Those weary souls who had read, seen and heard enough about Monica Lewinsky, Arkansas land deals and "travelgate" to last a lifetime, figured they'd be home free after George W. Bush's Jan. 20 swearing-in.
It appeared that all the loose ends were nicely wrapped up and the media could embark on new adventures, particularly in light of Clinton's last-minute admission to making false statements under oath in order to avoid disbarment and prosecution.
Now it looks as though that was just wishful thinking. Bill Clinton is as hot as he's ever been as a news commodity. The Clinton controversies just keep on coming.
He continues to dominate the headlines and the broadcast news airwaves in the wake of his controversial pardons and his initial choice of expensive post-presidential office space.
Poor George Bush can hardly get the public's attention as he tries to focus on his policies for the future. Partisan feelings aside, the new president would be better served if the Clinton controversies would just go away. That's unlikely to happen, however.
The former president's op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times was supposed to put out some of the fires caused by his ill-advised pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive of justice who had been accused of illegally doing business with Iraq. It only served to stir up criticism for its unanswered questions and inaccuracies. He wrote that three well known Republican attorneys "reviewed and advocated" the case. All three promptly denied the assertion and a Clinton spokesman started back-pedaling and blaming a "very poorly worded sentence."
Other presidents have issued controversial pardons before. Many say President Gerald Ford's pardon of former President Richard Nixon cost him the 1976 election. In 1992, then-President George Bush pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra scandal just weeks before Weinberger was slated to stand trial. Those pardons, however, were considered by most observers to be motivated by political and personal loyalties. The Rich pardon has the unseemly smell of a situation where financial support may have bought a presidential pardon.
There is little sense to the talk of an impeachment of the former president, even though experts say it would be constitutionally permissible. It would divert congressional attention from many serious issues it should be addressing at this time and further split an already politically divided nation.
Instead, the nation could be well served by a quick and concise congressional probe into whether there is any paper trail lending credence to the serious charges of bribery that have been hinted at in this case. If nothing else, a congressional inquiry would put future outgoing presidents on notice that their last-minute pardons will be scrutinized. The constitution is clear about the explicit pardoning powers of the president, but the glare of the public spotlight can encourage better judgment in these matters in the future.
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