Friday, February 2, 2001

Johnny-come-lately liberals are in an uproar over former President Clinton’s peddling of White House pardons: Mr. Clinton has no shame. He’ll do anything for a quick buck. He disgraced the highest office in the land.

This is news?

Lost in the hoopa is Mr. Clinton’s repugnant clemency for former Rep. Mel Reynolds, Illinois Democrat. There was no quid pro quo here. No cash contribution or new living room couch. Just a heartfelt gesture of sympathy from one big creep to another.

Mr. Clinton ordered Reynolds released from federal prison and commuted the remaining two years of his term. A federal jury convicted Reynolds in 1997 on 15 charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and lying to the Federal Election Commission. Reynolds had also been convicted in 1995 by an Illinois jury on two counts of solicitation of child pornography, three counts of criminal sexual assault, three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and four counts of obstruction of justice.

Reynolds and Mr. Clinton, who jogged and made campaign appearances together, share much in common. Both were Democrats. Both were Rhodes Scholars. Both were manipulative, vengeful and voracious. Both abused their offices, humiliated their families and their constituents and lied repeatedly under oath. Both blamed Republicans, the media and their victims for their sordid downfalls.

Both shared the Rev. Jesse Jackson as a spiritual counselor. And neither, to this day, has ever shown an ounce of true remorse for his behavior.

Mr. Jackson, now himself a professional penitent, argued with other supporters that Reynolds had paid his dues. But that’s not what the court record shows. At his federal fraud trial, Reynolds was obscenely defiant. He threatened a key witness by mouthing an epithet while the man was on the stand. Reynolds also made a vulgar hand gesture at the witness, who had testified that Reynolds ordered him to withhold subpoenaed campaign-finance documents.

The incensed judge ruled not only that Reynolds had attempted to intimidate the witness, but also that he lied to the court and the jury, concealed and destroyed evidence, and failed to take responsibility for laundering union political contributions, hiding debts in order to obtain bank loans and ordering aides to illegally cash at least $164,000 in campaign donations for non-campaign use.

If that weren’t shameful enough, Reynolds also had repeated adulterous sexual encounters with an underage campaign volunteer, whom he met when he cruised her Chicago high school in his Cadillac. They carried on in his legislative office and at a nearby apartment. Reynolds gave the then 16-year-old girl cash at each meeting and supplied her with his pager number and apartment keys.

In explicit taped phone conversations, they reminisced about group sex encounters with another woman, laughed about Reynolds’ crude nickname for the girls and casually discussed Reynolds’ three young children while planning a sexual tryst with a 15-year-old Catholic high school girl that the 16-year-old had said wanted to have sex with him.

“Did I win the Lotto?” Reynolds chortled after he heard the offer.

Reynolds instructed his young paramour to take Polaroid photographs of the 15-year-old girl’s genitals and breasts. No “face shots,” Reynolds ordered.

Reynolds’ lawyers dismissed the talk as harmless fantasy. In classic Clintonian style, Reynolds smeared his young accuser as a “liar” and “nut case.” A diverse jury of six blacks and six whites believed the troubled girl, not the conniving Rhodes Scholar. Yet, Reynolds bitterly blamed racism in a 40-minute courtroom tirade: “When they shackle me, like they shackled my slave ancestors and take me off to jail, nobody in this room will see me crawl.” He called reporters who covered the case “animals.”

As always, the cover-up did in Reynolds. Swing jurors were disturbed by a $4,500 bank withdrawal Reynolds made in an obvious attempt to send the 16-year-old out of state and obstruct justice. Reynolds also bullied law enforcement officials and had his employees type up recantation affidavits for his young accuser to sign.

In granting clemency, Clinton must have given his fellow Rhodes Scholar extra points for his hubris, chutzpah and sneering indignation. To these loathsome bosom buddies, soiling public office means never having to say you’re sorry.

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