Even those who admire Bill and Hillary Clinton have been
stunned by the shameless way in which the First Couple left the White House.
The last memory of the Clinton administration will always be the outrageous
pardoning of tax fugitive Marc Rich and a host of unsavory characters who
managed to win favorable treatment by backing Hillary Clinton’s Senate
candidacy. Stripped of the protective, patriotic bubble of the Presidency, Bill
and Hillary Clinton appear as they have always been, a corrupt husband-and-wife
team who have used their so-called liberal agenda to cover up a lifetime of
theft and deception, and who do not hesitate to abuse public power to enhance
their private wealth or professional agendas.
Just as the Clintons were packing their overstuffed bags, it
was reported that their sometime spiritual adviser, Jesse Jackson, had
conducted an affair with an employee (with whom he fathered a daughter) during
the time he had been counseling the Clintons about Mr. Clinton’s own affair
with Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Jackson, who has spent years denying his earlier
intimacy with anti-Semitism, may now add “fraudulent hypocrite” to his record
The Clintons’ contempt for Americans’ intelligence knows no
bounds. Did they really think no one would
notice as the President snubbed Justice Department and Federal Bureau of
Investigation procedures and issued a shady, last-minute pardon to Mr. Rich, an
unrepentant tax fraud who has been living a billionaire’s life in Switzerland,
and whose ex-wife is a close friend and financial backer of the Clintons? Mr.
Clinton clearly believes his Democratic base will love him no matter how often
he betrays their trust or operates, with reckless abandon, in as trashy a
fashion as possible.
Mr. and Mrs. Clinton had more than Mr. Rich’s pardon up
their sleeve: Mr. Clinton also commuted the prison sentences of four Hasidic
men from New Square, N.Y., who created a fictitious religious school in order
to steal $40 million in government education grants. Mrs. Clinton visited New
Square during the campaign and apparently said the right thing, because the
village voted for her in overwhelming numbers. Supporters of the jailed men then
met privately with Mrs. Clinton and the President at the White House in
December, evidently to make sure the First Couple kept their end of the
bargain. Mr. Clinton did their bidding and commuted the sentences. Mrs. Clinton
expressed shock that anyone could think she had anything to do with any of
this. “I did not play any role whatsoever,” she said. “I had no opinion about
Who does she think she’s kidding? In fact, Senator Clinton’s
campaign must have needed a “special pardons unit”: The New York Times reports that Arkansas businessman Tom Bhakta,
convicted in 1991 for tax evasion, jumped ahead of thousands of other felons
seeking pardons after he and his family gave $5,000 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign
Mr. Clinton didn’t stop there. He pardoned his brother Roger
for cocaine transgressions; he pardoned Susan McDougal of Whitewater fame; he
pardoned Edward Downe Jr., who pleaded guilty to insider trading in the 1990’s
but then had the good sense to contribute $1,000 to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
Like Mr. Clinton’s callous disregard for his own
constituency, Mr. Jackson assumes that African-Americans will support him at
all costs. He repays their loyalty with a narcissistic loyalty only to himself.
He solemnly announced he would be taking “time off” from public life to heal
the wounds with his wife of 38 years and their five children. Just 48 hours
later, he was back in front of the media. Apparently, a man of Mr. Jackson’s
spiritual gifts needs only two days to “heal” what most of us would regard as a
personal disaster and a humiliation to his entire family.
The pardonings may be the final, unseemly milestone of Mr.
Clinton’s Presidency. It remains to be seen how he will use his time in New
York; one can only buy so many egg salad sandwiches in Chappaqua. More
troubling is that the pardons come at the very beginning of Mrs. Clinton’s
Senate career. Taken together with her shifty $8 million book deal, the
pardoning of friends and contributors is an indication that although Bill
Clinton has left Washington, Hillary Clinton is still very much up for
One of the more compelling failures in recent New York
politics was the failure of Democratic State Senator Eric Schneiderman to
unseat several Republican State Senators last
fall. Rather than accept the decades-old status quo of a Republican-controlled
Senate and a Democrat-controlled Assembly, he went on a mission to dislodge
Republicans. That he did not succeed is not as important as the fact that he
tried at all, thereby showing he had the political courage to shake up the
clubby establishment in Albany. For his impudence, reported Andrea Bernstein in
last week’s Observer, the freshman
Senator is now being targeted for various types of nastiness by the G.O.P.
majority. For example, the Republicans are redrawing district boundaries, and
hint that they may assign Mr. Schneiderman’s West Side apartment to a new,
predominantly Latino district, making it difficult for him to win the primary
in 2002. If the entrenched powers in Albany are that angry at him, you can be
sure he’s doing something right.
New Yorkers need more anti-bureaucrats with Mr.
Schneiderman’s nerve. Raised in New York City, educated at the Trinity School
and Amherst College, he worked as a deputy sheriff in Massachusetts before
attending Harvard Law School. As a partner in a New York firm, Mr. Schneiderman
remained active in pro-choice politics and served as counsel to the West Side
Crime Prevention Program, helping community groups evict drug dealers. He was
elected to the State Senate in 1998.
scrappy refusal to observe the traditions of Albany politics may earn
him some short-term pain, but it also indicates the gritty stuff out of which
New Yorkers mold their favorite politicians.