On MSNBC's "Hardball," former Bush-Cheney campaign mouthpiece Terry Holt tried repeatedly to introduce the meme, "People elected the president, not his staff." If staff members got in trouble, Holt said, that was not a reflection on Bush, the elected leader working hard for all Americans. It was almost Clintonian to watch.
Holt also trotted out these lines: Perjury and obstruction of justice are serious crimes. They were seven years ago; they are today. Democrats better not be hypocrites. If Clinton got a free ride, Holt implied, why not the same for Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby?
Radio talkers like Sean Hannity have already trampled out a vintage whine: Where was the media when the Clintons stole furniture and vandalized the White House? For Hannity, the best defense is being incredibly offensive. It also helps that he's a liar.
For those who care to know:
•Reports that Clinton staffers vandalized the White House? Pure bull, according to the government's General Accounting Office. From the New York Times, this oldie from May 2001:
Accounts that departing Clinton administration officials destroyed office equipment and committed other acts of vandalism in the White House during the presidential transition were significantly overblown, a manager at the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said yesterday.
The General Services Administration found nothing unusual about the condition of White House offices after Clinton officials left, and President Bush's staff said it had no records that indicated damage or subsequent repair work, the accounting office manager said.
On Jan. 25, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had declined to detail the nature of any vandalism but criticized such behavior indirectly by asserting that the new administration would lead Americans toward greater civility.
Typical was Tony Snow, a syndicated columnist and former presidential speech writer for President Bush's father, who ... also said that Air Force One, after taking Clinton and some aides to New York following the inauguration, "looked as if it had been stripped by a skilled band of thieves -- or perhaps wrecked by a trailer park twister."
He went on to list all manner of missing items, including silverware, porcelain dishes with the presidential seal and even candy.
"It makes one feel grateful that the seats and carpets are bolted down," Snow fumed.
Except none of it happened. An official at Andrews Air Force Base, which maintains the presidential jets, told The Kansas City Star at the height of the controversy that nothing was missing. Bush himself acknowledged the same a few days later.
And now GSA has made it official.
"They told me that there were papers that were not organized lying on the floor and on desks; there were some scratches here and there, but the bottom line was they didn't see anything really in their view that was significant and that would appear to some as real extensive damage," said Bernard Unger, director for physical infrastructure for the General Accounting Office, which asked GSA to look into the allegations."
•The Clintons did not accept a bonanza of last-minute gifts before leaving the White House. From Salon, this chestnut from February 2001:
During the nearly month-long controversy surrounding the gifts Bill and Hillary Clinton accepted last year, the political press has established three details as fact and repeated them endlessly.
First, anxious to fill their new private homes, the Clintons received $190,000 worth of gifts in the last year. Second, Hillary pursued this by registering like a bride for gift at Borsheim's Fine Jewelry & Gifts. Third, they moved fast, because once Hillary was sworn in as New York's new senator, she would be barred from accepting gifts worth more than $50.
The first detail showed the Clintons were greedy. The second? That they were tacky. The third, that they were duplicitous, plotting to circumvent Senate ethics laws.
From the perspective of the press, just one of those items would have constituted a good news story. A combination of any two was worth a running commentary. But all three justified a bona fide feeding frenzy.
Problem is, none of them are true. The gifts in question were received over an eight-year period, not one. Hillary was never registered at Borsheim's. And the Senate gift ban would not have forbidden Sen.Clinton from receiving all the generous items.
•Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of Marc Rich was a slimy favor to a crook, according to Republican partisans. Well, according to some Republican partisans. Lewis "Scooter" Libby vehemently disagrees. As Rich's lawyer, he argued for a presidential pardon -- until he went to work for the Bush campaign in 2000.
•The Clintons did not take furniture from the White House that didn't belong to them. This one's the biggest load on many anti-Clinton plates. Once more, from Salon:
After assigning three reporters and four researchers, the Washington Post reported on Monday that some of the gifts the Clintons took may have been given to the White House, and not to them personally. The Clintons insist there was a clerical snafu and that any gifts intended for the White House would be returned. By Monday afternoon, the White House's nonpartisan usher and executive manager, Gary Walters, assured CNN the Clintons had not erred in taking their gifts. "Everything that belongs to the government is still here," he said.
The static and noise coming from Bush partisans will increase over the next couple days. If Patrick Fitzgerald convinces a grand jury to hand up indictments, the partisans will yell even louder. Anything to stop comparisons to 1875 and Orville E. Babcock, seemingly the last time a sitting White House official was indicted. Even the Watergate Seven steered clear of the boss before being charged with crimes.