It must have been cozy in the White House on the evening multibillionaire Marc Rich and the others received their midnight pardons. Not only were Bill and Hillary there, but so were nearly all the other coconspirators. Hugh Rodham had been in residence there for most of the month, as Time's Margaret Carlson (no Hillary-hater she) has scornfully pointed out, along with his (and Hillary's) mother. According to Secret Service logs, there also was that expensively coiffed duo of Rich's special pleaders, his ex-wife Denise and her pal Beth Dozoretz, who had already lavished Hillary with gifts for her new Washington mansion (nicely timed to precede Hillary's swearing-in, for Senate ethics rules would have outlawed such largesse). If you believe that this jolly collection of pure souls was all gathered together without the word "pardon" being mentioned, then you probably don't know what the meaning of the word "is" is.
In his statement about Hugh's successful pardon search on behalf of snake-oil salesman Braswell and the crack-merchant Vignali, Bill?speaking on behalf of the presidential couple?denied that "we" had any knowledge of the hundreds of thousands the First Brother-in-Law received for his whisperings in the presidential ear. But this non-denial, in classic Clinton equivocation, refers only to the payments, not to the pardons. Even so, Huge had already left a long trail of attempts to cash in on the Clintons' regime, from the hazelnut scam in the Georgian Republic to his attempt to leech onto the antitobacco litigation and its gusher of lawyers' fees. Hugh's cupidity was so well known that the mind boggles at accepting the notion that Hillary imagined Hugh was fronting for two obvious scoundrels as a benevolent act of mercy without getting paid.
Hillary's list of past lies is long indeed, so why believe her now? She lied when she said that she turned a $1000 investment into $100,000 practically overnight "by reading The Wall Street Journal"?when in fact she benefited from an insider trading scheme put together by a Clinton fundraiser who just happened to be the house counsel to the Tyson food empire (whose pollution-spewing plants and tainted chickens then-Gov. Bill had his state's regulatory agencies ignore). She lied when she said she claimed she had nothing to do with the firing of the innocent Travelgate Seven, who were then hounded by Clinton's FBI and the IRS for imagined crimes conveniently invented by a White House staffer who was a Clinton cousin. In fact, Travelgate flowed from an attempt by Hillary to help her pal Harry Thomason snatch the White House's travel business for a firm in which he was a partner.
This Thomason is the same Clinton crony who, when looking for a pardon lawyer for a couple of Arkansas business scalawags, picked from the thousands of former assistant U.S. attorneys in the country a little-known New Yorker who just happened to be Hillary's campaign treasurer and the law partner of Harold Ickes, the mastermind of Hillary's Senate campaign. Where do you suppose Harry got his name?
If you've forgotten all of Hillary's past lies?too many to recapitulate here?pick up Roger Morris' Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, the best of the Clinton biographies, which dissects many of them. But of the current crop of prevarications, none has Hillary more worried than her claim that she had nothing to do with the pardons-for-votes tradeoff, in which New Square became the only Hasidic community in upstate New York to vote for Hillary, and in Ceausescu-like proportions. Hillary was in the Oval Office when the New Square rabbis came to plead for the felonious Hasidic four. And what makes this deal even more revolting is Hillary's hypocrisy: the woman who likes to pose as a defender of children gave her blessing to a quartet of frauders who stole tens of millions in federal education funds designed to help economically disadvantaged kids. If you thought Hillary could sink no lower than the time she brought the turncoat Dick Morris back into the Clinton circle and (as even George Stephanopoulos records in his memoir) fervently supported the Morris plan to kick poor kids off welfare and onto the streets so her husband could win reelection, New Square proves her feckless perfidy once more.
The squalid pardon mess, and Billary's securing for their bagman Terry McAuliffe ("a personal ATM for the Clintons," Mary McGrory called him) the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, will make it extraordinarily difficult for the Democrats to take back the Congress in 2002. Wily old Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat, got it right when he told CNN a few weeks ago (and this was before the pardon scandal broke) that the Clinton legacy "is a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican in the White House." Now, the criminal investigations into the fire sale of pardons will drag on for months, reminding voters of the Democrats' moral bankruptcy, and making W look good by comparison. The Clintons' famous New Covenant turned out to be a pact with the devil.
One sad by-product of all this is that it poisons the pardon process for future presidents. For example, when Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of Billary's more slavish defenders, now tries to distance himself from the sordid duo by proclaiming that "no fugitive from justice should ever be pardoned," he thus engages in thoughtless, cheap demagoguery. What about the kids who fled to Sweden and Canada to escape the Vietnam War draft, and were pardoned by Jimmy Carter? What about the victims of the McCarthy-era witch-hunts in the 50s who went abroad to escape persecution for failing to name names before congressional committees, or under the various anti-Communist laws later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court? Were they not deserving, Chuckie?
Unfortunately, the Clintons may escape punishment for their more recent misdeeds, since to prove a quid pro quo in court you must prove "intent"?and unless one of the principal parties to the pardon schemes cracks and talks, Mary Jo White will have a tough time making her case. In that event, we'll be stuck with Hillary for six more years at least. Maybe more, given the electorate's truncated attention span and short-term memory.
And that, my dears, is a nauseating prospect.
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