President Clinton says, with regard to campaign fund-raisIng, that both he and Vice President Al Gore "believe (we acted) firmly within the letter of the law" in all their 1996 fund-raising activities.
Now there is a lawyerly response if ever there was one. The president doesn't deny abuses. He simply "believes" he didn't commit them. There's a world of difference.
For instance, did you ever get a speeding ticket when you didn't "believe" you were over the limit? That explanation didn't get very far, did it? Traffic judges hold drivers responsible for what they actually do on the road, not for what they believe they didn't do.
Clinton's "belief" that he and Gore operated within the law suggests the dynamic fund-raising duo may not have known exactly what the law said. He should have. His own White House counsel advised him it was unlawful for any U.S. official to raise campaign money on federal property.
Besides, if ignorance of the law is no excuse for ordinary Americans it certainly should not pass muster for the nation's highest officeholders.
Finally, as Attorney General Janet Reno continues to be pressured to name an independent counsel to investigate Clinton-Gore fund-raising skullduggeries, some Americans might pause to remember the campaign promise candidates Clinton and Gore made in 1992 -- that they would head "the most ethical" administration in the history of the country.
Five years later, this most "ethical" administration has already had more independent counsel probes than any other in history. And the president and vice-president are reduced to claiming they don't believe they broke "the letter" of the campaign finance law. What about the spirit of the law? What about the law's ethics? What about morality?
The real policy appears to be, "Don't ask, don't tell."