While the punishment given to former President Bill Clinton in a deal with the independent counsel was minimal, it is good the nation can finally put the scandals of the Clinton presidency behind it.
Clinton struck a deal with independent counsel Robert Ray on Friday, the last full day of his presidency, ending any possibility of criminal prosecution against him. In the deal, Clinton admitted he gave false testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky during the Paula Jones sexual misconduct case.
Clinton testified in the January 1998 Jones case that he did not have a sexual affair with Lewinsky and he did not recall ever being alone with Lewinsky in the Oval Office.
I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but I now recognize I did not fully accomplish this goal and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false, Clinton said in a statement Friday.
Clinton agreed to pay a $25,000 fine and have his law license suspended for five years. He also agreed not to seek reimbursement of legal fees from a federal court.
This deal ends any possibility of prosecution of actions concerning the Whitewater scandals and ends the Arkansas Bar Associations threat to disbar Clinton.
The penalty given to President Clinton in this deal barely punishes his wrongdoings. Suspending his law license does little to discipline him because he has not expressed any plans to practice law after he leaves office. However, if Clinton was to be severely punished for these matters, it should have been done at the time of his impeachment.
Punishing him now for these actions would prove nothing and do no good. Clinton was already acquitted in his impeachment trial; to force a hefty punishment on him now would not succeed in sending a message of equal treatment under the law.
Ending this scandal allows newly inaugurated President George W. Bush to start his presidency without the burden of Clinton scandals hanging over him. Pressure to pardon the former president could have occupied more of Bushs time than necessary. It seems doubtful that Bush would pardon Clinton anyway, and further discussion of it would be a waste of the nations time.
The deal puts an end to the waste of the countrys time and money investigating this matter. The independent counsel investigation cost $60 million and consumed much of the presidents eight years in office. It also prevents the nation from being put through another trial about this scandal. It is time to move past this and focus on other issues.
It is unfortunate for the American people and for Clintons legacy that one of the last actions he made as president concerned scandal. While it is a relief to have the matter over with, it is a shame Clintons presidency will be forever marred by his actions involving Lewinsky and Whitewater.
The punishment Clinton received in this deal is minimal and does little to send a message of equal justice for all. However, it is in the best interest of the American people, the government and the incoming administration to have this matter over with.
This deal was a good way to help move beyond this scandal and move forward with more important business.