- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2001

A lot of people figured Bill Clinton would fall through the nation's memory hole at warp speed, and a lot of people couldn't wait.

But his presence lingers, like that of a passing busboy at an Adams Morgan diner. Sometimes the odor of unlaundered loot is worse than the fragrance of an unwashed body.

The grubbing for money, gifts and petty advantage by both Bill and Hillary makes a particularly fitting backdrop for the coming struggle over George W.'s tax cuts.

Over fierce partisan protest, George W. promises to fight for relief for every taxpaying family while we get a staccato litany of bulletins about the latest Clinton heists. The Clintons are the kind of dinner guests who not only can't be trusted not to slip stray spoons into their pockets, they'll ask for doggie bags with the leftovers from the plates at adjoining tables.

The First Moochers are turning out to be insatiable, taking more than anyone first imagined. In addition to the $650,000 annual rent for the 56th floor of Carnegie Hall Tower, some of the most fashionable real estate in Manhattan, the former president is billing the government $1.5 million a year to rent an abandoned Oldsmobile dealership in an unfashionable neighborhood in Little Rock to store 76 million documents until he opens his presidential library on the banks of the Arkansas River.

That kind of money ought to get a pretty good piece of real estate in Little Rock, where you can still get a good cup of coffee for a dollar, but the president's temporary library doesn't even have a roof that holds water. A lot of the documents were damaged by leaks in a December ice storm. (No word yet on whether Monica's thong panties, the exhibit that everyone most wants to see, survived the cool-down.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the un-Clintonesque new president is talking about giving back, not taking from. He asked for help yesterday to get his tax cut through Congress. "Everybody who pays taxes will get some relief," he said. "No American should pay more than a third of his income to the federal government." He stood against a photographic blowup of a check made payable to "U.S. Taxpayer" in the amount of $1,600, the amount the average family would get. He introduced families representing three of the four lower tax brackets that his legislation would create. The five tax brackets under current law 15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent and 39.6 percent would become 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent. The Democrats, on the other hand, are desperate to stop the tax cuts because they want to spend the surplus as the bureaucrats see fit. George W. answered the accusation that he would give back the most to the people who paid in the most.

"I've heard all the talk about class warfare and this only benefiting the rich," he said. "I think when people take a good hard look at the rate reduction and who benefits and the fact that our plan … eases inequities in the tax code and that the bottom end of the economic ladder receives the biggest percentage cuts, people will come to realize it's important to cut all tax rates. I'm going to defend it mightily."

The president's press agent conceded that nobody from the top tax bracket where taxpayers tend to be rich Democrats like Washington lawyers and television anchormen were invited to the press conference. Their rate drops from 39.6 to 33 percent, and not to worry. The president would represent them himself.

"I got a little pay raise coming to Washington," the president said. "I'll be in the top bracket."

He scheduled a private lunch with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who endorsed a tax cut last month; released a letter to congressional leaders urging swift enactment of a "Patient's Bill of Rights" enabling the sick, the lame and the halt to sue their health-maintenance organizations, and today he'll visit a small business to talk up his tax cut as a way to avoid a Clinton recession and to enable low-income Americans to move into the middle class while there's still a middle class to move into.

George W.'s first fortnight has been a remarkable exercise. Someone asked the president yesterday what he made of his extraordinary visit over the weekend to the Democratic congressional retreat. "I think they listened," he replied. "They were very cordial. These are professionals who want to serve their nation."

Perhaps, but Democrats, like the town drunk, are loath to give up what they know best. Tom Daschle, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, complains that the Bush tax cut "shortchanges working families." Better to feel pain than relieve it. Giving up the past, whether class warfare or the presidency, is hard to do.

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