Clinton is no Nixon Memo to Horowitz: "The most criminal, most corrupt, most cynical administration" isn't the current one, pal. - - - - - - - - - - - - By Joe Conason July 6, 2000 | Urging the hyperbolic Salon columnist David Horowitz to calm down and cite facts instead of spewing insults seems as pointless as asking a dog not to defecate on the sidewalk. In either instance, the result is always and predictably the same: Somebody has to clean up a stinking pile. This chore is left to me, since Horowitz blurted my name while unburdening himself. Shovel in hand, I wonder where to begin. My colleague has blanketed an extensive area with his rhetorical excretions. Consider his opening assertion that the Clinton administration is "the most criminal, most corrupt, most cynical administration in American history." How best to respond to this banal, flatulent oratory? "Cynical" refers to a state of mind, after all, and thus cannot be measured in any meaningful way. While Horowitz may genuinely believe Clinton is more cynical than any previous president, he certainly can't prove it. "Corrupt" is almost equally vague, since it can denote moral, ethical or legal decadence. Ah, but "criminal" is a word possessing a specific meaning in our language and laws. The criminality of any political administration can be determined, at least in some roughly quantifiable sense, by the number of indictments and convictions amassed against its officials. That's why Ulysses S. Grant still is regarded by serious historians as titleholder of "most criminal administration." The Whiskey Ring scandal alone led to indictments of 238 individuals, nearly half of whom were convicted; a great many of them were federal officials. Grant's eight years in office saw several other major blowups, too, including the Credit Mobilier and Sanborn contracting affairs. By any such objective measurement, President Clinton compares favorably not only with Grant but with two more recent presidents brought to power by the Grand Old Party. (In case any readers aren't aware, the GOP also happens to be the party which Horowitz, through his various "nonpartisan" tax-exempt fronts, serves as both a leading pamphleteer and a prodigious fundraiser, who organized $100,000 or more in contributions to George W. Bush.) Equating the late Richard Nixon with Bill Clinton is an absurdity promoted by Republican partisans since the beginning of the Whitewater pseudo-scandal. Notwithstanding Clinton's own generous eulogy at the time of the former president's death, it is truly audacious of Horowitz to reduce the vast culpability of Nixon and his gang to the erasure of an 18-minute tape that "allegedly" -- a word Horowitz uses sparingly indeed -- proved obstruction of justice. Actually, there are several audible tapes that amply demonstrate Nixon's gangsterism, in particular the infamous "smoking gun" tape of June 23, 1972. More importantly, the Watergate coverup was merely the most publicized offense of a White House that was the scene of a dozen desperate criminal conspiracies, including multiple burglaries of its "enemies"; bribery of witnesses with suitcases full of cash; blatant extortion of milk producers, ITT, Howard Hughes and other corporate contributors; siphoning of illegal campaign money from the Greek military dictatorship; and gross misuse of the CIA, the FBI and the IRS. And that's just the executive summary of Nixonian felonies. The gallery of rogues working for Nixon could have filled several cellblocks, from the vice president, two former attorneys general, the White House chief of staff and various presidential aides, all the way down to the bent bureaucrats and gun-toting thugs who staffed CREEP, the Committee to Reelect the President. On a somewhat pettier scale, Tricky Dick increased his personal wealth three times over during his first term as president, thanks to sleazy deals with his various pals, and the old reprobate cheated on his federal taxes, too. He was spared a long prison term only for the sake of the nation's future. (In fairness, it should probably be noted that he never fibbed about a sexual liaison.)