Why We Chose Him
Nobody really expected him to just fade into obscurity. But even the most pessimistic among us couldn't have predicted Bill Clinton's dogged refusal to grant a weary nation even a few sweet days without him. This week capped a month of Clinton news as if in retaliation for six months of relative obscurity during the presidential campaign, the ex-president grabbed headlines (as well as a few chairs and a rug) on his way out of the White House and clung fast.
His eleventh-hour pardon of financier Marc Rich was received badly from the start, but this week, as House and Senate committees dissected Clinton's decision, the pardon emerged as both universally abhorrent and colossally stupid. Rich's ex-wife, Denise, spent the last two years of Clinton's administration pouring money into Democratic causes, including Hillary Clinton's Senate race, as well as Clinton's presidential library fund. Was it a direct quid pro quo for her ex-husband's pardon? Legally, the criminal intent is nearly impossible to prove. But it doesn't really matter appearances alone are bad enough to make everyone involved look pretty crooked.
As Arlen Specter and Bob Barr had their way with Clinton's dubious pardon back in Washington, the former president himself was plotting another brilliant p.r. move a bit further north. Tuesday, sources announced Clinton was abandoning his much-maligned quest for top-floor office space at a pricey midtown office tower in favor of a relative bargain in the heart of Harlem. Where General Accounting Office types and indignant Republicans had been up in arms over the midtown rental specs, Harlem's neighborhood boosters were beside themselves with glee Clinton's presence on 125th Street was bound to invigorate the local economy and direct the welcome glare of national attention onto the up-and-coming area. Even veteran Clinton-watchers were astonished by the ingeniousness of the plan: Seemingly by accident (although most of us knew better), Clinton had located the perfect launching pad for the postWhite House years, heck, even a mayoral run. In Harlem, Clinton is loved, even revered and the stark white light of the Bush administration only makes the former president more appealing.