Reno: The “Cover-Up Queen”

by Patrick J. Buchanan – September 19, 1997

After a quarter of a century, it would appear that the chickens of Watergate are at long last coming home to roost. The Democrats’ favorite stick for beating, bedeviling and bringing down Republican presidents may be about to bring down one of their own.

How Attorney General Janet Reno can continue to evade her duty to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton-Gore scandals escapes me. Were this the Nixon or Reagan White House, the Beltway press would be hysterical by now and long ago have shredded Reno as “the Cover-Up Queen” of the most squalid money scandal in American history. Nothing approaches it.

What conclusive evidence is there that Bill Clinton or Al Gore broke any law? Fair question, but conclusive evidence of a crime is not the standard for naming an independent counsel.

From what we know already, the following should have been sufficient. In “The Ickes File,” that trove of documents dumped by ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, and in the Dick Morris White House memos, there is overwhelming evidence of a White House conspiracy to evade federal election laws by using the “soft money” millions at the Democratic National Committee to advance the re-election of Clinton-Gore. In furtherance of this conspiracy, which involved Ickes, Morris, Clinton and Gore:

* The president and vice president illegally used White House offices to solicit and shake down businessmen for millions of dollars.

* This money, raised for the DNC, was controlled by the White House and used to advance the president’s campaign. At least $120,000 raised by Gore was shifted, illegally, into “hard money” accounts. Is it not a virtual certainly that some of the soft money raised by Clinton himself found its way there, also?

* Illegal fund-raisers were held on White House grounds.

* Government favors, including face time with the president, even use of the Lincoln Bedroom, were sold for $50,000 and $100,000 in violation of federal bribery laws. Moreover, there are reports that the president took actions, requested by contributors, in return for major contributions. One charge was made by Michael Kelly, recently fired by the Gore Newsletter New Republic.

* Clinton’s agents, John Huang and Charlie Trie among them, illegally solicited foreign contributions, and Huang may have done so in the president’s presence. Several of these Clinton agents have fled the country. Yet there is no sign that the president or his secretary of state has asked any foreign government to send them back. Has the attorney general asked them to do so? Is not the president charged with the faithful execution of the laws of the United States? Does he not wish his good name cleared by his old friends?

* The vice president attended a patently illegal fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple that produced $140,000, at which nuns were used as fronts for $5,000 contributions. Gore denies knowing it was a fund-raiser but saw documents saying it was. His aides and the DNC, however, were aware of the illegal activity, yet none has been fired. What did the vice president know, and when did he know it?
Now, were this the Nixon or Reagan White House, the press, instead of its lethargic, “no-big-deal” attitude, would be all over the story, the scent of blood in flared nostrils, competing savagely in the certain knowledge there would be Pulitzers at the end of the hunt. But with a few honorable exceptions, the Big Media have gone into the tank. Reason: Bring down Clinton-Gore, and you hand over the presidency to the party of Jesse Helms! Mustn’t have that.

Gore’s problem, and Clinton’s, is that their protectress is now ensnared. Reno’s refusal to name a prosecutor is no longer seen by the public as principled resistance to a GOP witch hunt but as circle-the-wagons stonewalling. Public sentiment is turning against Reno. Republicans will soon begin using her incompetent cover-up against Democratic candidates in ’98. Mark it down: Democrats, unwilling to go down with Clinton-Gore, will begin scrambling for the lifeboats and urging an independent counsel themselves.

The sea wall is breaking. The longer Reno resists, the more isolated she becomes and the more reluctant Democrats are going to be to stand beside her. Too bad. Had Reno named a prosecutor months ago, she could have gone home a heroine of the law.

Instead, she is likely to be remembered as an attorney general who had to be threatened with impeachment before doing her duty, after which she was fired by a president to whom she sacrificed her once-sterling reputation for integrity. Timing is everything.