- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

As the Great Clinton Clemency Caper continues to generate the incredible plot of a penny dreadful, it's worth noting the growing chorus of wronged liberals attempting to come to grips with their own supporting roles in it all. Some, like Robert B. Reich writing in The Washington Post, seem to believe that by simply pronouncing the Democratic Party "stone dead," it's possible to offer an easy ending to the ever-Byzantine melodrama that Bill and Hillary Clinton have made of the past eight years of American history. But even as blunt a eulogy as offered by the former Clinton labor secretary doesn't lay anything to rest. The scandals of the Clintons continue to haunt American liberals.

The New Republic recently wrote, "In 2000, Clinton fatigue hurt the Democrats. In 2001, it's downright destroying them." It's eating away at them, anyway. The New Republic's take on things has been the quiet consensus among Gore supporters for some time, but only now that Bill Clinton is flying commercial have they become emboldened enough to say so out loud. "It's not enough for Democrats to denounce Clinton's pardons," the liberal weekly continued. "They need to show that it's no longer his party. And there's only one way to do that: Dump the apparatchik he placed at the party's head, Terry McAuliffe." Why? "More than anyone else, McAuliffe personifies Clinton-era sleaze."

True except, of course, for the undeniable fact that no one personifies "Clinton-era sleaze" more than Bill Clinton himself. Too bad no media liberals or Clinton administration Cabinet members ever thought to "dump" Mr. Clinton before say, during the actual Clinton era. That would have showed that the Democratic Party was no longer Bill Clinton's party, all right, and saved not just Democrats, but everyone else, an epoch's worth of national trouble, heartache and institutional damage as well as what you might call the soul of the Democratic Party itself.

It is that very soul, or moral center, that seems to be at issue now. That is, more than just nuts-and-bolts politics comes through these all liberal cris de coeur audible since Jan. 20. In a magnificent editorial on the corruption of Hillary Rodham Clinton ("It is clear now that we have made a terrible mistake for Hillary Rodham Clinton is unfit for elective office. Had she any shame, she would resign"), the liberal New York Observer offered what may be the best explanation for the curious intensity of the new anti-Clinton left: "What the [conservative] critics understandably satisfied to see their judgment confirmed yet again miss is the amount of self-loathing in the Clinton pile-on. Pro-Clinton commentators and colleagues now realize just how much they compromised, just how much they excused, just how ridiculous they looked in their defense of this corrupt couple. The end of the Clinton presidency and the beginning of another Bush era has inspired a round of reflection, and Clinton supporters find they can't look at themselves in the mirror."

Maybe they're just afraid of ghosts. Or maybe they just don't want to confront the role they played in the party of complicity. Bill Clinton may have left power to become, however awkwardly, a private citizen, but the party that supported him for the duration of his lawless administration remains complicit in all that lawlessness.


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