On the eve of George W. Bush’s inauguration, an otherwise pleasant lunch with Cato Institute scholar Ian Vasquez was befouled by breaking news. About 1:15 p.m., Dan Rather popped up on TV screens at the Capitol Brewery near Union Station to report that then-President Clinton would walk away from his legacy of perjury and malfeasance with a mere massage on his wrist. Special Prosecutor Robert Ray obligingly patted Clinton with a $25,000 fine and five-year suspension of his law license.
”He’s not finished,” I warned Vasquez. “Bill Clinton’s final insult will come about 11:00 tomorrow morning.” I predicted that about the time George W. Bush rang the doorbell to begin the transfer of power, Clinton either would surrender Alaska to Greenpeace or pardon every registered Democrat in America.
Sure enough, the next day Clinton pardoned or granted clemency to 176 people including Susan Rosenberg, a former Weather Underground radical convicted of hauling 700 pounds of explosives and weapons for use in terrorist attacks in 1984. Former Illinois Democratic congressman Mel Reynolds, convicted of defrauding a bank and having sex with an underage staffer, also walked, thanks to Bill Clinton’s forgiving pen.
Another recipient of presidential mercy was fugitive Marc Rich, who was accused of illegally buying oil from Iran while America’s hostages sat bound and gagged in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran between 1979 and 1981. He has been hiding in Zug, Switzerland since 1983 after dodging a $48 million tax debt and 51 counts of tax evasion, racketeering, and conspiracy.
After initially feigning surprise at this pardon, the appropriately named Denise Rich, finally admitted that she had asked President Clinton to pardon her ex-husband in a December 6, 2000 letter. Mrs. Rich, as it happens, gave the Clintons a saxophone as well as a pair of chairs and end tables worth $7,375 for the Clinton’s Chappaqua mansion. She donated $1.1 million in soft money to the Democratic Party between 1993 and last September, plus $120,000 to Hillary’s U.S. Senate bid and $25,000 to the Florida vote recount. Rich also hosted a $3 million Democratic fundraising luncheon at her Fifth Avenue penthouse in 1998.
Bob Dylan’s words perfectly characterize Denise Rich’s patronage of the Clintons and the DNC. As he once observed: “Money doesn’t talk. It screams.”
The town of New Square, New York offered votes rather than cash. But that was the coin of the realm for the First Lady, hustling every ballot she could nab in her quest for power. After campaigning in the Rockland County Hasidic community, Hillary beat GOP rival Rep. Rick Lazio 1,359 to 10. Four New Square residents who village elders wanted freed also won reduced sentences. What a coincidence. Their crime? Creating a fake yeshiva through which they conned taxpayers out of some $40 million in student loans, housing funds and business development capital.
The insults continued.
Word emerged that before exiting the White House, Team Clinton vandalized the Executive Mansion, one of America’s most hallowed symbols. In the same complex where Lincoln emancipated the slaves, Roosevelt labored against Hitler and Reagan reversed Communism, Clinton staffers severed some phone lines, misdirected others, glued file drawers shut, piled garbage in empty offices and rigged doors so that they locked Bush staffers inside their offices, according to NBC News. Clintonites planted pages of pornography among sheets of blank paper in computer printers. Obscene messages were left on phone machines. Someone actually graffitied the words “Bush Licker” on one hallway wall, an eyewitness told The Drudge Report.
Also, as part of this estimated $200,000 demolition derby, the letter “W” was removed from computer keyboards. Cute, but obnoxious. Thankfully, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not decide to hurl a warhead at the United States during the Inaugural parade. America’s defensive capabilities might have suffered with White House communications links sabotaged. You can’t type, much less fight, World War III without those Ws.
The Clintons fled with some $190,027 in gifts purchased with donations seemingly solicited by a Friend of Hillary in Beverly Hills. According to NBC News, Rita Pynoos urged Hollywood’s bleeding hearts to pity the Clintons and rush checks for $5,000 to a store where they were registered like a bride and groom. Though she now denies it, Pynoos reportedly urged donors to submit their checks before Hillary fell under the Senate’s strict ban on gifts worth more than $50. The glitterati obliged, permitting the Clintons to shop until they dropped off of Pennsylvania Avenue.
But their crime spree continued. After wrangling Air Force One from now-President Bush for a final ride to New York, ex-president Clinton took his sweet time leaving town. One press conference and scores of handshakes later, Air Force One arrived at JFK Airport. When it returned to Andrew’s Air Force Base, the 747 had been stripped of china, utensils, salt and pepper shakers, towels, blankets, and other rare items emblazoned with the presidential seal or the Air Force One logo. Free Republic.com called its Inaugural party that night the “Count the White House Silverware” ball. Meant in fun, this proved prescient.
The Washington Times reported the next insult last Saturday. A slew of Air Force One collectibles suddenly appeared for sale on the eBay auction website on or just after January 20. What a coincidence. Maybe hobbyists across America suddenly decided to dump their Air Force One memorabilia on the market as the Clintons left Washington. Maybe not.
“If you take an item from Air Force One, and it’s a personal memento, usually all you have to do is ask,” Thomas Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste, told me. “But the resale turns it into stolen property. And it’s not only unseemly; it’s unfortunately an indication of the kind of people who were in the administration who showed a lack of respect for the office and our tax dollars.”
Yet another Clinton insult dawned Sunday. Bill Clinton reportedly is about to open an office on the entire 56th floor of the swank Carnegie Tower on Manhattan’s West 57th Street. The 8,300-square-foot suite is four times the size of an average new home, the New York Post estimates. The projected $664,000 annual rent is more than taxpayers spend each year on office space for the other four living ex-presidents combined.
“After his pardons and his gifts, I think we should give him a pup tent in Central Park,” Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, told the Post.
The Clintons’ final insult, I fear, will not come until they have inhaled for the last time. Trouble will endure as Hillary serves in the Senate and Bill acts as Gotham’s new man about town.
There must be consequences for Team Clinton’s late-term lawlessness. As the Bush White House basks in the spirit of bipartisanship, congressional Republicans must do their duty and direct the Government Accounting Office to audit the damage to the White House. Whether or not the Justice Department absolves the perpetrators, America’s taxpayers deserve to know exactly what happened to the people’s house.
Hillary’s last-minute limbo beneath the Senate’s gift ban deserves scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee. Her and her husband’s apparent trafficking of clemency for votes and pardons for campaign cash merits investigation on Capitol Hill and at the Justice Department. These outrages smack of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos-style bribery.
The FBI should contact eBay to determine who is auctioning off Air Force One memorabilia. If items indeed were swiped as the Clintons jetted out of Washington, the guilty parties should be identified and prosecuted.
In recent days, more people have skated in Washington than the last time Ice Capades came to town. This must stop. The Bush White House’s wink and nod about all this suggest that none of this matters, and that there should be no repercussions for misbehavior that exceeds indignity and likely constitutes illegality. This is a terrible messages to send, and one that is grossly unfair to law-abiding taxpayers who are rightly appalled at the Clintons’ slug-like crawl from office.
Washington writer and rhetorician Jim Guirard is eager to attach “a truth legacy label to the Clinton-Rodham-Gore years.” Just as the 1960s were dubbed “Camelot” and the Reagan years were nicknamed “the decade of Greed,” Guirard proposes christening the never-ending Clinton crime caper “Scamalot.” What a fitting tribute to the Bonnie and Clyde of American politics.