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American Dream Betrayed

Obama And The Clinton Scandals

Just as many of us suspected, it's really about the so-called Clinton Scandals. The Tribune editorial page, in defending Barack Obama from charges of plagiarism, has finally given away the game. Let's take a look.

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TRIBUNE: Which reminds us of the infamous years when Hillary Clinton and her husband turned the White House into a school for scandal. A cruise through news stories of that troubling era elucidates some of the many lowlights:

- Early in Bill Clinton's first term as president, the White House released documents showing that Hillary Clinton had parlayed a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into gains of $99,537 during 1978-79. The White House said Clinton "did her own trading" but received trading advice from James Blair, then outside counsel to Tyson Foods, a chicken company regulated by the State of Arkansas.

REALITY: "Mrs. Clinton violated no rules in the course of her transactions," former Merc chairman Leo Melamed has insisted after reviewing the record.

"While Clinton's account was wildly successful to an outsider, it was small compared to what others were making in the cattle futures market in the 1978-79 period," the Post noted way back when. "An investigation of the cattle futures market at that time by Rep. Neal Smith (D-Iowa) found that in one 16-month period 32 traders made more than $110 million in profits from large trades - those of 50 contracts or more. Clinton traded positions of 50 or more contracts only three times."

More from Melamed, via Media Matters:

"A July 11, 1994, report in Pensions and Investments included a longer excerpt of Melamed's statement:

"At the request of the White House, I have examined the records which reflect Mrs. Clinton's trading activity at Refco. It is my considered opinion that unless there are additional records to indicate otherwise, this is a tempest in a teapot. Nothing in these records appears to reflect any trading violations on the part of Mrs. Clinton . . .

"What these records show is that Mrs. Clinton was, during 1978 and 1979, a relatively modest trader who traded in a variety of commodities, including cattle, soybeans and hogs . . . (O)n balance, she did extremely well. This was by no means unprecedented at that time . . . Mrs. Clinton's profit, while substantial in every day life, was minuscule when measured against the background of that market era."

Even conservatives and Clinton antagonists have given up the ghost on this one, as also cited by Media Matters:

"National Journal's Linda Douglass responded that the charge that Clinton's commodities trading was unlawful was 'something that was debunked during [Bill Clinton's] presidency' . . .

"In fact, even former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth, who first reported in 1994 on Clinton's commodities earnings, and co-author Don Van Natta Jr., acknowledge in Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Little, Brown & Co., June 2007), that 'there was never any official finding that Hillary had done anything wrong' in the commodities trading deal.

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TRIBUNE: Nearly two years of searches and subpoenas by congressional and federal authorities preceded the January 1996 discovery in the Clintons' personal quarters at the White House of copies of documents that had vanished from Hillary Clinton's law firm in Little Rock, Ark. The documents outlined her legal work on behalf of a failed savings and loan association. The disclosure that the documents had surfaced came less than a week after the statute of limitations expired for civil lawsuits against professionals who had fraudulently advised corrupt S&Ls.

REALITY: "This Office investigated whether Mrs. Clinton was involved in any effort to obstruct this or other investigations by withholding relevant evidence or information in connection with Rose Law Firm billing records," independent prosecutor Robert Ray concluded in his final report.

"On January 5, 1996, some 18 months after Mrs. Clinton received a subpoena for all records in her possession involving Madison Guaranty and related entities, a copy of the Rose Law Firm billing records reflecting the Firm's and Mrs. Clinton's representation of Madison Guaranty and related entities were produced by counsel for Mrs. Clinton. The circumstances surrounding the 18-month delay in producing the billing records could not be established. Mr. Hubbell testified in the Senate that he and former Deputy Counsel to the President Vincent W. Foster Jr. had the billing records in February/March 1992. Carolyn Huber, an assistant to President Clinton, testified in the Senate that she found certain documents in the White House residence in August 1995 and placed them in an office where they remained until January 1996. She also testified in the Senate that in January 1996, she found them again and realized that those same documents were the billing records. At that time, they were produced to this Office.

"This Office determined that the evidence of the circumstances surrounding the handling of the records between March 1992 and August 1995 and January 1996 was inconclusive and thus was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any person, including Mrs. Clinton, knowingly and willfully possessed the billing records with the intent to obstruct justice or that any person, including Mrs. Clinton, gave knowingly false testimony regarding the handling of the billing records."

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TRIBUNE: The discovery of the Rose Law Firm records came the same week as a disclosure of a 2-year-old memo written by a presidential aide relating to the so-called Travelgate scandal. The memo suggested that Hillary Clinton had played a much more extensive role than the administration had claimed in the firing of employees of the White House travel office. The ostensible reason: to give travel business to associates of the Clintons.

REALITY: "With respect to Mrs. Clinton, the overwhelming evidence establishes that she played a role in the decision to fire the employees and provided input into that decision to [White House staff members David] Watkins, [Mack] McLarty, [Vince] Foster, and [Harry] Thomason. Thus, her statement to the contrary under oath to this Office was factually false," Ray found.

"The evidence, however, is insufficient to show that Mrs. Clinton knowingly intended to influence the Travel Office decision or was aware that she had such influence at this early stage of the Administration. To a real degree, her interest in the matter was first generated by Thomason's intervention, and then overstated by him to others. Thus, absent persuasive, corroborated, and admissible evidence to the contrary, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs. Clinton's statements to this Office or to Congress were knowingly false."

*

TRIBUNE: In June 1996, the Republican majority and Democratic minority of the special Senate Whitewater Committee reached entirely different conclusions about Hillary Clinton's behavior. The majority report said White House officials, including Hillary Clinton, had obstructed a federal investigation into the Clintons' involvement with the failed Whitewater Development Corp. The majority report said Hillary Clinton knowingly was involved in the allegedly fraudulent financing of the project.

REALITY: "Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr plans to tell Congress today that President Clinton misused 'the machinery of government' and 'thwarted the search for truth' in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally interfere with Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit and Starr's subsequent criminal investigation," the Washington Post reported in 1998.

"But in a 58-page prepared statement to be delivered at the opening of impeachment hearings, Starr acknowledges for the first time that he has not found enough evidence to accuse the president of criminal conduct in the Whitewater financial venture that generated his appointment in 1994 or in a host of other allegations he has investigated since then."

But then, we already knew that.

"A moment of truth intruded in the midst of D'Amato's hearings on December 13, 1995 with the release of the second volume of the Resolution Trust Corporation's $3.6 million Pillsbury Report," Joe Conason and Gene Lyons recounted in Fools for Scandal. "[T]he San Francisco law firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro was obligated to deliver its conclusions about the Clintons and Whitewater by December 31 . . .

"The firm's findings could hardly have been more favorable to the White House. Based on the Clintons' sworn interrogatories, interviews with forty-five other witnesses, and some two hundred thousand documents, the report concluded that the president and first lady had told the truth about their Whitewater investment: The Clintons were passive investors who were misled about the actual status of the project by Jim McDougal from the start. The report failed to challenge their account on a single substantive point . . .

"The Pillsbury Report found no evidence that Whitewater's losses had been subsidized by taxpayers in the savings and loan bailout. But even if they were, it concluded, the Clintons were not at fault: 'There is no basis to assert that the Clintons knew anything of substance about the McDougals' advances to Whitewater, the source of the funds used to make those advances, or the sources of the funds used to make payments on the bank debt . . . '

"The recitation of the report's text continued," Bob Somerby explains. "The Clintons had no primary, secondary or derivative liability for misdeeds in the case, the report said. 'There is evidence that the McDougals and others may have engaged in intentional misconduct.' But 'on the evidentiary record,' the Pillsbury Report said, there was no sign that the Clintons were liable for that conduct."

Whitewater has been thoroughly debunked in various forums over the years, but the ur-text of the media's misreporting, driven by the Times's Jeff Gerth - the Judith Miller of his day - and the right-wing machinery funded by Richard Mellon Scaife is still Lyons' 1994 article in Harper's.

Beyond that, note that the Tribune relies on the Republican majority's countervailing view, as if they are somehow viable as the final authority.

*

TRIBUNE: The majority also suggested that files in White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster Jr.'s office held "damaging evidence" about Whitewater - and that Hillary Clinton "directed that investigators be denied 'unfettered access' to Mr. Foster's office" after his suicide in July 1993. The Democratic report challenged these conclusions and said there was no evidence that the Clintons had misbehaved. They were never charged with any wrongdoing.

REALITY: Yes, the Republican majority "suggested" wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton. But none was ever found.

"At the Senate hearings, Republicans accused a succession of White House aides of stripping Foster's office of incriminating Whitewater evidence and conspiring to lie about it under oath," Conason and Lyons write.

"The scheme was allegedly coordinated by Hillary Clinton via telephone from her mother's home in Little Rock, and carried out by Maggie Williams, Hillary's friend Susan Thomases, and White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum. A July 24 [New York Times] column by [William] Safire alleged that a White House lawyer named Steve Neuwirth 'told congressional investigators that Susan Thomases, Hillary's confidante, told Nussbaum that the Clintons wanted the search [of Foster's office] strictly limited.'

"Neuwirth opened his Senate testimony on August 3 with a prepared statement explaining that the information in Safire's column was categorically false. He read aloud questions and answers from his deposition, in which he explicitly denied the premise of a question implying any knowledge of what Hillary Clinton or Susan Thomases wanted. He explained that every lawyer in the White House was concerned about how to balance the legitimate interests of law enforcement, lawyer-client privilege, and the institution of the presidency. In a time of tremendous grief and confusion, Hillary Clinton's view had never been consulted."

*

But the best proof comes from Ken Starr, who investigated all these matters to the ends of the Earth and came up empty.

The so-called Clinton Scandals were a shameful episode of media gullibility and incompetence, foreshadowing the similar savaging of Al Gore based on the media constantly repeating provable falsehoods and the now-recognized failure to do its job prior to the war in Iraq.

For Obama supporters - including the Tribune - to dredge up a smear campaign whose stated goal was to prevent the most talented Democratic politician of his time (whom I never voted for) from establishing a toehold is contrary to everything Obama is supposed to stand for. And yet, Obama himself has stoked those very fires. That, my friends, is vile.

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The occasion for the Tribune's editorial was allegations that Obama has lifted other people's lines for his speeches. I'm not much interested in that alone, but the truth is that the Boston Globe called him out for it last spring and he's still doing it. A few months ago a spate of stories accused Obama from stealing phrases from John Edwards. And there is a larger pattern of embellishment on Obama's part, from continuing to call himself a law professor when he was an adjunct, despite being called out by Lynn Sweet, to questions Sweet and the Tribune have raised about the veracity of his accounts of childhood, drug use, community activism, his days in New York City, and folks in and around Springfield (not Republicans, by the way) who tell reporters privately that Obama wasn't the kind of legislator he now portrays himself as, bolstered again by AP and Boston Globe reports.

None of this concerns the Tribune editorial page. But the paper does accuse Clinton of "appropriating campaign phrases that Obama had all but copyrighted - his emphasis on 'change,' his 'Yes, we can' and his 'Fired up and ready to go."

I didn't know Obama had a copyright on the word "change."

And, of course, "Yes we can" comes from Cesar Chavez (and former Philadelphia Phillie Dave Cash and Bob the Builder) and Clinton's (and John McCain's) use of "fired up and ready to go" is a snarky rejoinder to Obama - who hardly invented the well-worn phrase, even if some of Obama's supporters think it was sent to him from God.

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If the Tribune - and Obama and his supporters - were to really heed the message of the Obama campaign, it would do what readers would be well to do on future editorials about the so-called Clinton Scandals: Turn the page.



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Posted on February 21, 2008


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