Hypocrisy is no crime, and it isn't extraordinary

March 25, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- "What is extraordinary," Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, said yesterday in denouncing Bill Clinton and his financial dealings, "is the hypocrisy of the circumstance."

Hypocrisy, however, is no crime.

For many politicians it is standard operating procedure.

Take April 3, 1992. For Bill Clinton it was a day of boos and Bronx cheers. And he had loved every minute of it.

He was running for president and he had gone to Wall Street to confront the financial lions in their den.

The previous September, he had blasted the 1980s as a "decade of greed" and this day, surrounded by wind-whipped flags and blaring loudspeakers, he attacked those who had profited from that greed.

"The stock market tripled," Clinton said, "while wages went down. The work week lengthened! Unemployment went up! That happened! And it's not right!"

The button-down brokers booed.

"No more something for nothing!" Clinton told Wall Street.

The booing would not stop. Which suited Bill Clinton just fine. He was running against Wall Street: He was the candidate of middle America, the forgotten America.

And he had sounded that theme from the first day of his campaign.

On Oct. 3, 1991, Clinton had announced in Little Rock that he was not merely a politician seeking a job, but a crusader on a mission for the common man.

"When the rip-off artists looted our S&Ls," Clinton said, "the president was silent."

But the next president would not be silent. The next president would represent "the hard-working middle-class families of America who think most of the help goes to those at the top of the ladder, some goes to the bottom and no one speaks for them."

Later, his campaign leaflet would state: "Many of Bill and Hillary's law school friends went on to Wall Street, but the Clintons returned home to Arkansas where Bill taught law at the university."

No Wall Street for them! No easy money! No making a fortune by playing the markets while the common man was suffering!

Except when Hillary did it.

When Hillary made about $100,000 in a single year by speculating on cattle futures in the commodities market under the expert guidance of a Clinton crony, that was just fine.

And it was just fine when the Clintons took that hundred grand and bought a house with it and then kept very quiet about it.

During the 1992 campaign, the Clintons were asked where they got the $60,000 down payment for their home. At first Clinton aides said it came from an investment of Mrs. Clinton's that they would not describe. Then Mrs. Clinton said that the money came from "our savings and a gift from my parents."

After the truth was uncovered by the New York Times last week, the Clintons admitted the money came from savings that included the proceeds from Hillary's commodities speculation.

But you can see why they didn't want to talk about it during the campaign. It was exactly the "something for nothing" wheeling and dealing Bill was speaking out against.

Plus Hillary made the dough by getting advice from a lawyer representing a company doing business with the state, the kind of help that those at the "top of the ladder" always seem get.

"For too long," Clinton had said in his July 16, 1992, speech accepting the Democratic nomination, "those who play by the rules and keep the faith have gotten the shaft, and those who cut corners and cut deals have been rewarded."

But who was really cutting the deals down in Arkansas? Wasn't it the Clintons? And who, when the savings and loan owned by one of the Clintons' business partners failed, got the shaft? Wasn't it the taxpayers?

"When I'm asked if I made money in commodities trading in 1978 and 1979, the answer is yes," Hillary said after the story broke last week. "I didn't know there was anything wrong with having a stock account and trading futures."

There is nothing wrong with having a stock account and trading futures.

Nor is there anything illegal about publicly denouncing behavior in others that you privately engage in yourself.

Hypocrisy is no crime. It will not send you to jail.

D8 Heck, sometimes it will send you to the White House.

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