Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2000/ 8 Shevat 5761
DRAG $22,000 worth of china - or $18,000 in flatware or $38,000 in glass sculpture - through a trailer park and there's no telling what you'll find.
Those were just a few items among $190,000 in "gifts" the former first family accepted in the nick of time - that is, just before Senator Hillary Clinton's official oath would have prohibited it - thus crystallizing the Clinton's often-amorphous legacy: no class.
My posthaste apologies, by the way, to the Mobile Homeowner's Association and those honorable Americans who live in trailer parks. I was merely borrowing from the ever-pithy James Carville, former Clinton spokesman who, commenting on Paula Jones in the early days of Clinton legacy-building, said: "Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and there's no telling what you'll find."
Jones is looking better these days, but the Clintons aren't. Their curtain call looked like the final hours of a fraternity weekend cum class reunion where Mr. Popular can't bear to call it a night. In leaving - or failing to leave even after President George W. Bush had taken his oath - Clinton did everything but flip America the bird.
"I've left the White House," he told a crowd with that faux-goofy Arkansas gosh-grin, "but I'm still here."
Was he ever.
He didn't have the good grace to slip out a side door, to disappear and give his successor his own moment in the sun. Instead, he made a noisy appearance at Andrews Air Force Base, gave speeches, waved to the crowds and then flew to New York to an organized welcome-home event.
As long as Clinton was casting media spectacles, the media were compelled to show up. Thus, Americans flipping channels on inauguration day trying to find coverage of the new president were out of luck for a couple of hours. The old president was everywhere.
Like an ill-bred little boy who doesn't know when it's time to stop showing off, Clinton was still hogging the show.
His final days and hours at the White House were equally narcissistic. While his staff members were cutely lifting the "W" keys from White House computer keyboards in the adolescent spirit that has characterized the Clinton years, Clinton himself was handing out pardons to family and friends like scalped tickets to the Super Bowl.
Most dubious was the pardon to fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, a client of former White House counsel Jack Quinn, who's been living lavishly in Switzerland since he fled the United States in 1983 following indictments for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering. Presidential pardons are often political - no one's na•ve about that - but they're usually extended to people who have paid sufficiently for their crimes.
Rich has never paid anyone, except the Clintons through Rich's former wife, a generous campaign contributor, who also made the "gift list" with two chairs and two coffee tables worth $7,375.
By his debauched performance as father forgiver, Clinton put the final flourishes on a message America should have gotten long ago: In Clinton's world, you can get away with anything.
Even lying, which Clinton finally admitted he did under oath during the Jones lawsuit. Dodging prosecution yet again, Clinton cut a deal with independent counsel Robert W. Ray, saying he made "false statements."
By now, even Clinton must realize his final folly. With his job ratings still high, he had an opportunity to exit the White House with the aura of class he'd always coveted. Instead, he shattered his own mystique and, by his actions, cast all his prior conduct in the appropriate light. Which is that Clinton, though an intelligent, artful politician, was always a shameless egotist bereft of integrity and
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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