Posted on February 9, 2001
Let history remember the Clintons' last days
You would expect that Bill and Hillary Clinton, of all people, would understand the importance of last impressions. After all, theirs has been the most superficial, image-conscious, poll-driven, photo-op presidency of all time. The contrived images of the Clinton years are indelible: their hand-in-hand waddle on the beach; Bill walking from church carrying a bible the size of a cereal box, the words "Holy Bible" pointed outward for everyone to see, as if in a commercial; Hillary's frilly pink press conference on Whitewater, where she mimicked the pose struck by Abe Lincoln in the portrait behind her, suggesting that she had somehow acquired honesty through a psychic medium. If there's been anything the Clintons have done exceptionally well, it has been their ability to manipulate the public through the images they've allowed it to see.
At first glance, it would appear as if the Clintons simply lost interest in their image obsession on their way out of the White House, as they have paraded their unscrupulous, crude and cheap behavior in a display that many of their most loyal apologists have been unable to stomach.
The Clintons have never been known to be gracious, but it would have been easy for them to have appeared so, simply by saying and doing a few of the right things during the transition of power to the G.W. Bush administration. All they had to do was follow the lead of Al Gore.
Gore's behavior in the aftermath of the election was deplorable. Having failed at campaigning for the votes of Floridians, he continued to campaign for the canvassing boards to grant him votes that were never cast. He showed a callous disregard for election laws, for the stability of our electoral system, and for common decency. By the time the whole episode was over, however, he was widely praised for the congenial tone of his concession speech; never mind that it was sharply dissonant from everything else he'd been doing for over a month.
The Gore post-election campaign was a classic good cop-bad cop performance. The vice president stayed in the background while the dirty work was done for him. He played the role of passive observer while lawsuits were filed by people claiming to be unconnected to his campaign. He pretended to have nothing to do with the baseless accusations which were thrown around by America's racial scab-picker, Jesse Jackson, despite the fact that Gore and Jackson had been communicating almost daily. He smartly deployed Joe Lieberman -- whom the public didn't yet know not to believe -- to moan that the election was being forcibly stolen by Republican "mob rule."
But once all options had been exhausted, and it was time to appear statesmanlike and conciliatory, it was all Al. By the time his tardy concession speech was finished, those who didn't know better were under the impression that he'd made some kind of sacrifice, selflessly letting go of his dream for the good of his country. It was as if he'd been just a dumbfounded victim of the mayhem which had surrounded the election, rather than the greatest contributor to it.
Most of the media, and a majority of the public, were probably willing to be as generous toward Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, if only they'd managed to feign dignity through the waning moments of their scandalous administration. What America has seen instead is a condensed version of the Clintons' public lives, characterized by every sort of selfishness imaginable -- from greed to vindictiveness to vanity.
The outgoing president did everything he could to turn the Bush inauguration into just another episode of the Bill Clinton Show. Two days before leaving the White House, as inaugural festivities were just underway, he crowded the stage by giving a televised farewell speech, during which he took a catty swipe at the Bush tax cut plan. This put Clinton back in the headlines for another day, but the spotlight drifted away from him again by the following Saturday, when President Bush was sworn in. Bill Clinton was not about to stand idly by and watch a parade thrown for somebody else, so he gave another farewell speech, this one at Andrews Air Force Base, about an hour after the inaugural parade began. He then flew to New York for a public reception, where he spoke again.
There are not many people other than Mr. Clinton who are capable of such extreme rudeness, but his wife is certainly one of them. On election night, after she was declared the winner of her Senate race, Mrs. Clinton bolted toward the cameras to give her acceptance speech -- during Rick Lazio's concession speech. What was her hurry that she couldn't afford her opponent the chance to concede in a normal, dignified manner? Her thirst for instant political gratification would have been enough to make even Lyndon Johnson wince.
But then, what else were we to expect from Queen Hillary, who fancies herself so superior to others that White House employees were under orders to avert their eyes when they saw her walking down the hall?
The Clintons' assumption of superiority is accompanied by a sense of entitlement that knows no bounds, as we have seen during their long goodbye. For years, conservative wisecrackers have joked that, before Bill and Hillary left the White House, they would take everything that wasn't bolted down. That turned out not to be far from the truth.
Eyebrows were raised when the Clintons made off with over $190,000 worth of loot on their way out of Washington. Reportedly, Hillary registered, as if for a wedding, so that wealthy friends could give them furniture, silverware, and other trinkets to take to their new homes. According to initial reports, the goodies rightfully belonged to the Clintons, and since Hillary hadn't yet been sworn into office, Senate ethics laws didn't apply. As unseemly as it may have appeared, it was, so far as anyone could tell, perfectly legal. Well, where's the fun for a Clinton in that?
Information has begun to trickle out that, as usual, Bill and Hillary Clinton were not very discriminating between what was or was not their property. About $28,000 worth of the items they took had actually been donated to the White House with the intention that they remain there permanently, not given to the Clintons to do with as they wish. There was also the matter of two presidential busts, in the images of FDR and JFK, which a White House usher restored to their rightful place after discovering that they had been packed with Bill and Hillary's takings. Another self-enriching snafu, don't you know.
This pattern has been consistent throughout the Clintons' stay in Washington, and probably their entire lives. President Clinton repeatedly claimed attorney-client privilege to protect his discussions with White House lawyers, as if those lawyers were employed by him personally, rather than by the taxpayers. He used White House databases, employees and supplies to supplement his 1996 re-election campaign. Before leaving office, he even ordered the Secret Service to continue to protect Chelsea, although former presidents' children are not entitled to such protection. Why should Hillary spend some of her $8 million book advance on a bodyguard for her daughter, when the taxpayers can pick up the tab instead?
As governor, Clinton used Arkansas state troopers as sexual gofers, but his habits of misusing government personnel did not stop there, nor did his apparent delight in demeaning people. He and Hillary even assigned one poor officer to clean up after Socks the cat.
When the Clintons arrived in Washington, misinterpreting their victory as an endorsement of their Sixties radicalism, they barred all uniformed military personnel from the White House. They did make an exception, though, when the Commander-in-Chief abused the loyalty of his young officers by ordering them to serve drinks and hors d'oeuvres to guests at a party. What a hoot it must have been for Hillary's friends to treat uniformed army lieutenants as butlers, perhaps derisively addressing them as "sir" when ordering them to take away empties.
That episode illustrates more than the Clintons' open hostility toward the U.S. military; it also serves as another example of their belief that power over something or somebody is equal to ownership of that thing or person. If the house they'd lived in for eight years had been furnished, then the furniture in that house must belong to them. If they have the power to order a person to do what they want, then that person must be their slave. The idea of tempering their power with a modicum of respect for others is as foreign a concept to Mr. and Mrs. Clinton as table manners are to a jackal.
To the dismay of their allies, Bill and Hillary continue to defiantly wave their greed in the face of America to this day. After leaving office, every former president is provided an office at taxpayer expense. Leave it to President Clinton to notice that there is no ceiling on the amount he can ask to be spent for this purpose. The office he chose for his own, a floor of Carnegie Hall Tower in Manhattan, would cost the taxpayers over $650,000 per year. That's more than is paid for the offices of the other four living ex-presidents combined.
Perhaps startled by the hostile reaction of many of their liberal friends, and definitely concerned about the troubles the controversy would cause for Senator Hillary, the Clintons belatedly offered to pay a significant percentage of their office rent with their own money. One slight problem -- the money isn't theirs. What the former first couple is offering as payment for the office is actually money which was donated to the fund for the Clinton Library, to be located in Little Rock. Any civic-minded Arkansan who donated to that fund has got to be a little upset that his money will instead be spent in New York, but never mind. To the Clintons, possession is ten tenths of the law, and they now possess the money, so they can spend it as they please.
Despite Hillary's multimillion dollar book deal and Bill's six-figure speaking fees, the two of them have decided to keep their legal defense fund open. Since they are already raking in enough to pay off the $5 million they owe their lawyers, one might assume that however much money their fund has already raised would be more than enough. Yet even as they are preparing to settle into two new houses full of free furniture, they are continuing to beg for money from rank and file Democrat activists. Typically, they are refusing to let their pride get in the way of their arrogance.
The deliberate manner in which the Clintons have carried out this latest series of offenses does not indicate that they are unaware of, or indifferent to, the fact that America is watching them. To the contrary, they are putting on another performance for our benefit -- only this time, their purpose is to show their contempt for us. Instead of posing for the camera, they are now mooning it. Thankfully, that's not an image that history is likely to forget.
Return to Shinbone
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press
Mailbag . Issue Index . Politimals