how Bill Clinton defends himself against the charge that he traded
pardons for money: "The suggestion that I granted the pardons (to
fugitive financier Marc Rich and his equally shady business partner)
because Mr. Richs wife, Denise, made political contributions
and contributed to the Clinton library foundation is utterly false."
how Clinton should defend himself: "Sure, I used my position of
trust to aid an individual who directed huge checks into the accounts
of committees and agencies doing work on behalf of myself and my
family. Thats how Washington works."
Clinton challenged his Republican tormentors to go after him for
delivering a favor to a wealthy political giver, two things would
happen: First, he would get off, because the Republicans dont
want to open a can of worms in which they have been swimming for
Clinton might actually get the ball rolling for the sort of fundamental
campaign finance reform that offers the only realistic prospect
for banishing Washingtons quid pro quo culture.
an intelligent man who has to know how absurd his excuses sound,
would also be able to look himself in the mirror without grimacing.
Thats no small matter, as his explanations for the Rich pardon
have forced him to go far, far beyond the comic contortions that
so undermined his presidency ("depends on your definition of what
is genuinely painful to hear a grown man trying to convince Geraldo
Rivera that Rich got special treatment because the crook deserved
it or, even worse, because the good of the Middle East peace
process and other noble initiatives depended upon it.
simple fact of the matter is that, were Rich a working Joe from
Milwaukee who got caught double-dealing and fled to Sault Ste. Marie
to escape prosecution, his application for a pardon would have been
acted upon by the Clinton White House with all the speed and serious
consideration of Confederacy-complimenting Attorney General John
Ashcroft addressing a civil rights complaint.
got a break because he is, uh, rich, and because his agents were
willing to disperse a little of that wealth in Billy boys
direction. Thats wrong, but it is also precisely the sort
of quid pro quo equation that defines how business is done in Washington.
anyone really believe the George W. Bush administration would be
looking to open the Alaskan wilderness for oil drilling if the energy
industry had not directed big bucks into Bushs campaign accounts?
Could anyone seriously question that Bush is moving to block workplace
safety standards solely because industry lobbyists guided millions
into his campaign coffers? Is it possible that there is even a single
person in America who believes genetically modified foods would
be allowed to be sold in supermarkets without labels were it not
for the tens of millions of dollars spent to influence politicians
by agribusiness interests?
the Marc Rich pardon was irresponsible, immoral and almost certainly
though probably unprovably illegal. But, as quid pro
quos go, this one is so low on the list of Capitol crimes as to
be inconsequential. If the rest of the federal governments
quid pro quos were as benign as this one, America would be a safer,
cleaner and healthier land.
Copyright 2001 The Capital Times