Bill Clinton Op-Ed
February 18, 2001 1:06 AM   Subscribe

Bill Clinton Op-Ed on the Marc Rich pardons: "I want every American to know that, while you may disagree with this decision, I made it on the merits as I saw them, and I take full responsibility for it".
posted by owillis (43 comments total)
You gotta love that closing footnote:

William Jefferson Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States.

You know, just incase anyone forgot.
posted by aladfar at 3:30 AM on February 18, 2001

Cliton also talked to Geraldo about the Rich pardon (not on TV, but over the phone). He was a little more blunt then. He said, "there's not a single, solitary shred of evidence that I did anything wrong". Interesting how he did not say he didn't do anything wrong, just that there's no evidence he did.
posted by Potsy at 3:56 AM on February 18, 2001

There's a more important point: none of it matters. There's not a single solitary thing anyone can do about that pardon, to either Rich or Clinton. It became a legal fact as soon as his pen hit the paper.

As to his way of stating it, that was a lawyer talking to lawyers. To lawyers, what matters is evidence. (Lawyers don't care about facts, they care about what they can prove in court.) I don't think you should read any more into it than that.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:30 AM on February 18, 2001

I take full responsibility for it

Now that's a laugh. Clinton's never taken full responsibility for anything. He's always hedged his bets, spread the blame for his poor decisions onto to others, and obfuscated wherever possible. He's certainly left a legacy for himself with this pardon, too bad it's going to be one that places him in the same general vicinity as Tricky Dick.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:27 AM on February 18, 2001

This is a very well-written op-ed piece. What's more, it's the first piece that puts any context to the pardons; every reporter-written article that I've read plays off the outrage, but does nothing to contextualize the decision itself.

Of course, to me, the pardon of Marc Rich comes nowhere close to the pardon of Caspar Weinberger by Bush Sr. in terms of abusiveness. I love how quickly the American people forget, though.
posted by delfuego at 6:30 AM on February 18, 2001

He's certainly left a legacy for himself with this pardon, too bad it's going to be one that places him in the same general vicinity as Tricky Dick.

"Please, Br'er Fox, don' throw me into that briar patch!"

If Clinton could run for president again he would win in a walk. Clinton haters had eight years to get him, yet his approval rating hit an all-time high during impeachment (73 percent) and ended at 65 percent, higher than any other president after World War II.

By comparison, Reagan ended at 63, Eisenhower at 59, Bush at 49, Johnson at 44, Carter at 34 and Truman at 32.

Let's face it -- the guy's political Teflon. Any pardon short of Charles Manson was not going to make a serious dent in his reputation.

posted by rcade at 7:15 AM on February 18, 2001

"there's not a single, solitary shred of evidence that I did anything wrong".

From the man who said: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman.... These allegations are false."
posted by Chairman_MaoXian at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2001

Chairman, that's *exactly* what I was thinking. And I believed him the first time (shame on YOU, William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd prez of the US of A). If I believe him the second time, should I say "shame on me???!"
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:31 AM on February 18, 2001

setting: Saturday Night Live,
cast member: Darrell Hammond:

"I. am. Bulletproof. Next time, you best bring kryptonite."
-Bill Clinton
posted by pnevares at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2001

I thought that the statistics he cited for # of pardons per president were illustrative. People have pointed out that the Rich family has donated large sums of money to the DNC and other Democratic causes. However, I believe that even if this was the case that there were enough real reasons for the Marc Rich pardon to make it acceptable. The Clinton haters seem to sometimes forget that this is politics and it's what politicians do. Clinton's just notably better at getting away with it than some of his contemporaries have been. Big deal.
posted by hanseugene at 8:40 AM on February 18, 2001

What? Rich pardon comes nowhere close to the Caspar Weinberger pardon? Please explain.
posted by tiaka at 8:57 AM on February 18, 2001

There's a more important point: none of it matters. There's not a single solitary thing anyone can do about that pardon, to either Rich or Clinton.

Not to reverse the pardon, but if it can be proved that there was a quid-pro-quo, that might constitute a criminal offense for which Clinton can be tried and convicted.

In reality, I suspect that Clinton's assertion is correct - they're never gonna be able to prove what he did, unless there are some particulalrly damning e-mails from the fundraisers. But anyone who thinks Denise Rich's donations had nothing to do with this pardon have not been paying close attention for the last eight years.
posted by mikewas at 9:12 AM on February 18, 2001

To answer your question tiaka, Bush Sr. (true, they are not really Senior/Junior, but it's convenient notation) was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair along with a bunch of other people. Two weeks before Weinberger was to testify (and he was going to be asked about Bush's involvement) Bush pardoned him along with everyone else.

The Iran-Contra affair was the most serious US Presidential scandal of the 20th century. However, it's disappeared down the memory hole. Nobody talks about it anymore, and if you go to the bookstore you can find tons of books on Watergate and even Clinton's impeachment, but nada about Iran-Contra.
posted by Potsy at 10:37 AM on February 18, 2001

The reality is that just as Clinton noted, pardons are not questionable. It's a right we give to the Executive branch that's pretty above reproach.

If anyone goes after it, it'll be yet another attempt to squash Clinton that will fail.

Clinton remains an excellent tactician, and, in my readings on the Rich case prior to this, the "take away criminal charges" to "allow civil charges" is perfectly viable, and consistent with the way the Justice Department treated other cases of the same nature.
posted by artlung at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2001

Interesting to note that Clinton made very specific mention of fir Weinberger pardon. While he glossed over those of other Presidents, he made damn sure that everyone knew that Bush Sr. pardoned the former secretary of defense in order to cover his own ass.

I think the reason it's been forgotton is that it's a bit too complicated for most people to understand. It's easy to grasp a blowjob in the oval office, but a bit more difficult tio comprehend the details of an international arms for hostages deal.

posted by aladfar at 11:27 AM on February 18, 2001

I don't think it's hard to understand that Reagan's cronies bribed terrorists so they would hang onto American hostages until after the election, sealing Carter's fate. It's one of the greatest acts of treason in U.S. history.
posted by rcade at 11:40 AM on February 18, 2001

More on Bush looking out for his good buy Weinberger can be found at:
posted by Sqwerty at 12:28 PM on February 18, 2001

I would LOVE to see Congress try to summon Clinton for hearings on this one. Dan Burton is not fit to carry Clinton's jockstrap, politically speaking. If Dan insists on calling Bill to anwer for something that he had every right to do as President, then it's Burton who's going to look like the Grand Inquisitor, and Bill is going to look like the long-suffering, patient leader. Clinton will walk out of that room, flip the GOP "the bird" on his way out the door, and go bask in some approval-rating lovin'.

Bring it on, as far as I'm concerned. By the time Congress is done with Clinton, I wouldn't be surprised if uses the "Jedi Mind Trick" to get them to repeal the 22nd amendment, appoint him President-For-Life, and "get their bitch-asses back in the kitchen and bake him a pie".
posted by Optamystic at 12:29 PM on February 18, 2001

calling Bill to anwer for something that he had every right to do as President

He had the right to pardon. He did not have the right to take a bribe. That's what it boils down to. The merits of the case are secondary. Hell, tertiary.

And so long as Denise Rich continues to obfuscate with her repeated fifth amendment invokations, then there's all the more reason to think that there's some there there.
posted by Dreama at 1:04 PM on February 18, 2001

Mike, can all your favorite presidents withstand that sort of scrutiny? What defines a quid pro quo, in this context? Shall all party donors be excluded from the pardon process? What about ex-spouses?

Denise Rich could have done any number of things related to her ex's fugitive status that would cause her to make that assertion.

rcade: hear, hear.
posted by dhartung at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2001

Tiaka: imagine if Clinton had pardoned Susan McDougall and Webster Hubbell during the lead-up to the impeachment hearings -- that would be what Bush Sr. pardoning Weinberger et al was like.

To pardon someone specifically to avoid having to answer to the American people for your unconscionable actions is one of the most self-serving, underhanded, and, yes, treasonous actions taken by a President in the 20th century.
posted by delfuego at 3:12 PM on February 18, 2001

Here's a thought: Congressional Republicans are busy "investigating" this--presumably to find any quid pro quo. Why, then, don't we "investigate" Justice Scalia's actions regarding the Florida vote. After all, he clearly has a lot to gain from a Bush presidency. He has, in the past, threatened to quit the Court if a Dem won--as that would prevent his acension to Chief Justice. If Scalia is made Chief Justice by a president he essentially appointed, that's a quid pro quo in my book!
posted by jpoulos at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2001

I'm more intrigued by Clinton's assertion that the borderline jurisdictions of the civil and criminal courts are pretty murky, especially in financial cases. The OJ case showed that there are degrees of guilt (or at least of "responsibility"): the criminal one, which deprives the accused of liberty, and the civil one, that hits the pocketbook. Double whammy.
posted by holgate at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2001

Rcade: I just saw an interesting Zogby poll which shows Clinton's performance rating much worse than you cited, and hitting free fall:

In contrast, results show that the overall opinion of former President Bill Clinton has significantly plummeted. Respondents now give Clinton a 48% favorable, 51% unfavorable rating, compared to the 56% favorable, 43% unfavorable rating he received in the January survey.


Mike, can all your favorite presidents withstand that sort of scrutiny? What defines a quid pro quo, in this context? Shall all party donors be excluded from the pardon process? What about ex-spouses?

While I'm not familiar with the particular statutes, I'm pretty sure that it's illegal for the President and members of Congress to accept money in exchange for exercising their power in a certain way, even if the exercise of that power is legal or even constitutionally bulletproof as presidential pardons seem to be.

The prime example of this is the ABSCAM cases in which members of Congress accepted bribes in return for their votes. It is of course the duty of every Congresscritter to vote on legislation; but when they determine their votes based on cash payments, it violates the law.

Assume for a moment that Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich SOLELY in exchange for the half-million dollar donation that Denise Rich made to Clinton's library foundation. Would that violate existing bribery laws? I honestly have no idea. But it's worth looking at.

So Dan, let me turn the question back on you: before Clinton, how many presidents or even vice-presidents have been plausibly accused of exercising their powers in exchange for filthy lucre? The only one I'm aware of is Spiro Agnew. Before that, we'd probably have to go back pre-FDR.
posted by mikewas at 4:46 PM on February 18, 2001

Mikewas: As much as I love the fact that pollsters are wasting money and time polling Clinton's popularity a month after his term ended, what's the relevance? He isn't in the job anymore.

How is Hoover polling these days?
posted by rcade at 5:05 PM on February 18, 2001

the fact that denise rich is in fact a high, long time contributor to the DNC is enough of a reason for her to keep her mouth shut.

the fact is, politicians are experts at lies, and distorting them. this includes clinton, bush, and every other politician. its what they do best. if she doesn't keep her mouth shut with her 5th amendment right, something she says could be twisted.

just because someone takes their 5th amendment rights, doesn't mean that there is something there. sometimes, its just better to keep your mouth shut. just like its a good idea not to audio-tape conversations of a scandal. ooh, or tell your girlfriend about blowing the president.
posted by benjh at 5:49 PM on February 18, 2001

How many presidents have taken the country to war to protect their family's oil investments? Eh. Cheap shot.

No, let's get back to the topic at hand. Filthy lucre? We'll take it as a synonym for "money". But in exchange for? The money did not go to the Clintons. This is just like if somebody happened to get within sight distance of the man in the last eight years and later died, well, it must have been Clinton murder. Here we have money that doesn't go near his wallet, and he accepted it? Who's playing with words now? Christ. Al Gore makes a call on the wrong phone and you want him behind bars, friends getting friends jobs, a daily occurrence in Washington, is defined as a payoff, and now legal donations to campaign funds are bribes. I guess you can define the words however the hell you like now.
posted by dhartung at 9:02 PM on February 18, 2001

Hoover? C'mon rcade, you quoted an outgoing number of 65%, and if that Zogby poll is to be believed, he had a 56% "in January." While perhaps previous end-of-term polls were taken in December, the fact that Clinton made a big show of exiting is just one reason why a January poll is more-or-less his final numbers...

I'm man enough to admit I voted for Clinton, but the ultrarigid support doesn't wash with me either, and neither does dhartung's likening of a less subtle than it should have been quid-pro-quo to the ridiculous and numerous "murder plots" alleged by obsessive, idiotic Clinto haters. The shrill, passionate response by Clinton's is now becoming just about as annoying as the gleeful, highwaisted bleats of his detractors, and it's too bad, because both of them obscure from sight what we should really learn about Bill Clinton, the fullest portrait of the artist as a politician we'll ever see-- a man who in one person can encapsulate an entire nation, from its shining seas to its backwater hypocrisy, from its fertile plains to its furtive mind-- a man who above all is exactly what he is-- depending on what your definition of the word is, is.
posted by chaz at 9:33 PM on February 18, 2001

thank goodness for this quid pro quota thingie. if we didn't have that then companies and individuals could give lots and lots of money to politicians just so will vote for the stuff those donors want.

it's a relief that sorta thing just can't happen.
posted by lescour at 10:08 PM on February 18, 2001

This is really good, it's like shaking up a jar of flies and watching them beat themselves up against the sides.

Notice how no matter what is used as an argument, it is dismissed as irrelevant or a lie? This is called "muda" or "wasteful and useless" by the Japanese. Neither side gives, both sides only attack. Sounds sorta like the Middle East broohah-hah or the constant and unceasing bickering on Capitol Hill...
posted by Capn_Stuby at 10:17 PM on February 18, 2001

My comment was specifically about the rantings here.

By the way: have you ever thought that if Al Gore was really supposed to be President, they'd have just gotten rid of Clinton when they had the chance? The Dempocrats could have all voted in favor of sheetcanning Clinton. But no, Bill Clinton HAD to have his legacy and poor Al was left in the cold. If Gore would have been prez at Election time, he'd have had a strong platform to campaign from. Kind of shows you how the Democrats work, ne?
posted by Capn_Stuby at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2001

Hoover? C'mon rcade, you quoted an outgoing number of 65%, and if that Zogby poll is to be believed, he had a 56% "in January."

The number I quoted was from the January 20, 2001 Washington Post -- his approval rating was 65 percent on the day he left office, the highest of any president in the post-WW II era.

I'm man enough to admit I voted for Clinton, but the ultrarigid support doesn't wash with me either ...

I'm not giving Clinton a compliment when I note his Teflon qualities. His ability to play Br'er Rabbit to his enemies is just a fact of life -- when he was still a viable politician, his approval rating with the American people was almost unprecedented. The idea that he could go through impeachment and all the other smears, real or exaggerated, and end up with a higher approval rating than Reagan is astounding.

Clinton detractors think this Rich pardon is some kind of albatross that is convicing the American people he was just as bad as they have always believed. I think that's the same wishful thinking that made these doofuses the ideal enemies for him.
posted by rcade at 10:48 PM on February 18, 2001

I'd be very interested to know the actual motivation behind the pardons. The first assumption that everyone comes to is that there is some kind of corrupt process in place. I'd frankly be more interested in any deals that were struck behind closed doors and what the benefits of those deals were....
posted by barbelith at 6:07 AM on February 19, 2001

Rcade: You're the one who brought up approval ratings, so why the hell are you critizing me for bringing up Clinton's poll numbers from the two months after he left office, which numbers are most certainly affected by his actions on the last two days of his presidency? Oh, maybe it's because those numbers totally contradict the point you wanted to make?

In any event, unlike Hoover, either Roosevelt, Reagan, Ford, or Nixon, Bill Clinton is still in politics. He maneuvered for his buddy Mac the Wallet to become the new DNC chair, he's surely helping his wife plan for her run in 2008 or whenever, and has stubbornly stuck around in party affairs even though many Democrats now wish he'd just go away. Until he reitires to the ranch, his popularity is extremely relevant.

Clinton detractors think this Rich pardon is some kind of albatross that is convicing the American people he was just as bad as they have always believed. I think that's the same wishful thinking that made these doofuses the ideal enemies for him.

Actually, Rcade, it's the Democrats who fear that the most. But I'll agree with you if you want to call THEM doofi. And as I pointed out, the poll numbers suggest that the doofi might be right. The differnece between then and now is that the Democratic Apologist Choir has started singing a diferent tune. Even the Washington Post wants to fry his ass. The Teflon has started to wear off.

Dan: I'm not sure there is a practical difference between donations to the Bill Clinton's Presidential library foundation and money that goes straight into his wallet. I'm willing to disregard all the campaign contributions and focus on that half-million dollar donation, which Clinton was so reticent to disclose.

What limits, if any, exist on Clinton's ability to spend that money for his own benefit? I suspect there aren't many. Recall, he offered to redirect over $300,000 of that money per year to subsidize his proposed rent in Manhattan. It could presumably go to support patronage jobs, pay for "business" lunches, chartered jets, and the like, to very nicely supplement his pension. Now, as I stated above, I don't know if that falls under the scope of federal bribery laws. But if the law includes those kinds of donations, then Clinton may be a criminal once again.
posted by mikewas at 6:32 AM on February 19, 2001

By the way, here's what Bill Clinton had to say about the Bush pardons:

However, Clinton said he was concerned "by any action which sends a signal that, if you work for the government, you're above the law, or that not telling the truth to Congress under oath is somehow less serious than not telling the truth to some other body under oath."

posted by mikewas at 6:34 AM on February 19, 2001

... nader nader nader.
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2001

The Teflon has started to wear off.

I think his declining job approval rating has a lot more to do with his joblessness than anything else. Why should Democrats expend any political capital defending the guy now?
posted by rcade at 9:55 AM on February 19, 2001

I hate the man. But if I ever decide to go into politics, I will be studying his speeches for years prior. He's one ill politick.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2001


I suggest you reserve your hatred for those who have done you real harm. If you spend your days feeling hatred for public officials whose actions have very little impact on your day to day life, then you're going to live a bitter life, indeed.
posted by Optamystic at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2001

Actually I hate people who take hyperbole literally more than politicians >;)
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2001

WRT Reagan's "treason" over the Iran hostages, please read the November 11, 1991 issue of Newsweek. The cover story was "Making of a Myth: How Reagan and Bush Came to Be Falsely Accused of Treason in the Iran Hostage Release."
posted by aaron at 2:54 PM on February 19, 2001

Let's look at the facts that are not in dispute:
  • Iran holds 52 Americans for more than 440 days, creating one of the biggest foreign policy embarrassments in American history and humiliating President Carter.
  • During the 1980 presidential campaign, George Bush says that the Carter administration is working on some kind of "October surprise" deal to free the hostages and bolster his campaign prior to Election Day.
  • Iran releases all of the hostages exactly five minutes after Reagan is sworn in as president on Jan. 20, 1981.
  • Reagan's administration secretly supplies military equipment to Iran in 1981.
  • A few years later, Reagan's administration makes another secret deal to sell weapons to Iran, illegally funneling the money to Nicaragua's contras.
Do you honestly believe that Iran's Inauguration Day release of the hostages and Reagan's secret arms deals were unrelated?

I don't. I think a credible case can be made that William Casey met twice with Iranian officials during the 1980 presidential campaign to give them a better deal to keep the hostages than anything Carter could offer to free them.
posted by rcade at 6:42 PM on February 19, 2001

And then former head of the CIA, Poppa Bush, had William Casey killed ;)

Politics is dirty business and anyone who thinks that money is not tied to every aspect of politics is naive at best. Pointing fingers at either major party is futile. They all do it, and until congress has the guts to pass real campaign finance reform ain't nothin' gonna change.

Gotta love the new tone in Washington President Shrub thinks he is setting. The tone hasn't changed one bit. Armey, Burton, Delay (and his puppet Hassert) are all just as ornery as usual.
posted by terrapin at 12:07 PM on February 20, 2001

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