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This Is Rich
How this feeding frenzy is unfair to Clinton.


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Jonah Goldberg

It’s just my luck. About a week ago I wrote a column saying how delighted I am not to have Bill Clinton to kick around anymore. And now all of a sudden it’s the fashionable thing to be “troubled” and “gravely concerned” by Bill Clinton’s actions.

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Not only are famous liberal Clinton defenders going on the record about their dismay, famous Clinton-defending columnists are giving them a megaphone. E. J. Dionne quotes the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, “It was a terrible pardon,” he said. “It was inexcusable. It was outrageous….”

“Here was a man who was involved in a huge swindle and has shown absolutely no remorse,” Congressman Barney Frank told Dionne. And so, he “was very angry about” the pardon. “It was a real betrayal by Bill Clinton of all who had been strongly supportive of him to do something this unjustified. It was contemptuous.” The always self-loving Sen. Paul Wellstone told Dionne: “It puts back into sharp focus all the questions about values and ethics in relation to the Clinton administration.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times has been writing editorials about Bill Clinton that once would have been considered exactly the sort of thing the Wall Street Journal did to kill Vince Foster. The New York Observer ran a wonderfully vicious story, “High Society Turns on Clintons,” written by Frank DiGiacomo. One unnamed socialite tells DiGiacomo, “I have yet to find one person who can defend, explain or support what they’ve done.” He says, “I’ve never seen a reaction this unanimous.”

Hell, Arlen Specter, the author of Passion for Truth and who voted “Glenn Fiddich” or some such Scottish mumbo-jumbo during Clinton’s impeachment trial, is now talking about how we might be able to impeach the guy again. He sounds like Robin Williams in that totally mediocre movie about the guy who replays a high-school football game 25 years later just so he can make up for dropping the ball. (Before some of you blow your jiffy-pop helmets at me for opposing the re-impeachment of a former president, at least read Mark Levin’s article on the topic first.)

Indeed, with the exception of Al Sharpton, author of A Passion for Extra Gravy, Jesse Jackson, author of the forthcoming A Passion for Dollars, and Geraldo Rivera, ghost writer of A Passion for Cranial Butt-Fat Injections, it seems every name on record with the National Registry of Clinton Apologists is outraged.

In one column, Richard Cohen wrote a “letter” to “Bill” in which he writes, “You let me down.” The Rich pardon, he concludes, was “a pie in the face of anyone who ever defended you. You may look bad, Bill, but we look just plain stupid.”

No offense to all of these people — and so, so, many others — but you people should have felt stupid a very long time ago. Seriously, all of a sudden, scores of Clinton suck-ups are “shocked, shocked” that Bill Clinton is a slimy dude who does slimy things. You’re pacing the floor like an expectant father with the clap because he’s done something wrong. Good lord, where have you people been? That’s as textbook stupid as freaking out over the fact your tongue is stuck to a freezing flagpole.

Just Another Bad Thing
Yes, the Rich pardon is bad. But how is it any worse than Clinton’s pardoning of more than a dozen Puerto Rican terrorists right in the middle of Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign? Why couldn’t their pardons wait until the post-election mad rush that got Susan McDougal, Roger Clinton, Mel Reynolds, and Marc Rich off the hook?

Is it any worse to pardon a bunch of murderers to get your wife to stop nagging you than it is to pardon some billionaire fugitive in exchange for enough cash to buy some of those infrared sensors for the urinals at your presidential library?

Everyone makes such a big deal about how Marc Rich refused to face the charges. OK, yeah, that is a big deal — most pardons go to people who have served their sentences and have made amends (like, say, Michael Milken who has founded foundations and charities for medical research). But, the Puerto Rican terrorists Bill Clinton pardoned — at such an odd moment — never even asked for a pardon. They were solicited to ask for a pardon because it would help Hillary. How bad is that? Maybe not as bad, but the FALN killed Americans; Marc Rich merely traded with an enemy of the United States.

It’s Just So Unfair
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Rich pardon stinks like Michael Moore on a hot day. But in a sense this is all very unfair to the Clinton-haters of record and — yes — to Clinton himself.

It’s unfair to us, because we spotted what the man was all about a long time ago. Letting Billy Dale be tried on criminal charges for a crime the Clinton’s knew he was innocent of strikes me as just as valid a ticket to Hell as pardoning Marc Rich for crimes everyone knows he was guilty of. How exactly is it more corrupt to take Denise Rich’s Swiss money than James Riady’s Indonesian or Chinese money?

The evidence was clear five, six, nine years ago that Bill Clinton was a liar and a cheat. But for some reason the facts didn’t matter back then. Back then, to say bad things about Bill Clinton made you weird, intellectually suspect, a hater, maybe even — gasp — a religious conservative!

What these people don’t realize is how much credibility they’ve lost. For example, I appeared on C-SPAN’s Morning Journal last Friday with Joshua Micah Marshall of The American Prospect. Marshall, a nice American Prospect liberal, lectured me and the viewers about how the Bush White House had “smeared” members of the Clinton administration by exaggerating the vandalism stories in the first days of the Bush tenure. It took me all weekend to realize how bizarre it sounded to have a Clinton defender denounce the White House for “smearing people.”

Compare, on the one hand, the Harvard-style outrage coming out of places like The American Prospect and Slate at the Bushies because they might have suggested that a few unnamed people had gone overboard with their pranks to, on the other, their silence when the Clintonites smeared people by name for being sluts, loony birds, and criminals. I’m sorry, but it’s going to be a long time before I take such complaints from these people seriously again.

Clinton Agonistes
And so, in a perverse sense this is all very unfair to Bill Clinton. Do you think he would have moved to New York if he knew that all of a sudden people were going to judge him by decent and honorable standards? This guy made plans based on nearly a decade of craven sycophancy by the liberal elite. And now the liberal elite has suddenly found religion. If he were a power company he could sue. The “regulatory climate” encouraged his behavior and now it’s changed without warning and he’s stuck with what the economists call “stranded costs.” It’s just not fair.

Which is, I’m sure, exactly how Bill Clinton sees it. He has always been primarily a man about himself, and one can be sure he’s sitting in a fugue of rage in his dark Chapaqua den with peanut shells cascading down the trunk of his body and a glass of Maker’s Mark sloshing onto the latest issue of Maxim as he screams at the television.

It was just three weeks ago that Bill Clinton held his “I Love Me” rally during George W. Bush’s inauguration and already he’s at a loss for what happened to all of his friends. Yeah, sure Joe Conason will probably make the guy a Hot Pocket whenever he needs one, but that’s small solace for the Big He. But why did his unisex intellectual harem turn on him?

In an excellent column last week, Marjorie Williams wrote that the turnabout was “the displaced revenge of those who spent years denying the undeniable and defending the indefensible.” That’s true enough. But there’s something else going on. Clinton got a free pass for the simple reason that his defenders love power. It blinded them morally and logically.

Now, some think the Marc Rich pardon has woken them up to Clinton’s ways and others feel that the pardon was Clinton’s first real misdeed (I’m serious: Some do, stop laughing). But the truth is that Bill Clinton doesn’t have power anymore, and that’s the only thing that’s changed. And when Gods become mortal, mortals become vengeful.



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