The credibility crisis

National | The White House wall of confidence is finally beginning to crack

Issue: "Gagged by Tolerance," March 22, 1997

If forced to choose between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with all of its recent flaws, and the Clinton White House, which is nothing but flawed, who would you be more inclined to believe in a dispute involving who is telling the truth?

The president claims he was never told about alleged attempts by the Chinese government to penetrate the American electoral system and that the FBI instructed the National Security Council staff during a briefing not to tell him. But the FBI issued a statement denying the president's account and insisting it had "placed no restrictions whatsoever on the dissemination up the chain of command at the NSC or any information provided to the NSC senior staff."

I'll go with the FBI on this one. Besides, the president repeatedly assures us that neither he nor his campaign did anything illegal, so why the fuss if he really is telling the truth?

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The excuses, whining, and attempts to spread the guilt to Republican fundraising tactics is beginning to fail as a strategy. The opinion polls, the only standard the president apparently cares about, are finally beginning to reflect the public's concern that while all politicians may be suspect, this president is more suspect than others. The public may not like the way funds are raised for political campaigns, but it dislikes in the extreme the prostituting of America's good name to Chinese whose brothers-in-arms slaughter and otherwise oppress their own people.

The Clinton White House isn't yet in a panic, but it's getting close. The once impenetrable wall of confidence, which reflected the attitude that nothing can touch this president, is beginning to reveal a large crack. The president has survived reports of alleged extramarital affairs, draft-dodging, sexual harassment, double-talking, and double-mindedness on a range of issues, including events collectively known as Whitewater. Now he faces a scandal that could eclipse the rest and which the public can easily comprehend. It may prove to be the biggest electoral heist in political history, involving sleazy tactics in the selling of access.

The arrogance of this bunch is astonishing. Statements from current and former administration officials, including former chief of staff Leon Panetta, indicate that the administration believed virtually anything was justified to defeat Republicans because the GOP would starve the elderly and ruin the country. So the Clinton-Gore reelection team, believing it had the "anything goes" green light from the president and first lady may have even sold seats on the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Two men who contributed more than $200,000 to the Democratic National Committee between June 1995, and May 1996, now have blanket access to files containing secret intelligence.

The cynicism of the fundraisers was unlimited. The Washington Post reported that the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indians of Oklahoma contributed $107,000 to the DNC. They hoped the money would buy favorable administration action on the return of their tribal lands. What it got them was a solicitation for more money and an offer from a Gore fundraiser to lobby the administration in exchange for a $100,000 retainer, a percentage of all royalties from mineral rights on the land, and a $10,000 per month fee. And they say Republicans are the party of the rich!

Mrs. Clinton has helped move White House explanations from the ludicrous to the laughable. Asked whether she made any fundraising calls from the White House, she invoked her Whitewater defense: "I don't recall making any." Mrs. Clinton also offered this explanation for why the president allowed nearly 1,000 people, many of them donors, to spend the night at the White House: "Anyone who knows my husband knows he enjoys people. He counts thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people among his friends."

Most people would be happy to call one or two individuals friend. The Clinton definition of friendship is apparently rather superficial.

It was once reported (erroneously) that former Nixon aide Charles Colson would run over his own grandmother to reelect that president. The Clinton people apparently were prepared to allow the Chinese communist government to run over their own country in pursuit of a second Clinton term.

copyright 1997, Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.


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