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Jewish World Review / August 25, 1998 /3 Elul, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas The president as 'Chicken Little'

ASKED TO PROVIDE A CHARACTER reference following President Clinton's decision to strike at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Sudan, the public first thought of a movie, "Wag The Dog,'' a fictional story about White House aides and a Hollywood producer who divert public attention from a presidential sex scandal to a phony war with Albania.

That's the problem with character. If you are thought not to have any, then your credibility suffers.

Yes, virtually everyone agrees, the United States should have retaliated against those whom our intelligence agencies tell us are responsible for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And, yes, the President's motivation for doing so right now is suspect. It is possible to simultaneously hold both views.

An unnamed White House aide was quoted by one network as saying his blood boiled because of questions raised about the President's motive for a military strike, coming less than 72 hours after Clinton's "personal responsibility'' speech and on the same day Monica Lewinsky concluded her grand jury testimony. But what argument would the aide use to persuade us the President should be believed, when he has admitted to lying for seven months?

Call it Chicken Little syndrome. The President lies, not only about sex, but about so many other things, from Social Security, health care, the travel office firings, the purloined FBI files, cattle futures, the era of big government being over, and more. Then he pleads to be believed when he and his minions tell us that the Monica Lewinsky saga had nothing to do with his decision to hit terrorist camps.

Americans are torn between their natural inclination to rally behind their President at such a moment and the feeling of betrayal from hearing him admit he has been lying about his relationship with Lewinsky for seven months. What happens when the sky really falls? How will we know until we're hit on the head, perhaps by a terrorist missile?

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), was one of the few brave enough to say what others were thinking. Coats said he thought about the cruise-missile attack "long and hard'' and he concluded that "once the President has deceived the American people and broken the bond of trust, one wonders about his motives.''

That is the point made by a number of America's critics around the world. How can this President be believed? How can we know that his resolve is genuine or just more political manipulation designed to delay his day of reckoning? We want to believe him because he is the President, but why should we? Why, after telling us so many lies, should Chicken Little be believed when he finally tells the truth?

Fyodor Dostoevsky eloquently described the effects of a congenital liar in The Brothers Karamazov. He wrote, "Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself ...''

If an effective war is to be waged against terrorism, it must be fought under the leadership of a President whose resolve, commitment, integrity and credibility are believed by those who would do America harm. A compromised President who has become fodder for late-night comedians and the rest of the world is not such a man. It is why calls for his resignation or impeachment will increase.

Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report to the House, which could be delivered next month, will likely be about far more than sex. At that time President Clinton's nakedness will be revealed to the world as increasing numbers of Democrats recall a chant used by Clinton and Al Gore during the 1992 campaign about the Bush Administration: "It's time for them to go.''


8/20/98: That was no apology
8/18/98: Big government's crab grab
8/14/98:Untruths, half-truths and anything but the truth
8/12/98: Lying under oath: past and present impeachable offenses
8/10/98: Endangered species
8/04/98: In search of an unstained president
7/31/98: The UK is ahead of US in one area...
7/28/98: Murder near and far
7/21/98: Telling the truth about
homosexual behavior
7/17/98: One Nation? Indivisible?
7/14/98: Who cares about killing when the 'good times' are rolling?
7/10/98: George W. Bush: a different 'boomer'
7/08/98: My lunch with Roy Rogers
7/06/98: News unfit to print (or broadcast)
6/30/98: Smoke gets in their eyes
6/25/98: Sugar and Spice Girls
6/19/98: William Perry opposed
technology transfers to China
6/19/98: The Clinton hare vs.the Starr tortoise
6/17/98: The President's rocky road to China
6/15/98: Let the children go
6/9/98: Oregon: the new killing fields
6/5/98: Speaking plainly: the cover-up continues
6/2/98: Barry Goldwater: in our hearts
5/28/98:The Speaker's insightful remarks
5/26/98: As bad as it gets
5/25/98:Union dues and don'ts
5/21/98: Connecting those Chinese campaign contribution dots
5/19/98: Clinton on the couch
5/13/98: John Ashcroft: another Jimmy Carter?
5/8/98: Terms of dismemberment
5/5/98: Clinton's tangled Webb
4/30/98: Return of the Jedi
4/28/98: Desparately seeking Susan
4/23/98: RICO's threat to free-speech and expression
4/21/98: Educating children v. preserving an institution
4/19/98: Analyzing the birth of a possible new nation
4/14/98: What's fair about our tax system?
4/10/98: CBS: 'Touched by a perv'
4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
4/2/98: How about helping American cities before African?
3/31/98:Revenge of the children
3/29/98: The Clinton strategy: delay, deceive, deny, and destroy
3/26/98: Moralist Gary Hart
3/23/98: CNN's century of (liberal) women
3/17/98: Dandy Dan
3/15/98: An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing
3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.