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Jewish World Review April 5, 2002 / 24 Nisan, 5762

Cal Thomas

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The man who won't go away | Bill Clinton won't go away. He's pictured on the April 8 cover of Newsweek flying the New York-Washington shuttle. With what he gets for speeches (reportedly $200,000 to $300,000 overseas and $100,000 and up domestically), not to mention his $12 million book deal, he could afford a private jet, but this is about image.

Clinton tells Newsweek that in hindsight he would not have pardoned financier Marc Rich, but based only on political considerations - not principle. Clinton wasn't asked whether he regrets any of his other last-minute stealth pardons, including one for his brother, Roger. Nor was he asked about the pardons he refused to grant for some who went to jail for him, including his old "friend" Webster Hubbell, former Associate Attorney General; Jim Guy Tucker, former Arkansas governor; or Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, who never gave up her right to remain silent. Clinton once told a group of Houston business leaders that he regretted raising their taxes "too much." No doubt the pollsters, always Clinton's guiding light, were responsible for both of these "regrets."

Also in Newsweek, Clinton resurrects the "vast right-wing conspiracy" theory made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Members of "the permanent right-wing establishment" were "traumatized" when he won the presidency, Clinton claims, because they "just thought they were entitled to rule." Over the years, Clinton has blamed right-wingers (but never himself) for his problems.

Clinton won't go away because he's not finished. He'll spend the rest of his life, like Jacob Marley, dragging around chains of his own making and trying to purge the public's memory of his serial misdeeds.

The former President still has a few allies, whose futures are in part conditional on explaining their own past enabling of a man in need of psychological, not to mention spiritual help. Those wild and crazy Clinton political strategists Paul Begala and James Carville, (now "on the left" on CNN's "Crossfire") have co-authored a book with a title as cluttered as their defense of the former president: "Buck Up, Suck Up …and Come Back When You Foul Up."

In a March interview for the Web page, "BuzzFlash," Begala makes claims that are as preposterous as Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky." He asserts, "We were the most ethical administration in history." His evidence is that no Clinton administration figure was indicted. No, but the top guy was impeached. And the Independent Counsel's office said there was plenty of evidence of wrongdoing.

It's difficult to select the funniest defense of Clinton in the Begala interview, but it could be his claim that Republicans use negative campaigning because "they know they can't win on the merits and on the ideas…Clinton was not a 'so is your mother' kind of politician." And what "ideas" did Clinton have that he wasn't willing to jettison if the polls showed his popularity would go up if he flipped? Welfare reform? He first opposed it but then supported it when polls showed the people were in favor. There are many other examples.

Begala then goes on the couch. Asked by BuzzFlash, "How can you explain the virulent hate that so many people in the right wing have for Clinton?" he answers, "I believe these people hate themselves. I believe they hate our country. I believe they hate our culture (he's right about that, especially a culture that would tolerate the kind of unethical and immoral behavior that defined Bill Clinton). They can't accept the level of self-loathing that they have, and so they project it onto someone else."

Begala notes that "for all of his faults (I thought he didn't have any!) and the troubles in his marriage, Bill Clinton is still married to a girl he met in the library 25 years ago at school...he is a man who, until he became the President of the United States of America, never earned more than $35,000 a year because he put service first." Right! Servicing women too numerous to list.

"By any standard of measure," Begala asserts, Clinton "is a good man. He is a decent man. He is a successful man."

By any standard? The Ten Commandments? The Constitution? Nice try, Paul, but even many of your co-apologists don't believe that.

JWR contributor Cal Thomas is the author of, among others, The Wit and Wisdom of Cal Thomas Comment by clicking here.

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