For the week of December 2 thru December 8, 1998  

Clinton actions betray and outrage supporters

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

When historians itemize the 20th century’s bold achievements and humiliating failures, surely it’ll be remembered for the era’s most corrupt American presidency.

The Clinton reign’s moral, intellectual and political chicanery, hypocrisy, dishonesty and greed surpass any previous chief executive’s violence to the public trust.

Apply any test.

No president’s key appointees (plus business cronies) were so beset with investigations and indictments as Clinton’s (Agriculture’s Espy, Housing’s Cisneros, Interior’s Babbitt, Energy’s O’Leary, Commerce’s Brown, No. 2 Justice deputy Web Hubbell).

No president has engaged in such hypocrisy: as commander-in-chief he enforces a code that treats adultery in the military as a crime, although he’s an admitted adulterer with a subordinate and expects a waiver to his conduct.

No president is so contemptuous of truth – he lied about the adulterous Lewinsky affair (as well as lying about Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones), lied to his Cabinet, and continues to weasel when asked for the truth.

No president has recruited such an entourage of lawyers and spin-doctors to wiggle out of accusations of misconduct (soliciting campaign funds, explaining away the abuse of power in Travelgate and Filegate).

No president so abused his wife with adulterous affairs, then relied on her to rescue his sinking political fortunes.

No president has used the White House so brazenly to stash evidence in a criminal probe – missing files from Hillary Clinton’s days at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock that suddenly are "discovered" two years later in the presidential bedroom.

No president with such a command of minutia in foreign and domestic affairs so frequently can’t recall, be sure, or recollect events that might involve criminal conduct.

No president seems to duck and run when confronted with a demand for courage – he reneged on a promise to make military service safe for gay Americans when the political heat was turned up; he repeatedly failed to use force he promised against Saddam Hussein; rather than stand beside her, the adulterous president fired Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders after the religious right protested her discussing masturbation, and, worse, he abandoned 1992 campaign promises to banish sleazy ways of doing business in Washington then introduced sophisticated new wheeling-and-dealing unknown in modern politics.

Those of us who voted for Clinton, especially Republicans abandoning their roots out of fear of the GOP’s sell-out to the wild-eyed Christian Coalition, feel betrayed and outraged that the highest constitutional officer is a man of shameless, seedy character.

The century also will be remembered for aberrations that combine to save Clinton from traditional public outrage – the feel-good hedonism of today’s "me" culture that’s willing to forgive even Clinton’s debasing conduct, and the obsessive, discredited, holier-than-thou Mr. Fudd of criminal justice, special counsel Kenneth Starr.

Perhaps the most pitiable victims of Bill Clinton’s cynical abuses are congressional Democrats who lack the grit to punish their man.

They have forever forfeited the moral right to condemn the conduct of any future Republican president, and will fade into history as Clinton’s spineless accessories.

Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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