BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 08:14 GMT
Cloud follows Clinton
Former US President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton: Is retroactive impeachment possible?
By BBC News Online's Richard Allen Greene

If Bill Clinton thought the scandals would end when he left the White House, he has been disappointed.

The way you leave can leave a lasting impression

Steven Schier,
political science professor
Though his problems might not go as far as retroactive impeachment - a possibility suggested by one senator - he has been dogged by questions about gifts and furniture he and his wife Hillary took with them when they left Washington, and pardons he issued on his last day in office.

Both the House and the Senate have committees investigating these pardons, and federal prosecutors in New York are to conduct a criminal inquiry into the one issued to fugitive multi-millionaire businessman Marc Rich.

And following outrage at the cost of downtown Manhattan office space the former president was planning to rent partly at taxpayers' expense, he has backed down and is negotiating for cheaper property in Harlem.

Tarnishing the legacy

Stephen Schier, a political science professor and editor of the forthcoming book The Postmodern Presidency: Bill Clinton's Legacy in American Politics, says the move to Harlem is a sign Mr Clinton is aware of his image problem.

Democratic Joseph Biden
Senator Biden came down hard on the Rich pardon
"Washington has been uniformly hostile to the Clintons' behaviour since he left office", Mr Schier told BBC News Online.

Mr Schier, who teaches at Carleton College, said liberals and conservatives alike were put off by Mr Clinton's recent actions.

And, he said, the general air of scandal will affect how history views the former president.

Bills to pay

"It has given credence to the underside of his record", he said.

We should have been more sensitive to the feelings of our clients over Mr Clinton's behaviour

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

Mr Clinton has financial worries as well as image problems. He is believed to owe huge bills from his legal defence against charges related to the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky affairs.

As a former president, he commands large speaking fees - he is reported to have been paid between $100,000 and $150,000 for his first address since leaving office - but there may be hesitation about hiring him.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the financial company, admitted that it "should have thought twice" after Mr Clinton spoke at a company conference after leaving office.

"We should have been far more sensitive to the strong feelings of our clients over Mr Clinton's personal behaviour as president," the chairman of the company is reported to have said in an e-mail message.

But not everyone has been scared off. Software giant Oracle has hired Mr Clinton to speak later this month, as have Credit Suisse First Boston and entertainment newspaper Variety.

Presidential pardons

Mr Clinton may have more serious problems over the roughly 140 pardons he granted on his last day as president.

Among others, he pardoned cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali, whose father donated money to Mr Clinton's Democratic party.

Billionaire businessman Marc Rich
Mr Rich faced more than 50 charges
Perhaps even more controversial was the presidential pardon for billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, who was wanted for allegedly having evaded nearly $50m in taxes, committing fraud and racketeering and participating in illegal oil trade with Iran.

Mr Rich's ex-wife reportedly donated money to the Democratic Party, the Senate campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Bill Clinton presidential library.

A senior Republican Senator is considering introducing a constitutional amendment to limit the president's power to pardon, which at the moment is absolute.

Even a Democratic Senator, Joseph Biden, said Clinton "either had an incredible lapse in memory or was brain-dead" when he pardoned Mr Rich, the Associated Press reported.

Admission of error

One area where the Clintons seem to have admitted error is in taking gifts and furnishings from the White House when they left.

They have returned $28,000 worth of furnishings and said they would pay back $86,000 for gifts they received.

They are reported to have received a total of $190,000 in gifts.

Mr Schier said taking the White House furnishings was seen as "tacky and indefensible" by the Washington establishment.

There was dispute over whether the items belonged to the White House or to the Clintons personally.

That scandal seems to have been resolved by the Clintons' offer to return disputed property.

But it has not put an end to the other problems which could dog Mr Clinton - the youngest ex-president in nearly a century - for some time to come.

And even if he rides out the criticism, it will affect Mr Clinton's legacy, Mr Schier said.

"The way you leave can leave a lasting impression", he said.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Since leaving the White House, the Clintons have been dogged by controversy"
Former US President Bill Clinton
"I'm looking forward to moving to Harlem"
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories