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Music Cues: White House Transition
Scott Simon
December 27, 2000

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W's. Departing Democrats defamed computer keyboards of their 'W' keys. It was a prank eight years ago. Outgoing Republicans had left Bush-Quayle stickers behind to grin at Democrats from desk drawers and computer terminals. But bumper stickers can be removed, ha-ha. At least some Clinton staffers also apparently glued filing cabinets shut, switched around the face plates on telephones and overturned desk chairs and tables. Ho-ho!

Scores of keyboards have to be replaced, tee-hee. Lewd cartoons were left in computer printers. Yuck, yuck. And, finally, some of the staff who accompanied the Clintons to New York on their presidential 747 apparently absconded with some of the flatware and china assigned to the plane. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Part of the fun of a prank, after all, is enjoying the vision of making people laugh. Did the departing White House staffers think that vandalism is a laugh riot?

The small acts of destruction and theft somehow seem all of a piece with the Clintons' last moments in the White House, pardoning rich people with political links and accepting almost $200,000 worth of furnishings, silverware, china and a large-screen TV. The Clintons were calculating enough to accept the gifts in those few golden days between Senator Clinton's election and her oath of office, when Senate ethics laws would prohibit accepting such a trousseau of treasures.

Now there's nothing wrong with living large. But how much of the Clintons' new Robin Leach lifestyle is the American public supposed to support? Mr. Clinton is causing the government to rent an entire floor of office space in midtown Manhattan. Some other ex-presidents have settled for cheaper space, in capacious federal office buildings that are centrally located but not so near Carnegie Hall and The Russian Tea Room. Mr. Clinton's just signed a $3 million speech contract. The space American taxpayers are renting for him will presumably be used to make even more money. Senator Clinton signed an $8 million book contract just before being sworn to uphold the Senate ethics regulations. After so many years of public service, Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton are rich. Maybe they deserve to be. But they can also buy their own silverware, rather than accept gifts from people with the reason to seek favors. It is the enduring image the Clinton administration leaves with so many Americans, moments of brilliance, undermined by insistent immaturity.