- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

With millions of Americans furious about the last presidential days of Bill Clinton and the revelations about Jesse Jackson, President Bush has a bit of a problem on his hands.

Mr. Bush, you see, is the one man in the country who could actually get to the bottom of both situations, if he has the will to do so. But to go after alleged corruption on the part of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson would bring down intense wrath on the head of George W.

The question for Mr. Bush therefore becomes: Is the pursuit of justice worth the heat?

Bill Clinton first. By pardoning fugitive Marc Rich for absolutely no apparent reason, Mr. Clinton again snubs the rule of law in this country.

In 1983, federal prosecutors led by Rudy Giuliani put together a compelling tax evasion case against Mr. Rich, accusing him of pulling off the biggest tax fraud scheme in U.S. history. Even though he could afford to hire the best defense lawyers in the country to contest the rap, Mr. Rich skipped the country and took up residence in Switzerland, where he lived in splendor and continued making millions in the commodities market.

In the ensuing years, Mr. Rich's ex-wife became an important fund-raiser for Bill and Hillary Clinton, and millions of dollars solicited by her found their way into the Clinton world.

Then, in the last few hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned Mr. Rich, a man who had fled his country and renounced his citizenship. Prosecutors and all Americans who care about justice were appalled.

Mr. Clinton also shaved some prison time off the sentences of four Hasidic Jews who reportedly defrauded the government to the tune of $40 million. Representatives for these men met with Hillary Clinton last August, and the Hasidic vote in New York went big for her. Soon after the election, the representatives visited the White House. Should we connect the dots here?

Jesse Jackson hasn't been audited by the Internal Revenue Service in 18 years. His mistress was moved to California, and big money was paid to her for child support. Mr. Jackson has been accused of dubious fund-raising techniques time and time again. Millions of tax-exempt dollars flow through his organizations. Time to connect the dots again?

Mr. Bush could get to the bottom of all of this. But if he goes after the Clintons, the Democrats will scream. And if he goes after Mr. Jackson, the blacks will scream. As we know, Mr. Bush is trying to "reach out" to both groups to accomplish his legislative goals.

But the rule of law has to trump politics if this country wants to right itself after the incredible corruption of the last eight years. There is no question that massive campaign-finance violations occurred under President Clinton, and he escaped completely unscathed, thanks to his obstructionist Attorney General Janet Reno. There were also plenty of shenanigans in the doling out of seats on foreign trade missions, not to mention the lavish spending the Clintons heaped upon themselves at the expense of the taxpayer.

As for Jesse Jackson, he has been living large for decades without any apparent accountability. The one tax return from PUSH/Excel I was able to see included more than $1 million in travel and convention expenses. Funny thing, none of the expenses were itemized. As I always say you try that.

Mr. Jackson simply will not answer any questions about his finances or anything else he doesn't care to talk about. As for his latest escapade, William Bennett had the best line about the Reverend's quick comeback. "It looks like drive-by contrition to me," said Mr. Bennett.

The way to hold both the Clintons and Jesse Jackson accountable is for President Bush to have his new attorney general launch a "quiet" investigation. Believe me, the FBI would love to get in on this. Then if hard evidence does surface, Mr. Bush can act surprised. "Gee, how about that," he can say. "Hard to believe, isn't it? Guess we'll have to look into things a bit further; what else can I do?"

And W. can just stand there shaking his head.

But just the fact that those kinds of political games have to be played in this country is beyond sad. Mr. Clinton, his wife and Jesse Jackson most definitely have some explaining to do. But they are betting that nobody has the courage to even ask the questions.

Does anyone dare bet against them?

Bill O'Reilly, a veteran TV news anchor, is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous."

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