Whitewater is no little blip on Clinton's radar screen

January 09, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- Bill Clinton has done the best thing he possibly could do at this point in his presidency:

He has left town.

He has jetted off to Europe for a series of picture-postcard meetings that will force -- he hopes -- all mentions of his Whitewater land development deal off the front pages and out of the nightly news.

But, deep down, I think he suspects that Whitewater is going to be more than a blip on the radar screen and more than a story that can be suppressed by White House "damage control."

Why does he suspect this?

Well, on Friday, for example, he was able to pick up any number of newspapers and find negative stories on Whitewater getting better play than the death of his mother.

I am sure some in the White House thought that surely the press and the political opposition would give Clinton at least a one-day respite because of this tragedy.

But that did not happen.

Washington is town so tough that your mother can die and nobody will cut you any slack.

Which has seriously upset David Gergen, White House counselor to Clinton.

"Yesterday, as the president goes home to bury his mother, to have the political opposition on the warpath, hammering away, raises all sorts of questions about what has happened in this town," he said Friday. "Where is the decency that we once had?"

Yeah, where is the decency that Gergen learned about when he worked in the Nixon White House?

Where is the decency of those 9:15 a.m. "attack meetings" led by Chuck Colson that Gergen attended to learn how to destroy George McGovern?

"These were real hardball meetings where we used to figure out, day by day, how we were going to tear McGovern's hide off, and it was Gergen's job to see to it that the necessary speeches were written to carry out each day's attack," David Keene, a political consultant who attended those meetings told Michael Kelly of the New York Times.

Gosh, where have those good old decent days gone?

"There is a cannibalism that's loose in our society," Gergen went on last week, "in which public figures such as the Clintons can try to come to this town to try to do something good for the country and they get hammered away even though they're trying to do the right thing. I don't get it."

He doesn't get it? Really?

Well, how about this:

Good intentions don't cut much ice. Not in Washington; not anywhere.

The road to hell is paved with them, I hear.

It is the rare person -- from saint to scoundrel -- who doesn't have some good intention to justify what he does.

The Clintons are trying to do the right thing for the country?

I don't doubt it.

But what difference does that make when it comes to their Whitewater land deal?

The American people have a right to know what their presidents did and when they did it and not just whether their presidents feel their consciences are clear.

There is no reason to believe that Bill Clinton has anything to hide when it comes to Whitewater.

So why is he hiding it?

Why doesn't he make his secret Whitewater files public?

And it's not just a cannibal like me who is asking that. It is people within the White House itself.

According to the Los Angeles Times: "One senior adviser to the President has warned that the Clintons will 'keep bleeding' through continued questions about their financial affairs until they share their personal records with Congress and the public."

But they won't share those records. At least not yet.

And why doesn't Clinton invite the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Whitewater and related matters in order to put the issue to rest?

Who knows? But, according to the Washington Post, a senior White House official says such a plan is "a non-starter."

Whitewater is a story with a money trail that leads directly to Bill Clinton and the press is not going to let go of it.

As Clinton will soon learn.

Because there is one real drawback to these grandiose presidential foreign trips:

Eventually, you have to come back home.

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