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Opinion Column
For the week of May 30 through June 5, 2001

Bush staffers trashed Clinton’s staff

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Along with probably a few hundred other media people, I owe Express readers and Bill Clinton’s outgoing White House staff an apology for being sucked in by the incoming Bush White House staff.

Remember when, a few days after the Bush staff moved in, reports spread that Clinton staffers had literally trashed the White House.

So, when President Bush’s spokesman, Ari Fleischer, was asked about the alleged vandalism, he refused to contradict the reports, thereby encouraging media to wrongly assume that Clinton’s people had behaved like spoilsports in their final hours, although President Bush quickly and admirably put to rest talk that Air Force One had been stripped of souvenirs.

Outrageous, said I and others, who’d had enough of Clinton era high jinks.

Now, after a thorough investigation, the General Services Administration ¾ the landlord of federal offices ¾ says no such vandalism occurred.

Since the White House press corps isn’t free to roam corridors, and relied on the honesty of George Bush’s staff to report the condition of the presidential offices, reporters were taken in by the new administration’s refusal to debunk the vandalism rumors.

Presumably, Bush’s staff thought this would be good fun at the expense of truth.

Maybe this is the sort of behavior GOP Sen. John McCain had in mind when he said the other day that "it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up."


Were it not for marvels of technology, police work in this country would still be something straight out of Mack Sennett’s slapstick Keystone Kops silent movies produced during the 1920s.

Exotic crime labs, nighttime surveillance optics, quiet helicopters, voice analysis devices and on and on have professionalized police work and stretched law enforcement abilities.

Among the popular new devices are radar cameras to nab drivers exceeding speed limits or running red lights at intersections.

Communities from coast to coast have installed these systems to free police for other duties, while also helping reduce speeding violations and intersection fatalities and injuries.

But there’s a noisy claque of critics, and they’ve found a willing advocate to eliminate the devices ¾ Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, of Texas.

For as long as he’s been around in politics, Armey has championed the right of local government to make more decisions.

But on local governments buying radar and traffic cameras, Armey puts his foot down.

He calls these tools of traffic control "Big Brother devices" that intrude on privacy.

Thinking people will have a tough time deciphering Armey’s logic. How does a radar or red light camera intrude on privacy but a police officer stopping a speeder and asking questions doesn’t?

Presumably using DNA samples to solve sex crimes and homicides also fit Armey’s definition of intruding on privacy. As do wire taps, surveillance by helicopters and stings. In time, would he want these eliminated?

Armey is a man of occasional nonsensical positions.

He’s the congressman who once said (but never repeated it) that health care in America is a privilege not a right.



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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.