NORMALLY, no investigation of a presidential pardon makes sense. But the three proceeding against President Clinton's last-minute pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green are in order.
The presidential pardon is a grave responsibility. Presidents have relied by choice -- not law -- on a pardon office in the Justice Department for advice. Before leaving office, President Clinton granted no more pardons and commutations than his predecessors, but did act without Justice Department advice on quite a few.
None was as controversial as President Nixon's clemency for Jimmy Hoffa, President Ford's pardon of President Nixon or President George H. W. Bush's pardon of former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger.
But several of Mr. Clinton's actions appeared hasty, unwise, suspicious or offensive. Most troubling were the pardons to Mr. Rich and Mr. Green, who fled the country in 1983 rather than face trial on charges of fraud, income tax evasion and illegal oil trading.
The suspicion is that the pardons may have been bought by contributions of Mr. Rich's former wife, singer-songwriter Denise Rich, to Democratic campaigns and the Clinton library.
More up-front is the role of Mr. Rich's latest attorney, Jack Quinn, former White House counsel. Access to the president, for hire, is ethically troubling.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ill., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, look like grandstanding politicians. But what they can learn by subpoena ought to be made public.
The U.S. attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White, a Clinton appointee, is more purposeful. She launched an investigation into whether federal law was violated. Good. Let's find out.
By contrast, there is no sense in suggestions to impeach a former president, who cannot be removed from an office he does not occupy, or to amend the Constitution.
President Bush's distaste for more congressional investigations of Mr. Clinton deserves sympathy. The impeachment weakened the institution of the presidency.
But at first sniff, the Rich pardon fails the smell test. Light and a little heat might dispel the aroma.