Denver Bar Association
March 2001
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Nothing Beats Generous Friends

by Doug McQuiston

The Clintons out of the White House, not in the "big house" but trying to furnish a new house.

Remember those giddy days when you moved out on your own and into your first "grown-up" apartment? Scrounging the Goodwill and K-Mart for furniture and cooking utensils, you built up a household of used furniture, cinder-block bookshelves and cheap pots and pans. You probably didn’t even get a new toaster until you got married and opened the wedding gifts. Maybe you still have that old pine coffee table you found at a garage sale. There’s a reason for that—you don’t have generous friends.

Now, there’s another couple moving out on their own, leaving government housing for the first time in more than 20 years. Bill and Hillary Clinton have finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the people’s house. Gone are the days when White House stewards brought them their coffee and scones on fine china, as they lounged in their monogrammed White House terry bathrobes (you just know they took those with them, don’t you?).

Whatever is the socially conscious junior senator to do? How will Bill avoid being the laughingstock of the Senate spouse’s club? Calm your fears, friends—they’ll be alright. They have what you never did: generous friends.

Let’s start with Bill. He left office on Jan. 20, fresh from a whirlwind weekend of activity that provided the karmic defining moments of his entire presidency. First, he copped a plea. Then, using probably the last pen he could find in the White House, he signed 140 pardons, including one for his pal Susan McDougal for keeping her trap shut during the Whitewater investigation and one for his brother Roger for a 1980s cocaine conviction. Doesn’t that just say it all? The man from Hope’s last official acts were to: accept a plea bargain; dodge an indictment; reward his co-conspirator for her silence; and, in a crescendo of redneck glory, pardon a family member for a drug charge.

Even as he made his getaway on inauguration day, Bill set new lows for presidential departures. The Associated Press reported that, unlike most past presidents who leave behind the gifts they receive during their tenure, Bubba’s hangin’ onto those babies—over $190,000 worth, (and you thought you did well last Christmas!).

You won’t find Bill at Westchester County garage sales. He’s gotten what he needs from generous friends and various foreign officials: $6,000 worth of carpets; a framed photo of Duke Ellington; a Truman bust; tables, chairs, lamps; several televisions and DVD players; sofas; an easy chair; even a kitchen table and a chandelier. As we speak, the framed tapestry he received from the government of Vietnam during his recent visit is probably hanging in their multi-million-dollar D.C. home. One can’t help but think that probably beats what most G.I.’s took home with them from Vietnam after the war.

Bill isn’t the only one who has generous friends, though. As they have always told us, this is an equal partnership—buy one, get one free. Many junior senators have to live with roommates in cramped apartments, or even in their offices, because they can’t pay for two houses. Not Hillary. She will ride the secret service Suburban up the hill to her Senate offices from her elegant D.C. palace. But how will she entertain? According to syndicated columnist Maureen Dowd in a Dec. 24, 2000 column, we needn’t worry. Hillary’s first soirée at her elegant D.C. salon will not involve paper plates and plastic champagne flutes.

Hurrying to get their lovely parting gifts in under the Jan. 2, 2001 Senate gift ban, Hillary’s pals have bestowed her with: a $2,340 Spode Stafford Flowers pattern soup tureen (I don’t know what that is, either); jewelry; Fabergé Imperial Court silver; towels; linens; fine china (Spode again, settings for 40), etc., all from Borsheim’s Fine Jewelry in Omaha, owned by her pal and financial backer Warren Buffett. Believe it or not, she’s registered there, just like a blushing bride, according to Hillary’s spokesperson Lissa Muscatine.

What? You didn’t send off your gift before the Senate gift ban? (As if that would pose the slightest deterrent.) Well, forget it pal. You don’t find these things at the local Home Place. After all, nothing but the best would do for someone grown accustomed to tossing their morning bagel onto White House china. The vegetable spoon? $510; iced tea spoons? $240 each. The Stafford Flowers Spode china pattern is also a tad pricey—vegetable dish: $980; teapot: $716; soup tureen: $2,340.

But why should we begrudge them? They’ve given us years of selfless public service; don’t they deserve it? After all, Ms. Muscatine said, "people have routinely gotten them gifts." Besides, they have two huge mortgages to pay. Well, not really. These are the Clintons we’re talking about—remember?

According to a January 2001 story in the New York Press by Alexander Cockburn, a nice little coincidence has happily befallen the Clintons. Among the other perks they’ll enjoy ex officio, will be secret service protection for life. This little government benefit sets us back several hundred thousand dollars a year, complete with bulletproof transport for both Bill and Hill. As their base of operations in Chappaqua, N.Y., the Secret Service has found a small outbuilding on the Clinton estate for their use on those rare occasions Hillary and her senate spouse will be residing there.

One might ask, since they’re getting free security for a lifetime, might the Clintons throw in the building for free? Nope—they’re charging rent. And oh, sweet fortuity! The rental is equal to their entire mortgage. Of course, reports at press time are that this sweet deal has risen more than a few eyebrows of some of those nasty, partisan Republicans in Congress. But if Bill and Hill can get away with it, (and given their track record, who could doubt it?) we’ll be footing the bill for the Chappaqua house. You don’t feel so bad about missing out on the Spode Stafford Flowers place setting now, do you? Bill and Hillary will try to see to it once again that none of us are left out of the fun.

Your Thank You note is in the mail.

Editor’s note: This is just one of the many opinions stated in The Docket. As always, we welcome your comments, criticism or rebuttals.



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