- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

It is called horse trading. Politicians making secret deals and hoping Americans never find out about them. It has been done since George Washington was president, and America is the less for it.
Right now in D.C., President Bush needs the cooperation of the Democratic leadership to pass important legislation. The education bill is already done, the prescription drug bill is being formulated, and the economic stimulus package, well, that is never going to fly the way Mr. Bush wants it, no matter what he brings to trade.
Because of his father and experienced advisers, George W. Bush understands the way the Washington game is played. You must make "accommodations." You must give something to get something.
And what Mr. Bush may have given the Democrats is an assurance he will not embarrass their party by aggressively pursuing the Marc Rich pardon investigation. Although the Justice Department continues to say that probe is "on the front burner," agents have told me there is little incentive to get things done. In fact, one investigator said, if you push too hard on the case, you could find yourself in Fargo, N.D.
By all accounts the Marc Rich situation looks terrible. Mr. Rich and his partner Pincus Green were indicted in 1983 on charges of evading $48 million in taxes and violating trade sanctions with Iran which, at that time, was brutalizing American civilians held in Tehran.
Mr. Rich skipped the country and set up shop in Switzerland, living lavishly and tossing huge amounts of money to Swiss politicians, as well as power brokers in Israel and Spain.
There was simply no reason for President Clinton to pardon Mr. Rich, who is obviously a fugitive from justice and a corrupter. In fact, Clinton advisers John Podesta, Bruce Lindsey and Beth Nolan all testified that they strenuously objected to any pardon for Marc Rich.
But Bill Clinton pardoned him anyway and has never given a compelling reason for doing so.
Many observers feel that the millions of dollars that flowed into Mr. Clinton's library fund and political action committees may have influenced the former president's behavior. Marc Rich's ex-wife Denise ponied up a more than a million dollars for Democrat causes (including Hillary's Senate campaign) and another $450,000 for the Clinton library. Mrs. Rich's friend, Beth Dozoretz, pledged to raise another million for the library.
Of course, President Clinton has access to those library funds, so a quid pro quo scenario is not hard to envision.
Believe it or not, there are some politicians who would avoid even the appearance of impropriety, but Bill Clinton and his wife were never in that camp. There is little doubt that money talked in this case. The only thing left to prove is what did the money say and do for Mr. Clinton?
You would think that all Americans and especially our elected leaders would want to know all there is to know about the possible bribery of a sitting president. You would think. But try calling John Ashcroft's Justice Department to ask for a status report on the investigation. "No comment" is all you'll get.
This is wrong and insulting to Americans with integrity. We deserve honest government, and we are entitled to some answers. But those answers will not be forthcoming any time soon, possibly because the fix is in.
I can understand this from a political point of view. The Bush administration feels the future of the country is more important than what has happened in the past. And the experienced Bush team understands that any embarrassment of Mr. Clinton would provoke open warfare between them and the leaders of the Democratic Party, making legislation very difficult to pass.
So the prevailing wisdom is to keep the investigation open, and maybe down the road maybe kick it into gear if the GOP regains control of the Senate. That option is political power over the Democrats. If things get rough, the Marc Rich pardon deal can always be used as a threat.
That's the way the political game is played these days in the halls of power. Not nice, not right and not in the best interests of the American people. Above all, we need honest government and the highest standard of behavior from our elected officials.
But right now, that's a pipe dream, as political and corporate corruption continue to sweep the land. That's the truth, and please pardon me for bringing it to your attention.

Bill O'Reilly is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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