January 11, 2016

BOB HERBERT ON BILL — AND HILLARY — CLINTON IN 2001: America, Cut Him Loose.

Mr. Clinton always had an easy, breezy relationship with wrongdoing. But the Democratic Party overlooked the ethical red flags and made a pact with Mr. Clinton that was the equivalent of a pact with the devil. And he delivered. With Mr. Clinton at the controls, the party won the White House twice. But in the process it lost its bearings and maybe even its soul.

Now, with the stench of yet another scandal polluting the political atmosphere, some of Mr. Clinton’s closest associates and supporters are acknowledging what his enemies have argued for years — the man is so thoroughly corrupt it’s frightening.

The president who hung a ”For Rent” sign on the door to the Lincoln Bedroom also conducted a clearance sale on pardons in his last weird sleepless days in the White House.

The fallout from those pardons is threatening to destroy Mr. Clinton, and perhaps also his wife, the junior senator from New York. He may finally be getting his due.

The Clintons can spin this however they want. But the simple truth is that the way in which some of the pardons were granted seems to fit neatly with the standard definition of a bribe, which is the promise of money or gifts — something of value — to influence the action or behavior of an official.

Marc Rich was one of the U.S. government’s 10 most wanted fugitives. He was accused, among other things, of wire fraud, racketeering, evading $48 million in taxes in what prosecutors described as the largest tax avoidance scheme in U.S. history, and violating the trade embargo against Iran during the hostage crisis.

Do we think something of value was exchanged for Mr. Clinton’s pardon of Mr. Rich? Or do we think Mr. Clinton went to bat for this billionaire fugitive because, darn it, it was the right thing to do?

Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation of the Rich pardon as well as Mr. Clinton’s decision to grant clemency to four Hasidic men who stole tens of millions of dollars from government agencies. The four men were from New Square, N.Y., a village in Rockland County that voted almost unanimously — 1,400 to 12 — for Hillary Clinton in last year’s Senate race.

Mrs. Clinton met with New Square’s religious leader, Rabbi David Twersky, during the Senate campaign. And in December, after winning the election, she and Mr. Clinton met at the White House with the rabbi.

Was there an understanding? Did the quids hook up with the quos in an illegal votes-for-clemency scheme? Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, is trying to find out.

The Clintons may or may not be led away in handcuffs someday. But whatever happens with the criminal investigations, it’s time for the Democratic Party to wise up. Ostracism would be a good first step.

Still waiting on the handcuffs. And the Democrats are too short on talent to write the Clintons off.

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