L. Neil Smith's

Number 10, July 1996

Filegate? White House Blames the Usual Suspects

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Former FBI agent Gary W. Aldrich now faces a predictable full-court press from a White House desperate to counter allegations in his new book that Hillary Clinton herself is responsible for the hiring of White House "filemaster" and former barroom bouncer Craig Livingstone.
         The counterattack ranges from what commentator John McLaughlin calls "blaming the dead guy" -- contending the late Vince Foster hired Livingstone -- to the familiar refrain that the former FBI agent now joins a long line of "tools" being used by "right-wing extremists" to discredit this White House.
         Aldrich, who retired from the FBI in 1994 after 30 years as an agent -- the last five years at the White House under presidents Bush and Clinton -- says he was told by both former White House Associate Counsel William H. Kennedy III and by Mr. Livingstone himself that Mr. Livingstone was hired by Hillary Clinton. Mr. Livingstone was even "selected by the first lady and the president to handle arrangements for Vince Foster's funeral," he reports.
         Mr. Aldrich also reports allegations ranging from President Clinton sneaking out for romantic trysts to sloppy White House security to former drug use by some staffers.
         Some of these are thrice-told tales, at best. I wouldn't nominate Agent Aldrich for his Pulitzer quite yet.
         But one might expect an innocent White House to say, perhaps, that they need time to read the book, at which point they plan to take under consideration any parts of Agent Aldrich's security critique that seem valuable.
         Instead, Mrs. Clinton, visiting Romania July 1 when the matter came up, promptly blasted a book it seems unlikely she could have yet read.
         "I see it as a politically inspired fabrication and I don't think anybody should take it seriously," she said.
         She denied suggestions that she played a role in the hiring of the White House security chief who collected private FBI files on more than 700 people. "There is no connection," she said.
         Instead, the White House concentrated on pointing out that a publicist hired by Regnery Publishing to help promote the book once did some work for Bob Dole during the GOP primaries.
         Oh, that proves it.
         "I'm willing to swear under oath to anything that I have in this book," Aldrich said on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley." He later amplified the offer, vowing that he would answer no questions with Mrs. Clinton's own favorite perjury-beater, "I cannot recall."
         Senior Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos responded: "His story couldn't get past the fact checker at the National Enquirer."
         Possibly. History will little care. The far more important precedent was Mr. Stephanopoulos' admission that the White House tried unsuccessfully to convince ABC to cancel Mr. Aldrich's appearance, altogether.
         Apparently, rather than answer the substantive reports of such a whistle-blower, this White House prefers to blatantly abuse its power in attempts to blackball the author from network television.
         This is nothing new, of course. Lyndon Johnson and Dick Nixon tried it all the time -- often with success. It's just that Mr. Clinton entered office vowing to "set a new standard of ethics" for the nation.
         Matthew Glavin, president of a non-profit legal foundation brought in to help defend Mr. Aldrich's First Amendment rights, told The Washington Times on June 30 that Mr. Aldrich had also been scheduled to appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" and "Dateline NBC" that weekend, but that those appearances were canceled under White House pressure.
         How about the other major White House theme: Is it, in truth, only "right-wing extremists" who are concerned about Mr. Aldrich's revelations about White House security -- the stuff he would know about, first-hand?
         "I'm not absolutely satisfied," with the White House's explanations about the FBI files, said Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press" June 30.
         "The administration seems not to know what they're doing," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, on June 29.
         "There's something really, really serious about this," said Roll Call's Morton Kondracke on NBC's "McLaughlin Group," also on June 29. "I mean Jack Ruby, for God's sake, could walk into the White House, get a job, and shoot the president under these circumstances. Half of these people weren't cleared."
         "There is a gut part of that book which is clearly correct, and that is that for months and months people that were hired to go to the White House declined to go to FBI interviews in order to get permanent passes," said left-leaning Sam Donaldson on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley."
         "No matter who hired him (Livingstone) or didn't hire him," Mr. Donaldson asked Mr. Stephanopoulos of the White House, "why would a man with no security background be put in that office?"
         "Well, again, I -- I can't explain that," Mr. Stephanopoulos replied.
         No explanations. No answers. Just blame it all on the plottings of "right-wing extremists."
         Maybe Rush Limbaugh did it.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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