Columns » Bob McCord

Editorial comment


Years ago I was the editor of the editorial page of the Arkansas Democrat, now known as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I still read the page every day, and even though the editorials are sometimes too conservative, I enjoy reading them because most are interesting and well done. The editor of the page, Paul Greenberg, is an excellent writer. Unfortunately, Greenberg’s well-known dislike of Bill Clinton has become so severe and the editorials about him so unwarranted that they anger readers, even some Republicans. After all, Clinton is from Arkansas and proud of it. The most inappropriate editorial was printed Saturday, two days after the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center in downtown Little Rock. The library’s display of the attempt to impeach Clinton was the subject of the editorial, which said “you had to see it to disbelieve it.” It said that the display was prepared so that school children going through the library “will be told how an innocent president, the sainted William Jefferson Clinton, was martyred by a Republican mob, aka the Radical Right.” The editorial said the display was “whitewashing history” and compared it to the Soviet Encyclopedia “in which any embarrassing images would be dutifully erased in successive annual editions.” It also led you to believe that the displays contained nothing about Clinton’s relations with Monica Lewinsky, or the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Well, here are two paragraphs among several that are printed and recorded in the library concerning the investigation of Clinton’s personal behavior: “In 1994, Kenneth Starr was appointed to investigate a failed real estate investment known as Whitewater that the Clintons had made in the 1970s. Finding no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons, Starr repeatedly expanded the scope of his investigation. Witnesses complained that Starr and his staff would threaten them with jail in an attempt to get them to change their stories. “In January 1998 Starr began to look into the president’s testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky given in a deposition in a civil suit. The suit was later dismissed as having no legal or factual merit. In September, Clinton acknowledged he had not been forthcoming with the relationship. On this basis Starr, Republican congressional leadership and their allies launched an impeachment drive that the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars said was unjustified. The impeachment battle was not about the Constitution or rule of law, but was instead a quest for power that the president’s opponents could not win at the ballot box.” I’ve been to several presidential libraries, and it won’t surprise you to know that none of the presidents chose to spill all the beans about their blunders. President Johnson never admits he lied when he announced that North Vietnam torpedo boats had fired on an American destroyer in international waters so that he could send American soldiers to help South Vietnam. President Carter doesn’t use his library to apologize for being unable to rescue the 52 Americans captured by Iranians who attacked and seized the American embassy in Teheran for more than a year. I’m surprised anyone would question that it was the Republicans who were really after Clinton. Former congressman William Dannemeyer, R-Calif., wrote an article in January 1997 for Citizens for Honest Government entitled, “Why Congress Must Impeach Bill Clinton.” Later that year, Mark Helprin, a neoconservative speech writer for Clinton’s opponent, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, wrote an article about the need to impeach Clinton in the Wall Street Journal. In fighting impeachment, Clinton repeated a credible response last week in an interview with Peter Jennings on ABC-TV: “I made a terrible public personal mistake that I paid for many times over. But you don’t have any example of where I ever lied to the American people about my job, or where I ever let the American people down.” Despite the investigation of the Clinton administration, only two top officials were found guilty, one for lying to an FBI agent about what he was paying to a former mistress. Compare this to the 27 officials of the Nixon administration who were convicted for their roles in Watergate and the 32 members of Reagan’s administration who were convicted of crimes such as the Iran-Contra plan of giving Iran anti-tank missiles to use against Iraq. Conservatives liked Clinton as president; 15 Republican senators voted against his impeachment. He cut government spending, brought the budget into surplus, reformed the welfare system and passed the North American Free Trade Agreement that has created many jobs and raised living standards in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. In 2000, 78 scholars rated 39 of our presidents, and Clinton was ranked No. 24. That’s pretty good for an Arkansas boy, and we ought to remember that. Especially editorial writers.

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