The Clinton Scandals

Blood Sport: The President and His Adversaries

by James B Stewart
Simon and Schuster, 479 pp., $25.00

Madhouse: The Private Turmoil of Working for the President

by Jeffrey H Birnbaum
Times Books, 261 pp., $25.00

Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan and Whitewater Development Company, Inc.: A Preliminary Report to the Resolution Trust Corporation

Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan and Whitewater Development Company, Inc.: A Supplemental Report to the Resolution Trust Corporation Prepared by Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP, San Francisco, California, with financial and economic analysis support from Tuc

A Report on Certain Real Estate Loans and Investments Made by Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan and Related Entities

A Report on the Rose Law Firm's Conduct of Accounting Malpractice Litigation Pertaining to Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Prepared for Resolution Trust Corporation by Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP

A Supplemental Report on the Representation of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan by the Rose Law Firm Prepared for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation by Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP

When President Clinton held a dinner honoring Thomas Jefferson in 1994, his wife sat at the table between Maya Angelou and C. Vann Woodward. Ms. Clinton knew beforehand that Angelou had grown up in Arkansas but not that Woodward had been born there. Standing up at the dinner’s end, she said, “See what good folk come from Arkansas? Why is it the press can find only the same few scumbags there?” That prompts a more important question: Why did the Clintons deal with the “scumbags” being questioned by the press? I assume that Ms. Clinton had in mind not only such colorful Arkansans as Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones but others, like James and Susan McDougal or David Hale, who have given the Clintons as much grief as any erupting bimbos.

And behind this is another question. Assuming the desire of a smart Southern politician to use political position for private gain, the task is not unusual or even very difficult. As the late Willmoore Kendall used to say, all you have to do is stand on the right corners and money will silt up in your pockets. Witness the exploding bank accounts of Lamar and Honey Alexander.1 I am not talking about breaking laws, just about what George Washington Plunkitt called “honest graft”—which he defined as picking all the apples in the paradise of politics while staying away from the tree of death, the Penal Code.2 Plunkitt would be ashamed of the Clintons. They did not make any of the obvious money from big-time contacts. They dealt with obscure wheeler-dealers who actually lost them money. They get all the blame for graft and none of the gain (with the exception of Ms. Clinton’s famous killing in cattle futures). Instead of letting money silt up in their pockets, they seemed to do cartwheels in order to shake it out.

This is not only a strange story but an extremely complicated one. The beginnings of understanding are now available for a wider audience in a book by James Stewart, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist formerly of The Wall Street Journal who wrote the best-selling Den of Thieves. He performs the great service of putting faces on the names that come and go in the public allegations and partial representations of what went on at Whitewater, Madison Guaranty, Castle Grande—all those household words that might as well refer to outer galaxies for all the reality they carry in the minds of most people who hear them.

It has always been obvious that the culture, social as well as financial, of Arkansas had much to do with the story. Stewart takes us into the odd world of big money and small-time operators rubbing shoulders in Little Rock or at remote Arkansas developments. The many advantages of this approach lead to one disadvantage. Stewart gets close to people like Jim and Susan McDougal, or David Hale, or the four troopers who have given accounts of Bill Clinton’s philandering. Like a good journalist,…

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