- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2000

In the spirit of what passes for "bipartisanship" these days, which, incidentally, may have replaced all atavistic references to Christmas spirit, let's introduce the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton's $8 million book deal with analysis from the left. The honors go to columnist Jimmy Breslin, who, as an inveterate liberal, of course, doesn't get things right too often. But in stripping away the blinkers of partisanship, it must be said that his most recent New York Newsday column is a pip. In fact, who needs the herald angel singing when you can take in Mr. Breslin's own muscular vocalizing? "Every time Hillary Clinton passes a bank," he writes, "the burglar alarm goes off. Good morning, suckers. You got exactly what you wanted."

The man is just warming up. "Just what does this person have inside her to hold out her hand and then promise to tell all about the lowest days any president ever imposed on the citizens?" he writes. "The outrage is that for money she proposes to tell about her husband and Monica Lewinsky, and the impeachment it brought about. And also had her husband, as president, lying under oath. You forget. This guy was your president and he lied under oath while the wife beamed on. And how do you like it? He could be facing criminal charges." Then he really gets going, putting to excellent use the words, "fake," "fraud," and "whirlpool of slime."

Ain't bipartisanship grand? But there's a problem. The common ground reached to date by the right and left happens to be across one of those great divides from the kind of consensus Mr. Breslin's sentiments would seem to promise. That is, the sweet elixir of bipartisanship flowing in Washington since, say, Sunday morning's chat shows has so far served only to neutralize the caustic, natural reaction to Mrs. Clinton and her multimillion-dollar book deal, not to set it ablaze.

Ethical issues? Even the appearance of ethical issues? Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says he doesn't "want to be critical of her." Rep. David Dreier calls Mrs. Clinton's book deal "capitalism at its best." The media and the Democrats who took up the drumbeat in 1994 against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich over his $4.5 million book deal with HarperCollins, among them House Minority Whip David E. Bonior of Michigan and Rep. Carrie P. Meek of Florida, have been silent.

Or worse than silent. Once upon a time, Mr. Bonior said Mr. Gingrich's book deal "was an arrogant act for a man who's about to assume one of the most powerful positions and offices in our land. Before he gets to the public business," Mr. Bonior said, "he's taking care of his own private profits." And what of Mrs. Clinton? Since Mr. Gingrich was hounded for his contract with HarperCollins, a publishing house owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, shouldn't Mrs. Clinton be held accountable for her venture with Simon & Schuster? The book publisher is, after all, a subsidiary of Viacom, a media conglomerate with a range of issues before the House and Senate similar to those of Mr. Murdoch's. When this newspaper's Audrey Hudson called Mr. Bonior for comment, he was, as they say, "unavailable," although his spokesman did note that Mrs. Clinton hasn't yet been sworn into office. Sounds as if it depends on what the meaning of senator-elect is.

And it sounds as if, as Mr. Bonior himself might have put it, Mrs. Clinton is taking care of her own private profits before getting to the public business, which seems to be fine with Democrats and Republicans alike. Meanwhile, the White House is spinning out the difference between the two deals. According to spokesman Jake Siewert, "There was also some question about whether his [Mr. Gingrich's] story was really worth $4.5 million, whereas no one doubts that Mrs. Clinton's story is worth any amount of money."

Maybe Mr. Siewert ought to run that by Jimmy Breslin.

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