JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 17, 1998 / 19 Adar, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Search and destroy

WHEN HAVE YOU heard a Cabinet member come on nationwide television to announce that an ordinary employee failed to fill out her job application properly? That was the ominous announcement of Secretary of Defense William Cohen about Linda Tripp, who just happens to be a witness against the president in the grand jury investigation of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

It seems like only yesterday that the White House spin-masters and their media allies were telling us that perjury in a civil case is no big deal. Linda TrippBut now a failure to mention an arrest more than 20 years ago is suddenly a big enough deal to bring in a Cabinet member announcing an investigation of Ms. Tripp, even though the charges against her were dropped when she was 19 years old.

Ironically, it is precisely the abuse of government power for personal benefit -- whether financial, sexual or legal -- that is being investigated by the special prosecutor. Yet this clear retribution against Linda Tripp is part of that very pattern.

So was the filing of criminal charges against White House travel office employees who were not willing to give up their jobs to the Clintons' cronies from Arkansas. Those charges got nowhere in court but they inflicted heavy financial damage in the form of attorneys' fees.

Trumped-up charges creating crushing legal bills are just one aspect of a government-sponsored, search-and-destroy mission against anybody who dares to cross the Clintons. So is trumpeting unsubstantiated charges in the media against Kenneth Starr and other attorneys in the special prosecutor's office.

Such actions also serve to warn anyone else out there who knows more dirt on the president that they had better keep it to themselves, if they know what is good for them.

In this context, the most dangerous of all the abuses of power by the Clintons has received far less attention than the president's sex life. Few seem to want to confront the painful implications of the unauthorized turning over of hundreds of confidential FBI files on Republicans to the Clintons' political operative Craig Livingstone.

This is a threat not only to those particular individuals but to the whole legal and political processes of this country.

The Clintons may see these files as protection against impeachment, since no Congressman or Senator can be sure what is in his or her FBI file or whether it will be leaked to the media in retaliation for a vote to impeach.

When former White House aide George Stephanopoulos said recently that, if Clinton goes down, he may take others with him, that was not necessarily a threat being relayed from the president. But it is still a chilling message, even if it is only the personal opinion of someone who has seen the Clintons operating at close range.

The dangers of a political secret police should be obvious to anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the history of the twentieth century. FBI files are confidential precisely because they contain anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations that can nevertheless destroy reputations, careers and private lives.

This is not the kind of material to be turned over to a former bouncer whom no one wants to admit having put on the White House payroll.

Corrupt government is not new. It is in fact thousands of years older than governments founded on the principle that the rulers themselves are not above the law.

It has taken centuries of struggle, bloodshed and the sacrifice of many lives to establish the principle of "a government of laws and not of men." Three kings of England had to be confronted by armed subjects -- and one of the kings beheaded -- before that principle was firmly established.

The same principle -- that even the head of government is not above the law -- was enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, which gave Congress the power of impeachment.

No one who really cares about this country wants to see it torn apart by the impeachment of any president. By the same token, no one who cares about humanity really wants to see a war, but we have had to fight wars to protect ourselves and our country.

Today, it is considered clever to shrug at abuses of power and say, "Everybody does it." Because of the struggles and sacrifices of generations who went before us, everybody in America does not do it.

But history shows that everybody will do it if you let them get away with it.


3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.