Indeed, the near-universal expression of disbelief that followed the appearance of the piece has been as vehement as the negative commentary that greeted the announcement of the Rich pardon – and there will surely be much more to follow.
But there is, in our view, a far more serious byproduct of the Rich affair that has emerged over the past week or so; namely, that the man once described by Al Gore to the editors of The Jewish Press as ‘the best friend the Jewish people ever had in the White House’ is now busy recklessly scapegoating the Jews for his troubles.
Mr. Clinton began his Times article, entitled ‘My Reasons for the Pardons,’ by noting ‘the intense scrutiny and criticism of the pardons of Marc Rich and his partner Pincus Green’ and that ‘because legitimate concerns have been raised, I want to explain what I did and why.’ He went on to discuss generally ‘the broad and unreviewable power to grant ‘Reprieves and Pardons’ for all offenses against the United States,’ and how, and with what frequency, he and other presidents have exercised it.
After noting that he had granted 140 pardons and 36 commutations, and that during his presidency he granted a total of 450 pardons and commutations and that the Rich and Green pardons ‘have attracted the most criticism,’ he observed that ‘ordinarily, I would have denied pardons in this case simply because these men did not return to the United States to face the charges against them. However, I decided to grant the pardons in this unusual case for the following legal and foreign policy reasons,’ whereby he proceeded to provide eight such ‘legal and foreign policy reasons.’
Seven of the reasons dealt with such things as the fact that others who did the same thing as Rich and Green were either found to have acted properly or sued civilly rather than pursued criminally on the various transactions; that tax experts had opined that they did not violate the tax laws; and that the Justice Department no longer applies the racketeering law against those doing what Rich and Green did.
He then concluded his list as follows:
(8) Finally, and importantly, many present and former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of Mr. Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable causes, to the Mossad’s sponsorship of education and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank. The pardons that have attracted the most criticism have been the pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green, who were indicted in 1983 on charges of racketeering and mail and wire fraud, arising out of their oil business.
After conceding that he should have consulted with the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, whose office brought the indictments against Rich and Green and also have allowed for more time for a deputy attorney general to ‘review the case,’ he said, ‘However, I believed the essential facts were before me, and I felt the foreign policy considerations and the legal arguments justified moving forward.’
Three things should be noted. First, Mr. Clinton introduces his list as relating to ‘legal and foreign policy reasons’ but ends up summarizing them in reverse order as ‘the foreign policy considerations and the legal arguments justified moving forward.’ So, whereas he initially gave prominence to the purported legal basis for the pardons, in the end he gives preeminence to the ‘foreign policy’ considerations.
Second and third, while Mr. Clinton uses the word ‘importantly’ to characterize reason ‘(8),’ he does not use that word in connection with any of the seven other reasons. And, of course, reason number 8 is a recitation of the importunings of Israeli officials and leaders of the Jewish communities in America and Europe who cited Rich’s support of Jewish charities, efforts to rescue Jews and support for the ‘peace process.’
Plainly, this is a man intent on deflecting criticism by sending the message that yes, if pressed, he can come up with a plausible legal argument for having made an end run around American law, but he really did it because the Jews asked him to.
Yes, we realize that what we have here is a man who, if nothing else, is a world-class dissembler; a man who notoriously answered a question under oath by stating – with a straight face yet “that – it depends on what the meaning of is is.”
At the same time, however, we realize that the written words of an ex-president – even this ex-president – carry serious implications. Should he choose to continue with his – The Jews made me do it routine, Mr. Clinton risks being seen as giving aid and comfort to every two-bit anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist with a website and a mailing list.
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