- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2001

Nearly everyone has a brother-in-law, and some are bigger headaches than others. So we can all sympathize with Hugh Rodham.

Uncle Hugh, who drew a genuine doozy when they were handing out brothers-in-law, appears to be the designated fall guy in the latest twist and turn of "Bonnie & Clod," the most durable and soon to be the longest-running soap opera on American television.

The beauty part of the post-presidential adventures of the dynamic duo is that at last we can enjoy the show without worrying about new damage to the White House and the institutions that Americans revere most.

"Bonnie & Clod" has to be closing in on "As the World Turns" and "The Days of Our Lives." Vice presidents at Procter and Gamble are kicking themselves (and each other) that they didn't think to sign on as the sole sponsor of this one a decade ago. Bonnie and Clod would have been pleased to oblige.

However, the explanations that first Clod and then Bonnie tried out to explain the latest pardon scam won't wash, not with all the P&G; laundry soap Grandma has in her cupboard.

This latest round ought to be the finale, the eagerly anticipated Busby Berkeley production number. All the supporting players we've come to know so well are here: Bruce Lindsey, Harold Ickes, Lanny Davis. But maybe we're just getting started. "It would be tempting to think that this is the final chapter in a very long book of President Clinton's indifference to the appearance problems presented by big money in politics," says Scott Harshbarger, chairman of Common Cause, which is by no means a part of Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy. "Unfortunately though, there seems to be a surprise around every corner."

Nevertheless, there are subtle changes in the script and cast. Miss Bonnie gets first billing in the latest round, to the considerable chagrin of Clod. The headlines in nearly all the newspapers identify Hugh as "Hillary's brother," not "Clinton's brother-in-law." A small distinction, but one the ex-prez surely noticed. How fame do fleet.

Alerted that the story would break in the morning papers, Clod tried out his line first: "Yesterday I became aware of press inquiries that Hugh Rodham received a contingency fee in connection with a pardon application for Glenn Braswell and a fee for work on Carlos Vignali's commutation application. Neither Hillary nor I had any knowledge of such payments. We are deeply disturbed by these reports and have insisted that Hugh return any moneys received."

Bonnie was up next: She says she had heard the rumors a week ago that her brother was trolling for lawyers with clients seeking pardons, but didn't inquire about them. She's fixing up her new house on Whitehaven Street, after all, and cataloging all the stuff and writing the thank-you notes that are the duty of all new brides. That takes up time. She learned "definitively" that's Bonnie and Clod talk for learning that the jig was just about to be up about Hugh's role Monday when she was at the movies. She was "heartbroken and shocked … and extremely disappointed." Nobody, in fact, has been this shocked since the police inspector in "Casablanca" learned that gambling was going on at Rick's.

Poor Hugh. He not only has to send back the money, but Sis insists that he say it was his idea. His consolation is that sending back the money hurts Sis more than it hurts him, and not even Carville, Davis, Begala, Podesta and all the other true deceivers could sell her explanation.

Sis says she hasn't spoken to her brother since she heard the shocking rumors and doesn't want to. (He doesn't want to talk to her, either.) But she could tell the reporters, who finally got to ask questions of her for the first time in months, one thing: She didn't know anything about that pardon for Marc Rich. All she did was forward "materials" put in her hands.

"I never knew about Marc Rich at all," she said. "You know, people would hand me envelopes, I would just pass them. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them. I knew nothing about the Marc Rich pardon until after it happened."

Something at last sounds credible. Hillary has a lot of experience with envelopes, and you can tell by the weight of an envelope it has to feel thick and springy under your thumb and forefinger to know whether to look inside. If it doesn't feel thick and springy, you just pass it on.

She was certainly "very disappointed" to learn that her brother Hugh had been paid $400,000 to work on the pardons. And why not? When you've got mortgages on two houses and your husband is out of work, you've got to get more than that for a couple of pardons. To be continued.

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