In his New York Times column today, Thomas Friedman writes: "The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater 'scandal.'" That's a bit of revisionist history. Among those hounding Mr. Clinton about Whitewater were the news reporters and editorial writers of the New York Times, who aren't a bunch of right-wingers.
A Times editorial in 1996 said, "In investigations involving an Administration in power, there is always partisan gaming on the sidelines. But that does not mean that legitimate facts can be ignored. The latest case in point is the finding by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that Hillary Rodham Clinton drafted a real estate document that was used deceptively by her law and business partners. The White House claim that the report was a Republican plot cannot mask the fact that the First Lady has not given a full and convincing account of her role in these matters. As for Mr. Starr, he was appointed pursuant to a decision by Mr. Clinton's own Attorney General under a valid and important law authorizing special prosecutors...it is the White House that wants to use partisan thrusts to disrupt the legal process, not Mr. Starr and others who remain legitimately curious about the full story of Whitewater."
The whole thing surfaced publicly on the national stage in a March 1992 New York Times news article by Jeff Gerth that included passages such as "After Federal regulators found that Mr. McDougal's savings institution, Madison Guaranty, was insolvent, meaning it faced possible closure by the state, Mr. Clinton appointed a new state securities commissioner, who had been a lawyer in a firm that represented the savings and loan. Mr. Clinton and the commissioner deny giving any preferential treatment. The new commissioner approved two novel proposals to help the savings and loan that were offered by Hillary Clinton, Governor Clinton's wife and a lawyer. She and her firm had been retained to represent the association" and "It raises questions of whether a governor should be involved in a business deal with the owner of a business regulated by the state and whether, having done so, the governor's wife through her law firm should be receiving legal fees for work done for the business."
One doesn't have to be an admirer of Kenneth Starr or a defender of the institution of the special prosecutor to conclude that it wasn't all just a right-wing plot. For the purposes of this site, it's all useful as a reminder that questions about insolvent banks and overly optimistic real estate deals and the discretionary actions of government regulators didn't arise for the first time in this most recent financial crisis.