I wish Bill Clinton would go hibernate somewhere, so I wouldn’t have to keep writing about him.
As much as I agree with President George W. Bush that it’s time to move forward with the people’s agenda — which has been on hold for eight years — I would be remiss if I didn’t address the Clinton pardons. Two of Clinton’s 412 eleventh-hour pardons are currently under investigation by Congress.
But these unusual investigations are motivated by frighteningly obvious evidence of abuse of power. In the first case Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, whose ex-wife Denise donated several hundred thousand dollars to his party and his presidential library. In the second case, Clinton pardoned Robert Clinton Fain and James Lowell Manning, who paid his brother-in-law Hugh Rodham nearly $400,000 — approximately the same amount as Denise Rich — for legal services rendered in connection with their pardons. Maybe there’s a standard rate.
Now, there are exactly two possibilities. Either Clinton, self-righteous champion of the disadvantaged, pardoned these wealthy, white tax evaders because they paid him off or because he thought their prosecutions were meritless.
Let’s talk about the first possibility: Evil Clinton had a golden opportunity. He had only to do something that would cost him absolutely nothing (because he was out of office, he did not have to worry about public opinion anymore). In return, he stood to receive untold fortune (who’s to say the gifts he received to date weren’t merely down payments). And if anyone made the connection between the gifts and the pardons, he could just return them and be a hero.
The Democrats don’t seem to have a problem with this logic.
Clinton gave the money back, Congressional Democrats say, so he obviously wasn’t guilty. Let’s not investigate. But when you consider the situation facing Evil Clinton, you realize this was the failsafe plan all along. His returning the money wasn’t because of any sense of moral outrage or confusion.
Let’s talk about the second possibility: Good Clinton really felt these men should be pardoned. He was so sure of this that he didn’t bother to check with prosecutors who had spent years building solid cases against them. He just took his brother-in-law’s word for it.
In this case, Clinton is guilty of negligently abusing his power. In other words, if you like this story better, you prefer to think of him as an idiot rather than a slime ball. Either way, there is an imperative to investigate these pardons.
I have an idea. Why doesn’t Congress pass a new law or a Constitutional amendment or whatever it takes to say the following: If you do favors for a president, you are ineligible for pardons. If you receive a pardon, you may not do favors for the former president after the fact.
If this law were on the books, Evil Clinton would not have been able to pardon the fugitive Rich, nor would he have been able to pardon those other jerks (because he couldn’t have received compensation afterward).
This law disadvantages no one. If you’re filthy rich, you should be able to afford an attorney who can beat a tax case. If you can’t find one, then you’re guilty. The people who are wrongly convicted of crimes in this country don’t have the money to afford big attorneys and certainly don’t have the money to give gifts anyway.
Of course, my proposal isn’t fool-proof. I guess someone who isn’t an idiot could find a way to receive a payment inconspicuously. That’s what Clinton should have done. Maybe he is an idiot.
Phil Fortino is a senior in Saybrook College. His columns appear every Friday.