With extreme prejudice


PERHAPS malign fate hasn't cast you up against the lunatic fringe, so you may not know that the president of the United States is, in reality, the Mr. Big of a modern Murder Inc.

Yes, Bill Clinton, the Arkansas doughboy, soft of tummy and thigh and a politician who feels your pain even before you do, is godfather to a band of political assassins and ruffians.

They have been offing his opponents, wasting investigators and even mowing down political bystanders in numbers and with a ruthlessness that would give Attila pause.

It is all over the nitwit right these days.

The numbers vary. Some of the accusers are quite modest in their accusations.

Jerry Falwell -- and excuse me, but I cannot bring myself to write "the Reverend" before that awful man's name one more time -- lays only one murder at the president's door, that of the fellow whose company provided security in Little Rock during Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign. He was found shot -- the usual modifier is "gang land style" -- on a parkway.

Others provide a whole catalogue of presumed victims, if not murdered at least cruelly maimed -- a neighbor of Gennifer Flowers, the former wife of a key Arkansas state trooper, a lawyer who investigated Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan.

The last died "apparently," as it is usually put, of viral pneumonia, but he's on the list anyway. Those Clintons are infinitely devilish and clever, you know, Borgias for our time. It could have been some secret poison.

Of course, there's not a scrap of evidence to tie any of these deaths or misadventures to the president, his wife, their daughter or anyone acting for them.

But a mere absence of evidence is no deterrence to the lively political cottage industry that has grown up in Clinton-hating.

Indeed, even proof to the contrary is no deterrence to retailed suspicion. Consider the sad case of Vincent Foster, the presidential aide who, suffering depression, committed suicide last year.

From the start, the Clintophobes had that down as murder, with Bill or Hillary calling the shot if not firing it.

The investigating police said it was suicide, just as it appeared to be. Now the special counsel has said so, too.

The ding-a-lings keep pealing murder even so, to the point where Attorney General Janet Reno felt obliged recently to ask them, in the name of decency toward the family, to knock it off.

The plea, of course, will be seen as proof of the conspiracy.

This thing has now gone so far that the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Falwell for the boardroom set, has run out a seven-person version of the victim list, citing previous publication abroad as journalistic cover.

But lest we think the Journal no better than its less fastidious comrades in paranoia, it writes of one case, "Finding no real evidence of a Clinton connection, and feeling the president of the United States is entitled to a presumption of innocence, we decline in the name of responsibility to print what we've heard."

Ahh. Virtue a-preening.

Reason and sanity, it appears, will just have to wait their turn.

Tom Teepen is national correspondent of Cox Newspapers.

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