Saturday, February 24, 2001

Quiz time. Who said, “Bush ran on bringing dignity back, and I think the actions by Clinton of the last couple of weeks are giving him a pretty good platform.” Was it Dan Burton? Rush Limbaugh? Nope. The answer better sit down is William M. Daley, he who led Al Gore’s post-election campaign, presidential campaign, not to mention Bill Clinton’s Commerce Department.

“It’s terrible, devastating, and it’s rather appalling,” Mr. Daley told the New York Times last week, joining a slew of other big-D Democrats for an extraordinary, if not unprecedented, gripe session that made the newspaper’s front page as strategists, politicians, and fund-raisers publicly vented over such party catastrophes as Pardongate, Giftgate and other scandals not to mention electoral defeat that have, shall we say, clouded Mr. Clinton’s just-dawning political retirement.

These rapidly tarnishing golden years, of course, coincide with the new Democratic era out of power. “We are only beginning to fully appreciate the magnitude of the loss in terms of our ability to articulate a message across the country,” explained Tom Daschle, Democratic Senate minority leader. “It is the biggest megaphone there is,” he continued, presumably speaking metaphorically about the White House, “and President Clinton used it very ably.”

But not so very ably lately. That is, the last time Mr. Clinton picked up the old megaphone, “My Reasons for the Pardons” popped out. This now infamous op-ed, which appeared in the New York Times last Sunday, may have registered as an instant classic of Clintonian whoppers and hubris, but that’s probably not the message Mr. Daschle has in mind. The question is, can Democrats ever stand tall again so long as Mr. Clinton is writing splashy op-eds to say, as one wag put it, “I did not have sexual relations with that pardon”? The Democratic response has been what you might call frosty. As Sen. Charles E. Schumer put it after reading Mr. Clinton’s essay three times, “I have said there is no excuse to pardon a fugitive from justice. Nothing that the president wrote today in his op-ed piece has changed my view.” Did we say “frosty”? “Polar” is more like it.

And that, of course, was before the New York Times tsk, tsk, tsk saw fit to run that unfortunate correction to alert readers that Mr. Clinton had “stated erroneously” a thing or two. But since when have facts gotten in the way of Bill Clinton? More interesting to ponder is since when have Bill Clinton’s lies gotten in the way of his fellow Democrats? We give up. After all, political punditry only goes so far. What we need now is a good shrink.

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