By Marc Fisher
Abe Hirschfeld, a rich man who never finished sixth grade, believes in simple solutions. Yesterday, in an effort to solve our national mess, he came to Washington with a bank check for $1 million folded into his wallet.
The New York real estate developer wants to give the check to Paula Jones, to make the Jones sexual harassment suit against President Clinton go away, which, Hirschfeld says, would make the impeachment process go away, which would make Kenneth Starr go away, which would permit Clinton to resign, whereupon President Gore would name Clinton "honorary president," following which Gore would appoint Starr to the Supreme Court.
"This is my plan," Hirschfeld said.
The check, however, is real. The money is on deposit. The offer is unconditional.
Hirschfeld said he made the offer to end "this national nightmare" and turn the nation's attention to impending economic collapse and "the most horrible time in the history of America."
"I'm not even sure the president's aware of the offer," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. Clinton lawyer Robert S. Bennett who last week raised his offer to Jones's lawyers from $500,000 to $700,000 had nothing to say. The Jones lawyers are interested, maybe, but they still want Clinton to put money on the table. And no one seems terribly eager to meet with Hirschfeld, even if he has a check in hand.
Abe Hirschfeld is 78, a New Yorker who made his fortune in parking he calls himself "The King of Open-Air Parking Garages." His business card dubs him "Count."
A few years back, when he bought the New York Post and saved it from death, Hirschfeld told the paper's editor, Pete Hamill, what kind of stories he should run. "Are you a writer?" Hamill challenged the owner.
"Yes," Hirschfeld replied. "I write checks."
The man is very rich; about the million, he said, "I won't miss it at all."
The man is eccentric, too. At his news conference at the Hotel Washington he agreed to take all questions except those that begin with the word "if." In his letter to Clinton offering the money, he informed the leader of the free world that presidents who accept Abe Hirschfeld's advice succeed; those who don't, fail.
The man is a bundle of contradictions. "I love to pay taxes," he said yesterday. He then brushed aside questions about his 123-count indictment for tax evasion in New York. "You don't know what you're talking," he said by way of defense.
Hirschfeld has never met Clinton, but he gave the candidate a $2,000 contribution in 1992. Yet Hirschfeld said he has never voted for him, pulling the lever instead for Ross Perot both in '92 and '96.
Hirschfeld is a butt of jokes, a catalyst for comedy. He started his speech by apologizing for his thick Yiddish accent. "I sound like I'm arriving in America next Thursday," he quipped.
The $1 million offer, however, is "dead serious," said Hirschfeld's lawyer, Harvard Hollenberg. At his news conference, Hirschfeld permitted reporters who were nice to him to touch the actual check. It was soft and slightly moist.
And then, because none of the lawyers negotiating a settlement between Clinton and Jones would see him, Hirschfeld went home to New York, the light green check stuffed back in his wallet, signed and ready to cash.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company