Insight

The Clinton administration seems poised for a bid for the title of “Most Concurrently Running Investigations by Independent Counsels.” Given President-elect Clinton’s boast that his was going to be the most honest and ethical administration in history – and thus stand in sharp contrast to the heinous ethics of the Reagan and Bush administrations, as well as the generally heinous displays of avarice during the Decade of Greed – the Clinton follies are rather amusing. Especially the extent to which money, the mere grubbing for filthy lucre, is at the center of them.

Now, of the seven deadly sins – pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth – I have generally found “lust” to be the one that provokes the funniest behavior.

In the case of the president himself, I think this has proved true. To be sure, “gluttony” gives him a run for his money, as the Special Sauce-bloated thighs flopping out of his jogging shorts would attest. And as with most politicians, “pride” is in no short supply. My favorite recent example here is the case in which he compared his own religious views with those of people who have called his character into question: “If they would look into my soul, they would see someone whose belief in God and faith is as sincere and deep and genuine as theirs is. And they would probably see someone who is perhaps, rightly or wrongly, much more humble in his Christian faith than many of them are.” Humble, and darn proud of it – that’s our president, unlike certain other people who shall remain nameless.

Still, one can understand why the president is so eager for others, at least, to be humble in passing judgment on him. In fact, in a novel twist on Jesus’ injunction, he seems to be insisting that until everybody else is without sin, and therefore fit to cast a stone his way, he’s just going to keep on keepin’ on, thank you very much!

And that takes us back to lust – the “bimbo eruptions,” as his longtime fixer Betsey Wright dubbed them during the 1992 campaign. Anyone who has spent any time with the bimbo literature, I submit, would be hard-pressed to avoid the conclusion that the prez is a little hormone-crazed for a grown-up. There is something about the image of the big man slinking out the back door of the governor’s mansion in Little Rock to avoid the wrathful gaze of Hillary that I find irresistible. Clinton’s Arkansas years would make a wonderful sitcom, maybe with Tom Arnold and Roseanne in the starring roles.

While the president would seem to rank “lust” as his personal favorite among the seven deadly sins, most of the people working for him would prefer “covetousness.”

We have had the spectacular saga of Webster Hubbell, the nation’s former No. 3 law enforcement official – also golfing buddy to the president and former law partner of the first lady – copping a plea to stealing from his law partners and clients (including U.S. taxpayers) and to income-tax evasion. We have the former agriculture secretary, Mike Espy, the subject of an independent counsel probe pertaining to the favors he may have received from the Tyson’s chicken empire in Arkansas. Need I mention the rest of Whitewater, including the first lady’s awesome success as a speculator in cattle futures? And now we have Commerce Secretary Ron Brown’s involvement in a company called First International Communications Corp.  Brown “invested” even less in First International than Hillary Rodham Clinton did in the futures market – a cool absolute zero against Hillary’s $1,000. And he walked away, it seems, with even more than Hillary’s $100,000, even adjusted for inflation. So far, we know about $412,000 in payments to Brown.

What, you ask, did he do for the money? No one knows. What did First International do? That’s a bit murky as well. Apart from a company car and $600 in office equipment, its only asset was a loan of $875,000 to a company called Corridor Broadcasting. Brown’s partner in First International was Nolanda Hill, who also (ahem) owned Corridor. Corridor, as it happens, recently defaulted on two loans held by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Resolution Trust Corp., leaving taxpayers holding the bag. But that didn’t stop First International from paying Brown three installments of $45,000 each in 1993, nor its routing $190,000 through an intermediary to pay off Brown’s debts (including two vacation-home notes). Plus, Hill forgave Brown an additional $87,000 he owed to another company she owned.

Nice work if you can get it. And, to be fair, how can one be expected to keep up payments on one’s vacation homes on a government salary? A cabinet secretary makes less than $150,000 a year!

In point of fact, there is a pattern to the corruption cases of the Clinton administration. Essentially, it comes down to this: prominent people, powerful people, using their position and stroke to extract swag from courtiers and sycophants, who are kissing up to them for exactly the same reasons courtiers and sycophants have kissed up to the powerful since the beginning of time – the expectation of return somehow, somewhere down the line.

When George Bush pardoned five people in the Iran-Contra affair in the last weeks of his presidency, he noted that none of those he was pardoning had in any way profited financially from their actions. In fact, he let stand some other court judgments for those who had profited.

When the time comes, what will Bill Clinton say about his pals? I can’t wait to hear.