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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN during the election season.

Bill Press: When will Republicans apologize for Whitewater?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Remember that great kid's T-shirt: "My Mom and Dad went to San Francisco -- and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"?

Those kids were luckier than we were. At least, they got a T-shirt. We spent six years and $52 million on a Whitewater investigation and got absolutely nothing.

Next to the racist persecution of Wen Ho Lee, the political persecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton is the greatest outrage of our times.

There was nothing to the Whitewater charges in the beginning. There was nothing in the end. Yet, in between, there were no less than three investigations -- each one of which, in turn, completely exonerated President and Mrs. Clinton.

Let me remind you of how long and how ludicrous this whole process has been.

First, there was the review of the law firm Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro in 1993, commissioned by the Resolution Trust Corporation. Their findings: There was no evidence of illegal activity on the part of the Clintons; and (this was an important finding!) no further government resources should be spent investigating this matter. Republicans in Congress, intent on destroying the president, ignored their recommendation. And so....

Next, there were the Senate Whitewater hearings, which then Sen. Al D'Amato, R- New York, opened by declaring: "This is worse than Watergate". So much for objectivity. Yet, two years later, the D'Amato Committee published a 650-page, bipartisan report concluding -- surprise, surprise -- the Clintons had done nothing wrong. Of course, it could have and should have ended there, but no. ...

Inspector Clouseau was on the case! Determined to make his conservative Republican sponsors happy, Independent Counsel Ken Starr persisted in his own investigation, turning over every little rock in Little Rock. Along the way, he nabbed a few people for tax evasion, mail fraud and other crimes best handled by a local district attorney. But, in November 1998, he had to admit to the House Judiciary Committee that he, too, came up empty-handed on the Clintons and Whitewater.

And so, like any impartial prosecutor would have done, did Starr do the honorable thing and report his conclusions, thereby removing the cloud from the Clintons' heads? Of course not. Did his successor, Independent Counsel Robert Ray, presented with Starr's findings, immediately clear the air? No way. Between the two of them, they dragged the matter on for another two years -- still desperately trying to find something, anything, with which to hang the president or first lady.

Yet, in the end, even Ray had to throw in the towel. And he did, this week, acknowledging that, after six years and $52 million -- all that time and all that money -- there was no evidence that Bill or Hillary knowingly did anything wrong, or knew that anyone else did anything wrong, in Whitewater. It's about time!

Well, better late than never. At least, it's all over. Right?

No, it's not over. And that's the worst part. Even though the Office of Independent Counsel has been abolished by Congress, Ken Starr's office is still open. Now it's Robert Ray's turn to try and bring down Bill Clinton and -- having struck out on Travelgate, the FBI files and Whitewater -- he's convened still another grand jury to look into the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Enough already! This has gone on far too long and cost far too much money. We don't need another Monica Lewinsky grand jury. And, by the way, what more could we possibly learn about Monica and Bill that we don't already know in excruciating detail? Puh-leeze!

Spare us.

If there were any decency left in politics, two things would happen now: Clinton's Republican enemies would admit they were wrong and apologize to the president, first lady and American people for putting them through all this nonsense; and Ken Starr wannabe Robert Ray would realize the game is up, lock his doors and go home.

Don't hold your breath.

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Thursday, September 21, 2000


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