For once I agree with President Clinton's defenders. From career Clinton apologist Lanny Davis to White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, they are right in calling "old news" the latest revelations that Al Gore was deeply involved in possibly illegal fund-raising activities during the 1996 reelection campaign. It is old news. It's the same old trail of sleaze that has characterized "the most ethical administration in history"-Mr. Clinton's words-from the beginning. The New York Times editorial page is starting to resemble "right-wing" radio and the derided (among liberals) Wall Street Journal. The Journal has cataloged and critiqued this administration's multiplied legal and moral lapses, which now encompass several volumes of purchasable material. Consider the language from a New York Times lead editorial as it commented on several memos by Charles LaBella, Attorney General Janet Reno's personal choice to head the department's investigation into campaign finance abuses by Clinton-Gore. The memos are not small potatoes, but "extraordinary," said the Times, and suggest "the lengths to which Janet Reno and her top aides went to protect Vice President Al Gore and of her dedication to protecting the Democratic Party interests from start to finish." What a statement from a newspaper that twice editorially endorsed Clinton-Gore and regularly attacked Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for his efforts to get to the bottom of epidemic wrongdoing and lawbreaking in this administration. But there's more: "Given her record, it is unlikely that these revelations will now shame her into appointing another strong prosecutor to reinvigorate her department's languishing campaign finance investigation." What kind of record might that be? It is clear from reading excerpts of the edited memos obtained and published by the Los Angeles Times that what appears to have been a widespread conspiracy and cover-up among top administration officials warranted an investigation to determine whether criminal activity had occurred. One former task-force attorney wrote of the "unprecedented hostility" directed at the task force by senior Justice officials. Mr. LaBella charged that Ms. Reno's top advisors engaged in "intellectually dishonest" double standards by first endorsing independent counsels to investigate Cabinet-level officials, but then opposing them for similar or stronger cases involving senior White House figures. Defenders of Clinton-Gore use the same double standard when they defend Ms. Reno, citing the number of independent counsels she did name, which they say proves her integrity against charges of malfeasance in refusing to name independent counsels to investigate Clinton-Gore when evidence showed they may have violated the law. Mr. LaBella accused senior Justice officials of engaging in "gamesmanship" and legal "contortions" to avoid an inquiry of the highest-ups. Don't forget that FBI Director Louis Freeh agreed with Mr. LaBella and told Ms. Reno that the law legally obligated her to name an independent counsel to investigate Clinton-Gore. Mr. Gore's main asset has been his ability to remain above the fray, acknowledging "mistakes" from which he's "learned" but denying he played dialing for dollars inside the White House. The memos say there may be pictures that allegedly show him not playing the piano in this whore White House but "upstairs" where the real action was going on. We already know many of the solicitations were illegal because millions of dollars were returned to the donors when the source of the tainted campaign cash became known. But it was after the election-when the purpose for which the money had been raised had been achieved. Besides, the public didn't seem to care. It was raking in money from the stock market and an improved economy. Congress will investigate, but it is unclear whether it will be able to overcome the stonewalling, the flight of witnesses, and the selective amnesia of those who do appear. It will be faced with an experienced collection of serial liars, cover-up artists, and political flimflammers who have kept this most unethical of administrations in office with the help of some of the very same press that now wants us to believe they knew these guys were crooks all along.
-© 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate