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Jewish World Review March 23, 2000 /16 Adar II, 5760

Paul Greenberg

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Justice delayed:
There he goes again -- IF THERE IS A WAY for William Jefferson Clinton, Esq., to further embarrass us in Arkansas, you know he'll find it. And sure enough, he found it again -- by asking that the hearing on his disbarment be put off for still another year.

That way, he could have extended this whole, shameful episode, delayed justice still again, and kept us all twisting in the wind till February of next year. What a scamp.

But a distinguished scamp. As he approaches gray eminence and the status of elder statesman, Slick William hasn't forgotten a trick. That bridge to the next century he's building turns out to be an endless cloverleaf on which we'll all just have to keep riding indefinitely. Even this request for a delay was delayed until the last minute.

Justice delayed isn't just justice denied in this case; it is justice ignored and mocked, too. For the message behind this latest "response'' from our always impeachable president was clear enough. To spell it out:

"My precious time, my exalted position and my general superiority to the law entitles me to special treatment. I'm not your ordinary shyster who testifies falsely, obstructs the judicial process and generally shows contempt for the courts, but quite an extraordinary one. And therefore I'm entitled to extraordinary obeisance. In short, I'm a busy man. Come back next year.''

Any notion that Bill Clinton's contempt for the law ceased with his testimony in Susan Webber Wright's court vastly underestimates the man. There was in his latest non-response a contempt for the idea of equal justice before the law that is not just deep, but practiced, automatic, reflexive by now.

If Bill Clinton cannot defy justice, he will delay, delay and delay it. Until he's out of office and out of town, and the whole thing may have blown over.

And why not? Here's a guy who got past the federal courts, the Senate of the United States and all the old strictures of law and conscience that even now may still inspire a certain atavistic awe in the rest of us unsophisticated types.

Somebody like that isn't likely to come running when his attendance is requested by a mere state Supreme Court -- and of a small state at that, one with only six electoral votes.

Happily, our somnolent court and its Committee on Professional Conduct seems to have roused itself, and is giving William J. Clinton, Esq., only until April 21 of this year to file his response.

This president moved beyond shame long ago. Certainly we've all moved beyond outrage. Bill Clinton may still surprise, but he can no longer shock. Not even now, not even with this latest little dodge and what it says about his attitude toward the law. ("I'm important, you can wait.'')

This latest crassness on Bill Clinton's part not only insults the law, but the general decencies. Once again, he's kept us waiting. And he proposed to keep us waiting. Tardiness is a kind of habitual inconsideration for others, and with Bill Clinton it has become a habit, an art, a kind of substitute for character. (That last is always being put off for later, too.) For where this president is concerned, procrastination is not just a fault, but a strategy, a way of life.

So now the bar, the courts, the people, the law ... all are being asked/told to wait again.

Some of us inquiring minds wonder just what it is that has kept this president too busy to face justice -- being impeached and deserving to be? Raising campaign funds? Shining up his place in history? Moving to New York?

Besides, what is so complicated about this case? It's not as if the facts or his misleading testimony about them could be disputed anymore, except by his claque of hired apologists and the usual willing and eager suckers. Let's just move on.

But he won't let us. Said respondent wanted to postpone his real response until next February or maybe eternity, whichever comes later.

Why couldn't he save the state trouble and embarrassment, and just mail in his law license, the way he did his $90,000 fine for contempt of court? And be done with it. Then we could put this behind us and move on to his next scandal.

But he won't let us. Because he's Bill Clinton, and if there's a way to embarrass us in Arkansas, you know he'll find it.

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©2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate