- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

Once, a very, very long time ago, the thong, the cigar and the dress were heretofore unimaginably lurid details in a sensational scandal involving a president of the United States. It's almost surprising to remember that the details of what is now prosaically known as the Lewinsky Matter were once so sordid and so sensational that they ultimately overshadowed the gravity of Bill Clinton's deepest offense the dishonor and disgrace he brought to the nation.
From the start, Mr. Clinton chose to ignore that offense. Indeed, to this day he seems blindly incapable of even completely understanding it. Which is probably the main reason why it is troubling to learn, in Robert Ray's final report, that the reason the independent counsel chose not to prosecute Mr. Clinton on perjury charges was not for lack of evidence, but rather his judgment that the former president had suffered enough.
After all, the independent counsel wrote, Mr. Clinton admitted giving false testimony in the Paula Jones suit and acknowledged ethical violations that led to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license and a $25,000 fine. Then there was the $90,000 civil contempt penalty ordered up by Judge Susan Webber Wright; the $850,000 settlement Mr. Clinton paid Paula Jones; and perhaps the clincher in Mr. Ray's mind what the independent counsel called "the substantial public condemnation of President Clinton arising from his impeachment."
But none of these penalties was accepted by Mr. Clinton with even a modicum of contrition. Any grudging admission of responsibility came only under intense political duress. When Mr. Clinton paid the contempt fine ordered by Judge Wright, it was not, he said, an admission of lying to the court, but rather a way to dispense with the matter. When he settled with Paula Jones, he said he "gave away half my life savings to settle a lawsuit I'd won because I wanted to get back to work being president" not, as Michael Isikoff reported, because his lawyers were worried the ruling would be reversed after Mr. Clinton's Lewinsky confession. When, on his last day in office, Mr. Clinton agreed, in a deal with the independent counsel, to surrender his law license for five years in order to avoid indictment, his aides immediately let it be known that Mr. Clinton thought the penalty excessive.
The fact is that the shamelessness that allowed him to cling to power at any cost national vigilance, personal humiliation, permitting his own Cabinet members to lie for him, a generation of youngsters exposed to equal measures of sexual and legal perversions has also allowed him to experience his penalties and "public condemnation" not as pangs of remorse, but rather as a Lulu of a martyr complex. On such a man prosecutorial discretion is a wasted beneficence.


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