Democrats in trouble, and the pardons are just the half of it
 by Bob Douglas in the Arkansas Democrat Gazzette

Democrats are in serious trouble. The two-party system is imperiled.
I kid you not, to borrow a favorite phrase of Captain Queeg of the USS Caine.

Here we have President George W. Bush naming a Cabinet of folks opposed to the laws they are required
to enforce, a full slate of right-wing Republicans, and he hasn't even had a chance yet at the Supreme Court.
Judging from his and his daddy's record, the next two justices may take us back to the era of Calvin Coolidge.
Clarence Thomas may yet appear to be a liberal by comparison.

Right wingers rule. The federal judiciary is out of control, exposed as hard-line partisans.
There was a time, it seems like only yesterday, when federal judges acted as nonpartisans.
The current crop are Republican operatives.

Ted Olson, up to his ears in the notorious Arkansas Project, is the new solicitor general.
He is rumored to be on his way to the highest court in the land. While G.W. Bush seems
at this point to be benign, his appointments tell another story.
We are under Republican rule. Just watch and wait.

And I was on the brink of declaring that I believed Bill Clinton simply made a mistake
--a serious mistake--in pardoning Marc Rich. Now the record reveals passes
for dope dealers and a whole passel of unsavory players.
The president's brother-in-law, a lawyer himself, used his connection to win two pardons.

I am trying to reconcile Clinton's actions with the accusations against him.
It's not easy.

Mistakes there were, aplenty. They raise suspicion of pardons for sale.
Mistakes, I hope, is all they were. With that background, I sally forth with this declaration.

I am a Democrat; I voted for Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
I do not regret that vote. I'd do it again for the good of the country,

There have been so many phony charges against Clinton that they have,
for all practical purposes, become fact. Still, he has remained popular,
or did so until the last few days. This his critics hate most of all.
They continue to whittle away at his margin of approval, managing to
reduce his rating from 68 percent to 57 percent, now only one percentage
point ahead of President George W. Bush's 56 percent.
So, gradually, they are getting away with it.
And the Clintons have helped, Lord knows.

How on earth could Clinton have made such a mess of his last-second pardon power?
I can't explain it. I can only for the time being give them the benefit of the doubt, a serious doubt.

Clinton has governed this country with brilliance, with unprecedented success.
His mistakes have been in his personal life, under attack from the beginning,
while brazen peccadillos of John F. Kennedy were pretty much a national secret.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the two most dollar honest politicians on record.
It is more than ironic that they have been portrayed as grasping opportunists.

I believe Bill Clinton's version of his pardon of Marc Rich and Pincus Green.
I think he made a serious mistake, but he did it honestly. I do not believe that he did it
as payback to Denise Rich for the Democratic Party treasury and his own library.

I think he did it for the reasons he listed, for Rich's considerable favors to Israel and his
contention that the matter was handled badly in the first place, that it should have been a civil case.
Not good enough, but reasons, nevertheless.
The one thing that his snarling critics have never been able to pin on Clinton is venality.
This guy does not care a fig about a personal fortune, although he will wind up doing
all right in that respect. It was power he wanted and power he got, but power that
he has used ably and mostly in the country's best interests.

Remember Hickman Ewing? A star of the Kenneth Starr stable, an avid Clinton hater.
Ewing's most memorable quote was that when he first encountered Bill and Hillary Clinton,
he recognized them as "a couple of crooks," a statement that exposed the anti-Clinton myopia
for what it was. Ewing and his cohorts spent close to $70 million to prove that point, but never came close.

It is difficult to cling to a belief that Clinton spent his last hours in office pressed for time and
rushed through pardons without giving them enough thought especially when former President
Jimmy Carter observes: "I don't think there is any doubt that some of the factors in his [Rich's] pardon
were attributed to his large gifts. In my opinion, that was disgraceful."

For all his political acumen, Clinton has been a miserable failure at defending himself.
It is growing harder and harder to do it for him.

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