Zoe, we hardly knew ye and neither did Clinton

ROGER SIMON

January 24, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Let's see: We don't have an attorney general. We don't hav a deputy attorney general. We don't have a solicitor general.

So if you were planning on breaking a federal law, this might be a good time to do it.

Just kidding. There are people acting in those roles plus a 91,000-person bureaucracy at the Justice Department just waiting to pounce on you if you even dream about it.

It's just a little void at the top we have at the moment. And the

top is the place in any organization that can almost always use a void.

Which means Bill Clinton can give serious and leisurely thought to his new choice for attorney general. His last choice seems to have been made while he was jogging from Dunkin' Donuts to McDonald's and did not receive his full attention.

So he might want to take it a bit more carefully this time. He might want to find someone who has not actually broken the law.

Which is what many of the senators who were questioning Zoe Baird had a tough time dealing with.

Consider: In order to get a job at the Justice Department, you have to fill out a form listing any laws you have broken.

And if you have broken any laws, you don't get the job.

So here is a good rule of thumb for Bill Clinton to apply to his future appointments: Don't hire anybody to head a department who couldn't get hired by that department.

Not that Zoe Baird is anything other than a minor embarrassment. And Bill Clinton handled it in the time-honored tradition of past presidents:

He blamed his staff and then took full responsibility. (This worked for Richard Nixon right up to the moment people decided he really was responsible.)

Had Clinton appointed Baird to any other Cabinet post, she may have survived. But attorney general is different. Most people might not truly understand what the commerce secretary does, but they do understand what the attorney general does.

The attorney general is the nation's chief law enforcement officer. And the people of this country know the difference between law enforcement and law breaking.

And then there was Baird's wealth. Other Clinton appointees are more wealthy than Baird, but they haven't been caught chiseling.

During one point in her testimony before the Senate, Baird was asked how many hours a week the illegal alien she hired as a nanny had worked.

It seemed like an innocent question, but Baird grasped the importance of it immediately and quickly said that the nanny worked about 40 hours a week.

Which meant her nanny was getting about $6.25 an hour (plus free room and board.)

But wait a second. Here is Zoe Baird putting in tremendously long workdays, plus commuting two hours each day, and the live-in help for her kid is working only eight hours a day?

Who's changing the kid's diapers when the eight hours are up? (( The husband? Well, maybe. And that is one thing Baird's husband was sure to be asked.

But a more realistic picture is that Baird's nanny was working considerably longer than eight hours a day, which means she was getting considerably less than six bucks an hour, which means Baird and her husband had really hired illegal aliens because they came cheap.

I knew Zoe Baird was doomed when I got home from a day at her hearings and watched David Letterman telling jokes about her.

He said that Clinton had found a way to save money on the inaugural balls: "He had Zoe Baird hire the help."

But, wait. Did I say Baird was "doomed."

Doomed to what? To going back to a private job that pays her $507,000 a year, that's what.

Some doom.

You know who really is going to suffer in all this? Take a guess. That's right: the Peruvian couple Baird and her husband hired.

The Legal Times is reporting that the Immigration and Naturalization Service is studying whether to deport them. Which is how things usually work: The rich get rich and the poor get sent back home to get poorer.

Bill Clinton gets a black eye from this, but it will fade as soon as he names a new attorney general.

After all, all he has to do now is find just one honest lawyer.

Please, no laughter until after the president jogs by.

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