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There's something wonderfully right about news that President Clinton wants to lease office space in Harlem - something fitting and positive for the man Toni Morrison once called America's first black president. If only he'd done it right away, instead of first trying to put taxpayers on the hook for high-priced space in midtown Manhattan. Clinton has been under unremitting and richly deserved criticism since leaving the White House like a thief in the night, leaving a trail of pilfered "gifts," dubious pardons and plans to begin his tax-supported post-presidential life in the toniest of New York neighborhoods.

He has since returned some of the gifts, which had been meant for the White House, and now appears ready to set up shop about 70 blocks north, into Harlem, assuming he can work out a deal with New York City, which says it has a deal to lease the space.

Many Americans have been appalled by Clinton's tacky exit from office, but let's be honest here: This move would be a fine thing for Harlem, which remains distressed despite recent economic progress; for taxpayers, whose rent payments could be trimmed by two-thirds; and for Clinton, whose affinity for African-Americans is the stuff of legend and which prompted Morrison's joyful observation about the president's psychic skin color.

Clinton was rightly criticized for many actions during his presidency, but no one ever doubted the truth of his connection to African-Americans. If he follows through with this plan, he'll not only have put his money where his mouth is, he will have raised the bar for Republicans as they seek to appeal to more minorities.

It's just too bad he had to be shamed into doing the right thing.

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