Goodbye, good riddance
It was something of a compliment, I suppose, when the White House singled me out for attack in their report on the media "food chain" assault against the Clintons. Now, apparently, the President's men are relishing the prospect of my departure after four years as Washington correspondent for The Telegraph - the notorious London "tabloid", as they call it.
"That's another British invasion we're glad is over," the White House told George magazine. "The guy was nothing but a pain in the ass."
Good. Let me state for the record that I was not sent to Washington as part of a British government plot to destabilise the Clinton Administration in revenge for US meddling in Ulster. Or at least, I don't think I was. Contrary to assertions made in a Congressional hearing, I have never worked for British military intelligence, or MI5, or MI6, or for that matter MI7.5 - the fabled Welsh branch!
No, I found my own way into a spitting match with President Clinton. It was the last thing I expected upon arriving in Washington, for I had succumbed to the Clinton charm years before at a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council. As for Hillary, I was rather taken by her image of flinty altruism.
Disappointment was swift, however. I was stunned when the new President - barely installed in the White House - repudiated his campaign promise for a tax cut. It was downhill from there.
The Clintons look good from a distance. As Yale Law School graduates they have mastered the language and style of the mandarin class. It is only when you walk through the looking glass into the Arkansas underworld they came from that you begin to realise something is horribly wrong.
You learn that Bill Clinton grew up in the Dixie mafia stronghold of Hot Springs, and that his brother, Roger, was a convicted drug dealer who was once taped during under-cover surveillance saying "got to get some for my brother, he's got a nose like a vacuum cleaner". You learn about sworn testimony that links Clinton to cocaine smuggling in the early 1980s. You learn that Clinton's chief of security in Little Rock was gunned down in 1993 by assassins who seem to be enjoying immunity.
Oh, yes, and let us not forget the allegation that Bill and Hillary helped empty a bank called Madison Guaranty - but I will leave that to the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr.
Bill Clinton is not the first president with the skeletons of the mob in his closet. Harry Truman, for instance, was a protege of the Pendergast crime machine in Kansas City. All you have to know about Bill Clinton is that he chose Patsy Thomasson - top lieutenant of convicted cocaine dealer Dan Lasater - to be his White House chief of personnel.
Once that has sunk in, you can start to understand how seriously this president has been compromised, and how much of a threat he could pose to the democratic system if allowed to get away with incremental abuse at a national level.
The Clintons wasted little time taking charge of the US Justice Department. All US Attorneys were asked to hand in their resignations. It was a move of breath-taking audacity, one that gave the Clintons control over the prosecutorial machinery of the federal government in every judicial district in the country.
They then set about eliminating the Director of the FBI, William Sessions, who was known for his refusal to countenance White House interference in the affairs of the Bureau. The post of FBI Director is supposed to be a 10-year appointment that puts it above politics. But Sessions was toppled in a Washington putsch, without a murmur of protest from America's press, and replaced by the hapless errand boy Louis Freeh. And I almost forgot, the Clintons installed their friend Webster Hubbell as "shadow" Attorney General - until Hubbell was jailed for Arkansas crimes.
When you are living through events day by day it is hard to know whether you are witnessing a historic turning point, or just mistaking the usual noise of politics for something meaningful. But there is no doubt that strange things have been going on in America.
The Clinton era has spawned an armed militia movement involving tens of thousands of people. The last time anything like this occurred was in the 1850s with the emergence of the southern gun clubs. It is easy to dismiss the militia as Right-wing nuts: it is much harder to read the complex sociology of civic revolt. At the very least the militias reveal the hatred building up against the irksome yuppies who run the country.
It is under this president that domestic terrorism has become a feature of life in America, culminating in the destruction of the Oklahama federal building on April 19, 1995. What set the deadly spiral in motion was the Waco assault two years before, and the cover-up that followed.
No official has ever lost a day's pay for precipitating the incineration of 80 people, most of them women and children, in the worst abuse of power since Wounded Knee a century ago. Instead of shame and accountability, the Clinton administration accused the victims of setting fire to themselves and their children, a posthumous smear that does not bear serious scrutiny. It then compounded the injustice by pushing for a malicious prosecution of the survivors.
Nothing does more to sap the life of a democracy than the abuse of power. Public trust is dangerously low. According to polls, barely a quarter of the American people now feel that they can count on the federal government to do the right thing.
A majority refuse to accept that Vincent Foster committed suicide, and they have good reason for their doubts. The paramedics and crime scene witnesses in Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993, tell a story that flatly contradicts the official findings. A police Polaroid shows a .22 calibre bullet wound in Foster's neck that the autopsy somehow failed to note. Are Americans to believe that Hillary Clinton's closest friend shot himself twice, with two different guns?
The Washington press corps has chosen not to report on this sort of thing, of course, because it always gives more weight to the utterings of an "official" source, with a title, than it does to the testimony of a common citizen. It has the matter backwards, in my opinion, because the "official" usually has the greater interest in lying.
Even so, the truth is getting out. Unauthorised stories are reaching the public through the samizdat links of the Internet and talk radio. From there it disseminates by word of mouth, spreading a thick layer of cynicism across the country.
Of all the bad things that Clinton has done to America, the worst is turning the FBI into a federal replica of the Arkansas State Police. Whether it is the persecution of dissident investigators in the air disasters of Pan Am 103 and TWA 800, or allowing the White House to peruse the secret files of political opponents, or the alledged intimidation of key witnesses in the Foster case, the FBI is starting to look like the enforcement arm of a police state.
The latest shocker is the decision to punish Frederic Whitehurst, the whistle-blower who first came forward with tales of corruption at the FBI crime labs. An internal inquiry has conceded that the lab tilted evidence "to incriminate the defendants" and cooked up the theory that a fertiliser bomb blew up the Oklahoma federal building after it found fertiliser at the house of a suspect, Terry Nichols. But the Justice Department seems more interested in denigrating Whitehurst, the lone hero of this sorry tale, than flagellating itself.
Look at the treatment of Carol Howe, the undercover informant who tracked the early stages of what appears to be the Oklahoma bombing conspiracy. The moment she surfaced as a threat to the "lone bomber" case against Timothy McVeigh, this January, she was indicted on criminal charges.
The FBI claims that she was dropped as an informant months before the bombing, but debriefing reports show the Bureau continued to receive her intelligence weeks after the blast. They also show that she named members of a neo-Nazi terrorist cell who had cased the Oklahoma federal building in December 1994 with the intention of bombing it. Yet the FBI did not follow up her reports. It conducted 26,000 witness interviews, most of them irrelevant, but could not find time to pursue the suspects who were specifically named by a paid informant.
This leaves the nasty suspicion that the FBI is shielding this neo-Nazi group in order to cover its own tracks. If it turns out that the bombing was a bungled sting operation by the FBI, as some of the victims are now alleging, the only fit response is to send bulldozers down Pennsylvania Avenue to flatten the Hoover Building once and for all.
A monument should be raised on the rubble of the FBI headquarters that reads Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who Shall Guard the Guards?) as a warning to free-born Americans of the next millennium.
Is Bill Clinton to blame? Of course he is. Degradation spreads from the top down. Four years were damaging enough. Another four, if Clinton lasts, will do real harm to the institutions of the US federal government.
Perhaps it is impolite for a London newspaper to say such things about a president of the United States. Many people think so. Clinton is not so bad, the argument goes. He is running a pretty good economy. The planes are flying on time. But you could have said the same about Benito Mussolini. A lot of people did, in fact, much to their regret later.
Critics tell me that I have invested too much emotion in my quarrel with the Clintons. To that I plead guilty. It comes from befriending so many of their victims. I am content to be blacklisted as the "mad scribbler" - as the Washington Post called me this week - for I am confident that one day historians are going to view Clinton as a the last great cad of the 20th century, or worse.
To the American people I bid a fond farewell. Guard your liberties. It is the trust of each generation to pass a free republic to the next. And if I know you right, you will rouse yourself from slumber to ensure exactly that.
© Copyright Telegraph Group Limited 1997.
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