Adrift in shoals of Whitewater? Here's some help

March 13, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

The most scandalous aspect of the Whitewater scandal is that, according to a recent poll, 94 percent of Americans believe it has something to do with a raft. Therefore, I have provided a quick and easy primer on the most talked about and least understood phenomenon since the triple lutz.

Q: What is Whitewater?

A: It was a proposed "resort" in the Ozarks. Also known as the Arkansas Euro Disney.

Q: Why is it important?

A: Bill and Hillary Clinton, back before they were governor and governess of Arkansas, invested money in this "resort" with their "friend" Jim McDougal, who later owned Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, which went "under" in a maze of alleged illegality, taking with it all the money in Arkansas -- approximately $6.43. Madison is also accused of distributing defective "toasters" to account-holders.

Q: What did Clinton do wrong?

A: Nobody can say exactly, except that whatever went wrong did so on his watch, allegedly a Timex.

Q: Did he take a licking and keep on ticking?

A: That's what the Arkansas state troopers say.

Q: If nobody knows exactly what Clinton is alleged to have done, why is Whitewater a scandal?

A: Because it has the word water in the name.

Q: What's up with that?

A: Remember Watergate? Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink? Even Teapot Dome had the liquid theme going. If the Clintons had invested in something called, say, Desert Sands, we'd still be talking about Tonya Harding today.

Q: There are some important questions, however. Isn't Hillary being accused of shredding documents?

A: Yes, but she insists she was just teaching Chelsea origami. Then they went off to make cookies together.

Q: There are some who believe the real impetus behind Whitewater is to get Hillary and scuttle health-care reform. What is she accused of doing?

A: Hillary and her law firm back in Arkansas apparently represented Madison Guaranty against a state regulatory agency that worked for her husband, the governor. Hillary explains this by saying: "I'm a lawyer. What do you expect -- ethics?"

Q: They have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Whitewater. He has sent subpoenas to virtually everyone in the White House. What is he trying to learn?

A: Two things: Who knew what when. And how to spell Stephanopolous.

Q: Why are the Republicans using Al "You Say D'Amayto, I Say" D'Amato as the point person in this affair, given D'Amato's own long history of ethical problems?

A: Bob Packwood wasn't available.

Q: What has been Clinton's response to the latest accusations of coverups in the White House?

A: He fired his lawyer and he fired his chef.

Q: His chef?

A: Yes, it appears that although he was taught in the French school of cooking, he could never quite master the all-important french fry.

Q: What did the lawyer do wrong?

A: He held secret meetings in the White House with federal regulators investigating Whitewater. The Clintons claim they knew nothing about these meetings, saying they were upstairs at the time, throwing vases at one another.

Q: Do you have a good lawyer joke?

A: A rabbi, a priest and a lawyer are stranded on a sinking boat in shark-infested waters. If somebody can swim to shore to get help, they might be saved. The rabbi jumps in and is quickly eaten. The priest jumps in, same thing. The lawyer jumps in and swims safely to shore. Asked why he wasn't eaten by the sharks, he says, "professional courtesy."

Q: Clearly, Clinton has botched his handling of Whitewater. He has obfuscated, he has stalled, he has been accused of covering up. What should he have done?

A: What Ronald Reagan did during Iran-contra: say he couldn't remember. And call his wife "Mommy."

Q: Although the special prosecutor has asked the Republicans not to hold congressional hearings on Whitewater, it appears they will anyway. Is this a partisan attack? Or is there another reason?

A: Actually, it's because Bob Dole has a huge financial stake in C-Span2.

Q: Finally, just why is the coverup always worse than the crime?

A: Because it gives pundits something intelligent-sounding to say.

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