Washington -- THE COMMON wisdom around our nation's capital about the withdrawal of retired Air Force Gen. Michael P.C. Carns as President Clinton's nominee to direct the CIA is that this is another illustration of White House haplessness. Or still another "nannygate," where folks got caught up in their need for help around the house -- and bent some rules.
In truth, the Carns episode is a proverbial case study of everything that is so wrong -- not with the general, but with the madly bureaucratized and destructive maze of our immigration "laws." To think that a Filipino, of unknown moral character, with an acknowledged grudge and no commitment to this country, can destroy a respected U.S. general's position as nominee for the most powerful intelligence service in the world.
First, the case itself: By all accounts, General Carns has been a splendid soldier and family man, a man whose dedication to country was never challenged. The proof is to be found in every stage of his life: from his high recommendations from retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, for whom General Carns served as joint staff director during the Persian Gulf War, to his distinguished service as chief of staff of the Air Force.
The man's life would seem to be unassailable; but more and more in Washington today, lives are judged -- and often enough, destroyed -- by ridiculously minor events, even allowing non-American citizens of questionable morals to use our security agencies to settle their grievances.
This is where one Elbino Runas comes into the picture. It seems that, when they served in the Philippines, the Carns family
befriended this young Filipino man, who was related to their cook, and allowed him to live in their house. When they returned home to the states, they brought him with them.
Despite the Carnses unquestionable kindness to him, and their generosity, he left them feeling angry and hostile because they had not done more for him. To get back at them, he related his whole bitter story to the FBI in what General Carns would say was an "ambush . . . venomous and abusive."
In this particular case, there are some vulgar stories going around in Washington about just what this "betrayed" Mr. Runas would have said publicly if General Carns had not withdrawn his nomination. As of now, there is no proof the Carnses did anything that was morally wrong or that would affect a man's capacity to head the CIA. Indeed, the issue rests on the couple's signing, with Mr. Runas, a "contract" whose niggardly details the Immigration and Naturalization Service says they did not totally observe.
It is the ascribed duty of the federal government to regulate our immigration and our borders. But it doesn't do it; that is a deliberate choice on the part of our government and a clear dereliction of duty. Meanwhile, self-styled "refugees" pour into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, and illegal immigrants walk across our southern borders into an American society, while our busy bureaucrats yowl at General Carns and his contract.
And so, our fine government officials have found a place to put the blame for our immigration disaster: on us. On every level, they have devolved what should be their own responsibility upon American citizens. Since they are not doing their job, we are supposed to do it. And so, when the Carnses proceeded upon the perfectly normal course of bringing a foreign national here to help them out -- and paying him well and taking care of him -- they were the ones whose every act was watched.
The pious and judgmental bureaucrats of Washington can be seen in the fact that this "contract" with a foreign employee, should in effect wipe out the record of a man's life for an important position. Which of us has not made small oversights like this? Who can even read those endless papers that the bureaucratic mind exists for and so cherishes?
Let me pose one more question: How have we come to a place where the words of a non-citizen like Mr. Runas, with an admitted grudge, should even be trusted? How did we get to this point, where our investigators, such as the FBI, are put in the position of relying on such accusers? And giving them a stage -- in a country that is not even their own -- to act out their jealousies and animosities?
The answers to those questions are to be found in the bureaucratization of immigration and in our government's reneging of its responsibilities. They are also to be found in a spiteful playfulness across our society that wickedly revels in leveling the mighty -- over details.
Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist.