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NYT: In America, Cut Him Loose

In America; Cut Him Loose
Published: February 26, 2001
Some years ago, when Gennifer Flowers informed Bill Clinton that she had lied under oath before a grievance committee in Arkansas, the man already known as Slick Willie replied, ''Good for you.''
Mr. Clinton always had an easy, breezy relationship with wrongdoing. But the Democratic Party overlooked the ethical red flags and made a pact with Mr. Clinton that was the equivalent of a pact with the devil. And he delivered. With Mr. Clinton at the controls, the party won the White House twice. But in the process it lost its bearings and maybe even its soul.
Now, with the stench of yet another scandal polluting the political atmosphere, some of Mr. Clinton's closest associates and supporters are acknowledging what his enemies have argued for years -- the man is so thoroughly corrupt it's frightening.
The president who hung a ''For Rent'' sign on the door to the Lincoln Bedroom also conducted a clearance sale on pardons in his last weird sleepless days in the White House.
The fallout from those pardons is threatening to destroy Mr. Clinton, and perhaps also his wife, the junior senator from New York. He may finally be getting his due.
The Clintons can spin this however they want. But the simple truth is that the way in which some of the pardons were granted seems to fit neatly with the standard definition of a bribe, which is the promise of money or gifts -- something of value -- to influence the action or behavior of an official.
Marc Rich was one of the U.S. government's 10 most wanted fugitives. He was accused, among other things, of wire fraud, racketeering, evading $48 million in taxes in what prosecutors described as the largest tax avoidance scheme in U.S. history, and violating the trade embargo against Iran during the hostage crisis.
Do we think something of value was exchanged for Mr. Clinton's pardon of Mr. Rich? Or do we think Mr. Clinton went to bat for this billionaire fugitive because, darn it, it was the right thing to do?
Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation of the Rich pardon as well as Mr. Clinton's decision to grant clemency to four Hasidic men who stole tens of millions of dollars from government agencies. The four men were from New Square, N.Y., a village in Rockland County that voted almost unanimously -- 1,400 to 12 -- for Hillary Clinton in last year's Senate race.
Mrs. Clinton met with New Square's religious leader, Rabbi David Twersky, during the Senate campaign. And in December, after winning the election, she and Mr. Clinton met at the White House with the rabbi.
Was there an understanding? Did the quids hook up with the quos in an illegal votes-for-clemency scheme? Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, is trying to find out.
The Clintons may or may not be led away in handcuffs someday. But whatever happens with the criminal investigations, it's time for the Democratic Party to wise up. Ostracism would be a good first step. Bill Clinton should be cut completely loose. Cold turkey. No more talk about his political genius, his fund-raising prowess, his ability to captivate audiences. He was president for eight years and the bottom line politically is this: For the first time in nearly half a century, the Republican Party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress.
Bill Clinton has been a disaster for the Democratic Party. Send him packing.
There's not much the Democrats can do about Mrs. Clinton. She's got a Senate seat for six years. But there is no need for the party to look to her for leadership. The Democrats need to regroup, re-establish their strong links to middle-class and working-class Americans, and move on.
You can't lead a nation if you are ashamed of the leadership of your party. The Clintons are a terminally unethical and vulgar couple, and they've betrayed everyone who has ever believed in them.
As neither Clinton has the grace to retire from the scene, the Democrats have no choice but to turn their backs on them. It won't be easy, but the Democrats need to try. If they succeed they'll deserve the compliment Bill Clinton offered Gennifer Flowers after she lied under oath: ''Good for you.''

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