It’s no longer any secret that Bill and Hillary Clinton,
whatever ideals they may have held in their younger days, now feel entitled to
any extra money, jewelry or furniture that comes their way, no matter how
tainted the source. And they are quite willing to exchange favors in return:
witness the pardoning of Marc Rich, whose
ex-wife Denise knew how to come up with the big money at the right moment.
Now it turns out that Yasir Arafat may be added to the disturbingly long list
of those who realized that the Clintons are “rentable” politicians. Government
documents filed in the Federal Register show
that last year, the Palestinian leader and terrorism supporter gave President
Clinton and his wife gifts valued at more than $12,000, including gold and
diamond necklaces, bracelets and earrings worth $7,400.
One would like to assume that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton did not
keep every piece of jewelry: Federal employees are forbidden to keep gifts worth
more than $960. But given the fact that the former First Couple fled the White
House with more than a few questionable items-which they were forced to
return-would anyone be surprised if Mrs. Clinton was wearing some of Mr.
Arafat’s baubles in the Senate? The Palestinian leader is apparently quite the
shopper: He also gave jewelry worth $17,400 to Mr. Clinton’s Secretary of
State, Madeleine Albright. Mr. Arafat’s Israeli counterparts chose not to
deluge the First Family with trinkets: Last year, Israeli Knesset member (and
now Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon gave the Clintons two antique maps worth a
No one can know what influence, if any, Mr. Arafat’s gifts
had on Mr. Clinton’s Middle East policy. But the pardons have shown that Mr.
and Mrs. Clinton are chillingly good at rewarding those who reward them. The
Clintons’ relationship with Mr. Arafat has always been cozy: He was a frequent
White House guest, and his wife, Suha Arafat, received a hearty kiss and
embrace from Mrs. Clinton moments after Mrs. Arafat finished a speech in which
she accused the Israelis of gassing Palestinian children.
One has to hand it to the Clintons: They believe in
equal-opportunity greed. They will take money and luxury goods from anyone,
regardless of ideology and morality.
The Parents Blew It
The Edison Project will
not be coming to New York, after all. A proposal to have the company take over
five poorly performing public schools was rejected because the parents in the
affected schools couldn’t be bothered. The Board of Education left it to the
parents to decide on the privatization program, but the board stipulated that
Edison would have to win 50 percent plus 1 of all parents, not just those who
Fewer than 2,000 of the 5,000 affected parents cast votes.
And so this promising, innovative proposal comes to an end. The children in the
five schools have been let down again. This time, however, the blame cannot be
placed on the shoulders of some impersonal bureaucracy; the Board of Education,
after all, was willing to go along with Edison’s bold proposal. No, this time
the parents who didn’t vote, the teachers’ union and the self-styled community activists who opposed Edison are to
Watching innovation die a death of a thousand slanders was a
depressing spectacle. How to explain the parents who insisted that racism was
at work in Edison’s proposal? “Why don’t they go to white people’s schools and
try this?” said one mother of a child in Brooklyn’s Middle School 246. “Why do
they have to try it with black and Hispanic people?” A more ridiculous argument
could hardly be imagined-the Board of Education looked at reading and math
scores, not demographic data, in deciding which schools might be privatized. If
a school in a white neighborhood had been among the five worst-performing
schools, it would have been included in the Edison proposal.
As luck would have it, one of Edison’s most vocal opponents
was the community group ACORN, which delights in shouting “race” on any matter
of political controversy. ACORN told parents that Edison would start charging
tuition, an out-and-out lie. But ACORN and its ilk weren’t interested in the
truth or in education reform. They’re
happy with the status quo; it makes them feel so very victimized.
In the meantime, don’t ask what will become of the children
that Edison may have helped. They were never the issue, anyway.
An Indecent Decency
With less than a year left in City Hall, it seems Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani just can’t stop himself from reminding New Yorkers of the less
appealing aspects of his character-specifically, his tendency to play the
schoolmarm who knows what’s best for everyone. His recent decision to create a
“decency panel” which will pass judgment on art in publicly financed museums
shows that Mr. Giuliani at times still has a profound misunderstanding of the
city he has led for eight years.
Fighting crime is one
thing; fighting evil in the form of art is simply bizarre. New York is
the world’s cultural capital, where all residents benefit from a milieu that encourages innovation in art, theater, music, dance
and literature. Yes, lousy art does find its way into our museums-art that
offends not only religious sensibilities but also aesthetic standards. The
Mayor has a right-possibly even a duty-to publicly confront the curator, the
museum board and the artist. But instead, Mr. Giuliani is apparently willing to
risk ridicule by going ahead with his commission. And so he has dialed up a
bunch of cronies, including his divorce lawyer Raoul Felder and his Parks Commissioner
Henry Stern, and asked them to sit on the panel, along with a rabbi, a minister
and about a dozen others. Mr. Giuliani says this preposterous panel will bring
“common sense” to the matter of publicly financed art.
The Mayor should realize that New Yorkers do not want him to
protect them from dangerous paintings. Unfortunately, he seems to have a
difficult time distinguishing between art, crime and the Sanitation Department.