Dick Cheney has been justly praised (except by Linda Chavez) for running a smooth and efficient transition for President-elect George W. Bush in what turned out to be very little time. But Cheney did drop one stitch. With only five days to go until the inauguration, there's still no George W. and Laura Bush Legal Defense Fund! If the last eight years have taught us nothing else, it's that being president is very expensive. According to the Web site for the Clinton Legal Expense Trust (click here for a contribution form), the president and first lady have incurred more than $10 million in legal bills since the 1992 election. More than $8 million of that has been recouped via $10,000 contributions from Lew Wasserman, David Geffen, Peter Angelos, Smith Bagley, and 131 others, as well as smaller contributions from many more people. (Click here for a searchable database for the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, which dates back to 1998, and click here for a searchable database for its precursor, the Presidential Legal Expense Trust, which dates back to 1994.)
Granted, Bush enters office a much richer man than Bill Clinton. For Dubya, paying legal bills to fend off partisan inquiries into alleged misbehavior predating his presidency won't be nearly so great a burden as it was for Clinton. On the other hand, the circumstances under which Bush acquired that wealth might well attract more partisan inquiries. It doesn't take much imagination to guess what these might be. There's that business of how, in the space of nine years, Dubya managed to turn a $605,000 investment in the Texas Rangers (made while his father was president) into upwards of $10 million. There's the Texas funeral home scandal, about which Bush is alleged to have lied to investigators. There's the never-proven-but-never denied allegation that Dubya was a cocaine user in his wild youth. None of these ever much interested Chatterbox, but then Whitewater never much interested Chatterbox either, and that had an impressive run. The aforementioned matters are of sufficient interest to the Texas Observer that it maintains a "Bush Files" Web page with many handy links. And surely Bush can expect to feel some heat from Judicial Watch, established by Larry Klayman in 1994 as a clearinghouse for lawsuits against the Clinton administration (click here for a sampler). With Clinton gone, won't Klayman be obliged to start suing the Bush administration? Judicial Watch is widely perceived as a partisan organization dedicated to bashing Democrats (the obnoxious Harry Claypool character on West Wing is based on Klayman), but its Web site insists that it's "a nonpartisan, nonprofit foundation." Indeed, if Klayman neglects to engage in petty legal harassment of the incoming Bush administration, that might well put his organization's tax exemption at risk. Sorry, Dubya!
Even though Cheney hasn't been thinking about the need for a Bush Legal Defense Fund, Nick Walters has. Walters, a marketing and information technology coordinator for a health benefits company in Baltimore, had the idea right after Election Day to register the domain name bushlegaldefense.com. Walters, a Republican, says somewhat impatiently of Dubya, "He should have just known from Clinton that you'd need a legal defense site. ... The president is now a target." But Walters is willing to help. He says he may set up a Bush Legal Defense Fund himself, or he may sell the domain name to someone else for that purpose. Chatterbox has a feeling that one way or another, Jim Baker will end up running this. Of course, the Bushies can bypass Walters altogether if they want to and call their site something else. According to Network Solutions, the following domain names remain available for purchase:
Better hurry up, though, while supplies last!