Perhaps the best-known victim of the terrorists’ atrocities on September 11, 2001, was Barbara Olson, the wife of the nation’s Solicitor-General, Ted Olson. Like her husband, she was a lawyer, a staunch Republican, closely connected to the Bush administration. She had served as a prosecutor for the Department of Justice and as counsel to a congressional committee that investigated some of the Clintons’ scandals. She frequently appeared as a guest on television and radio commentaries, for she was renowned within Washington’s beltway for blending gracious manners with resolute convictions. She died aboard the hijacked airplane that smashed into the Pentagon, two days before her long-awaited book–ironically titled “Final Days”–was scheduled for publication. In a hauntingly prophetic sentence, she noted: “Since the end of the Cold War, Soviet aggression had been replaced by a number of particularly venomous threats, from Timothy McVeigh to Osama Bin Laden” (p. 20). Her book, The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House (Washington: Regnery Publishing, Inc., c. 2001), makes a microscopic examination of the pardons granted, the deals made, by the Clintons as their reign ended. But her focused account provides readers with a wide-angle lens whereby one sees a broader picture, a troubling vision of a nation at risk.
On January 17, 2001, President William Jefferson Clinton took his last flight on Air Force One, relishing all the perks of his office, making a round-trip from Washington to Little Rock, Arkansas. Joking with the press corps accompanying him, Clinton asked, “You got anybody you want to pardon?” (p. 4). Lots of folks certainly did, it seems, and during his last few days as president Clinton considered hundreds of cases. Amidst parties and farewell ceremonies, he furiously flexed his executive powers. Openly anxious about his “legacy,” he sought ways to preserve his presidential achievements by doing things only the nation’s chief executive can do. Consequently, in the final hours of his final day in the White House, President Clinton granted 140 pardons and 36 commutations.
Though Clinton’s last-minute pardons captured headlines, Olson shows that they were by no means atypical of him. In August of 1999 he pardoned some Puerto Rican terrorists–called “separatists” by the media to soften their image. Members of the FALN–a Marxist group credited for 130 bombing attacks in the U.S.– they killed six people, injuring scores more. Apprehended, tried and imprisoned, the FALN terrorists remained defiant, not requesting pardon. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department favored releasing them, but President Clinton proclaimed pardons at an opportune moment in his wife’s senatorial campaign in New York.
“Former U.S. attorney [Joseph] DiGenova remarked, ‘Let me just say, categorically, the Puerto Rican terrorists were pardoned because they were a political benefit to the president’s wife. Make no mistake about it. There is no justification for those pardons'” (p. 19). Public outrage prodded Hillary to publicly disavow her husband’s actions, though what the two of them discussed in private will never be known. Without doubt, however, the pardons burnished Hillary’s image among New York’s many Hispanics. To Olson, however, these pardons portended travesties to come. “The FALN incident was the first time the president used his pardon power to grant clemency to terrorists. He would return to this theme again at the end of his presidency” (p. 21).
The folks who should have denounced such actions–particularly the allegedly “watch-dog” journalists–followed their script and granted the Clintons latitude to follow their own ends. Following her election as a Senator from New York in November, 2000–and before taking her oath of office–Hillary negotiated a book contract with Simon and Schuster, taking an advance of $8 million, “by far the largest such advance offered to any government official” (p. 40). Since she was not yet, technically, in office, she avoided the Senate’s “conflict of interest” provisos that forbade such deals. Yet her media friends, her fellow Democrats who had howled with outrage at a book deal negotiated by Newt Gingrich a few years earlier, blessed her windfall.
Nor did many object to President Bill Clinton’s use of his “executive power” to issue wide-ranging “executive orders” in his final days. The nation’s first five presidents, collectively, issued only 15 executive orders. Following a very different political philosophy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an astronomical 3,522 edicts in 12 years. Subsequent presidents followed suit, though with less abandon. And Clinton found he could circumvent Congress and implement his agenda through executive orders. Two days after he became president, for example, Clinton appeased his feminist fans by authorizing abortions on U.S. military bases. “‘Stoke of the pen, law of the land. Kind of cool,'” said Clinton strategist Paul Begala” (p. 79).
Clinton’s final weeks in office witnessed “a gusher of executive orders and presidential decrees” (p. 79). Carrying through on his commitments to environmentalists, educators, affirmative action activists, anti-tobacco crusaders, and trial lawyers, the president pursued his agenda. He set aside lands in the West as national monuments, creating nine of them on January 17, 2001. He tried to subject America to the International Criminal Court. He established by fiat an abortion rights position, defining “a child as a ‘fetus, after delivery, that has been determined to be viable.’ Thus, instead of regarding an unborn child as a human being, the Clinton rule adopted the feminist language that characterizes a child as a fetus” (p. 91).
On his last full day in office, he also extricated himself from his own legal dilemma: perjury. “On January 19, 2001 President Clinton finally conceded that he had broken the law” (p. 97), lying to a judge. Intricate legal maneuvers, involving the president and his team of lawyers, spared him from disbarment in Arkansas. He signed a carefully-crafted statement, accepting a five-year suspension and $25,000 fine. Though subtly stated, the document is simply a plea bargain. He broke the law, but he sustained only a slight spanking.
Then there are the pardons during Clinton’s final days! He pardoned a strange variety of folks. “The list of beneficiaries of Clinton’s last-minute clemency orgy was as eclectic as one could imagine: small- and big-time crooks, con men, bank robbers, terrorists, relatives, ex-girlfriends, a cross section of the Clinton cabinet, a former director of the CIA, perjurers (appropriately enough), tax evaders, fugitive money lenders, Clinton campaign contributors, former members of Congress, and friends of Jesse Jackson. The sheer number of pardons and clemency grants, coupled with their timing–the last day of the Clinton presidency and the first day of Bush Two–staggered the press and smothered the story” (p. 123).
Most egregious was the pardon of Marc Rich. One of the world’s richest men, apparently without moral compass, he was ultimately indicted, on 51 counts, for illegal trading practices and tax evasion. A federal prosecutor, Morris Weinberg, said: “The evidence was absolutely overwhelming that Marc Rich, in fact, committed the largest tax fraud in the history of the United States” (p. 131). Rather than risk standing trial, Rich fled the country and had lived in exile since 1991. A lavish supporter of Israel, he had influential supporters such as Elie Wiesel, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak. And he had a charming former wife, Denise Rich, who ingratiated herself with the Clintons with lavish contributions.
“Denise Rich gave at least $1.5 million to causes related to the Clintons. The majority of it, nearly $1 million, came near the end of Clinton’s second term, when Rich’s lawyer and former White House counsel Jack Quinn” urged the president to do so (p. 137). Rich’s attorneys also wooed Hillary Clinton, ever anxious for campaign funds. Consequently, ignoring virtually all his advisors, Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. Informed of the pardon, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the U.S. attorney who spearheaded the Rich prosecutions, refused to believe it. “He said it was ‘impossible, the president would never pardon a fugitive, especially Marc Rich. It cannot have happened.’ But it did” (p. 141). Ever mindful of the letter of the law, the president evaded clear quid pro quo connections. But, as Olson insists, “Another Latin legal phrase seems to cover it: res ipsa loquitur–the thing speaks for itself” (p. 146). That also applies to the various pardons Bill Clinton granted in his final days. He helped out his brother’s friends, his wife’s brothers, and a drug dealers who was the son of a prominent Democratic donor.
Incensed by Clinton’s final days, Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff, declared that Carter would have fired him if he had dared suggest granting a pardon to the likes of Marc Rich. The Clintons, he concluded, “‘are not a couple but a business partnership, not based on love or even greed but on shared ambitions. . . . The Clinton’s only loyalty is to their own ambitions.'” Nothing matters but attaining their ambitions. “Jordan saw the Clintons as tawdry, unprincipled, opportunistic, taking advantage of anyone weak enough to fall for their stories. He called them ‘grifters . . . a term used in the Great Depression to describe fast-talking con artists who roamed the countryside, profiting at the expense of the poor and uneducated, always one step ahead of the law, moving on before they were held accountable for their schemes and half-truths'” (p. 194)
Olson concluded The Final Days with a reminder and a warning regarding the deeply radical views of Bill and Hillary Clinton. To understand them, one needs to read her earlier treatise, Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Washington: Regnery Publishing, Inc., c. 1999). Olson’s eyes opened while serving as the chief investigative counsel for a House committee which investigated scandals involving missing FBI files and the firing of White House Travel Office employees. Thoroughly familiar with the documentary evidence, Olson came “to know Hillary as she is–a woman who can sway millions, yet deceive herself; a woman who has persuaded herself and many others that she is ‘spiritual,’ but who has gone to the brink of criminality to amass wealth and power” (p. 2). Olson has “never experienced a cooler or more hardened operator,” a more singularly calculating public figure. Her “ambition is to make the world accept the ideas she embraced in the sanctuaries of liberation theology, radical feminism, and the hard left” (p. 3). Machiavellian to the core, she proved herself “a master manipulator of the press, the public, her staff, and–likely–even the president” (p. 3).
Reared in a prosperous, Republican home, Hillary “the Goldwater girl” slowly turned to the left, politically, as a result of her exposure to the “social gospel” in the Methodist church her family attended. She was 14 years old when the Reverend Donald G. Jones came to the church as youth minister. Social change, not personal salvation, concerned him. Rooted in the theology Paul Tillich, Jones thought the Christian faith needed to be re-articulated as “a critique of society that took its inspiration from Marxist lines of thought” (p. 31). So the youth pastor Jones had his adolescent protegees reading e.e. cummings and J.D. Salinger, discussing Picasso’s Guernica, and visiting inner-city Chicago to empathize with impoverished folks blighted by capitalism. After two years, Jones moved to Drew University to espouse radical causes from a professor’s podium. But his understanding of Christianity apparently shaped young Hillary. Later, as a college student, she devoutly read a Methodist publication for collegians, Motive. “‘I still have every issue they sent me,” Mrs. Clinton would later say as first lady” (p. 58). The denominational magazine was edited by Carl Oglesby, a SDS leader and theologian who defended Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro and was often described as a Marxist. Naturally she was urged to oppose America’s involvement in Vietnam, to embrace the revolutionary ideology of “liberation theology.”
Intellectually gifted, Hillary attended Wellesley College in the late ’60’s. Awash in the currents of the counterculture, she gradually embraced its radical agenda, participating in antiwar marches, enlisting fellow students to change the world. She was selected to speak at her commencement, featuring an address by Massachusetts’ Republican Senator Edward Brooke. Rather than give her prepared speech, however, Hillary “‘gave an extemporaneous critique of Brooke’s remarks'” (p. 41), rudely reproving him. The senator’s liberalism failed to please her. “We’re not interested in social reconstruction,” she shouted; “it’s human construction” (p. 42). Nothing less than the Marxist “new man” would satisfy her! Students stood and applauded for seven minutes! Hillary then gained a place in Life magazine’s “Class of ’69.” She’d found her voice!
That youthful obsession, Olson argues, still persists. Hillary finds Western Civilization bankrupt, needing more than reform. Only “remolding,” only radical new structures, can bring about the kind of social justice she desires. Such can come only “from the top–by planners, reformers, experts, and the intelligentsia. Reconstruction of society by those smart enough and altruistic enough to make our decisions for us. People like Bill and Hillary Clinton. Hillary, throughout her intellectual life, has been taken by this idea, which is the totalitarian temptation that throughout history has led to the guillotine, the gulag, and the terror and reeducation camps of the Red Guard” (p. 311).
While at Wellesley she also found her intellectual guide: Saul Alinsky. Her senior thesis was devoted to him. (Interestingly, when the Clintons entered the White House, her alma mater imposed a new policy–“the thesis of any graduates who became first lady” was to be placed in a locked vault.) Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals were playbooks for student radicals. Dick Morris, famously influential in the Clinton administrations, followed Alinsky’s prescriptions while helping students dodge the draft and stage protest marches in Washington. So persuaded is Olsen of Alinsky’s influence that she places one of his statements before each of the chapters in this book! And certainly there seems to be a remarkably symmetry between Alinsky’s words and Hillary’s career.
From Wellesley College Hillary Rodham went to Yale Law School. Here she linked up with folks Robert Reich, Mickey Kantor, Strobe Talbott, and Lani Guinier. More importantly, she hooked up with William Jefferson Clinton. They studied with professors such as Duncan Kennedy, an advocate of “Crits,” Critical Legal Studies, shredding the law with the “deconstructionist” ideology and methodology of Jacques Derrida. Overtly Marxist, Crits took the law as a tool with which to engineer social transformation.
Another professor also influenced Hillary–Thomas Emerson, “Tommy the Commie.” He encouraged her to involve herself in helping defend Bobby Seale and his Black Panthers, accused of murdering a fellow Black Panther. Seale and his thugs were clearly guilty of a brutal murder. But Hillary and her comrades cared little about guilt or innocence. The saw the trial as an opportunity to advance the Black Panther cause, to enlist the public in supporting “racial justice.” Agitation shook the streets, intimidation and threats seared the air. “If Bobby dies,” they chanted, “Yale fries.” Victory was obtained. Seale survived. While still studying at Yale Hillary spent a summer in Berkeley, CA., working as an intern for a noted lawyer, Robert Treuhaft, the husband of Jessica Mitford. She was a zealous muckraker, and he had been a lawyer for the Communist Party. “They were both committed Communists. Stalinists, in fact” (p. 56). Hillary has never criticized or repudiated Treuhaft and Mitford, so it’s not clear to what extent she accepted their views.
In 1972 both Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton worked for the McGovern presidential campaign. They made contacts within the newly-radicalized Democratic Party which would serve them so well later on. Bill then got a job teaching law at the University of Arkansas. Hillary, after working for a Democratic committee intent on impeaching Richard Nixon, joined Bill in Arkansas and also taught law. They married in 1975. He began his famously successful political career, and sustained his equally famous sexual adventures. Hillary saw in him her door to power. So the “marriage” was secure. Bill told some “friends that he recognized that Hillary was putting her own political future into escrow by coming to Arkansas” (p. 315). Escrow maintains a deposit, and her day, she hoped, would come. Meanwhile, they had a deal. And that deal brought them both enormous wealth and power.
In the 1970s Hillary teamed up with Marian Wright Edelman, a well-heeled feminist and influential social activist. She understand that the issues of the ’60s were fading, so radicals like herself needed some fresh “fronts” for their social crusade. Edelman decided to use “children” to mask her radicalism. Her “Children’s Defense Fund” came into being and served as a primary vehicle for Hillary’s political aspirations. Her writings for CDF in the ’70s “reveal a leftist ideologue, dedicated to centrally directed social engineering, dismissive of the traditional role of the family, and interested in children primarily as levers with which to extract political power” (p. 105). Taking seriously her writings, Christopher Lasch warned, in 1992: “‘Though Clinton does not press the point, the movement for children’s rights, as she describes it, amounts to another stage in the long struggle against patriarchy'” (p. 108).
Olson probes into a whole variety of Hillary Clinton’s involvements. When Bill served as Governor of Arkansas, Hillary joined a prestigious law firm in Little Rock, the Rose Law Firm, though she seemed rarely to have actually practiced law. She launched the Arkansas Advocates for Children, promoted Head Start, and publicly claimed to be concerned about the educational system. She headed the Legal Services Corporation, a federally-funded nonprofit organization. In this position, under President Jimmy Carter, she had access to millions of dollars and distributed in strategic ways. They printed materials for “community organizations” and helped fund political campaigns. They taught operatives how to harass opponents and unearth scandals so as to determine elections. They doled out money in California to defeat a proposition that would have reduced the state income taxes. Little done by the LSC fell under its intended assignment. But it helped Hillary and friends.
Edelman’s lingering influence became clear when the Clintons assumed power in 1992. For the transition team Hillary chose Dr. Johnetta Cole to oversee education appointments. She was clearly Hillary’s choice for Secretary of Education. She had strong ties to Fidel Castro, publicly supporting his military adventures, and “had founded a CPUSA front organization, the U.S. Peace Council” (p. 246). Hillary also directed appointments in the Justice Department. She brought aboard Peter Edelman, Marian’s husband, and tried unsuccessfully to get an old Yale friend, Lani Guinier, appointed as head of the civil rights division. Janet Reno was finally named Attorney General, and she was a perfect choice for Hillary. “She was liberal and warmly regarded by Marian Wright Edelman. And she was a woman” (p. 249). She also followed orders. She first fired “all ninety-three U.S. attorneys. This was a break with the tradition of disinterested jurisprudence” (p. 250). But 93 new attorneys could be named, and Hillary saw to it that many of her cronies got the jobs. The new appointees, of course, would prove less than concerned with certain scandals beginning to emerge from the Clintons’ past in Arkansas!
Hillary’s established modus operandi characterized her White House years. Olson documents her involvements in the FBI files, the firing of the Travel Office employees, the HealthCare disaster. The portrait given us is of a ruthless, sinister, masterful woman, capable of most anything in her quest for that fabled heavenly kingdom on earth.