Closure of a kind

Clinton bargain: Admission of lying saves country distraction, gives Bush a clean start.

January 21, 2001

THE MESSY scandals, both real and imagined, that the independent counsel investigated throughout the presidency of Bill Clinton, now can move to the talk shows and history books. They are no longer the current business of the nation.

The major beneficiary of the bargain reached by potential defendant Bill Clinton and independent counsel Robert Ray is President Bush. Mr. Bush asked the nation to put this issue behind it.

The deal provides closure of the legal case without disbarment or indictment, but with an admission by Mr. Clinton of wrongdoing. He publicly acknowledges "having knowingly violated Judge [Susan Webber] Wright's discovery orders in my deposition respecting relations with Monica Lewinsky in the lawsuit brought by Paula Jones." His license to practice law will be suspended for five years and he will pay a $25,000 fine.

People who want to go on talking about the case will do so, especially about whether the outcome was too harsh or too lenient. But it is no longer a divisive distraction for the new president.

Mr. Ray trusts that the bargain "meets the expectations of the American people, who deserve a resolution that acknowledges the president's conduct, respects America's institutions and demonstrates sensitivity to our constitutional system of government." That it does.

Mr. Bush is at the helm now. Now he can get on with it.

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