- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

The announcement by independent counsel Robert Ray that he lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute the president or first lady on Whitewater-related matters went through two spin cycles in the space of one.

First, the president questioned the timing of the announcement. His implication: that Mr. Ray was attempting to damage Hillary Rodham Clinton's chances in New York. The tendency to charge his opponents with malice is reflexive with the president. It was most recently on display during the Democratic National Convention, when a news leak revealed that Mr. Ray had impaneled a new grand jury to examine possible criminal charges against Mr. Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The president and his minions immediately rushed to microphones to condemn this Republican dirty trick. Later, a federal judge revealed that he had inadvertently leaked the information.

But the Ray announcement was good news on several levels, so how could this be an attempt to hurt Mrs. Clinton? In the first place, even assuming that Mr. Ray were a fierce anti-Clinton partisan, he would have to know that the press would report this decision not to prosecute as a vindication. And indeed they did. National Public Radio spoke of Mr. Ray "clearing" the Clintons of Whitewater charges, and other media outlets likewise portrayed the decision not to prosecute as a certificate of innocence.

The announcement also gave Mrs. Clinton and here we get into the second half of the spin cycle the opportunity to posture in her favorite clothing, that of innocent victim. She referred to the extreme length of the Whitewater investigation and opined that the American people had long since made up their minds about the case. It takes gall for the Clintons to complain about the length of the probe when their own refusal to cooperate, invocation of privileges and strange inability to respond to subpoenas accounts for most of the delays.

Only the Wall Street Journal editorial page pointed out that Mr. Ray's decision obviously not a vindication, merely a recognition that he lacked enough evidence to go forward actually represented a triumph of the Clintons' stonewalling tactics. Only the Journal seems to recall the infamous disappearing billing records (such withholding of evidence would be considered obstruction of justice in normal circumstances), the witnesses who refused to cooperate (Webster Hubbell and Susan McDougal), and the 14 convictions of Clinton allies and cronies in the Whitewater mess.

This is not the only opportunity Mrs. Clinton has enjoyed to pose as victim. Tim Russert and Rick Lazio apparently handed her another chance.

Responding to Mr. Russert's very reasonable question about whether Mrs. Clinton should apologize for blaming "a vast right-wing conspiracy" for the Lewinsky story, she answered in a way that compounds her duplicity. She said that she herself was misled (and it is oh-so-painful to talk about), and therefore could not mislead anybody.

Hooey. Voters who believe this deserve Mrs. Clinton as a senator. Let's leave aside her reported remark, the day that she made the "VRWC" comment, "That'll teach 'em to … with us," and go straight to the common sense of the matter. This woman has lived with Mr. Clinton for more than a quarter century. In that time, he has consorted with hundreds of women (his figure, not mine it's in former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report). So, the "smartest woman in the world" hears of the Lewinsky accusations and assumes her husband is innocent and that this is all the work of a VRWC? She assumes this even after hearing him respond to Jim Lehrer's question as to whether the charges were true, "There is no sexual relationship." Does that mean there once was? Mr. Lehrer asked. "I'm going to cooperate with the investigation," Mr. Clinton replied (I paraphrase).

Well, New Yorkers are too worldly to fall for this rot, right? Maybe not. According to the New York Times, a majority of both male and female likely voters thought Rick Lazio was "too aggressive" in the debate with Mrs. Clinton. They sympathized when Mrs. Clinton fretted that her "personal space" had been violated. Since the debate, Mrs. Clinton's favorable rating has risen, while Mr. Lazio's has plunged.

Looks like Mrs. Clinton will get more mileage out of Monica Lewinsky than her husband ever did.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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