The power of Bill Clinton to strike fear and dread in the hearts of individuals who enter his orbit (willingly or not) seems to be as strong as ever.
News reports surfaced yesterday saying that Bill Clinton recently tried to get Rep. Kendrick Meek to drop out of the Florida Senate race in order to improve the chances of Governor Charlie Crist at the expense of Republican candidate Mark Rubio.
The first headlines were definitive: Clinton did this. And his own spokesman implicated him DIRECTLY. According the the New York Times:
Former President Bill Clinton last week tried to convince Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida, to drop out of the race – but Mr. Meek changed his mind at the last minute, a spokesman for Mr. Clinton said Thursday evening. Matt McKenna, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, said the former president believed that Mr. Meek would not win on Tuesday and was urging him to drop out and endorse Charlie Crist, the state’s governor, who is running for the Senate as an independent.
But as the news cycle has rolled along in the last 24 hours, the headlines have been changing in a way that gives Clinton less and less blame for the act – in direct contradiction to his own spokesman.
And so this morning we have this pathetic attempt at complete absolution:
MIAMI – Florida’s three-way Senate race grew testier Friday as the last-place Democratic candidate denied claims that former President Bill Clinton had advised him to drop out, saying the idea came instead from his independent rival, Gov. Charlie Crist.
Oh, I see: not only was it not Bill, it was the easy target of Charlie Crist! Can you imagine the threats and intimidation that went on behind the scenes as Slick maneuvered people to get him off the hook? Whatever they were, I’ll bet they were mild compared to the threats that kept Susan McDougal “willing” to stay quiet and refuse to testify against the Clintons, which resulted in a lengthy jail sentence for contempt of court. I guess jail seemed like the best option for her at the time.
A defiant Susan McDougal reported to jail this morning vowing to keep her silence in the face of prosecutors’ questions about the actions of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Whitewater affair. <September 10, 1996>
But hey, Bill Clinton is very believable! When he compels “friends” like Meek to look ridiculous, and along the way contradicts his own spokesman, I believe him! Just as Michael Kelly did during the Clinton Presidency:
by Michael Kelly
Washington Post, Wednesday, February 4, 1998; Page A19
I believe the president. I have always believed him. I believed him when he said he had never been drafted in the Vietnam War and I believed him when he said he had forgotten to mention that he had been drafted in the Vietnam War. I believed him when he said he hadn’t had sex with Gennifer Flowers and I believe him now, when he reportedly says he did.
I believe the president did not rent out the Lincoln Bedroom, did not sell access to himself and the vice president to hundreds of well-heeled special pleaders and did not supervise the largest, most systematic money-laundering operation in campaign finance history, collecting more than $3 million in illegal and improper donations. I believe that Charlie Trie and James Riady were motivated by nothing but patriotism for their adopted country.
I believed Vice President Gore when he said that he had made dunning calls to political contributors “on a few occasions” from his White House office, and I believed him when he said that, actually, “a few” meant 46. I believe in no controlling legal authority.
I believe Bruce Babbitt when he says that the $286,000 contributed to the DNC by Indian tribes opposed to granting a casino license to rival tribes had nothing to do with his denial of the license. I believed the secretary when he said that he had not been instructed in this matter by then-White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes. I believed him when he said later that he had told lobbyist and friend Paul Eckstein that Ickes had told him to move on the casino decision, but that he had been lying to Eckstein. I agree with the secretary that it is an outrage that anyone would question his integrity.
I believe in the Clinton Standard of adherence to the nation’s campaign finance and bribery laws, enunciated by the president on March 7, 1997: “I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution.” I note with approval the use of the word “evidence” and also the use of the word “solely.” I believe that it is proper to change government policy to address the concerns of people who have given the president money, as long as nobody can find evidence of this being the sole reason.
I believe the president has lived up to his promise to preside over the most ethical administration in American history. I believe that indicted former agriculture secretary Mike Espy did not accept $35,000 in illegal favors from Tyson Foods and other regulated businesses. I believe that indicted former housing secretary Henry Cisneros did not lie to the FBI and tell others to lie to cover up $250,000 in blackmail payments to his former mistress. I believe that convicted former associate attorney general Webster Hubbell was not involved in the obstruction of justice when the president’s minions arranged for Hubbell to receive $400,000 in sweetheart consulting deals at a time when he was reneging on his promise to cooperate with Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater investigation.
I believe Paula Jones is a cheap tramp who was asking for it. I believe Kathleen Willey is a cheap tramp who was asking for it. I believe Monica Lewinsky is a cheap tramp who was asking for it.
I believe Lewinsky was fantasizing in her 20 hours of taped conversation in which she reportedly detailed her sexual relationship with the president and begged Linda Tripp to join her in lying about the relationship. I believe that any gifts, correspondence, telephone calls and the 37 post-employment White House visits that may have passed between Lewinsky and the president are evidence only of a platonic relationship; such innocent intimate friendships are quite common between middle-aged married men and young single women, and also between presidents of the United States and White House interns.
I see nothing suspicious in the report that the president’s intimate, Vernon Jordan, arranged a $40,000-per-year job for Lewinsky shortly after she signed but before she filed an affidavit saying she had not had sex with the president. Nor do I read anything into the fact that the ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, visited Lewinsky at the Watergate to offer her a job. I believe the instructions Lewinsky gave Tripp informing her on how to properly perjure herself in the Willey matter simply wrote themselves.
I believe that The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS and NPR are all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Especially NPR.
Michael Kelly is a senior writer for National Journal.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company