By DICK MORRIS
IN his rush to do favors for his wife's Senate run,
President Clinton has given Hillary a time bomb
which could well destroy her candidacy. His
decision to offer a conditional clemency to 16
convicted terrorists from the FALN, a Puerto
Rican nationalist group, will backfire massively.
Bowing to the pleas of a host of liberal New York
City politicians, Clinton offered clemency to
terrorists affiliated with a group that has taken
"credit" for at least 100 bombings of political and
military facilities in the United States. Then it came
out that the two U.S. attorneys in the jurisdictions
where the terrorists were convicted opposed the
clemency, as did the Justice Department officials
who reviewed it.
This hands Guiliani a gold-plated issue to use
against Hillary. It summons memories of how
George Bush used Mike Dukakis' furlough of a
murderer (who proceeded to strike again) to win
the 1988 election. These FALN terrorists will
become the Willie Hortons of the 2000 Senate
Her problem is clear: Does she back the clemency
or oppose it? If she breaks with her husband and
opposes it, she'll earn the wrath of New York's
minority political establishment. Reps. Jose E.
Serrano, Charles B. Rangel, Nydia M. Velazquez
and Eliot L. Engel all had urged clemency. They
won't take kindly to being contradicted.
But heaven help her if she supports the clemency.
Here's the ad Rudy can run:
My name is Diana Berger. In 1975, I lost my
husband - and my son, Adrian, lost his father -
when terrorists from the FALN blew up a
restaurant in Manhattan where he was eating
lunch, minding his own business. Now, President
Clinton has offered clemency to 16 FALN
terrorists who are now in prison for helping to
carry out the group's bombings. Hillary is
supporting clemency. Mayor Guiliani and the U.S.
attorneys who prosecuted the cases are against it.
So am I. So is Adrian. His father would agree. If
only he were still here.
The next ad might feature former bomb-squad
detective Richard Pastorella, who was blinded by
an FALN bomb. He might ask the Clintons to
restore his sight as they free the terrorists who
helped take it. If these ads ever run, that's it for
As first lady, Hillary can hide in the White House
and be sure nobody ever pops the question: Do
you support clemency? But as a Senate
candidate, to quote Joe Louis, "She can run, but
she can't hide." Sometime on one of her listening
tours, a voter or reporter will be very interested in
hearing how she feels about it.
Liberals like to suggest that those offered
clemency were convicted of relatively trivial
crimes, but sources at the Justice Department tell
another story. One of those Clinton would release
is Juan Segarra Palmer, convicted in connection
with the $7 million Wells Fargo armored car
robbery, one of the largest in history. "One of the
masterminds" of the robbery, according to
sources close to the case, Palmer has also refused
to assist in locating Victor Gerena and Filiberto
Ojeda Rios, two key terrorists still at large.
Likely, the president offered to grant clemency -
for only the fifth time since taking office - to help
Hillary. He doesn't go out of his way to let
offenders go: His other clemencies were for a
bankruptcy and pot smoking. He thought he was
handing Hillary a wonderful chance to appeal to
New York's large Puerto Rican voting bloc.
This isn't the first time pardons have gotten Clinton
in hot water. As lame-duck governor of
Arkansas, after losing his re-election fight in 1980,
he granted dozens of pardons to people serving
time in Arkansas prisons. One man - a convicted
murderer in his 80s who was suffering from
cancer - promptly went out and killed somebody
Clinton was so worried that the pardon could
backfire that he ran an ad apologizing for the
pardons and promising never again to pardon a
killer. That mea culpa advertisement ran alongside
the ad apologizing for his having raised car-license
fees, but never got much attention.
So now another clemency is haunting another
Clinton. Usually, the president can be counted on
never to make the same mistake twice. But, likely
after hectoring from Hillary, he granted the
Liberals defending the clemency will find it
especially embarrassing that none of the terrorists
has yet accepted the president's offer. Apparently
he imposed an outrageous condition: that they
renounce acts of violence and stop associating
with their FALN buddies. That they are uncertain
about accepting this condition eloquently attests to
how little they deserve the clemency in the first
It gets worse. After reviewing tapes of the phone
conversations and letters from the jailed terrorists,
officials with the federal Bureau of Prisons that
even if they pledged to refrain from violence, they
might still kill somebody.
Bill has just handed Rudy an issue that can kill
Hillary's candidacy. With Guiliani's record as a
prosecutor and his tough-on-crime positions, he is
ideally suited to take full advantage of the blunder.