BuzzFlash Interviews Paul Begala
BuzzFlash

March 27, 2002

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW WITH FAMED DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL STRATEGIST PAUL BEGALA

Paul Begala is famous as a key architect of the Clinton war room strategy. Most recently, he and sidekick James Carville (now dueling partners on CNN's "Crossfire") authored "Buck Up, Suck Up and Come Back When You Foul Up."

BuzzFlash interviewed Begala about the key strategy recommendations in "Buck Up, Suck Up" -- and, of course, about all things political.

BUZZFLASH : Let me start with a question regarding what I consider the most important chapter in your book, certainly as far as the BuzzFlash perspective, which is "Rule Number Four : Frame the Debate." That seems to be, particularly at a national political level, key in terms of who owns the landscape of how the debate is framed.

PAUL BEGALA : Defining the terms of the debate generally dictates who's gonna' win it. Case in point : the current White House tells us and wants us to believe that the Enron scandal is, first of all, a business scandal. And they want to define it only in those terms. Secondly, to the extent it affects governmental policies, they keep telling us Enron got nothing from them, meaning Enron did not get a bailout as it was going under. But if they can limit the debate only to Enron's corporate practices and not the political influence that allowed them to have those unethical corporate practices, they will have won. I think more fair-minded people would want to expand the terms of the debate and frame it this way: How in the world did Enron get away with this? What did they give, when did they give it, and what did they get?

BUZZFLASH : BuzzFlash has contended -- and we wrote an editorial -- that the so-called Enron "distress" calls in the fall of 2001 were really a sounding alarm to the White House to get out of the way as the ship went under, not to be pulled down in the undertow. But they weren't really calls for help. The calls for help actually started on January 20th when the President, Mr. Bush, issued an executive order that helped Enron, and then continued full speed ahead until, in effect, everything the White House could do to save Enron didn't work. And so the date when the White House started to help Enron, from our perspective in framing the debate, really needs to be on January 20th, not the fall of 2001.

PAUL BEGALA : Actually I'd even go back earlier. Bush began helping Enron in the eighties.

BUZZFLASH : Well, that's true too .

PAUL BEGALA : Don't forget they were lobbyists for Enron. George W. Bush lobbied for Enron. In 1988, when his father was the Vice President of the United States, George W. Bush lobbied the Argentines on behalf of Enron. Now Bush, to be fair, has always denied this. Bush denied it then, but the Argentine minister has gone on the record and confirmed it. But he has no motive to lie when he said, "Look, the guy called. He was George W. Bush from Texas. His father was the Vice President." You don't forget a call like that.

So I think you're right that we need to define Enron in terms of just to what extent was George W. Bush a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron. And the answer is a hundred percent. He was in business with Enron in 1986, when he had a failed oil company . But all of a sudden, Enron wanted to help him out. Then in 1988, we know that he lobbied for Enron in Argentina. When he became governor in 1994, he set in place many of the policies that allowed Enron to metastasize in Texas. Then he became President.

First off, your point is right -- that the fact that they did nothing then is hardly meritorious. It's as if you were the fire department and someone said there is an arsonist in town, and the fire department's answer was, "Well, we didn't do anything." It's your job to do something. Sound the alarm. Warn the workers. Warn the investors. Get people out of it.

We know that Ken Lay interviewed and recommended -- in effect, de facto selected -- the "candidates" for FERC, which regulates Enron. We know that Ken Lay, according to the former chairman of FERC, a conservative Republican himself, that Lay called him and exerted enormous influence, and threatened him with his job if he wouldn't 100% support Enron's positions. The FERC chairman refused to support Enron and he was summarily replaced with Mr. Wood, of Texas, who was a strong supporter of Enron.

Enron got 17 separate recommendations out of the Energy Task Force. And they got seven meetings with the Energy Task Force. You know, nobody else got that. They got to see their employees placed all over the administration, such as the Secretary of the Army, where there's been enormous allegations of conflicts of interest. Enron got so much out of the Bush Administration, it would be impossible to catalog.

BUZZFLASH : Certainly, Henry Waxman has been the bulldog champion trying to point these things out and get them more prominently recognized in the media. Indeed, Vice President Cheney, we recall, was threatening the states that if they didn't allow electrical grid lines to run through their states and didn't give the federal government the power to decide where they went, that the Bush administration might assert eminent domain. And this was a key Enron goal : to be able to control where the grid lines went. And Cheney publicly tried to intimidate states, which, of course, we know is a very hypocritical stance for the Republicans to trample on states' rights. So the list goes on and on.

Well , why do you think the Democrats at this point are not successfully defining the issue in the manner we've just discussed? It seems the administration, at least thus far, has the upper hand on how the Enron debate is going and is being shaped.

PAUL BEGALA : I think too many Democrats are too wimpy. But I think they're beginning to toughen up.

First off, the press is against us on this. The press tried to paint this as if it were a bipartisan scandal. Do the math. I've done it. Go to the website of the Center for Responsive Politics -- crp.org -- and do the math yourself. By my calculations, all of the Democrats running for every federal election, every federal office, since 1994, combined, received about $550,000 from Enron. For the entire Democratic party, in all fifty states, in every candidate for federal office -- about $550,000. George W. Bush -- alone, one man -- received over $800,000 -- $840,000 by my count. That's 68% higher. For one man to get 68% more than the entire Democratic party did over a seven-year period ... you can't tell me that this is a bipartisan scandal if Bush alone got 68% more than every flipping Democrat in America combined. So Democrats ought to fear not.

BUZZFLASH : Well, let me ask you about another issue that I think the Republicans have framed the debate in a way which is not truthful, but nonetheless have managed to fix this false perception in the public mind. And Senator Kerry poked a little bit of a hole in it the other day, which is this: the Republicans tend to frame the Democratic leadership as somehow having lost the war in Vietnam, and as being weak on Vietnam and generally weak on military issues. And that the Republican party is really the party of the military and, of course, the party that fought for its country when the Democrats ran the other way.

But if you look at almost all the Democratic leaders, they almost, to a person, either served in Vietnam or served in military service in non-Vietnam years. But almost to a person, the Republican leadership, including the President, the Vice President, the Attorney General, the Majority Leader in the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the former Speaker of the House, and the infamous Tom DeLay -- they all avoided service in Vietnam in a period when they were eligible for service in Vietnam.

PAUL BEGALA : Of course. Dick Cheney got five draft deferments .

BUZZFLASH : But how do you explain that the Democrats have, I think, let the Republicans portray themselves in completely the opposite fashion, as though they're the patriots. But in fact, all these chicken hawks ran the other way from Vietnam. Mr. Bush had a chance to volunteer in Vietnam on his National Guard application, and we know, of course, he was missing the last couple years of his Guard service. Bush chose to avoid service in Vietnam. Mr. Ashcroft got a deferral for teaching business law at a small college in southwest Missouri, I believe. Trent Lott avoided military service. Tom DeLay, when asked about his service and why he didn't serve in Vietnam, gave a bizarre story that he went to the recruiters and they said all the positions for Vietnam had been filled by minorities.

PAUL BEGALA : He was a victim of affirmative action then. (Laughter)

BUZZFLASH : So here is an example to BuzzFlash of how the Democrats have let the Republicans get away with this false image -- that somehow they were the ones who served and were patriotic, when it's the Democrats who were the courageous ones. Now, Senator Kerry, the other day, as you know, when Senator Lott and Tom DeLay criticized Senator Daschle for making some very mild statements questioning the direction of where we were going with the war on terrorism ... Kerry shot back at him that Lott and DeLay didn't serve in Vietnam.

PAUL BEGALA : I was thinking about Senator Kerry's speech as well. What that tells me was that Democrats are toughening up, and it's about time. The notion that we are gonna' sit here and let a bunch of draft-dodging dilettantes and cheerleaders criticize the patriotism of Democrats is nonsense.

You know, by the way, they have more cheerleaders than military veterans in their leadership. Bush was a cheerleader and ...

BUZZFLASH : Trent Lott was a cheerleader.

PAUL BEGALA : I always liked going to the games and watching the cheerleaders. They played a vital team spirit function. But, you know, Al Gore, John Kerry, Bob Kerry, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt -- every one of them was a military veteran. And except for our Secretary of State, who served with the highest distinction at the highest levels of the military, I can't think of very many others. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. But I can't think of very many others in the Republican leadership.

BUZZFLASH : Well, Rule Two and Three in your book are "Kick Ass." And I think many readers of BuzzFlash would wish that Democrats and independents, progressives of all stripe, would kick some more ass.

I want to bring up another framing issue, and certainly one you had experience with going back to the Clinton era. Obviously the Republicans couldn't beat Clinton on the issues. They kept losing on the issues. And they decided -- as is chronicled in several books, most notably in Joe Conason's and Gene Lyons' book, The Hunting the President -- to go after him on the character issue, using every means possible -- including the media, The American Spectator, and even hijacking the judicial branch of the government when David Sentelle appointed Ken Starr after Robert Fisk was ready to close up the independent counsel's office.

In essence, they entrapped him on what was essentially a character issue, and then claiming that he technically violated the law. I mean, this was a very premeditated effort to dislodge the popularly elected president of the United States -- reelected president of the United States -- through any means possible , including hijacking the democratic process. It didn't work, but it almost worked. And certainly you, as a key part of the Clinton team, knew there was a lot of hands-on work on the part of the Clinton administration to counterattack , but nonetheless, the Republicans were almost successful. And some would argue that it was Larry Flynt who prevented the impeachment by, in essence, outing Mr. Livingston and he was about to out Mr. Gingrich. And I think, you know, some people would argue the Republicans finally -- that the steam went out of their pants at that point because they were wondering who's next. And I think, at that point, it's possible Trent Lott and others finally said, you know, we can't afford for this to go through because we might be next.

PAUL BEGALA : On that I do have to disagree. I have much more faith in the American people. I'm not a fan of Larry Flynt. But I don't believe in outing people -- Republican or Democrat, gay or straight. I kind of leave people and their private lives alone.

But I think what happened was that Clinton knew how to fight back. And the way he fought back was on the issues -- being tough in staying on the things that mattered to people in their lives. See, I think if it just became who's sleeping with whom, then there's no reason to prefer one party over the other, 'cause the truth is we're all sinners. I thought Clinton's great genius was in saying they -- all they want to do is, you know, sniff around in my underwear drawer. Clinton said, "I want to help you get a job, feed your family, send your kids to school, get some health insurance" -- you know, the kind of things that matter in people's lives.

Let's go back over the last couple years of political history. In 1988, George Bush had no business being elected president of the United States. He was tarred with Iran Contra. The country was limping out of the lame last days of the Reagan administration, and Dukakis should have beat him. But Democrats didn't fight that year. The Republicans impugned Dukakis' patriotism. Reagan himself challenged Dukakis' mental health, one of the sleaziest things we've ever seen. And Dukakis never fought back, and we lost.

In '92, we had a Democrat in there who knew how to fight. And they hit Clinton with everything in the wide world. I mean, he had scandal after scandal thrown at him -- much worse than Dukakis -- but he knew how to fight back and he won. Well, you know, by '94, we were rocked back on our heels again. People weren't fighting. We were apologizing for ourselves and what we believed in, and we got swamped. Then in '96, in '98, we fought like hell. And in '98, the first time since in ages the president picked up seats.

So hey, look at 2000 once again. Gore sits there passively, acting as if he was in the witness protection program these last few years. Allows them to paint him as a phony and a fraud, because he is pretending that he didn't ever know Bill Clinton. So, I mean, to me, the lesson is very, very clear. I have some hope though, and this is just in the last week. If you'd talked to me a week ago, I would have been much more down. But I'm watching Senator Kerry. I'm watching Senator Lieberman. Tom Daschle has been a pillar of strength. He has been as tough as a bar of iron. I think he's beginning to rally more Democrats to his cause. So actually I think that we're beginning to fight back. But by God, if we can't beat this guy, we ought to find a new country to run in.

I mean, good Lord, he couldn't even get more votes than Al Gore. The only thing George Bush won was the 5 to 4 vote of the Supreme Court where his daddy got to pick the members of the court.

BUZZFLASH : What do you think it is in the character of Democrats and progressives that tends to shy away from a fight, for the most part, and just sort of let the brute brazenness of the Republicans, who have no compunction about really anything, prevail. You know -- Dick Cheney appointing his son-in-law to a position in the Labor Department, his daughter to a position in the State Department, that sort of thing. I mean, you've got nepotism rife in the Bush administration above and beyond everything else. And they simply sort of barrel ahead like a steamroller. And I think many Democrats think, "well, we should respect due process and this and that." But it's kind of hard to do that when you're getting mugged.

PAUL BEGALA : There's the great line: the definition of a liberal is someone who's afraid to take their own side in a fight. And that's my problem with my fellow liberals. I mean, it does tend to be that way. A generation ago, the leading Democrats in America were Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. And while they hated each other, they were feared by the Republicans. And they were described as ruthless.

Well, you know, a little ruthlessness might not be so bad today in some of our politicians in the Democratic party. Or at least, if not ruthlessness, at least a little toughness. Bill Clinton had that. He was just too tough. They couldn't kill him. And he won again and again, and he's gonna' win in the last analysis in history.

I do think though that little by little, led by grassroots Democrats -- the people who are reading BuzzFlash and acting on the things that you run -- Democrats are beginning to show a little spine. And as they do, we need to support them and we need to encourage them. Because the Bush people will come after them just as viciously, no matter what.

Look what they've done to Daschle. Tom Daschle is a man, as I pointed out earlier, an Air Force veteran, the leader of the United States Senate, who passed Bush's airport security measure. He passed Bush's U.S.A. Patriot Act, which many people are worried about in terms of civil liberties. He has been so helpful to Bush on these nonpartisan issues that Bush hugged him on the floor of the Congress. Yet despite that, Bush gives the personal order to put out a political hit on him. And Dick Cheney goes on television and says it's okay to run ads that compare Tom Daschle to Saddam Hussein, knowing, as they do, that somebody is trying to kill Tom Daschle, the target of an assassination attempt via anthrax. They don't care. They don't care if their attacks enrage some psychotic out there and make him send anthrax in the mail. They just don't care. And that is the level of ruthlessness that we ought not to tolerate. We at least ought to stand up for our people when they are literally under attack.

BUZZFLASH : We still haven't found, or the government claims they haven't found, the presumed perpetrator of the anthrax attack. Of course, there have been strong indications that it is someone who is deeply involved in military biological weapons research and that the FBI may be going slow about the whole thing because it's sort of too close to home. This is clearly a domestic terrorist, not a foreign terrorist.

PAUL BEGALA : I think so, according to the press leak.

BUZZFLASH : But in any case, as you said, Senator Daschle was the subject of the most treacherous mailing and his staff was exposed to anthrax. And yet, as you say, the Bush administration gave the thumbs up to ruthlessly -- and if it weren't politics, libelously -- attack him in his home state without any compunction. And I think sometimes the Democrats are just sort of taken aback by this. They don't quite know how to react because it's so distasteful to them. And yet we know negative campaigning works in many cases.

PAUL BEGALA : The reason that they raise all this kind of nonsense -- they impugn our patriotism and such -- is they know they can't win on the merits and on the ideas. Therefore, that is where we should take the argument. Clinton was not a "so is your mother" kind of politician. He didn't stand out and say Henry Hyde cheated on his wife. Guess what? Henry Hyde cheated on his wife. But Clinton never went there. He was smart to never go there.

Where we ought to take it to is not their lives, but the American people's lives . We ought to point out that the Republicans have stolen $2 trillion out of Social Security surplus and given it to Ken Lay and the rest of their cronies. We ought to point out that the economic stimulus bill that Bush wrote had a secret quarter of a billion dollar bailout in it for Enron. And so thank God for Tom Daschle and the Senate for killing it.

We ought to point out that in Bush's prescription drug plan, you don't get any prescription drug help if you're a senior citizen who lives on more than the kingly sum of $17,000 a year. So that in George Bush's America, if you're an old couple, retired, living on $17,000 a year, you're so rich you can't get prescription drug help. But if you're an Enron executive living on $17 million a year, you're so poor that you get a tax cut and a bailout. That's obscene. That's what we ought to be doing. We ought to be on the floor of the Senate and the floor of the House, you know, and the street corners every day, shouting these things out. That's what'll beat 'em.

BUZZFLASH : So that's your recommendation on framing the debate right now.

PAUL BEGALA : Right. Take it to the people, take it to the American people.

BUZZFLASH : Now you have a rule in here, right after framing the debate, in your book with James Carville, Buck Up, Suck Up ... "Understanding the Difference Between Strategy and Tactics." Can you discuss that a little?

PAUL BEGALA : One of the problems we saw in the last presidential election in our party is that our nominee, while winning the election, which we ought never to forget, often lost sight of the difference between strategy and tactics. So his campaign had these daily, almost, reinventions. All of which allowed Bush, I think unfairly, to characterize Al Gore as a phony. And I think that's what made the election so close that Bush was able to steal it. And I think that's unfortunate.

I believe that if the Gore campaign had kept its eyes on strategy instead of tactics -- not just what do we do to suck up to right-wing Floridians -- okay, we attack Castro and rip Elian Gonzalez away from his daddy. Instead, focus on the big picture -- how do we win the election. And you do that --

BUZZFLASH : And that's the strategy as compared to a tactic?

PAUL BEGALA : Strategy as compared to tactics, yes….In fact, many of Gore's tactics fed into Bush's overall strategy, which was to portray Gore as a liar. You know, if you begin with "they're trying to paint me as phony," the best thing to do, really, is just to be yourself. Be proud of your record, be proud of yourself, and go out there and run on it.

BUZZFLASH : Then Bush's (or Karl Rove's) strategy allowed him to frame the debate.

PAUL BEGALA : Exactly. Bush framed the debate, and he stuck to his strategy from the time that he buried McCain on. He had some tactical mistakes in the primaries too, where he was so sleazy against McCain. But from the time McCain was defeated until election day, Bush had the same strategy. He said I'm going -- I'm not gonna try to be something I'm not. I'm not gonna try to convince people I'm smart, or smarter than Gore. I'm gonna convince people that I'm a decent man who knows who he is, and is comfortable in his own skin. Against a phony -- a big fat phony. And I think it's unfair. It's untrue. And I think Bush is a much bigger phony than Al Gore could ever be. But there you have it.

And our side played into their strategy with our constant shift in tactics. I mean, all this nonsense about changing clothes, and earth tones, and alpha males, and all that. And they talked endlessly in a team, in the paper, about their strategy, instead of talking about their message . That's an enormous mistake.

BUZZFLASH : Here's a question a BuzzFlash reader might ask: "I read about all the hypocrisy that's going on on the Republican side. I'm reading about how our progressive issues are being chiseled away, and particularly the environment, women's rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, and so forth. And I'm reading this and I'm really becoming angry, but I don't know what to do. How can your book -- yours and Jim Carville's book, Buck Up, Suck Up, and Come Back When you Foul Up -- how can it assist people in effectively trying to counter the trends of the Bush administration?"

PAUL BEGALA : I think the book doesn't tell you what to say, because it's not like my last book on Bush, or James' book, We're Right, They're Wrong, where we lay on the partisan case. This is equally applicable for liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. But for my fellow Democrats, I think it tells you and reminds you of how to do these things, like we've been discussing : how to frame the debate. You know, I don't think we should get up there and say, well, they say Clinton's not a good family man -- let's attack Bush's family. I think that would be disastrous and wrong, because it doesn't really matter. It turns out Clinton's a model parent, and, you know, has raised a model child, which is the most important judgment of anybody in life.

But rather than get into that kind of personal stuff, let's frame the debate on, well, one guy created 23 million new jobs. The other guy, so far, has cost us a couple of million jobs. Who's done a better job for you? I think that kind of knowledge of how to frame the debate is essential.

And then, most importantly for Democrats, know when to kick ass. That you've got to go into a fight, and you got to know how to fight to win. And the Republican Party, the conservatives -- they know that. And they approach this with a ruthlessness that would chill your blood. And I think that we don't have to be ruthless, the Democratic party, but, by God, we ought to stop being toothless.

BUZZFLASH : Let me ask you one more question I can't resist, which was coming to mind as you were speaking, non-related to the book or tactics. But I ask this of a lot of people we interview, because we still find it somewhat baffling, relating to President Clinton. How can you explain the virulent hate that so many people in the right wing have for Clinton? It just seems inexplicable. I mean, it is so bilious. And you think of people like Judge Bork who, at one conservative meeting said, he could have hung Clinton.

PAUL BEGALA : You know what I'm thinking it is? I've thought about this a lot. My latest pet theory is projection -- the psychological theory that says you take things you hate most about yourself, project them onto somebody else and attack them for that. So in other words, I think this is self-hatred projected on an innocent man. That's what I believe.

I believe these people hate themselves. I believe they hate our country. I believe they hate our culture. And they can't deal with that. They can't accept the level of self-loathing that they have, and so they project it onto someone else. I mean, for all of his faults and the troubles in his marriage, Bill Clinton is still married to a girl he met in the library 25 years ago at school. Can we say that about many of our other leaders today in America, including on the right wing? I don't think so. For all of his many faults, he is a man who, until he became the President of the United States of America, never earned more than $35,000 a year because he put service first. He is a man who, despite all of his many flaws and sins, has raised a good kid in as difficult a circumstance as you can possibly imagine. I mean, by any standard of measure, he is a good man. He is a decent man. He is a successful man. And yet they heap this hatred on him. I believe it is because they hate themselves. And for that, I'll continue to pray for them.

BUZZFLASH : It's interesting that David Brock said something similar in "Blinded by the Right."

PAUL BEGALA : I'm reading David's book. It's part of why I think that.

BUZZFLASH : David had gone down to Arkansas with a woman who was, I believe, an investigator from one of the committees against Clinton. And she said what she hated about Hillary was what she hated about herself.

PAUL BEGALA : He's talking about my neighbor, by the way, who is actually a perfectly wonderful woman, but now works for John Ashcroft in the Justice Department. She's a human being, and she's a good person. And it's so lamentable to see someone -- actually, I go to church with her -- to see someone who I think is, on a personal level, a perfectly good person, screaming out "I am Hillary," as David says she does in his book. I think that's tragic. It's heartbreaking. And so at some level, you're right. These people deserve our pity and our prayers. But the notion that they have this nearly unchecked power in America today, that ought to be quite frightening to people.

BUZZFLASH : Well, it is, considering that they almost impeached a president of the United States who was doing a tremendous job, and running a booming economy and a country at peace. He was a successful leader internationally, and yet they ravaged him for what would seem like no sane reason.

PAUL BEGALA : I think that's right. It was no sane reason. It was not about sex. I think I was wrong at the time when I said it was all about sex. It was all about power. I think if it was about sex, it would have removed all of their own leaders as well. If it was about lying under oath, we would impeach George W. Bush. I mean, I'm sure you're well aware that he lied under oath in a lawsuit.

BUZZFLASH : You're talking about Funeralgate?

PAUL BEGALA : Right. To me, that was a clear case of perjury. He swore under oath that he had never discussed an investigation of a funeral home company -- a really scummy funeral home company -- with either the funeral home company or its lobbyist for his state agency that regulates the industry. As the lawsuit went on, the funeral home company's CEO, the lobbyist for the funeral home company, and the Bush appointee to the state agency all testified under oath that Bush was lying -- that, in fact, he talked to all of them about it. Tom Delay lied under oath in a civil lawsuit in Houston.

BUZZFLASH : Relating to a business partnership.

PAUL BEGALA : Related to pest control.

BUZZFLASH : Pest control.

PAUL BEGALA : And that is well documented. So if it was about the sex, then there would be no Republicans or Democrats, since everybody's a sinner. So it wasn't that. If it was about lying under oath -- we actually know that Clinton certainly was deceptive, as most people would be about their sex lives -- but, in fact, he did not lie. But, it's absolutely clear that Bush committed perjury in a civil lawsuit, and that DeLay did as well. So we know what it's really about. It's really about power.

BUZZFLASH : One final question. Entrapment Counsel Robert Ray just issued a report, in essence, absolving the Clintons on the Whitewater issue. At the same time he was finishing the report, he was planning a run for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey against Senator Toricelli. Ray clearly violated the intent of Justice Department guidelines, perhaps even broke the law, by commencing a run for office while serving as the so-called "Independent Counsel. "

What is your reaction to that?

PAUL BEGALA : It's just like the perfect ending. The whole Clinton investigation was conceived in politics. It was born in politics. It lived in politics. And now it died in politics.

From beginning to end, it was all politics. And your readers should know, by the way, that the eight-year, nearly $80 million investigation has yielded no indictments on the Lewinsky matter. No indictments on Whitewater. No indictments on the travel office. No indictments on the FBI files. No indictments on the Vince Foster suicide. No indictments all up and down the line.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are the most investigated couple in American history -- now the most thoroughly exonerated couple in American history.

By the way, let me also take up for my colleagues in the Clinton administration. It turns out we were the most ethical administration in history. Do you know how many Reagan administration officials were convicted -- not just indicted, but convicted -- of crimes while, for conduct while they were in office? Thirty. Do you know how many Clinton administration officials were? One. The Chief of Staff of the Secretary of Agriculture, in a case that I think involves football tickets. One person, whose name I don't even remember. After eight years and seven independent counsels, dozens of Congressional committees, scores of right-wing lawsuits, tens of thousands of investigative journalist pieces -- one person. And that, the Chief of Staff of the Secretary of Agriculture. So I think Bill Clinton defenders and Clinton lovers ought to be proud that, in fact, we did have the most ethical administration.


paul begala shoots the bull

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