- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

About that House panel report on the scores of unreported presents and dozens of undervalued gifts that left the White House along with Bill and Hillary Clinton: Mr. Clinton's office calls the investigation "blatantly partisan." Mrs. Clinton told the New York Post, "You know, we followed every, single law." And they did. So what if it was the law of the jungle (possession is nine-tenths of the law), the law of the schoolyard (finders-keepers) and the law of the chiseler (what they don't know won't hurt them)
They followed every single one of them, all right. The result was a perfectly wretched little interlude in American history known as Giftgate aka the Great Gravy Train Robbery, the White House Heist and the Sack of Home when the Clintons left office with hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of luxury items to help get their start in non-presidential life.
Such "gifts" included $50,000 worth of furnishings that belonged to the White House, which the Clintons had to return, and some $86,000 in housewares for which the couple ultimately said they would pay. This, as their respective offices have put it, avoided any appearance of impropriety.
The time to avoid impropriety's appearance, however, is long before the red-handed stage. To ensure the cleanliness of future presidential paws, Rep. Doug Ose, California Republican, is calling for legislation to tighten the rules on presidential gifts and pare down the number of agencies with jurisdiction over them from six to one the National Archives. This, however, is an issue only blatant partisans could care two fish knives about.
For what, as the Clintons (or their offices) might say, is $361,968 in gifts among friends? This is the value House investigators have placed on the total Clinton haul. Or, to break it down a little, what's $38,617 worth of mighty fine tableware from friends to a senator-elect? This is what investigators discovered Mrs. Clinton received during the last month of 2000 through a bridal-style Internet registry established at Borsheim's Fine Jewelry and Gifts in Omaha. And why not? The Senate rules Mrs. Clinton became subject to in January 2001 stipulate that donors may spend no more than $100 on gifts per senator annually (at no more than $50 a shot). That means that amassing the trove of silver and china Mrs. Clinton received from 11 donors in December 2000 the month in which she also received a book advance making her a millionaire eight times over would have taken roughly 35 years, give or take a $150 fish knife in the Grand Duchess pattern she selected.
Such rules just get in the way of people preparing to launch a post-presidency and a senate career in style. When they trip, the only thing to do is pony up and call everyone a partisan for having noticed. But that doesn't cut away the source of the lingering odor. Maybe that's what the fish knives are for.


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