Whitewater Finished? We Can Only Hope (Editorial)

So, that’s it? The long ordeal of Whitewater is over?

We can only hope so.

Taxpayers forked over $52 million, at last count, and the country was put through hell for seven years only to come to the same conclusion most Arkansans and most sane-thinking Americans figured out long ago — that the Whitewater land deal was much ado about nothing, at least as far as President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were concerned.

Independent Counsel Robert Ray finally came to that conclusion, as did Kenneth Starr before him and Robert Fiske before that. Despite what amounted to a witch hunt generated by a few right-wing folks, there just never was anything to most of their rantings and obsession with finding something on the Clintons.

Except for partisan politics, the whole mess could easily have been ended back in 1996 when the report by the law firm Pillsbury Madison & Sutro issued its findings, which showed clearly that the Clintons violated no laws in the Whitewater land deal.

Oh, there was wheeling and dealing and lying by the likes of James McDougal, David Hale and former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. So maybe the inquiry wasn’t a total waste in exposing them. But the intent was to go after a president whose involvement was peripheral at best.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect to come out of the whole affair is how the media was taken in by a couple of guys who probably never told anything straight in their lives. What we used to think of as highly respected newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post, listened to McDougal and Hale and a few right-wing agenda folks rather than search for the truth. What happened to the lessons learned during Watergate about not printing anything until it is verified by other sources?

You expect a knee-jerk reaction from comedians like Rush Limbaugh or G. Gordon Liddy, or agenda-driven tabloids like American Spectator, but not papers like the Times and Post. Were they simply trying to produce another Watergate and allowed the zeal to blind them? We may never know.

The only thing clear is that the investigation, although really over years ago, is now officially closed. We know that in the minds of those die-hard Clinton haters it’ll never be over, but there was no more political reason to keep it going with Clinton leaving office in a few short months.

What could have been a great presidency has been tarnished forever. There’s no telling what could have been accomplished without all the distraction of the investigation.

And we can’t forget all the people whose lives and names were ruined by the abuse of power by a partisan prosecutor.

What a waste!

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