The Clintons Pay Up

April 15, 1994

Just in time to put the rest of the nation's 1040 filers in an even worse ides-of-April mood, President and Mrs. Clinton let it be known this week that though technically they don't have to (the statute of limitations had expired) they decided to pay income taxes and interest on under-reported income from 1980.

It seems their records show Mrs. Clinton made a short-term capital gain of $6,498 in a stock-trading account that year. Prior -- to this week, the Clintons had told the world and the Internal Revenue Service that she lost money in the market.

This occurred 14 years ago, and people do make mistakes, but a pattern seems to be emerging: Questions are asked about the Clintons' past activities involving possible conflicts of interest or worse; critics inflate the questions into charges; the Clintons respond. The responses are imprecise, if not downright incorrect -- even deliberately misleading, it sometimes seems. As journalists turn up different versions of the stories from written records and from other individuals involved, the Clintons amend or change their remarks.

This naturally creates an impression in some suspicious minds

that they are still trying to hide something. Letting the facts come out in small increments, under pressure, makes those facts sound worse than they may actually be.

Take the story of Mrs. Clinton's extraordinary success in trading cattle futures, among other risky business, on the eve of and during the early days of her husband's first term as governor. She made nearly $100,000 in a year on a $1,000 investment.

First she said she made the buy and sell decisions in this highly complex and volatile market herself, based on her reading of the Wall Street Journal. When professional financiers scoffed, she said a more sophisticated speculator, an Arkansas lawyer, had advised her.

Do not be surprised if the next revelation is that the sophisticated lawyer did all the trading for her, with little or no input -- and maybe no risk -- on her part. That is not exactly a crime, in and of itself, but it certainly doesn't smell right, especially considering that the sophisticated lawyer represented a giant, influential agribusiness firm in Arkansas that later received what seemed to be favors from Governor Clinton.

This whole story may be, as the Clintons and their supporters claim, much ado about nothing. However, given the public's high level of skepticism about politicians these days, and given that Republicans in Congress are not about to give up their drumfire of criticism, the best way for the Clintons to end the ado is to get anything and everything about this chapter in their lives before the public once and for all. Only that way can they expect to put it behind them for good.

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