Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sordid Episode of Travelgate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sordid Episode of Travelgate

Article excerpt

Rep. William Clinger, R-Pa., held a one-day hearing on the most sordid episode of the Clinton years, the travel office scandal. Two days later, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., announced yet another fishing expedition in Whitewater. In medieval times, he would have been called "Alfonse the Adamant."

What the two cases have in common, of course, is the tragic figure of Vincent Foster, friend of the Clintons and deputy White House counsel. He is the corpse of choice for GOP gumshoes. They dig him up annually.

Foster has proved irresistible to the party in power on Capital Hill. A hysterical minority insists that Foster, a conscientious man who was horrified by the savage mores of official Washington, did not commit suicide, but was killed for what he knew about Clinton's two major embarrassments.

What makes Travelgate infinitely worse is that it incorporates everything repulsive about cronyism, nepotism and other manifestations of the spoils system Clinton came to office vowing to change. It also is much easier to follow than Whitewater. It involved gratuitous cruelty to five people with long service in the White House travel office, the smearing of good names and the expense of hiring lawyers to clear them.

The White House fired, then rehired, them for other government posts. The head of the travel office, Billy R. Dale, was subsequently indicted for embezzlement, his friends say because the FBI was under pressure to come up with some ex-post-facto vindication for a crass grab for White House perks for presidential pals.

The story shows how difficult it is for this president - who is not unique in this respect - to admit anything. When it became apparent that Harry Thomasson, an old Arkansas intimate, was engaged in a hostile takeover of the travel office, using Catherine Cornelius, a Clinton cousin, as his agent and spy, the president said he knew nothing about it. Then the White House tried to present the coup as a move to reform the travel office, fired all seven employees and called the cops - the FBI. "You're not defending these guys?" he asked the press histrionically.

Later, the administration was forced to rehire five of the fired employees and give them government jobs. …

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