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Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2001 / 29 Shevat, 5761

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Brave when the battle's done -- MY how quickly the tables turn. No sooner was President Bill Clinton out of office than his former liberal allies, lawmakers and press alike, began to turn on him. Most notably, they were upset about the outrageous pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife both lobbied heavily for the pardon and contributed significantly to the Clintons and the Democrats' campaign coffers.

But there was also the spectacle of the Clintons leaving the White House having solicited and received major gifts for their new homes in such a way as to get around limits on gifts to now Senator Clinton. And, it was discovered later, there was their kleptomania, and tacky kleptomania at that, in actually trying to take furniture that belonged to the White House itself. This of course was all coupled with the controversy surrounding Bill Clinton's original intent to rent ultra-high priced New York office digs at taxpayer expense.

In the wake of such predictably disgusting behavior on the part of the Clintons, we have for the first time witnessed denouncements of Clinton by longtime defenders, such as Senators Tom Daschle, Joe Biden, Paul Wellstone, and Representative Barney Frank. With equal alacrity, leaders of the liberal media pack were suddenly lambasting Clinton for his final presidential and then post-presidential maneuvers, for instance, the Washington Post's Richard Cohen and E.J. Dionne, TIME's Margaret Carlson, and even the New York Times itself.

But where were these folks while Clinton was still in office and when their criticism would have mattered? These are the same sorts of people who stood by him during the Monica Lewinsky affair and the resulting perjury and cover-up; who were there for him when he took campaign cash from the Communist Chinese, apparently in exchange for giving them sensitive nuclear technology; when revelations arose about crooked land deals and hush money; when he was credibly accused of sexual harassment and even rape - and during a host of other corruption scandals. Through all these things, while sometimes mild and always in the end harmless words of criticism might be occasionally offered up, the Friends of Bill stood by their man.

Now, it seems the former Friends of Bill can't be nasty enough. They are using words like "betrayal" and "contemptuous" to describe Clinton's latest actions. But they remind me of Inspector Renault in "Casablanca" who was "shocked, shocked" to find gambling going on in Rick's casino - as he's being handed his winnings. Apparently it's now safe for the liberal trendsetters to denounce Bill Clinton. He's out of office, he can't help them anymore, and anyway attacking him now that he's gone is a morally cheap way to finally "do the right thing." Nor does repudiating him today much aid his Republican and conservative foes as it would have done during the Clinton presidency.

It seems the former Friends of Bill have the pathetic "we're all cold-warriors now" mentality. During the Cold War liberal lawmakers and the media elite rarely dared to criticize the Soviet Union. But once the walls of the iron curtain came down, once there was nothing more to be gained by defending America's foe, suddenly there was no end to the extent to which they excoriated it. Yet, when it really mattered, these same people were nowhere to be found. Worse, they were willing to hang out to dry those who were on the front lines with the courage to fight the battles that did, in the end, bring down communism.

Then, the chief recipient of their ire, of course, was Ronald Reagan. Ironically (or perhaps not given what seems to be the pattern of the elite in these matters) many of Reagan's former attackers recently lauded him on his 90th birthday. The Washington Post, for instance, ran a glowing profile of the former president and his legacy.

Is it just that President Reagan's great contributions, particularly in ending the Cold War, are becoming clearer with the passage of time? Perhaps. But I think it's more likely that, just as it's now "safe" for the former Friends of Bill to denounce Clinton, meaning there is no political or moral price to pay for it, so too it is "safe" to laud Reagan - in retrospect.

The lesson to be learned here is one that should concern us all: Many of America's "leading lights" have shown us over and over again that they are willing to do the right thing - when finally it costs them nothing.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


02/14/01: Sick
02/06/01: Is nothing sacred?
01/30/01: Moral bankruptcy of the civil rights establishment
01/16/01: Who are the truly 'ugly' ones?
01/10/01: The extent to which our culture has been feminized
01/02/01: It's gettin' better all the time
12/20/00: Now that the head banging has stopped ....
12/13/00: TV keeps giving us the bad dad
12/01/00: Sorriest legacy of election has nothing to do with chads, 'aborted pregnancies' or the electoral college
12/01/00: Giving 'sleepovers' a new meaning
11/20/00: The Dems' pathetic craving for power
11/14/00: A potentially fateful indication of Gore's mindset
11/07/00: What do women really want?
10/24/00: Spare the rod ...
10/19/00: Gore is a liar --- period
10/12/00: Making the case for marriage
09/28/00: "Mommy, what's abortion?"
09/20/00: Gay righters no longer seek just tolerance but endorsement
09/14/00: The stupidity of smart growth
09/07/00: It takes more than a kiss
08/30/00: Helping out at school is more than an obligation
08/24/00: Family time comes far down the summer schedule
08/16/00: A tale of two wives
08/09/00: The Brady Bill isn't achieving its aim
08/01/00: Attention feminists: How to really keep our daughters safe
07/25/00: Everything is protective: the parents, the gear, the age
07/18/00: Say it ain't so, Ann
07/11/00: Limiting a child's choices
07/06/00: Accounting for your health
06/21/00: It's a bad time to be a boy in America
06/13/00: The state of our unions
06/02/00: Federalizing care of kids
05/17/00: The natural food threat
05/09/00: To stop gun violence, keep families intact
05/03/00: Pass the fat, please
04/25/00: Something just for boys
04/18/00: When toleration goes too far
04/10/00: Women warriors
04/05/00: Confessions of a soccer mom
03/30/00: Getting an education about schools
03/22/00: If you're a parent, act like one!
03/14/00: Not child advocates, but self-advocates
03/06/00: McCain not what he seemed at first
02/29/00: An effective answer to social problems
02/22/00: The feminists' newest target: Toys
02/06/00: Harassing the harassers
01/31/00: It doesn't take a village to raise a child --- it takes a scheduler
01/25/00: Psuedo science and global warming
01/18/00: Socially responsible nonsense
01/10/00: Monica may be onto something
12/27/99: Sometimes it matters quite a lot what government thinks
12/17/99: Teens have no inherent 'right to privacy'
12/10/99: Buying a minivan and tossing the SUV
12/03/99: On the mommy track
11/05/99:The waste of recycling
11/01/99: Welcome to Harvard pre-school
10/22/99: No disaster for women that Dole is out
10/19/99: 'Humanitarian' hypocrites
10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service