Count the spoons

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton and her husband accepted more than $190,000 in gifts last year, according to the financial disclosure statement issued as they were preparing to leave the White House last Friday night. Most of the gifts were in the form of furnishings, flatware and china for the two homes the senatorial couple will now maintain, in Washington and in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Under Senate rules, Mrs. Clinton could not have accepted such expensive gifts once sworn in, absent a waiver from the ethics committee. The purpose is to keep senators from becoming or seeming beholden to people who, the history of the Senate suggests, would otherwise ply them with favors in hopes of affecting their votes. The rules apparently do not apply to Mrs. Clinton because the gifts were accepted before she took the oath. Yet they were given, many of them, precisely to facilitate her chosen lifestyle as a senator. The Clintons have spent many years in public service and public mansions, and no, we don't begrudge them a furnished private home - not even two - but once again a corner has been cut.

No previous president appears to have accepted parting gifts of such magnitude, nor did the Clintons approach their last year's total in prior years. The list makes it sound as if the Clintons registered for wedding gifts: some $22,000 worth of china, including several gifts of about $5,000 each; about $18,000 for flatware, some in similar increments; $19,900 for two sofas, an easy chair and an ottoman; $3,650 for a kitchen table and four chairs; $2,993 for "televisions and DVD player." Denise Rich of New York, also a significant campaign contributor whose fugitive former husband Mr. Clinton pardoned in the final hours of his presidency, provided two coffee tables and two chairs valued at $7,375.

The list demonstrates again the Clintons' defining characteristic: They have no capacity for embarrassment. Words like shabby and tawdry come to mind. They don't begin to do it justice.



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