Commentary

A Dose of Misplaced Outrage

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who voted to acquit President Bill Clinton in 1999, wants to impeach former President Bill Clinton in 2001.

Even Democrats profess to be shocked, shocked at the former president’s behavior. Where have they been for eight years?

Clinton started early. As governor, he shook down the local Arkansas business elite. Hence the Whitewater “investment,” Hillary’s legal fees and her astounding cattle futures profits.

He treated women, his wife and assorted paramours alike, as tools for his convenience. He used state employees to procure and obscure.

Once in office, he fired the White House travel office staff to transfer the business to his friends, and then misused the FBI to justify his actions. The first lady lied about her role in the affair. After promising the “most ethical administration in history,” the president appointed assorted cheats and miscreants. The Clintons obstructed investigations of their dubious business dealings.

Aides suffered convenient memory losses at critical moments. Confidante Webster Hubbell collected bags of “consulting fees” on his way to jail.

Subpoenaed evidence turned up in the White House family quarters and FBI files ended up in White House offices. No one knew how.

Along with Vice President Al Gore, the Clintons turned the White House into an expensive motel, collecting cash for breakfasts and overnight stays. Contributors won seats on Commerce Department trade missions. No check was rejected, irrespective of the giver’s nationality or business.

The president had sex with a White House employee half his age. Committed perjury in a lawsuit charging him with sexual harassment. And, lied to a grand jury. Then was charged by other women with harassment and even rape.

While fighting to survive politically, the president trashed the rule of law and villified his opponents. He appeared to time military strikes against Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan for political purposes.

He spent his last full day in office agreeing to accept a five-year suspension of his law license in Arkansas. And, dickering with Special Prosecutor Robert Ray to avoid indictment.

During his last hours in office, he lobbed pardons far and wide. He pardoned former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a political hack who abused the taxpayers, and former Rep. Mel Reynolds, a political hack who abused a 16-year-old girl. He pardoned his brother. And Susan McDougal, who protected Clinton by refusing to testify against him.

None of this bothered the president’s supporters.

But the Clintons finally did something unforgivable. They greedily carted off thousands in gifts, many of which, it turns out, were intended for the government. And, they did so after Hillary signed a book contract with an $8 million advance.

Then, Clinton asked the taxpayers to pony up for lush office space at Carnegie Hall Tower, overlooking Central Park in New York City. His rent would have cost more than that for the offices of the four other retired presidents combined.

Finally, Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. Rich, accused of violating oil regulations, trade controls and tax laws, fled America for Switzerland to avoid prosecution.

To these his liberal friends object.

Leading Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a member of the black caucus. One-time presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. Television personality Geraldo Rivera. Washington Post columnists Richard Cohen and E.J. Dionne. The New York Times editorial page.

And, apparently, many of the New Yorkers who twice voted for him for president and elected his wife to the Senate.

“I’m a big Clintonite,” complained novelist Dominick Dunne to the New York Observer.

“But, I have to tell you that I am disappointed beyond disappointed. Giving a pardon to a crook who gave up his citizenship the whole thing stinks and smells.”

One unnamed critic told the Observer that “I have yet to find one person who can defend, explain or support what they’ve done.” Author Judy Green opines, “It’s much more horrific than sex at the office.”

Observes Dunne: “They still will invite him to dinner. But, I think there’s a little wariness in the air.”

And, even dinner might not be certain. New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith reports one socialite complaining: “He is just a terrible dinner guest. In the first place, he isn’t interested in any woman over 30. He doesn’t listen either. He lectures and rambles on. This is going to be horrible having him in New York.”

More horrible than having him in the White House?

The behavior of the departing Clintons was squalid, even shocking. But, that isn’t news.

What’s different now is that he is out of power. So, even his former supporters don’t believe they have to be nice to him anymore. Although it’s too late to impeach him, again, it isn’t too late to treat him with the contempt that he deserves.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.