The Consortium

The hardest part of judging the Clinton scandals is the double-sided nature of the wrongdoing. Or put differently, who are worse: the Clintons or their accusers? We have been criticized for not being tougher on the Clintons.

Without doubt, Bill and Hillary Clinton deserve criticism for engaging in get-rich-quick business schemes while he held office in Arkansas. That criticism applies whether they lost money, as they did in their Whitewater real estate deal, or whether they made money, as Hillary did by parlaying a $1,000 commodities investment into a $100,000 nest egg, with the help of James Blair, a Tyson Food lawyer.

In 1993, Bill Clinton also brought to Washington a team of Arkansas cronies who were anything but prime-time players. One Friend of Bill, associate attorney general Webster Hubbell, went to jail for cheating his law firm. Another, deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster, apparently despaired over public criticism of his ethics and drove off to a Virginia park to shoot himself.

So there is legitimate blame to lay at Bill Clinton's door step. The question is how much and what's fair? That dilemma is compounded by the competing fact that many of Clinton's accusers have exaggerated, distorted and even fabricated anti-Clinton charges for both political and financial gain. Also, many of these accusers didn't give a hoot about good government during the 12 prior years. Indeed, some helped cover up Republican wrongdoing.

Accuracy in Media's Reed Irvine, a leading Clinton critic, denounced honest reporters who uncovered the Salvadoran army's massacre of hundreds of men, women and children at the village of El Mozote in December 1981. So did Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley. Those attacks made much easier the lying by senior Reagan officials, who claimed that a U.S. government investigation had determined that the story was leftist disinformation. Ten years later, a U.N. forensic team dug up the skeletons.

Then, in the mid-1980s, when evidence emerged of cocaine trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels and of illegal arms shipments arranged by the White House to Central America, Iran and Iraq, Irvine, Bartley and other conservatives led the charge to protect Reagan-Bush operatives from exposure. Senior administration officials could then escape punishment by committing perjury and obstructing justice, while a few underlings took the fall.

During this same period, we now know, Ronald Reagan's White House was secretly raising money for Irvine's group and was planting government-financed propaganda on Bartley's editorial page. [See related story in this issue]. Only after Bill Clinton entered the White House in 1993, did Bartley and Irvine become sticklers for ethics.

Much of the anti-Clinton outrage also has been an outrage itself. Irvine took out newspaper ads to attack the first Whitewater special prosecutor Robert Fiske, when that Republican lawyer endorsed autopsies and police investigations which concluded that Foster had committed suicide at Fort Marcy Park, where his body was found.

"The FBI found semen in Foster's shorts, blond hair on his T-shirt and trousers and multicolored carpet fibers on all his clothing, including underwear," Irvine noted in a New York Times ad, though not explaining how these salacious details disproved suicide.

For his part, Bartley's editorial page promoted a bogus account describing how New Republic reporter L.J. Davis was waylaid in a Little Rock hotel room and awoke hours later with four pages listing his sources removed from his notebook. Subsequent investigations by less-fevered journalists discovered that Davis had spent the evening in the hotel bar knocking himself out with martinis. Davis also announced that none of his notebook pages were missing and denied telling the Journal otherwise.

The Christian Right has jumped in, too. Ex-Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell has gone on the Christian Broadcasting Network to hawk Clinton-hating videos produced by a group called Citizens for Honest Government, a coalition of religious right activists and anti-Clinton conspiracists. (One video, The Clinton Chronicles, described the Mena, Ark., airport operation without mentioning its alleged guns-for-drugs role with the contras or the Mena cover-up run by the Reagan-Bush Justice Departments. In the video, Mena was just a Bill Clinton operation.)

In the November issue of the group's newsletter, reporter Christopher Ruddy now opens fire on the current Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr for finding so little evidence to support the various Clinton conspiracy allegations. In particular, Ruddy, who works for Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, chastised Starr for failing to prove a larger mystery in Foster's death.

"With the full resources of the federal government, [Starr] still has offered no resolution," Ruddy complained. Conservative Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., was quoted as warning that Starr's handling of that case has "finished" his prospects for ever sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ironically, two years ago, Faircloth and other conservatives led the fight to force Fiske out, also over a finding that Foster did commit suicide. Starr was then picked by a GOP-dominated three-judge panel as a bona-fide conservative Republican who had worked closely with right-wing legal groups and got money from the conservative Bradley Foundation. But now Starr's failure to prove the Foster allegations has put him in the dog house, too.

The latest model Clinton scandal is the Democratic National Committee's acceptance of "soft money" donations from individuals tied to the Indonesian-based Lippo Bank. Again, as with Whitewater, there is legitimacy to this story and the Democrats deserve criticism for their conduct. But as Pat Choate, Ross Perot's running mate, wrote in his book, Agents of Influence, receipt of foreign money is a big-time bipartisan industry in Washington.

Indeed, one of the most striking hypocrisies of Lippo-gate is to read front-page stories in the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times denouncing the corrupting influence of mysterious Asian money. For years, Moon's Unification Church and the Times have been pipelines for money from the Pacific Rim to shape political opinion in Washington. Yet never has the church or the newspaper explained the money's origin.

Robert Parry, Editor of The Consortium

(c) Copyright 1996 -- Please Do Not Re-Post

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