- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Gov. George Bush has vetoed Republican National Committee ads attacking Vice President Al Gore's credibility. This leaves little hope that the greatest presidential scandal since Watergate, and the role both Gore and his running mate played in it, will be an issue in the fall campaign. Bad for Bush; worse for the nation.

The ads excerpt a 1994 interview where a stammering Gore declares that, to the best of his knowledge, Bill Clinton never told a lie in his entire political career.

A year later, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey confided to another interviewer that the president was “an unusually good liar.” Was the senator better acquainted with Clinton than his own vice president?

Try to imagine Democrats in the 1974 congressional elections blithely discarding the Nixon card.

Gore is terrified of being tarred by the Clinton scandals. He chose Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in an attempt to wrap himself in the latter's perceived moral mantle.

In Los Angeles, when Rep. Loretta Sanchez was planning a bash at the House of Hefner, the Gore campaign drop-kicked her off the stage, fearing the affair would remind us of another notorious playboy.

And prior to Gore's acceptance speech, when was the last time a presidential nominee promised, “I will never let you down”?

The veep can stop sweating. The media, which are once again running interference for their favorite party, have convinced Bush that the public wants to hear no more of the impeachment and considers it unfair to tie Gore to Clinton's crimes.

But the fallout of the Monica Lewinsky affair apparantely has the half-life of plutonium. The day of Gore's speech, it was learned that a new federal grand jury is considering indicting Clinton when he leaves office.

Rather than helping him lay the scandal to rest, Gore's choice of Lieberman could put renewed emphasis on it. During the Senate impeachment debate, Lieberman admitted that Clinton “made false and misleading statements and took actions which could have the effect of impeding the discovery of evidence in a judicial proceeding,” then voted against removing him.

Clinton's “wrongdoing does not justify making him the first president to be ousted from office,” the great moralist rationalized. But allegations that Clarence Thomas made off-color jokes and pestered an associate for a date were enough to justify denying him a Supreme Court seat. Lieberman voted against confirming Thomas.

If the senator honestly believes that Clinton's wrongdoing didn't justify his removal, what exactly would?

Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright thought Clinton's conduct justified citing him for contempt and fining him $90,000. A committee of the Arkansas bar thinks it justifies revoking his license to practice law.

Is it fair to implicate Gore in all of this? In the face of mounting evidence that Clinton had repeatedly broken the law, the vice president could have maintained a dignified silence during the fall of 1998.

Instead, there he was in the Rose Garden, on the day the House voted impeachment, bouncing up and down like some demented cheerleader, tellilng the world or his pride in “one of our greatest presidents.”

He was “extremely privileged to have been able to serve with him,” because, in making decisions that shape the nation's destiny, the president always asks, “What is right for the American people?” Gore gushed.

Was carrying on a sordid affair in the White House with another federal employee “right for the American people”? Was it right for Clinton to violate his oath to uphold the laws by seeking to subvert them? Does this inspire confidence in our elected officials? Does it reinforce the ideal of equal justice?

It isn't enough for the Democratic nominee to tell us that Clinton disappointed him or to make vague references to misdeeds. When will he admit that the man he served for seven years made a mockery of our judicial system to protect himself? If he's elected and Clinton is indicted, will Gore pardon him?

To purge the episode, there must be an accounting. Whether he gains or loses votes thereby, the greatest public service Bush could perform in the next nine weeks is to press Gore on a question that haunts us today as it did 26 years ago: Is the president above the law?

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