The quiet man

It takes an awful lot to overcome Bill Clinton’s reticence for the spotlight. More than content to remain in the background, indulging his normal self-effacing nature, it takes a great deal to pull him out of his placid retirement and comment on world affairs. It seems that our 42nd president is a firm believer in the historical tradition of former presidents not trying to hold the limelight once their term of office has passed.

It seems that President Bush’s commutation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison sentence was enough to pull him out of his shell.

It’s a fascinating read, a real glimpse into his mind (or, possibly, the mind of his staff, but I think he had a great deal with the actual content). And two elements spring to mind.

The first is that his defense of the charges that Marc Rich bought his pardon boils down to “a lot of others wanted to buy pardons, and I didn’t pardon them.” An interesting theory, but I don’t think it holds up well in court.

The second is what Clinton doesn’t say. He doesn’t discuss Edgar and Vanna Jo Gregory, who won their pardon after hiring Hillary’s brother to lobby on their behalf.

He doesn’t discuss his pardon of four men from New Square, New York, who had been convicted of setting up a phony Hasidic school to embezzle government grants.

And he doesn’t discuss his pardon of 16 Puerto Rican Separatist terrorists, whose movement set off over a hundred bombs and killed about half a dozen Americans and wounded plenty more.

And he certainly doesn’t discuss how those pardons might have influenced his wife’s 2000 senatorial campaign — because it would take someone of tremendous political acumen to take into account the possible reaction of the Jewish and Puerto Rican voters of New York to those pardons.

And as we know, Bill Clinton would never take such factors into account when making his choices.

I was glad to see Clinton’s piece in the New York Times. It had been far too long since we heard from him, and I was worried about how he was doing.

(update) Dang it, I hate it when the facts get in the way of a good snark. I didn’t notice the date on the original piece. Also, as mantis observed, I didn’t give it a title. That flaw’s been fixed, but the gist of the piece — Clinton’s excuses for his pardons — remains accurate.

Is Libby's Commuted Prison Sentence Enough?
Bless the Beasts and the Children