Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2001 / 27 Shevat 5761

Morton Kondracke

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

When will Dems finally say Clinton is unfit leader? -- DEMOCRATS seem confused about what to do with Bill Clinton. On the one hand, many of them are disgusted by his latest displays of sleaziness. On the other hand, they seem reluctant to ask him to get lost as their party leader.

This is a moment a lot like the first days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when leading Democrats muttered about asking Clinton to resign. When his polls numbers held, though, they formed a phalanx with him against Republicans.

Right now any number of Democrats are criticizing Clinton's pardon of tax-fraud fugitive Marc Rich, trying to ignore the other examples of potential corruption tumbling in, and warming up to blame Republicans for "piling on."

As one top Democratic aide put it to me, "Republicans just can't give him up as a bogey man. I think they run the risk of hurting themselves. You can't have President Bush preaching civility and bipartisanship and at the same time have (Rep.) Dan Burton, R-Ind., conducting show trials. The public will see this as piling on."

I don't think so. This is one occasion when Burton, deservedly criticized in the past for wretched excess, just may have hit investigative pay dirt.

The Rich pardon is utterly indefensible. The man fled prosecution in the largest tax-fraud case in U.S. history, traded with American adversaries -- including Iran and Iraq, despite sanctions -- and showed no remorse whatsoever.

If Clinton has a legitimate explanation for the pardon, which is highly unlikely, he hasn't given it yet. So the rest of the world is free to assume it had something to do with the millions of dollars Rich's ex-wife, Denise, gave to the Democratic Party and the $400,000 she contributed to the Clinton library fund.

According to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll last weekend, only 9 percent of voters think the reason Clinton pardoned Rich was that "the facts supported" it, whereas 68 percent believe it was because of contributions from Rich's friends and family.

Other pardons are also suspect, including those of convicted cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali, leaders of a Hasidic community in New York who aggressively threw their support to now-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., last fall and convicted stock trader Edward Downe Jr.

With any luck, Burton and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., will get to the bottom of the pardons and will open the hidden Clinton library fund to inspection to see what other beneficiaries of presidential favors may have contributed.

It is probably a far-fetched notion that Clinton could be impeached again. But investigations of the pardons are entirely legitimate. In the meantime, Clinton is being impeached in the court of public opinion for the fact that he and his wife walked off with $190,000 in gifts just prior to her taking office as a senator.

In spite of her $8 million book advance, their ability to purchase $2 million houses and his six-figure speaking fees, they took at least $28,000 worth of furniture meant as gifts for the White House, not for them personally.

All this is on top of Clinton's late-January plea bargain with special counsel Robert Ray, in which Clinton admitted -- and then had his lawyer deny that he admitted -- lying under oath in the Paula Jones case long ago.

So Clinton has left office much as he occupied it, mocking his 1993 vow to have "the most ethical administration in American history."

This is the man the Democrats have as their leader unless someone has the temerity to tell him not to be. Clinton has installed the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And every day he makes himself the most visible of all Democrats -- a spectacle, in fact.

Some Democrats say "the party has many leaders." But when the Gallup Poll took a survey among random voters of any party of whom they considered to be the top Democrat, Clinton got 20 percent, over former Vice President Al Gore's 16 percent. Among Democrats, Clinton led the former vice president by a spread of 26 percent to 21 percent.

This evidence suggests that Gore could challenge Clinton as the party's chief spokesperson, but he is not doing so. Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who have large roles, finished in single digits. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., finished just behind Clinton and Gore and ahead of Daschle and Gephardt.

Clinton's misbehavior is a huge gift to Bush, who comes off as St. George by comparison to Bad Boy Bill -- although, in spite of the Rich scandal, Clinton's favorability rating is holding at 53 percent and Bush's is only 60 percent, according to Gallup.

The White House is staying clear of the Clinton scandals, letting Republicans in Congress handle various probes. White House aides do think that one likely upshot is that Sen. Clinton is less likely to run for president in 2004 than she might have been previously.

Obviously, what's important is not what Republicans think of the Democratic Party but what the public thinks. Policy stances will be the most important determinant in the end. But having a scoundrel at the helm can't help.

JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.


02/14/01: McCain won't run against Bush again, just differ on issues
02/12/01: Is Joe Lieberman tilting left toward 2004?
02/07/01: The controversy starts: Bush orders HHS study of fetal, stem cell issues
02/05/01: Dems move toward bush on taxes, but ...
02/01/01: Bush should be open with press
01/30/01: Bush Should go for broke early on education
01/23/01: Clinton ain't going away, folks
01/19/01: Bush should try for legacy as 'Great Reconciler'
01/16/01: Left-Center Rift Re-emerges For Democratic Leaders
01/12/01: Clinton doing Bush no favors in Mideast
01/09/01: Bush and Democrats can deal
12/14/00: Will Daschle make it his business to get along with President Bush?
12/08/00: GOP is in danger of ruining record on medical research
11/27/00: Some fascinating stories about how and why people voted
11/22/00: GOP Survived health bullets, but one is left
11/20/00: Can next president and Hill deal?
11/15/00: With nation split, leaders must reach across party divide
11/07/00: The Envelope, Please:Bush Beats Gore, GOP Holds Hill
11/03/00: Parties appeal to two 'gospels'
11/01/00: Lurking in the shadows
10/26/00: What's Gore's Social Security plan?
10/18/00: While Bush, Gore debate surplus, Congress spends it
10/16/00: Two debates leave lots of questions
10/03/00: What questions should be debated?
09/28/00: Gore and Bush should prepare to lead
09/19/00: Bush let values issue slip away
08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
08/08/00: 2000 race could leave high road for low
08/03/00: Convention must point Bush to center
08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals

©1999, NEA