Saturday, May 10, 2008

Campaign 08: Deja Vu All Over Again

Pondering the current status of the Democratic race for the presidency, Bob Herbert, in today's New York Times, notes (among other things):

The last time the Clintons had to make a big exit was at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term as president — and they made a complete and utter hash of that historic moment. Having survived the Monica Lewinsky ordeal, you might have thought the Clintons would be on their best behavior.

Instead, a huge scandal erupted when it became known that Mrs. Clinton’s brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, had lobbied the president on behalf of criminals who then received presidential pardons or a sentence commutation from Mr. Clinton.

Tony Rodham helped get a pardon for a Tennessee couple that had hired him as a consultant and paid or loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the protests of the Justice Department, President Clinton pardoned the couple, Edgar Allen Gregory Jr. and his wife, Vonna Jo, who had been convicted of bank fraud in Alabama.

Hugh Rodham was paid $400,000 to lobby for a pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell, who had been convicted of mail fraud and perjury, and for the release from prison of Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker who was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to sell 800 pounds of cocaine. Sure enough, in his last hours in office (when he issued a blizzard of pardons, many of them controversial), President Clinton agreed to the pardon for Braswell and the sentence commutation for Vignali.

Hugh Rodham reportedly returned the money after the scandal became public and was an enormous political liability for the Clintons.

Both Clintons professed to be ignorant of anything improper or untoward regarding the pardons. Once, when asked specifically if she had talked with a deputy White House counsel about pardons, Mrs. Clinton said: “People would hand me envelopes. I would just pass them on. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them.”

See full editorial here.

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