The Right Dusts Off Its 'Impeach Clinton' Buttons

By Dana Milbank
Friday, April 6, 2007

The Right Wing Conspiracy was not as Vast as it once was, but yesterday's steering committee meeting at the National Press Club still had a decent turnout. WorldNetDaily was there, as well as the New York Sun, two representatives of Accuracy in Media, talk-show host Lester Kinsolving -- and a camera crew from Fox News, natch.

The subject: a new poll, funded by Judicial Watch, finding that people expect Hillary Clinton's administration to be corrupt. Some might regard the findings as premature, given that the Hillary Clinton administration has not been elected and, therefore, has had limited opportunity to demonstrate corruptness. But this was no obstacle to Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, which back in the day filed drawers full of lawsuits alleging Clinton corruption.

"A total of 42 percent of likely voters describe Hillary Clinton as corrupt," Fitton announced triumphantly. He tiptoed around the finding that a larger number, 51 percent, do not see her as corrupt.

"Forty-five percent of likely voters are concerned that there will be high levels of corruption in the White House if Hillary Clinton is elected president," Fitton continued, this time omitting mention of the 54 percent who are not concerned.

Chuckling, Fitton went on: "Thirty-six percent of likely voters agree with the statement 'If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Bill Clinton cannot be trusted to behave honestly.' " He skipped the 51 percent who say they could trust Bill Clinton.

Still, this was evidence enough for the anti-Clinton crowd. "Over six years after the end of the Clinton administration, a large number of Americans are still concerned about Hillary and Bill Clinton's ethics," the speaker concluded with some satisfaction. "We want to hear more about her involvement in the Clinton travel office firings, someone who got away without a perjury indictment by the skin of her teeth, misuse of funds, failure to report funds properly in her 2000 Senate campaign that resulted in the criminal trial of her national finance director, the fact that her husband earns tens of millions of dollars in outside income from special interests and foreign interests."

The session conveyed the warm and nostalgic feel of an oldies station, transporting listeners back to the travel office flap (1993), commodity futures (1978) and White House coffees (1995). All that was missing was Monica Lewinsky's blue dress -- and Fitton found a way to address that, too, indirectly. Raising the subject of whether Bill Clinton "is still an alley cat" and recalling the "bimbo eruptions" of yore, Fitton asked whether the former president would "continue to be unfaithful to his wife" and "place national security at risk as a result."

Encouraged by Kinsolving, Fitton eventually devised a way to find Hillary Clinton corruption in Bill Clinton's dalliances. "One of the other questions out there is, What role did she have in trying to destroy the reputation of women associated with Bill Clinton?" he posited. "Did she hire private investigators? I know she did."

An audience member played the devil's advocate. Won't people regard this as a "desperate attempt" to "dredge up" the past?

"They're old issues in the sense that they took place several years ago," Fitton acknowledged. "But they're new issues in the sense that we still have unanswered questions about them, whether it be Travelgate, whether it be cattle-trade futures, the misuse of FBI files, the use of the White House to raise money for the Clinton cash machine . . . the sale of Commerce Department trade mission seats."

Judicial Watch earned its reputation in the 1990s for lawsuits that, while rarely successful, allowed the group to depose several Clinton officials. The group acquired a bipartisan sheen early in the Bush presidency, when founder Larry Klayman sued the Bush administration for access to Vice President Cheney's energy-policy records. But it's largely been out of the news since Klayman left Judicial Watch -- and filed a lawsuit against it.

The poll Fitton commissioned, actually five questions added to a nationwide poll by Zogby International, was rather loaded in its language. "Some people believe that the Bill Clinton administration was corrupt," one question begins. In another question about Hillary Clinton, every answer included the word "corrupt," and the question was not asked about other candidates so that a comparison could be made.

The pollster, John Zogby, defended the questions as "balanced" -- a label Fitton made no attempt to earn. As he presented the results yesterday, he announced that Bill Clinton's financial conflicts of interest "make the issues of Halliburton and Dick Cheney . . . pale in comparison."

Fitton said other candidates -- he named Barack Obama, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani -- have ethical problems, too, but he won't be commissioning polls about them. "Hillary Clinton," he said, "is kind of a unique situation."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company