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Whitewater: A Tempest in a Teapot
President Bill Clinton and Hillary
Chelsea, Hillary and Bill Clinton
Like everyone else, I suppose, I've been reading a lot lately about something called Whitewater.
When the word first entered my vocabulary, I greeted it with incredulity. How could the Clintons, I wondered, be accused of wrongdoing connected with the Savings & Loan scandal? The S&L scandal, after all, is a fiasco associated with the Republicans, not the Democrats.
The S&L debacle, a product of the Reagan Administration that the Bush family got itself entangled in, is costing something like $200 billion for what's commonly referred to as the "bailout."
The Teflon Republicans, responsible for the mess by virtue of Reagan's lifting of the federal regulations that safeguarded the public from just such a fiasco -- as well as his administration's concomitant failure to see and prevent what was happening -- somehow escaped taxpayer retribution.
While businessmen and politicians like to cite things such as the economy, and falling real estate prices, for the scandal, the truth is -- and everybody knows it -- there was a great deal of greed, stupidity and downright criminal activity.
So my interest was piqued when newspaper, radio and television reporters decided to go after the Clintons . . . of all people! But, after all, the Clintons are Democrats!
Critics Cite Watergate
The Clintons' Whitewater Development investment, which turned out badly for them, financially as well as politically, was immediately compared to Watergate by administration critics who tried to paint the investigation with the Watergate brush.
In view of the media hype, I reasoned the charges must be onerous, after all, those wealthy bankers who walked off with many millions of dollars the federal government must repay are now living in unfettered luxury down in the islands somewhere.
So I read more, and listened more. What I've read, mostly, are glittering generalities and commentaries about the seriousness of the Whitewater affair, always long on hinted wrongdoings but short on facts.
Aside from innuendo, little is said about charges against the Clintons; actually, I should say allegations because, believe it or not -- despite all the smoke -- I haven't seen any real charges.
The failed Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, whose owner James McDougal was a partner with the Clintons in the Whitewater Development Corp., is one of many S&Ls that deserves official scrutiny.
Why Pick On the Clintons?
So why go back years to pick on the Clintons when so many truly blameworthy bankers and investors were never called to account for their misdeeds?
The persistent hyperbole by Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, both blatantly political, as usual, goes beyond the bounds of propriety. Even Barry Goldwater has said the Republicans are overdoing the Whitewater thing. I didn't see Dole and Gingrich castigating the hordes of others who invested in S&Ls that eventually had to be bailed out.
Plenty of Skullduggery
There's no question that there was plenty of skullduggery by the S&Ls, and by too many bankers, real estate barons and speculators.
But that's no excuse for unfairly and inappropriately attacking the Clintons. It's the nature of demagoguery that you can get away with it for a while, but the American people are too smart to fall for it for very long.
Advice to Bob and Newt: Watch out for the backlash; you might end up in the backwater!
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on March 26, 1994. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.