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Books | If the Aldrich book is only partly true, that's bad enough

Issue: "Brownback's Senate fight," July 20, 1996

There was a time when one could dismiss out of hand a book like Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access. When confronted with Mr. Aldrich's sordid tale of an immoral First Couple surrounded by immature friends and staffers, the average American would have given the president, any president, the benefit of the doubt.

But this president is different.

After more than four years of campaigning and governing, the Clintons have proved that amazing allegations may be accuate. The picture painted by the former FBI agent, who until last year handled security investigations for the White House, is amazing:

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First Family fights started minutes after the inauguration, with Hillary Clinton "screaming at her husband in what was described as 'uncontrolled and unbridled fury'."

Prospective staffers resisted FBI security checks in order to hide various misdeeds, like recent drug use. Clinton aides conducted themselves in ways that seemed, shall we say, unbecoming of their positions.

The first lady treated the common help, including Secret Service agents tasked to protect her family, like trash.

Craig Livingstone, the Clintons' one-time chief of security, complained about

an Aldrich colleague telling the truth in a criminal trial.

Naturally, the Clinton administration has attacked Mr. Aldrich's credibility, and he appears to have erred seriously in repeating an unsubstantiated rumor regarding presidential visits to a nearby hotel.

All of Mr. Aldrich's charges should be viewed skeptically. But if only half, or a third, or even a fourth of the allegations-most of which are based on credible eyewitness reports-are true, the Clinton crew collectively lacks the moral qualification to fill the office of dogcatcher, let alone an administration of the president of the United States.

That the Clintons survive politically is in part due to the media's reluctance to expose the moral filth at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Tim Graham, on the staff of the Media Research Center, amply backs his conclusion that journalists have treated the First Couple with kid gloves, especially compared to the way they battered President Reagan. As he writes in Pattern of Deception, "The media's protective cordon around President Clinton proved that impartiality is not the goal of today's journalists: Changing society for the better is."

Another representative of the shameless school of politics is Gary Hart, who, in The Patriot, calls for "an idealistic commitment to national renewal." Who could oppose such a thing? The "barbarians" (today's politicians) who have lost confidence in the people and, in turn, lost the confidence of the people, that's who.

Mr. Hart acknowledges that "some will be tempted to dismiss these reflections, on the ground that their author has been discredited," but to do so would be unfair since he, like so many others, is a victim-in his case, of "a culture which destroys leadership and demeans debate."

The former Colorado senator and failed 1984 and 1988 presidential candidate is particularly concerned that "the American right has now placed a starvation siege around [government]." And on he goes: You get the point. Obviously, much is wrong with politics today. But starvation of government, which currently takes roughly 44 percent of national income, is not one of them. And Mr. Hart's nostrums, such as global alliances and international militaries, provide no answers.

As depressing as is the current political climate, it is important to remember that the good guys sometimes win. Richard Gray and Sabine Wilke collect various materials that record the collapse of totalitarian East Germany and its peaceful reunification with West Germany. What was this, but a miracle?

Similarly invigorating is Richard Overy's Why the Allies Won, in which he charts how America and company overcame the Axis' apparently overwhelming advantages. Although the war may not have been quite the close-run affair suggested by Mr. Overy, it is hard not to acknowledge the role of providence in the defeat of both Nazism then and Communism decades later.

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