Quote Of The Day

As president, Clinton sold burial plots in Arlington Cemetery and liberals shrugged it off. What really gets their goat is the autopen. Evidently, the important thing was that every one of those pardons Clinton sold for cash on his last day in office was signed by Bill Clinton personally.

~Ann Coulter commenting on the Rumsfeld autosignature tempest. (Via Recovering Liberal)

This is a good example of a basic tactic in politics: when you’re in the opposition, the strategy is always “Attack!” It doesn’t matter what issue you’re attacking on because in the end, although most will fail to get real traction, some attacks will stick and do damage. It’s death by a thousand cuts. Attrition warfare.

The papers know this is a silly, non-issue. It doesn’t matter, nor does it stop them. It’s an attack, that’s the point. It’s one more pinprick that draws blood. Heap on the occassional body blow and your opponent, weakened finally to the point of exhaustion, stumbles and (hopefully) falls. We win.

Of course, had Donald Rumsfeld actually taken hours out his schedule each week to write and personally sign each letter of condolence, that would be a microscandal and point of attack as well. Imagine the story line, ‘Rumsfeld whiles away hours personally signing fallen soldiers’ death notices while commanders await important decisions.’ Or how about ‘Bush has SecDef do his dirty work.’ The possibilities are endless. Mind numbing too. The media elites wonder why so many Americans tune out 90% of what they say.

For the record, the sword cuts the other way as well. For all the things you could legitimately criticize Bill Clinton over, Monica-gate was an absurdity. I’m not endorsing adultery – far from it, I’m against it – but to tie up the US government in a months-long impeachment, to waste that much time and money over a matter that rightly belongs between Bill and Hillary and Monica, was ridiculus in the extreme. There’s been marital infidelity among presidents from Jefferson to JFK. Monica-gate was scandal mongering at its absolute worst. It was a national circus. Nothing like a touch of licentiousness to sell papers though. Or dead soldiers. One’s as good as the other. And either can advance your agenda. That’s all that matters.

26 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day”

  1. Yeah, both sides do it, but Clinton is a poor counterexample. Clinton’s critics mainly objected not to his sex life or adultery, but rather to the perjury, suborning of perjury and witness intimidation that he engaged in to cover it up. The Clinton scandal was as much about sex as the Nixon scandal was about a third-rate burglary. In each case the coverup rather than the original acts provided justifiable grounds for impeachment.

    There are plenty of legitimate examples of contrived Republican outrage over phony issues. The Clinton impeachment scandal isn’t one of them. Treating it as if it were perpetuates a false moral equivalence between Clinton’s quite serious offenses and the peccadillos of pols of both parties. That’s bad for everyone, because letting the Democratic Party’s leaders off too easily helps perpetuate the Party’s moral and intellectual decadence and political uncompetitiveness.

  2. I didn’t like being lied to – nor “that woman” as a description of someone who should be given a name no matter how superficial their relationship was. (Neither would have bothered me nearly as much without the Clarence Thomas hearings.) On the other hand, there are times I wish Ann Coulter weren’t on the same side I am, even though she does far too often seem right. I do think wandering around in fever swamps doesn’t do any of us much good. By the way, Instapundit has a moving e-mail from Iraq about Rumsfeld’s visit.

  3. I have seen it reported that Rumsfeld has arthritis in his hands,given his age not unsurprising.
    Clinton’s stiffness seemed to be of a different nature.

  4. As commenter “Foraign Devil” pointed out over at Roger L. Simons place:

    “I also notice that Rummy can’t use his hands due to arthritis and since it appeared to be quite chilly yesterday morning in Mosul when he was addressing the troops, I’m just guessing but I figure he’s had the automatic-pen signing letters to save him the pain of writing by hand. He couldn’t use his fingers yesterday except as flippers sort of all fingers together moving from the third joint only. Right away I spotted the signs of advanced arthritis which often makes the hands look angular and elegant (Rummy’s ‘hand style’) right before it cripples the patient.”

  5. Michael, it’s been said time and again but I’ll basically repeat Johnathan’s thought in my own way: There could hardly be a better reason to impeach a president than the wilfull lying under oath in judicial proceedings.

    A couple of related thoughts:
    1) That people keep saying “it was only about sex” is kind of troubling in that these folks don’t understand the dishonor his pervarication did to the justice system, much less the office to which he was elected.

    2) The people that realize that it wasn’t only about sex but cynically write Clinton’s actions off as just his hijinks and not consequential are troubling also. The young people, especilly, who were paying attention to what was going on got the impression that he was somehow being unfairly persecuted and the idea that lying to gain your ends is ok, just don’t get caught. This was certainly this elitist’s (Clinton’s) viewpoint. How many cynics re. US politics and justice did he create….. how many cynics did he validate?

    This was some leader. He had a chance to work to elevate the national character but only served to bring it lower.

  6. “Monica-gate was an absurdity”

    Clinton was a licensed lawyer. He lied under oath in a sexual harassment case. He did lose his license. Any of us would be in real trouble for perjury under those circumstances. If you are a defendant and you lie under oath and the judge finds out, he has a lot of ways of making you wish you had been more forthcoming. As always, the cover-up is worse than the crime. In Clinton’s case, his affair, or whatever it was, with Monica was not in itself a public matter. Lying under oath was.

    So few people seem to focus on this. I have never understood that.

  7. Lex, I’m with you that it was a huge problem for a lawyer, but not for a politician. You know as well as I that if he were a Massachusetts politician, the Monica issue would have died a quick death on page A18 of the Boston Globe. When I heard what Starr came up with, I nearly sprayed a mouthful of amber liquid across the living room. “Is that all you’ve got? You $^%!&#@, you’ve got NOTHING!”

    If he had any decency, he would have resigned. If the Democrats had any decency, they would have demanded that he do so. As it happens, there is a lot of room between being unfit for the office and subject to removal from it. As a matter of expediency, the Republicans should have refused to fight a battle they could not win.

  8. I had a woman lawyer, with a few drinks in her, once tell me how she would have prosecuted the impeachment. She’d have called Monica as her first witness, put up a whiteboard with a life-sized female silhouette, hand her a marker, and say, “come over here and put an X everywhere he touched you!” Then used that as the exhibit during closing argument to show he was a perjuror.

    Yeah, might not have worked. But it would have been great theatre. And if you are going to go for the throat, go for the throat. I agree the Republicans were stupid to impeach. But if they were going to do it, they should have been as harsh as possible and made a big deal out of it. As it is, they were weak, weak, weak. They should have retained a female attorney with prosecution experience to put the thing on.

    Glad all that crap is over. It seems like it all occurred in some alternate reality.

  9. I’m glad they had it in them to impeach; I’m disappointed the Senate didn’t convict. The only alternate reality was in the minds of the Senators who ignored the evidence.

  10. I might add that I don’t much care about Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky. I was, however, outraged by his brazen contempt for the law, for the presidency and for the American people. Do you think, if Clinton had been removed from office, that the Democratic Party would still be dominated by lying con artists like Terry McAullife? Do you think John Kerry would have been nominated, and if nominated would have run a campaign as dishonest as he ran? I don’t. The Democrats need to have a reformation, the sooner the better, and it might have come sooner if Clinton had been convicted. Instead they learned that they can get away with anything, and we are all suffering because of it.

  11. One of the worst abuses of the Clinton gang, to my mind, was the use of the IRS on ideological opponents. There is apparently some mechanism whereby a congressman can request that the IRS take a closer look at some person’s or organization’s tax return. IIRC, the IRS refused to make their officials available for testimony. Bush could have ordered them to do so, but it may have been too late. What happened to these cases? The Heritage Foundation was one of those targeted, and there is almost nothing available about it on their website.

  12. I didn’t like being lied to…

    I don’t think anyone likes being lied to. But Clinton’s marital infidelities were common knowledge among everyone who paying the least bit attention. Anyone who claims to be shocked by the Monica affair are themselves lying. He was elected twice by a public who knew all about his long history of that sort of behavior.

    In the end, it wasn’t about Monica. She was a prop in a grand piece of political theater. Monica-gate was about the Republican party trying to bring down a president they *viscerally hated* by means of attack politics – a man they had twice failed to defeat in elections. I say this as someone who voted against him twice.

    …the dishonor his pervarication did to the justice system, much less the office to which he was elected.

    And I’ll say again, Clinton had a long history of extramarital affairs. Hillary was certainly aware. The public was aware. It was the grist of news articles in every paper in the world since he became a candidate. Yet he always denied it. No one believed him except those willfully in denial. Then he lied about it again, this time under oath. Anyone shocked by that? I’m not. Getting him to lie under oath was simply the hook by which the Republicans hoped to hang him.

    Personally, I think the Mark Rich pardon was much worse. Was that illegal? Nope. Completely legal. Not a damn thing anyone can do about. How many Senators insert line items in a budget to reward big donors? Are they prosecuted for bribery? No. Everyone knows it goes on year in and year out, yet no one has ever figured out a way to stop it. Do we start impeachment hearings every time we suspect it may have happened? Have men and women always lied about their marital infidelities? Yes. Are they going to continue doing so? Yes.

    As always, the cover-up is worse than the crime.

    Are we talking about the purity of our criminal justice system? See the Mark Rich pardon. Wasn’t that much worse than his lying about having sex with Monica? I’m not endorsing lying under oath, just pointing out that the entire impeachment was REALLY about removing a president they couldn’t defeat at the polls. And any issue will do. Attack politics with the courts as the tool. Pure and simple. If you believe otherwise you’re kidding yourself.

    I’m glad they had it in them to impeach; I’m disappointed the Senate didn’t convict. The only alternate reality was in the minds of the Senators who ignored the evidence.

    Once upon a time, lots of qality political minds in this country would run for office or serve as cabinet officers as a public service.

    *People like Washington and Jefferson, both slaveholders. Hardly paragons of moral virtue in that sense. They new slavery to be wrong. They also knew it was what made them rich. They were also brilliant, charismatic leaders. They both had deep politcal insight. Would the US have succeeded without them? Maybe, maybe not.

    * Franklin, Jefferson, Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower and JFK all had histories of marital infidelity.

    Politics these days are much different. Nothing is off limits. Anything and everthing you have ever done WILL be plastered in every paper in the country because ‘the public has a right to know’. At least that’s what reporters tell us. There was a time, not that long ago, when it was considered inappropriate to publish purely personal information in the papers about public figures. Articles concentrated on policy positions and publicly stated opinions. Nowadays, anything you say to anyone, at any time, under any circumstances is fit to print. Your personal life will be inspected in minute detail. How many highly qualified political minds are dissuaded from running becuase their personal life is less than perfect? Attack, attack, attack. Destroy, destroy, destroy. That’s what this post was about. Any issue will do, no matter how otherwise insignificant to political and policy positions of the office holder. Autopens as an issue to attack the Secretary of Defense. Sex with intern Monica to hold an impeachment. Both ridiculus.

  13. I can’t diagree with you, Michael, that the “lie under oath was…. the hook by which the Republicans hoped to hang him”. The results of his perfidy was a windfall to Republicans but lying under oath was a real and important, issue, not simply a canard or trivial report, no matter who gained from it (a benefit to the US public from the competitive nature of politics in this case).

    The point you apparently don’t agree with is that the president “lying under oath is an egregious offense, the magnitude of which does call for energetic impeachment and legal prosecution” (quotes mine). Have I got that about right?

  14. Clinton, or someone working at his direction, encouraged Monica Lewinsky to lie under oath about their relationship, and to convey a threat to Linda Tripp about retaliation should Tripp report truthfully her conversations with Lewinsky. Someone working at Clinton’s direction threatened Kathleen Willey. Clinton and his wife illegally took hundreds of FBI interview records for the apparent purpose of blackmail (what other purpose could there be?).

    I submit that these were serious offenses — “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Charles Colson, a Watergate coverup participant, was imprisoned for possession of one FBI record. Many people have been prosecuted for suborning perjury or for making threats.

    I think Clinton’s behavior was at least as bad as Nixon’s in covering up Watergate. It certainly wasn’t mere hardball politics, or victimless. Clinton effectively ruined Linda Tripp’s life, he damaged Kathleen Willey, and who knows how many Republicans’ careers he derailed via those FBI files. Those are real costs.

    I agree that politics is excessively vicious now, and that too many good people are discouraged from public life, but there are better ways to address these problems than to go easy on people who abused power.

  15. I’m with you, Jonathan. I hated Nixon, too, for the same reasons. I could not have imagined myself voting Republican until Carter caused me to think again.

  16. Jon, I would submit that hardball politics are rarely victimless. I’m also not expecting politics to get any less viscious just because I don’t like it.

    Let me see if I can make my point to you. I remember hearing a report on All Things Considered about Janets Reno’s justice department adding bricks to the wall on the sharing of intel between the CIA and the FBI. They spoke to a civil liberties activist who discussed the growing threat of a Big Brother style govenment, then spoke to a former CIA analyst who thought the measure was naive and dangerous in the extreme. There were a few newspaper articles then it was off the radar scope. But Monica? 24/7 coverage. Editorial upon editorial. Talk show interviews. People magazine. Impassioned speeches in the Senate.

    Which was more important for the country?? BTW, the impeachment wasn’t about Hillary and the missing FBI files, was it? That’s a legitimte issue. But since the Justice Department falls under the Executive there was apparently nothing provable. Pity.

  17. Look, the real significance of the Lewinsky scandal wasn’t the sex, it wasn’t even the perjury, (Though I consider that significant enough.) it was that a President who’d been the subject of numerous investigations for serious crimes, all of which had petered out in a cloud of witnesses fled or gone to jail rather than testifying, missing evidence, and all the other signs of obstruction of justice, got caught obstructing justice.

    And anybody who thinks that was the first time he’d organized a cover up, destroyed evidence, suborned witnesses, is simply in a state of denial. The reason he could count on his staff to run a coverup was that they had practice. One dry cleaning, and they would have pulled it off that time, too.

    In the end, I think, the only reason Clinton survived was that the Republican leadership were too dirty themselves to take him out. As Livingston amply demonstrated. Instead the whole impeachment fiasco had the stink of a badly executed dive, with most of the potential charges and evidence tossed aside, and no prosecution even allowed in the Senate. (Evidence that, as dirty as the House leadership were, the Senate leadership were dirtier still.)

  18. Two american politicians I have viscerally hated while they were in office are Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. For good reason.

    Now Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich during his last hours in office as well as his other questionable pardons, are coming home to roost. Clinton was guilty of so much more than using a cigar as a sex toy. He took criminality to new heights. But his “all about sex” minions will excuse and deny it all, so it’s not worth listing his real vile acts.

  19. Clinton was a president who didn’t realize the world had changed; Bush did. The former isn’t a leader, the latter is. Clinton was, as we look back at it, stupid – he didn’t understand Arafat, he didn’t understand terrorism, he did’t understand France, he didn’t understand what was good about American history and he didn’t understand what was dangerous. He was cowardly – he didn’t face up to the problems of social security (nor of medicine nor of terrorism). He wasn’t ready to risk offending teachers to improve education. Sure, problems just lay there for eight years. But would he have woken up, would he have had the flexibility and intelligence to examine his assumptions and change – as clearly Bush did. Or would Bush have seen what Clinton should have and didn’t if there had been no 9/11? Sure, Clinton was a petty thief and perjurer–his pardon of Rich proves that, the decision of his old student who must have been really fed up with him and took away his right to practice law proves that, the hidden records and the files on Hilary’s “enemies list” proves that. But why don’t we just move on and only come back to these if she’s nominated. Otherwise, it is over and the history books are not likely to be very friendly toward him.

  20. Oh, I don’t know about that… Given the political leanings of historians, (And don’t kid yourself, this matters.) history is likely to be quite a bit more friendly to him than he deserves. But I agree, it’s really not worth obsessing about his crimes. It’s just that, when people try to deny them, you have to set the record straight as to the true extent of his criminality.

  21. I did not appreciate the commander in chief being distracted by impeachment while Al Qaeda operatives were preparing to attack us.

    The right thing to do, as did Nixon, was to preempt an impeachment battle by resigning. Clinton put himself ahead of his country. That selfishness, not lying or the sex, is unforgiveable.

    For those who fought so hard to “move on”, they can thank themselves for the Bush presidency. Had Clinton resigned, we’d be in the 2nd term of a Gore Administration right now. So in a perverse way, I’m grateful for Clinton’s adultery & the Elian Gonzalez debacle.–s

  22. Splitting hairs at this point. Say Clinton did resign, or was impeached. Then who would be president? Gore. Then where would we be…

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