For the week of May 25, 1999  thru June 1, 1999  

Lies about spies?

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

When he was lying his way through adulteries like a child caught in mischief, a majority of Americans nudged each other knowingly and accepted "Slick Willie" Clinton’s deceit as the cost of avoiding the Republican alternative.

But now President Clinton’s lying is grave. Can he bamboozle a majority of Americans into shrugging off his sociopathic need to deceive even when American national security is compromised?

The sharply edited report on Chinese espionage and theft of U.S. nuclear secrets released this week seems to document how Clinton and his highest national security aides have tried to cover-up wholesale Chinese plundering of secrets, plus gross ineptness by the Justice department.

Those who’ve seen the report say the espionage is at least the worst case of spying since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg purloined nuclear secrets for the Soviet Union in the early 1950s, then were executed for their crimes.

But President Clinton and his national security yes-men have reacted with surprised innocence, despite evidence that the president for two years has been aware of espionage conducted during his and previous administrations.

Compare this indifference to the Justice Department’s hair-trigger decision, for example, to haul Microsoft and American Airlines into court on predatory business practices, or Internal Revenue’s no-nonsense badgering of taxpayers, or Immigration and Naturalization’s iron-fisted treatment of aliens.

With the Chinese, Clinton seems content to overlook and excuse their worst behavior, whether spying, selling missiles to U.S. enemies or brutalizing political critics at home.

Cynics might reasonably suspect Clinton’s deference to China is because (a) Chinese intelligence agents slipped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Democratic Party’s election coffers and (b) corporations pressured Clinton to relax restrictions on the sale of U.S. technology.

Will heads roll? Probably not, at least not right away, since Clinton can hardly be outraged at aides who either were complicit in lax security or joined him in a cover-up.

Will the Justice department prosecute presidential aides for dereliction of duty and allowing espionage to occur? Probably not, since Attorney General Janet Reno has demonstrated egregious ineptness and indifference.

Worse, many Americans can be excused for wondering whether Congress impeached President Clinton for the wrong reasons at the wrong time.

Lying about sex with Monica in the Oval Office now seems tame and trivial when compared to allowing Chinese spies to walk off with national nuclear secrets and then claim presidential ignorance.

Murphy is the retired publisher of The Arizona Republic and a former radio commentator.


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