Let the Whitewater butt covering begin

By Joe Conason


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The only conclusion that can fairly be drawn about Whitewater is that the Clinton defense team accomplished what all defense teams try to do — it denied the prosecution the evidence necessary to achieve a conviction. The Clintons did this through both lawful means (assertion of attorney-client privilege) and less-lawful means (such as the payments arranged from Clinton allies to Webb Hubbell to keep his mouth shut, the assertion of frivolous privileges and the false testimony under oath by Bill and Hillary Clinton and Susan McDougal of their inability to recall the relevant facts).

Notwithstanding the Clintons’ success in orchestrating this strategy of denial, some damning documents were produced, such as the checks indicating payments to Bill Clinton.

A fair inference from this pattern, at least in the court of public opinion if not a court of law, is that the Clintons were guilty as sin. An honest man holding the office of president would have waived all privileges and cooperated with the investigators, as President Carter did when he was investigated.

– Douglas B. Levene

What Joe Conason fails to acknowledge is that the independent prosecutor law was flawed from inception in that it charged prosecutors to investigate fully without the budgetary or caseload limitations that check typical district attorney. This law was, in fact, put in place by the Democratic Party, and there were few complaints about it from them when the independent counsels were investigating Republican presidents. In those times, they typically spoke of being the target of independent prosecutor investigations as though it was tantamount to conviction.

– Richard Solomon

The important fact about the Clintons and Whitewater is that they should have been presumed innocent all along, unless and until proven guilty of some crime or other. Ray’s decision not to prosecute says this: “I have plenty of evidence to find the Clintons guilty, but not enough to persuade a jury biased in the Clintons’ favor to find them guilty as charged.” He still leaves a large cloud of suspicion floating above the heads of the Clintons because he’s too chicken to declare them innocent. If he can’t put up, he should shut up.

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– Maurice Englander

Moral institutions (sometimes self-appointed), like prosecuting attorneys and newspapers, often cling to the issue because of the “rightness” of the cause. They believe that their cause is so righteous that they become blinded from seeing the truth. It is nice to be a seeker of justice, but better still to see the truth apart from the “justice” of the matter.

– Jim Merriman

No surprise here. Conservatives have been playing the “If we can’t run the country, no one will” game for years. Too bad for them the economy wasn’t driven into the ground as they so confidently predicted eight years ago, because their credibility is at an all-time low.

How they thought they could run an insubstantial candidate in this context is way beyond me, but I’m not complaining. Let them cover their butts, it will still be obvious to most that they are naked, scared and desperate. Until the conservatives can redefine what they stand for, something that has been largely successfully co-opted by the centrist Democrats, they will have little else to do besides try to dig up dirt on the other side.

– Jim Flynn

Those who award the Pulitzer Prize for journalism ought to appoint a commission to field complaints for bad journalism, and, where it is found to exist, strip the offending organization or writer of a past-won Pulitzer. The New York Times and Washington Post should be stripped — in my view, the Times should lose three Pulitzers, and the Post two — for their betrayal of the principles of journalism with respect to Whitewater coverage. The action of the commission would be accompanied by a written citation detailing the nature and extent of the bad journalism, and the effects of that bad journalism on the body politic.

– Fred Hoefle

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