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Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2001 /3 Shevat, 5761

Tony Snow

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Breaking a promise to myelf -- I HAD PROMISED myself not to write again about Bill Clinton -- not to give the Big Creep the satisfaction of publicity -- but events have forced my hand. The Man from Hope couldn't resist the temptation to give us one last White Trash Weekend, as he departed the White House and George W. Bush moved in.

Let us begin with the merely tacky. In the waning days of his pruriency, ex-president Clinton sent out an APB to Democratic fund-raisers, outlining his post-office home-furnishing needs. He and the Mrs. (now the Sen.) wanted to pack their big new homes with spiffy stuff -- no retail, thank you very much; only the finest in tables, chairs, sofas, rugs, silver, linens, crystal, lighting, painting, window treatments, armoires, cabinets, televisions, sculptures and so on. Contributors dutifully ponied up -- before the Mrs. became a Sen., and therefore subject to limits on gifts.

Word is the couple also put together a weird variation on a bridal registry, establishing password-protected sites in which contributors could pledge to purchase specific items selected in advance by the Clintons' design teams for their his 'n' hers palazzos.

At a minimum, the duo marched out of the executive mansion with $200,000 worth of furnishings, a record that seems certain to stand for some time. The contributors included not only the normal run of Hollywood airheads, but also one Denise Rich, whose generosity toward the Democratic Party helped persuade Clinton to issue a last minute pardon for her ex-husband, a fugitive who pilfered millions of dollars worth of other people's money (which, come to think of it, seems a pretty apt description of the modern legislative process).

Clinton, perhaps eager to prove that his loyalties are affordable for the well-heeled, also handed out pardons to a dozen or so other party donors, thus demonstrating that in his administration, nothing tilted the scale of justice like a fat wad of cash.

But this was the merely tacky part. Now comes the disgusting. Let us start our tour of disaster sites with the White House, where the Clinton Kids decided to depart with a bang. They trashed word processors, left obscene messages on voice-mail machines, cut some phone lines and re-routed others, tinkered with computers, scrawled obscenities on walls, soiled rugs and carpets, tipped over desks, vandalized file cabinets, left nasty messages for their successors -- and generally went that extra mile to prove Team Clinton, for all its good and decent public servants, included a record number of punks. (Typically, Tipper Gore apologized for the mess; Bill and Hil did not.)

The executive mansion itself was a wreck as well, as was the Boeing 747 loaned graciously by President George W. Bush. Clinton insisted on the grand transport because he wanted something befitting his personal grandeur. He flew into New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport rather than the smaller Westchester County Airport nearer to his "home" because he wanted one last ride on the big jet. (The Westchester runways are too short to accommodate a jumbo jet.) Unfortunately, when the loaned aircraft returned to its hangar at Andrews Air Force Base, it looked as if it has been stripped by a skilled band of thieves -- or perhaps wrecked by a trailer-park twister.

Gone were the porcelain dishes bearing the presidential seal, along with silverware, salt and pepper shakers, pillows, blankets, candies -- and even toothpaste. It makes one feel grateful that the seats and carpets are bolted down.

Nothing better expresses the narcissistic tackiness of the Clinton years than the last-day exit, complete with its kangaroo-court justice, graceless self-celebration, opportunistic abuse of the gift-receiving privilege and wanton desecration of the nation's most important political shrine, the White House.

No doubt a few Clinton loyalists will rise in defense of their man. But as his presidency recedes into memory, his defenders will filter away slowly and sheepishly, knowing they have devoted an unseemly amount of their time and energy to arguing that good was bad and evil was virtue. Eventually, though, everyone looks through a glass darkly, then face to face -- and delusional political spin gives way to moral epiphany.

Bill Clinton wanted a place in history. He wanted the serenades that greeted Theodore Roosevelt on his departure from office nearly a century ago. But he couldn't overcome the urge to sully tradition one last time, to demonstrate that he was different from all the others, to embarrass his friends and hearten his detractors by giving the public one last reason for saying, "Goodbye and good riddance."

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