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The Clinton Rap Sheet

March 30, 2000

I give up. I can’t keep ’em straight anymore. Who can, at this point?

America desperately needs a new book, perhaps with the title A Compact Encyclopedia of the Clinton Scandals.

Has Bill Clinton been cleared of responsibility for the mysterious (and illegal) White House acquisition of raw FBI files? What’s the deal with all those missing e-mail messages? What about the release of Kathleen Willey’s letters to Clinton, which a U.S. district judge has now called “a criminal violation of the Privacy Act”? Who was Billy Dale again? What happened with those (alleged?) fundraising White House coffees? Who slept in the Lincoln Bedroom? What happened to all those shadowy Chinese guys? Refresh me on IRS audits of Clinton foes, the Riady family, Whitewater, Dolly Kyle Browning, the Vince Foster coverup, the Rose Law Firm, cattle futures, Vernon Jordan, and all those other stories, most of which involve documents and records that conveniently disappear or reappear.

Of course each entry in the proposed encyclopedia should include Clinton’s (or the relevant crony’s) alibi. He didn’t do it, he couldn’t remember doing it, it was an honest mistake, it was technically legal, he thought it was legal when he did it, there was no controlling legal authority, it was only his private life, everyone lies about sex, he disagrees with the judge’s ruling and he’s going to appeal, the charges are politically motivated, they are the fabrications of the vast right-wing conspiracy, they don’t rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the strict Madisonian sense, or, when all else fails, the charges are “old.” By Clintonite logic, a charge is somehow discredited by having been made before.

This last dodge is particularly effective in sustaining confusion, not only because it makes no sense but because by now every charge has a sense of déjà vu: it always feels as if we’ve heard it before. Sometimes you’re not sure whether it’s a new scandal or just the return of an old one. Among so many scandals, there is bound to be some overlap, repetition, and redundancy. And so, when a new charge is made, our response is weary: he’s gotten away with so many, what’s the use of trying to pin a new one on him now?

[Breaker quote: A legacy 
of scandal]Another frequent Clinton alibi is that women are such liars: Paula “Trailer Trash” Jones was lying, Gennifer Flowers was lying, Kathleen Willey was lying, Juanita Broaddrick was lying, Monica Lewinsky was lying and was a “stalker” to boot (later amended to “a good person”). The shining exception to all this female mendacity is Hillary Clinton, described by her husband as “the most ethical person I have ever known.” Considering his circle of friends, that may be true. A man whose staff has had to budget for “bimbo eruptions” — employing bare-knuckled “investigators” to dissuade potential witnesses — isn’t exactly a class act.

No president in American history has made such a mockery of his oath of office as our incumbent, who once promised us “the most ethical administration in our nation’s history.” Actually, Clinton has compiled the longest rap sheet in our nation’s history. He is now the first president to face disbarment as a lawyer, which suggests that someone still has the energy to keep score.

At every escape from justice, Clinton claims vindication, reminding us of Big Julie from Chicago in Guys and Dolls, who boasts: “I got a poifect record: thoity-three arrests, no convictions.” If beating a rap by any means necessary constitutes vindication, Clinton may indeed be our “most ethical” chief executive.

By now it’s hard to remember just how much Clinton has inured us to. Before Clinton, no comedian even thought of making dirty jokes about a sitting president. Now they make them in front of the first couple themselves. But Clinton would have been a disgraceful president even if he’d been a model husband and father; in fact his comic horniness has probably shielded him against impeachment and prosecution for serious crimes.

True, Clinton has occasionally had to kill people, but, after all, they were only foreigners. When a president spasmodically bombs remote countries to distract attention from domestic scandal, the bombing itself is not considered a scandal. It’s considered a statesmanlike “foreign policy.”

Joseph Sobran

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