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the investment company's 13,000 representatives had to be prepped with a scripted attempt to appease customers threatening to close their accounts. ("Please don't make emotional decisions on your finances based on this one event …" angry callers were told.) Then, a rowdy band of protesters greeted the former president with signs saying, "Leave the silverware," "Does Dean Witter need a pardon?" and "Sell the penthouse and get a trailer it's so you." A man with a megaphone roamed about, shouting, "Sexual predator alert Bill Clinton in the neighborhood." How, er, rude.

Not that things were much better inside. Mr. Clinton is said to have become red-faced while being heckled about his pardon of Marc Rich. "If you have a problem with the pardon, write John Ashcroft and have him sue Marc Rich," Mr. Clinton replied.

He probably can't wait to get back to the Big Apple. Of course, as "Pardongate" continues to fester, and as "Penthousegate" continues to develop with Mr. Clinton's office rent now expected to top $800,000, and his offer to pay $300,000 of the rent from his presidential library funds now raising both ethical and legal questions New York may seem about as inviting as a purloined club chair. Even the social circuit seems to have rolled up the red carpet. The New York Post's Liz Smith reports that while Hillary Clinton has put Susan Thomases on the case to make sure that Mr. Clinton is invited out, "One lady who is almost as famous as the Clintons had this to say: `Now we are going to forever and always be dealing with him at dinner parties… . And he is just a terrible dinner guest. In the first place, he isn't interested in any woman over 30. He has nothing to say to an older woman. He doesn't listen either. He lectures and rambles on. This is going to be horrible having him in New York.' "

Better than having him in the White House.

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