The Pardoner's Tale

By Hitchens, Christopher | The Nation, March 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Pardoner's Tale


Hitchens, Christopher, The Nation


During his closing weeks in office, Bill Clinton refused a plea, signed by many leading lawyers and civil libertarians, that he declare a moratorium on capital punishment. The moratorium enjoys quite extensive support among Republicans and is gaining ground with public opinion; its imposition would undoubtedly have given a vital second chance to defendants and convicts who are in dire need of it. Clinton waved the petition away. So I think we can safely dispense with the argument being put forward by some of his usual apologists--that his sale of indulgences in The Pardoner's Tale was motivated by his own fellow feeling for those trapped in the criminal justice system. His fellow feeling is for fellow crooks, now as ever.

In those same closing weeks, while he was claiming to be too busy to address the new opening in North Korea (no money in that famine-stricken state), Clinton purported to be working tirelessly and down to the wire on a Middle East settlement. It appeared that he couldn't see enough of the doomed mediocrity Ehud Barak. But now we know--since there most certainly was no movement on any "settlement"--what they were talking about. Barak and others like him were also facing retirement from politics and wanted to remember those who might make that retirement a little more comfortable. (Perhaps you noticed that the plans for the Clinton library in Arkansas include a 5,000-square-foot penthouse, big enough for one man to have his wife sleep over, if she wasn't content with the two palaces somehow acquired during an eight-year hitch on a civil-service salary.)

There are two very serious implications arising from this. First, did Clinton franchise his office as President and convert public foreign policy into private donations? Second, does he now intend to imply that if people don't like his pardon policy, they should blame the Jews and Israelis? The clear suggestion of the vast, mendacious Op-Ed piece that he wrote for the New York Times on February 18 is that it was this latter faction, and not any consideration of personal gain, that tipped the scale for Marc Rich and Pincus Green--labor exploiters, frauds and profiteers from the Ayatollah and apartheid.

My e-mail traffic and my antennae all tell me that the point has not been lost on those who notice scandals that feature Jewish names. Secret deals, underhanded bargains, occult political influence and international finance--I don't have to draw you a picture. I admit with embarrassment that I was almost relieved to see the terrific article in the Washington Post of February 25, demolishing in detail all the falsifications contained in Clinton's original piece. Relieved, that is, to see that it was written by Morris Weinberg Jr. of the old firm of Zuckerman, Spaeder, who led the prosecution of Rich in the first place. Has it come to this?

Don't omit to notice, either, the studied insult offered by Clinton to the black community. Do I look like a crook? Hey, I'm off to Harlem! This is another variation on the old theme that his sexual thuggery, family dysfunction, hysterical lying and chronic self-pity make him an African-American. …

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