Bentsen gets off lightly on Whitewater
Thursday 04 August 1994
The night before the hapless Mr Altman had been put to the sword. Only at 2am yesterday did the committee finish with him, still plainly unpersuaded that he had not misled, deceived or lied to them at a hearing on 24 February. 'Semantic gymnastics,' scoffed Republican Senator Connie Mack of Florida at one point. 'Your every statement to this committee is to evade, not to inform.'
But no one dared treat Mr Bentsen like that - not even Alphonse D'Amato, the New York Senator-cum-streetfighter who has led the Republican assault on allegedly improper contacts between the White House and the Treasury on the Whitewater-related investigation into the Madison bank affair, which have brought Mr Altman to the brink of resignation.
The reasons include Mr Bentsen's age, his old Texas money, and his 22 years of Senate service. No one can accuse him of being a pushy young Friend of Bill on the make. Then there is the Bentsen style, a patronising owlishness, perfect for potentially embarrassing hearings on Capitol Hill.
Only Mr D'Amato showed real anger, fulminating afterwards that the Treasury Secretary 'should be ashamed of himself', and that not only Mr Altman but Jean Hanson, the Treasury Department's top lawyer, and Chief of Staff Joshua Steiner should be sacked.
The committee seemed to buy the Bentsen assertion that he knew nothing of the extent of the contacts until he read about them in the newspapers in early March: 'I've turned my memory inside out, we went through thousands and thousands of documents and couldn't find one written briefing to me on these White House meetings.' It was almost an apology for not having come up with something more exciting.
But he cannot undo the damage. This week, the Whitewater hearings have come alive. The issues may border on the incomprehensible, but there is blood in the air.
The diaries kept by Mr Steiner may have been disowned by their author, but his contemporaneous jottings resonate with plausibility: how Mr Altman 'gracefully ducked' a question on 24 February, and how the White House was 'furious' that Mr Altman, an old friend of the President, asked to be moved from his job at the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC).
More important, someone among Mr Bentsen's top staffers has not told the truth about their role in the contacts over the probe into Madison, owned by the Clintons' partner in the former Whitewater land venture. Among a host of discrepancies, Ms Hanson insists Mr Altman had instructed her to brief the White House on Madison as long ago as last September. Mr Altman, who would have to resign if that proved the case, denies the charge.
Someone will have to pay, and last night Mr Altman still looked vulnerable. 'I have no intention of resigning,' he maintained yesterday. Mr Bentsen failed to state, unequivocally, that his deputy should stay on. But Mr Clinton in a televised press conference expressed confidence in Mr Altman and dismissed a question that he might dismiss him.
Mr Bentsen conceded it would have been better had some White House/Treasury meetings not taken place. But nothing happened. No one interfered with the RTC investigation. No one behaved unethically, still less criminally. But try telling that to Senator D'Amato.
Mr Clinton said last night it was 'premature' to consider seeking congressional approval for a US-led invasion of Haiti, Reuter reports.
'I would welcome the support of the Congress and I hope that I will have it,' Clinton said in response to a question at a televised news conference. 'But at this moment, I think we have done all we need to do.'
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher - NewportKey ...
£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Professional Training: Randstad E...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Camden / Ken...