- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Perhaps the only good to come of that all-consuming postelection campaign was one, unintended side-effect: the all-but-total eclipse of a goodly chunk of Bill Clinton's almost final, final days. Was he waxing nostalgic? Did he light his last White House Christmas tree? Did he ever make it to North Korea? Who knew? Who cared?

Lest anyone think Mr. Clinton is going gently into the post-presidential news blackout, it turns out he has been plotting quite a departure. By virtue of his unprecedented activity (make that hyperactivity) in the presidential fiat department since Election Day, Mr. Clinton has been rigging the government with politically explosive devices designed to harass, if not sabotage, the incoming Bush administration.

Take, for example, Mr. Clinton's order last month to replace the license plates on the presidential limousine with a set bearing the slogan for D.C. statehood, "No Taxation Without Representation." Did this sudden order come from an adrenal rush of zeal for the statehood cause, which, of course, Mr. Clinton has let languish, lo, these past two terms, or from what seems to be an almost malicious sense of mischief? By putting the statehood plates on the presidential limo, Mr. Clinton seems to be trying to put President-elect George W. Bush on the political spot forcing the new president to tool around town with what amounts to a Democratic bumper sticker on his car, or to unbolt the statehood plates and ruffle neighborly feathers.

The real TNT comes from a barrage of last-minute rules and orders that, according to George Mason University researchers who study such "midnight regulations," soon will surpass the record number held by the outgoing Carter administration in 1980 and tie up Bush administration officials figuring out what to do with them, from new Housing and Urban Development regulations to presidential orders placing millions of acres of Northwestern land off-limits to development or use.

Then there's Mr. Clinton's last-ditch efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere, which, as his power wanes, say more about his private philosophy and desire for a legacy than America's role in the world. (As William Safire wrote last week, Mr. Clinton "needs a hubricity stunt so badly that he cannot be said to represent America's national interest.") That doesn't mean Mr. Clinton's actions don't have consequences at least, for Mr. Bush. Mr. Clinton's decision to sign a treaty establishing a U.N.-sponsored war crimes tribunal an untenable treaty that has no chance of Senate ratification does nothing for the country but provide the incoming administration with a nettlesome problem: how to "unsign" it.

As for Mr. Clinton's recess appointment of Roger Gregory, the first black judge to be appointed to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, even the New York Times opened its news story by calling the move both "historically significant" and "carefully calculated to create political difficulties for the Republican Party." Is such an action which, of course, bypasses the Senate in violation of the Constitution more appropriate to an outgoing president of the United States or a political hack in overdrive?

Before answering that question, consider another last-minute presidential order. Mr. Clinton has just overturned his own executive order of Inauguration Day 1993 that required administration appointees to pledge not to engage in lobbying activities for five years or ever work as foreign agents. Remember the "most ethical administration in history"? Now even its legalistic basis is kaput, with Mr. Clinton nullifying all pledges made.

Clearly, in the parlance of his administration, Mr. Clinton is moving on. Then again, maybe he is just taking his wife's new job very seriously by perfecting the Bronx cheer.

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