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Democratic Party "Leper" Endorses Bush By: Jerome Zeifman
Insight Magazine | Saturday, July 31, 2004


During the Clinton administration I was described jokingly by Insight Managing Editor Paul M. Rodriguez as "The Leper of the Democratic Party." Since then I have continued to be a renegade Democrat -- and I am now supporting the re-election of President George W. Bush. It started with Bill Clinton.

I had first met Clinton in 1975, when he was courting Hillary Rodham. Over the years my unfavorable impressions of him have increased.

In 1975 Hillary Rodham was working under my supervision on the Nixon impeachment staff of the House Judiciary Committee. As it was later described in the New York Times by Bernard Nussbaum, who became Clinton's White House counsel, when Hillary introduced Bill to us she said: "He's running for Congress...One day he's gonna become president."

Hillary had been recommended to Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino (D-N.J.) by Burke Marshall, her former professor at Yale Law. Marshall had served as assistant attorney general in the Kennedy administration. Later he became Kennedy's lawyer during the Chappaquiddick affair and his chief political strategist. With the advent of Watergate, Marshall had developed a plan to elect Ted Kennedy to the presidency in 1976. As a result, at Yale his students dubbed him: "The attorney general in waiting of the Camelot government in exile."

In 1975, Hillary hitched her political wagon to Marshall's rising star. Once on our staff she conferred regularly with Marshall, in violation of congressional rules against disclosure of confidential materials.

Under Marshall's direction Hillary worked to forestall Richard Nixon's impeachment and keep him "twisting in the wind" until the end of his term. This would have denied the untarnished vice president, Gerry Ford, a chance to restore respectability to the Republican Party. It also would have enhanced the prospects for Kennedy to be elected in the upcoming elections.

In pursuit of Marshall's objective Hillary lied to me and the committee on several occasions. Thus, after the disbanding of our impeachment staff I decided that I could not recommend her for future employment in government service. She went off to Arkansas and married Bill Clinton.

By the Democratic presidential primaries of 1992 I had seen enough to fear that Bill Clinton had character flaws and I supported the nomination of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. After Clinton won the nomination he began to tout the notion that he and Hillary would give the country a "two-for-one" presidency. But despite my experience with Hillary and my uneasiness about the character of her husband I voted for him in the presidential election.

Four years later, in 1996, I began (for the first time in my career) to consider voting for a Republican. I discussed Clinton vs. Dole with former House Judiciary Committee chairman Jack Brooks of Texas. More than anyone else I knew in the Democratic Party, Brooks had close-up personal dealings with both Dole and Clinton. Jack's opinion was: "Slick Willy is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch...I will probably hold my nose and vote for him."

When I asked him for his opinion of Sen. Bob Dole, Brooks told me: "Bob is a straight arrow. ... He is not deceitful. ... He keeps his word. ... He says what he means and means what he says." To this day I don't know how Jack finally voted. I would like to believe that he squared his shoulders and voted for Dole. But after my conversation with Chairman Brooks I decided to support Sen. Dole.

On Oct. 25, 1996, I published a long article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Cancer on the Presidency." A few excerpts follow:

"In my view there is now probable cause to consider our president and first lady as felons, who are likely to be indicted after the Nov. 5 election.

"The misdeeds of the Clinton administration have fallen into a pattern of deceit and corruption that now clearly justifies denying Mr. Clinton a second term.

"By all accounts Robert Dole is a man of personal integrity. His principles are conservative, and I will continue to oppose them. Yet because I must remain true to my traditional Democratic moral values, I will vote for Mr. Dole."

My article resonated in the media. It was republished in other newspapers and on numerous Websites. To my surprise presidential then-candidate Ross Perot published a televised "infomercial" quoting from the article. And, not surprisingly, the article came to the attention of Hillary. Under her orders a high-ranking White House staffer telephoned the law firm of which I had been a member. He told one of the firm's senior Democratic partners, "That bastard is killing us. Shut him up!"

The partner in turn warned me: "If you ever try to set foot in our office again, I will throw you out bodily."

More recently I have decided to support George W. Bush (as have such Democrats as Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, Jimmy Carter's attorney general Griffin Bell, and former New York mayor Ed Koch). As for John Kerry I see him as a demagogue who panders to the lowest common denominator of our party. He also fits Edmund Burke's description of the kind of politician who is no more than "a weather cock, moving in the direction of every changing political wind."

Yet, despite my support for two Republican presidential candidates, I intend to remain a Democrat. My reason is simple: I have not lost hope that one day a new generation of Democrats will win our continuous fight to redeem our party's political soul.

Jerome Zeifman is a lifelong Democrat. He served as chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during its Nixon impeachment proceedings.


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