Clinton smoke screen set for latest character issue


April 01, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

No matter what else Bill Clinton contributes to American history, at least he has given us a way of defining the '60s.

"The '60s were when life was so wild and crazy, children, that even Bill Clinton smoked marijuana."

"But, gee, Pop, why didn't he just say no?"

"Nobody said 'no' in the '60s, son. In the '60s everybody said: 'If it feels good, do it.' "

"But, Pop, how come the marijuana didn't rot his brain?"

"Because, son, he didn't inhale!"

"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray for President Bill! And hooray for Chief Justice Hillary, too!"

The great value of the New York primary, just six days away, is that it provides a certain amount of comic relief in an otherwise unfunny election process. (Whether in 1988 Al Gore truly understood the difference between a "half-sour" and a "sour" pickle became of real importance to New Yorkers, who hate all phoniness except their own.)

So after first dissembling about it, Clinton finally admitted in New York over the weekend that he had smoked dope "a time or two", but, thank God, without inhaling.

And I praise him for the admission. Because it finally answers the question I have been unable to figure out so far: Why is this guy running for president?

Now, we have a possible answer. Clinton might have had a

marijuana-induced vision in the '60s.

"Duck the draft," that vision might have said. "Never take a woman to your house because reporters might have it staked out. Brush your hair 100 times each night. Run for president. And marry a good lawyer because you might need one."

As a character issue, Clinton's marijuana use is no big deal. Besides, Clinton has proved himself a master at deflecting all the other character issues raised so far.

First there was Gennifer Flowers. And Clinton managed to convince people this issue had nothing to do with sex or infidelity, but was about "cash for trash journalism" and press ethics.

Then there was the draft. And Clinton managed to convince people that the issue had nothing to do with whether he had been disingenuous about his actions, but whether he was the victim of evil Republicans who were trying to smear him.

Then there was the question of whether his wife's law firm in Arkansas had benefited from the fact he was governor of Arkansas.

This one was the most fascinating, but also the most complicated. Which helped Clinton a lot.

As the Washington Post wrote: "Records indicate that most of her [Hillary's] work for Rose [her law firm] involved copyright infringement cases: protecting royalties for songwriters and trademark names for bread companies."

But then a case came along in which a savings and loan represented by Rose needed a break from a state commissioner.

So who was one of the lawyers Rose used in that case? Hillary Clinton.

But wait. I thought she dealt mainly with record royalties and bread names. So how come she got the savings and loan case?

It couldn't be because that state commissioner had recently been appointed by her husband, could it?

And you know what happened? That commissioner approved the deal for the savings and loan.

(By the way, both Bill and Hillary were involved in a private real estate deal with the principal shareholder of that savings and loan.)

As I said, fascinating, but complicated. And the Clintons were able to convince people that the real issue was not influence peddling but feminism.

"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and given teas," Hillary said sarcastically after the story broke.

And it quickly became politically incorrect to criticize whatever she did for a living.

Yet Bill Clinton thinks he is going through the tough part of the campaign. In New York, he recently snapped at a heckler about "all this crap I've put up with for the last six months."

But Clinton is wrong. Wait until he gets to the general election and faces George Bush.

And wait until George Bush gets asked if he ever used marijuana.

And Bush replies: "No, when I was that age, I was in the Pacific fighting for my country."

See what I mean, Bill? This is the easy part.

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