25 years ago: Clinton on the defensive over Whitewater

Bill Clinton in 1994

On March 7, 1994, US President Bill Clinton was forced to open a press conference with the declaration that his wife, Hillary Clinton, was “not a criminal,” following a widening investigation, begun in January, into allegations about the Whitewater real estate investment in which the Clintons had lost money.

The same week, ten top aides in the Clinton administration were subpoenaed. White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, who submitted the original request for a special prosecutor in the Whitewater case to Attorney General Janet Reno, resigned. Nussbaum was replaced by Lloyd Cutler—a millionaire corporate lawyer and former White House counsel under Jimmy Carter—shortly after. “Within hours after Nussbaum stepped down, White House officials had begun to use the phrase ‘a Lloyd Cutler model’ to describe the ideal successor. But it became evident only late today that the description was intended as more than a metaphor,” the New York Times noted on March 8, 1994.

The media speculated openly on whether or not the Whitewater scandal would lead to the impeachment of a sitting president, with the US evidently facing a political crisis not seen since Watergate.

The campaign against the Clintons was a byproduct of right-wing hostility over their proposed health care “reform,” tepid and conservative as it was, emanating from the Republican Party but embraced by sections of the “liberal” media, particularly the New York Times. While Whitewater itself proved a dry well, the independent counsel investigation into the Clintons ultimately triggered a political firestorm over Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, leading to his impeachment in December 1998.

The International Workers Bulletin, a US forerunner of the World Socialist Web Site, wrote at the time: “Whitewater is only the latest in two decades of political scandals which have been used to manipulate governments, dictate their policies or drive or force them from power. Each time the result is a further shift to the right in the whole framework of American politics …

“Whether Clinton survives or not, the policies of the administration will be reshaped along the lines of big business … In the course of this process, the democratic forms in America have more and more eroded.”

World Socialist Web Site for more

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