The Clinton-Lewinsky matter exploded onto the national scene overnight, but its legal component ended quietly last week with the release of independent counsel Robert Ray's final report. There is little new in the document. The independent counsel declares that the evidence would have supported an indictment -- but everyone already knew this. The report is largely an explanation of his decision not to indict. But everyone pretty much understood that too. The debate about Mr. Clinton's impeachment and the investigation that led to it will persist. Monica Lewinsky's recent spree of television appearances is a reminder that -- just as the impeachment of Andrew Johnson remains a subject of historical argument more than a century after the fact -- there is likely to be no meeting of the minds about the Clinton presidency any time soon. But apart from one still-outstanding report -- a final statement on the Whitewater investigation -- the official era of Clinton scandals is finally over.
The era left everyone tarnished. Mr. Clinton committed crimes; he got himself impeached and nearly indicted, and his legacy was indelibly marred. His political foes created a climate of perpetual scandal that never distinguished false allegations and wild conspiracy theories from real issues; many were more interested in bringing down Bill Clinton than in holding him accountable. The prosecutors failed to resolve matters in a timely fashion, which in turn was partly due to the White House campaign of stonewalling and smearing the independent counsel and his staff. The biggest loser was the public -- deprived for several years of policy-focused politics and a policy-focused president. You can hope that future presidents will be more truthful and respectful of the law, and future opposition parties more respectful of the presidency. -- Washington Post
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