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Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2000 / 8 Teves, 5761

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Consumer Reports

Greed is good --
SOMEHOW the word greed never seems to get attached to Democrats. When Ronald Reagan was in the White House, we had seven years of record economic growth. The libs dubbed it the Decade of Greed (though charitable giving was much greater then than during the Clinton years).

But when Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom, we heard scarcely a murmur about wretched excess, nor about the plight of those left out of the general prosperity. When the Reagans entertained friends at the White House, there were disapproving references to the furs and limos favored by the guests. When the Clintons have entertained their equally well-heeled (if tackier) friends, we get only appreciative notices about who wore what.

Nor does the word greed seem to get attached to liberals personally. Newt Gingrich accepted a $4.5 million book deal after being elected speaker of the house and was universally denounced for cashing in. (In the face of noisy criticism, Gingrich backed down and took no advance.) But Hillary Clinton pockets a cool $8 million to tell how it really felt to discover that her adored mate was less than 100 percent faithful, and no one is particularly troubled.

Well, almost no one. A watchdog group, the Congressional Accountability Project, said, "This book contract, with its uniquely lavish advance for an elected official, may be, in fact, a way for that corporation to place money into your pockets, perhaps to curry favor with you."

Imagine! And the Clintons such sticklers for propriety. Still, there is zero chance that Mrs. No Special Prosecutor! will do a Gingrich and bow to pressure. That's not the Clinton way.

"We'll just have to win" is their motto. Besides, the People's Liberation Army won't fork over once Bill is retired. And all the important secrets have been sold, anyway. Just don't say they are greedy.

The Clintons have always enjoyed living the high life themselves while simultaneously denouncing it in others. Back in 1992, they announced a tax increase for "the rich," i.e. those who had made out like bandits in the boom years of the 1980s. But of course no one made out better than Bill and Hillary. With Bill in the governor's mansion, Hillary was able to sell legal services for a tidy profit, as well as enjoy a remarkable run of luck on the cattle futures market. The couple even went in for a bit of S and L raiding -- which would haunt them.

(It is niggling to point out that many of those on whom the Clintons imposed higher taxes in the 90s had not made a dime in 1980s -- some were students, others had suffered reverses during the Reagan years.)

When they purchased the house in Chappaqua, none of the chattering types pointed out that rather than accepting a $1.36 million gift from Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, the first couple might simply have sought something more modest -- something more within their means. After all, they never even expected to live there. But though you should never say they are greedy, even their unlived-in house must be of a certain style.

While the Clintons are with one hand soliciting donations from wealthy friends to defray their $4 million in legal fees, they are nonetheless prepared for nothing less than the finest in Washington, D.C., real estate. Before settling on the $2.85 million house near Observatory Circle, the Clintons had looked at the $4.3 million Georgetown home once occupied by Jackie Kennedy's mother (will they never grow out of this Kennedy fixation?).

So the Chappaqua house will be the "official residence" but they will really live in Washington, hard by the embassies and billionaires' homes. Mrs. Clinton will officially be the junior senator from New York, but she will really be planning her own run for the presidency. And according to the irrepressible Maureen Dowd, columnist for The New York Times, Mrs. Clinton has not discouraged friends from helping her to furnish her new homes in the style for which Republicans are uniformly condemned. She likes to shop at Borsheim's Fine Jewelry and Gifts in Omaha, and according to Dowd, her china and silver patterns are on the registry list there for those who wish to help out the new homeowner. A Spode soup tureen goes for $2,340; the lobster forks for only $248 each.

Just don't call them greedy.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate