- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

The longing to be rid of the corruptions of the Clinton administration is a nearly overwhelming emotion that craves more than just some nebulous notion of "closure" as conceived by Robert Ray (and approved by David Kendall). There is a yearning to end the era with something definitive or at least a little more concrete. Tar and feathers, for example, would do nicely, although that might provoke the folks at PETA. There must be some way to slam the door on the Clinton years and be done with them.

Then comes the dawn: They are not done with us. That is, we can refrain from commenting on the predictably bad behaviors of the Clintons, from the small, private failure to telephone the Reagan family following Ronald Reagan's recent surgery, to the shabby, public exit from office. We can even try to avert our eyes from the $200,000 heist of White House property, including a television and DVD player, tables and chairs, thousands of dollars in flatware and china, and a giant, $22,000 clam shell sculpture known as "Cerulean Blue Macchia with Chartreuse Lip Wrap" (on second thought, good thing that's gone) and a "travel humidor" from Monica Lewinsky's benefactor, Walter Kaye. (Question: Is this guy kidding?) Outrageous as it is, we can try try to remember that this is a family on a ($8 million-plus) budget.

Far more troubling is to ponder what inspired Bill Clinton to pardon fugitive billionaire Marc Rich. Surely, not the merits of the case. Mr. Rich is not quite the modern-day Dreyfus Mr. Clinton would have us believe, although the man's ex-wife, Denise who pressed for his pardon "with all my heart" does happen to be a major fund-raiser for both Clintons. Prosecutors say that Mr. Rich, who fled the country 17 years ago to avoid indictment on 50 felony counts ranging from evading $48 million in taxes, to trading with the enemy (Iran during the hostage crisis), has been desperately trying to buy a jail-free way home with millions of dollars in fines. According to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s brought the Rich indictment, the fugitive financier has even offered "an enormous amount of money" to the New York Board of Education in return for clemency. One has to wonder what Mr. Clinton stood or stands to gain from the Rich family. A new CD player?

Of course, it isn't always money (or household furnishings) that appeals to the Clintons. Take the former president's decision to commute the sentences of four felons who bilked the federal government out of $40 million. These four swindlers happen to hail from New Park, NY, a Hasidic village with a fairly conservative voting tradition that, amazingly enough, voted for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1,400 to 12. It hasn't escaped notice that the village leaders initially shopped their clemency bid with then-Senate candidate Rudy Giuliani, who, in effect, wasn't buying. Nor has it escaped notice that these same village's leaders met privately with then-president and Sen. Clinton at the White House in December. Mr. Giuliani has suggested that there be an investigation.

So what else is new? Better to ask, what can be done? New York Daily News columnist Michael Kramer, not exactly your typical right wing extremist, has asked that "each of us, in our own way and before whichever God we worship, to promise ourselves and our fellow citizens, 'Never again' … [and] to swear that Hillary will never, ever be president." Amen, brother.

But there's more to it than that. As the Bush administration gets up and running, it will find itself tripping over the moral and legal debris the Clintons have left behind them. This has already happened, in a shockingly literal sense, with the discovery of the malicious, widespread sabotage and destruction, presumably by departing Clintonites, of White House equipment and office space. While President Bush has ordered an investigation, administration officials are playing this one close to the vest. That is, we aren't seeing footage of the trashed offices, lewd graffiti, or cut phones that reportedly exist.

But if ever there was a time to let the sun shine in, this is it. We all want to avert our eyes from what has been. We all want to pretend this long, national nightmare was just a dream. But we can't. We mustn't. It happened, and it's crucial that the nation face the consequences, whether that means confronting the vandalism of some Clinton staffers, or, more significantly, reopening the campaign-finance probe into the illegal Chinese contributions that flooded Clinton-Gore coffers in 1996. President Bush promised to restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office. Running down the facts and facing them not sweeping them under the rug is essential to his noble cause.


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