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Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2001 / 19 Shevat, 5761

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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Harlem could be Bill's best move yet -- WHILE in office Bill Clinton got away with murder. Now he can't get out of bed without being stuck with another PR disaster.

From his expensive Manhattan offices to his pilfering of White House furniture to the ongoing brouhaha over his pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, how did the slickest politician in America become the stickiest? Because for the first time in his public life, he can't divert attention elsewhere, not even a little.

For example, on Monday Clinton gave his first speech as an ex-president in Boca Raton, Fla., to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which paid him $150,000. During the question-and-answer period, Clinton was asked about his pardon of Rich.

"I pardoned Rich because there was no controversy about the Rich pardon," Clinton told the crowd, according to The Washington Post.

"That's ridiculous!" heckled a woman in the audience. "Rich fled the country and never faced prosecution. There was no controversy about Rich because nobody even knew about Rich."

Clinton replied, "As far as I knew, Marc Rich and his wife were Republicans."

This, of course, is a wild, bald-faced lie. Denise Rich, Marc Rich's ex-wife, was a regular visitor to the White House who lobbied for the pardon. She has personally given more than a million dollars to the Clintons and the Democrats since 1992, and she raised millions more at glitzy fund-raisers she organized. These were attended by Bill, Hillary and Al Gore. If Bill Clinton thought the Riches were Republicans, maybe he really didn't know the meaning of "is."

When president, this sort of lie would have bought Clinton enough time to move on. But now there's nothing for him to move on to. With Bill Clinton the private citizen, what you see is what you get. When he left office, Clinton's job approval rating was around 60 percent while his personal approval rating was closer to 30. Without a job for the American people to approve of, the only rating left is the bad one.

Before he could dazzle and deny, claiming he had to go about the work of the American people. He had the White House staff and the Democratic Party working to make him look good. Now he's all alone, and his lies make everyone angry, like when OJ talks about "finding the real killers."

As president, Clinton did plenty of things just as venal, dishonest, despicable and crude as the Rich pardon, like pardoning Puerto Rican terrorists to help his wife's senate campaign. But whenever things got really bad for him, he could use the presidential prerogative to change the subject. But now the negative stories are left to fester, without being sanitized by a new headline.

This is bad news for Bill because he desperately needs to make a lot of money on the rubber-chicken circuit in order to pay off debts, not to mention cover his share of the rent for his swank new office. If his public image continues to sink, nobody's going to pay him six figures for a speech. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter has already had some clients pull their assets in protest over his Monday address, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What can Clinton do to extricate himself from this mess? Well, the same thing he always did - give the press something else to talk about, preferably something positive. I have a wacky suggestion along these lines.

Bill Clinton should move his office - and his home - to Harlem.

First of all, the press would love it. Second, the black caucus of the Democratic Party would be ecstatic. Third, it would be great for Harlem and Clinton. He is the youngest ex-president since Teddy Roosevelt. With the combination of his celebrity, energy and senator wife, Clinton could help spark a second Harlem renaissance.

By hanging his hat in Harlem, America's most famous and storied black neighborhood, he could solve its enduring economic problems almost overnight and do much to close the racial divide he insists is his life's work. The power of presidents, even ex-presidents, to create trends is immense. After all, JFK is credited for destroying the hat industry because he went topless to his inaugural.

As an ex-president, Jimmy Carter led by example by personally helping to build houses for the rural poor. Bill Clinton could lead by example by helping the urban black poor north of 125th street. In minutes Clinton would erase all memory of the mini-scandals that have plagued him during the last few weeks and would launch himself into an honorable post-presidential career. More importantly, he'd be doing the right thing.

It's just a suggestion.

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


02/06/01: Lying, betrayal essential parts of journalism
01/18/01: How to polarize candidates
01/15/01: Dems never tire of using 'race card'
01/11/01: Taking the celebrity out of politics
01/08/01: Unfairly 'borking' Ashcroft
01/04/01: Want to be more efficient? Increase number of politicians
01/02/01: Whole lotta exploitin' goin' on
12/28/00: Hypocrisy police pounce on Clinton book deal
12/26/00: Sometimes, it's good to be a Grinch
12/21/00: Though symbolic, Bush's diversity sends a message
12/19/00: Gore concedes --- but why did it take so long?
12/14/00: Is 'Queer as Folk' what we asked for?
12/11/00: Election mess hardly a 'civics lesson'
12/07/00: Clinton's tacky legacy
12/05/00: Marriage civilizes the manly beast
11/30/00: Gore's speech more pompous posturing
11/28/00: Rabble-rousing Dems act irresponsibly
11/27/00: Duking it out with democracy
11/16/00: Issues irrelevant to most voters
11/14/00: Gore's us-vs.-them campaign
11/10/00: Dot-com disasters missing brand-name success
11/06/00: Conventional wisdom turns with the polls
11/03/00: Clinton photo, appropriately, hits below the belt
11/01/00: Electoral college ensures democracy
10/30/00: New Yorkers, media letting Hillary off the hook
10/23/00: Gore needs to put first things first
10/20/00: Treatment of Farrakhan glosses over odd issues
10/16/00: Secrets of election can be found in 'Star Trek'
10/12/00: Arafat hardly 'provoked' into violence
10/10/00: Undecided voters may be ignorant, not discriminating
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09/25/00: Conservatives adopt abandoned liberalism
09/21/00: Ventura's media backpedaling makes fiction of his new book
09/18/00: Tough questions target Hillary Clinton's elitism
09/14/00: Hollywood morality to blame
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09/07/00: Time-honored tradition: Insult the press
09/05/00: Scouting out justice
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08/17/00: AlGore is doomed, but Dems ignore warning signs
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08/10/00: Exploiting religion would be tragic mistake
08/08/00: Cheney serves up tempting appetizer
08/03/00: Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty
08/01/00: Presidential campaign could use some anti-metric mania
07/27/00: Government shouldn't subsidize Reform Party
07/25/00: Campaign finance 'reform' gives too much power to liberal media
07/20/00: Hillary slur speaks volumes
07/18/00: AlGore's McCarthyism
07/11/00: 'Survivor' shows hypocrisy of animal rights groups
07/05/00: McDonald's deserves a break today
07/03/00: On July Fourth, time to reflect on America's founding
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06/23/00: If Fonda is sorry, let her say so
06/06/00: NAPSTER exposes artists' hypocrisy
04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

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