By Ciro Scotti We all just want to get over it. Let all the incessant Bill-Hill bashing and right-wing conspiracies end. Let Dubya and his new broom sweep away the tacky scandals. Enough with the coarsening of the Executive Branch. So long to the Clinton crowd that trucked the Trailerpark Presidency in from Arkansas eight years ago.
But by George, the Clintons won't let us. The former Commander-in-Sleaze (a local pol who will forever remain a local pol, untransformed by the office to which he was elevated) and the current Senator-in-Denial couldn't resist one last test of public patience on their way out the White House door. So in our faces they threw much of the loot laid at their untouchable feet by political benefactors. And when we shook off our disgust and raised our Clinton-weary heads, Bill slapped us across the cheek with a sheaf of unpardonable pardons. The only closure these two know about is of the mouth, when honest answers are sought.
It is now clear from the testimony taken by a House committee posse led by Clinton fingernail-pullers Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Bob Barr (R-Ga.) that 10 days before disgraced former President Clinton pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich and his partner, Pinky Green, he notified a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee that he was on the Rich case.
BILL OF SALE. In fact, a memo between Rich's lawyers suggests that the Prez took the time to phone Beth Dozoretz, a powerful Democratic fund-raiser, to let her know he was doing all he could to quell objections to the Rich pardon raised by White House aides. At the time of the phone call, Dozoretz was reportedly visiting Denise Rich, ex-wife of Marc, at her shack in Aspen.
Denise, whom the press has taken to describing as a Fifth Avenue songwriter-socialite, appears from the cut of her glitzy gowns to have everything the hawk-eyed Prez could want in a woman -- and more. But what cleaves Bill to Denise and Denise to Bill is more than just cleavage. Denise, who returned to the U.S. from her former hubby's exile in Switzerland in the early 1990s, has swiftly become a major benefactor to the Democratic Party. Since 1993, she has given at least $1 million -- including $450,000 for Bill's Presidential library -- and more than $100,000 to Hillary's senatorial campaign, according to the Associated Press.
What induced Denise Rich, hardly an ideologue or even a vaguely political woman, to part with all that cash, the original source of which is still open to question? A charitable soul would say that like a lot of other people in or on the fringes of the entertainment business, Denise felt the pull of the Prez, soulmate to the stars. But a darker interpretation might be that the Rich family, like the Riady family of Indonesia and the Chinese interests who funneled money to the Clinton reelection campaign through fixers like Johnny Chung, saw a Presidency for sale.
NOT A PRETTY PICTURE. If the Rich pardon wasn't about money, why would Clinton be reporting to a Democratic fat kitten about his efforts to fend off his concerned staff? That and other questions may be behind the thinking of Mary Jo White, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whom the Associated Press and Washington Post report is opening a criminal
investigation into the Rich pardon. Her office had been responsible for prosecuting Marc Rich.
But let it go, Mary Jo. As our new President George W. said on Feb. 13: "I think it's time to move on." He's right. Despite public nausea over Bill's exit ("Always leave 'em retchin'"), who has the stomach for yet another investigation of Clinton? He had a chance to go out with some class but instead handed his enemies an opportunity to screech: "We told you so."
And yes, they did tell us. Funny how the financial shenanigans, getting randy with an intern, and playing fast and loose with the truth all seem a lot less odious than our final snapshot for the Clinton album of shame. In this picture, the President of the United States is scrambling to undermine his own advisers, subvert the administration of justice, and deliver the quo for his quid. You'd think he was some hack from a backwater state like, say, Arkansas. Scotti, senior editor for government and sports business, offers his views every week in A Not-So-Neutral Corner, only for BW Online