Anniversary of a witchhunt 

Clinton"s enemies won out in the end

Clinton"s enemies won out in the end
The media love to celebrate anniversaries. Anything that makes news also makes news a year later, five years later and 10 years later. One anniversary is coming up in a few weeks that I doubt will make headlines, because it represents one of the most shameful moments in United States history. Next week will mark the fifth anniversary of President Bill Clinton"s deposition in the Paula Jones case, which led to the uncovering of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, millions of dollars spent and an impeachment trial. It doesn"t seem like it"s been five years since the right wing tried to seize control of the nation in an illegal and immoral witchhunt. It doesn"t feel like half a decade has passed since Linda Tripp and Kenneth Starr became household names. The entire affair was a tragedy. The nation"s attention was diverted from important problems such as race relations, the economy and terrorism and instead directed to such arcana as the president"s jizz on Monica"s dress. If only a few of the FBI agents assigned to Kenneth Starr had been working on cracking Al Qaeda, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, might never have happened. And the government spent seven years and $70 million investigating Clinton"s alleged misdeeds. That"s much more money than was spent investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Watergate combined, even after adjusting for inflation. Even Rush Limbaugh doesn"t talk much anymore about the debacle that was the Clinton witchhunt because it ended so poorly. When the independent counsel"s final report on Whitewater was issued in March 2002, not one new indictment emerged. In a face-saving claim, the independent prosecutor claimed he had evidence to convict the former president at trial. But he never produced it. I"ve spent some time lately re-reading the media coverage from January 1998 and some of it is quite illuminating in retrospect. The day the scandal broke, President Clinton gave an interview to Jim Lehrer of PBS. It shows that the president, at that early stage, was being truthful about his relationship with Lewinsky. "There is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship [with Lewinsky]," he said. And there wasn"t; he had broken things off months before. Other things Clinton said were dead-on: "You know, it made a lot of people mad when I got elected president. And the better the country does, it seems like the madder some of them get." And: "I can"t say that people didn"t tell me they were going to go after me because they thought I represented a new direction in American politics and they thought we could make things better. And I can"t say that they haven"t been as good as their word every day, you know. Just a whole bunch of them are trying to make sure that gets done." Even when he issued his fist-pounding denial in the East Room, the famous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," he was telling the truth. Clinton was guilty of the same thing that almost every president of the 20th century was also guilty of: cheating on his wife. John F. Kennedy had orgies in the White House swimming pool, according to Secret Service agents who guarded him. The first George Bush carried on multiple affairs while stationed in China, according to some of his co-workers. The ironic thing is, it turns out that just about every single one of the accusations made against Clinton at the start was wrong. There was no evidence he told Lewinsky to lie about their relationship; and he didn"t have Vernon Jordan tell her to lie under oath. Clinton was guilty of adultery, something which many of his accusers were also guilty of. And while he admitted to misleading his enemies in a politically motivated lawsuit, such crimes are almost never prosecuted. The wild dreams of Clinton"s enemies never came true. He wasn"t convicted in his Senate trial; he didn"t go to jail and he left the presidency in 2001 as scheduled. He left behind a nation at peace and with financial stability. We had a budget surplus, high consumer confidence and a stock market not on the verge of depression. Two years later, we have none of those things. We"re on the verge of both war and economic catastrophe, neither of which can be blamed on Clinton. The legacy of the many Clinton investigations is one of wasted resources, an endless list of bloodthirsty enemies and no proof of any material wrongdoing. Precious time and energy was spent by law enforcement chasing down leads that never panned out. This would be of interest to only historians except for the fact that many of the people who persecuted Clinton still hold high positions in Congress and in the Bush Administration. And while the right wing was thwarted in their attempts to assassinate one president, they more than made up for their loss by hijacking the 2000 election and subverting the Constitution in the name of the war on terror. Yep, it"s been five years since the accusations against Clinton first became public. But the fallout of this witchhunt will be felt for the rest of our lives.

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