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The last refuge of a loser

Unless President Bush has some hard evidence to support his bizarre imputation that Bill Clinton was a tool of Communist agents, he owes his Democratic opponent an immediate apology. He also owes American voters a promise that he will refrain from further forays into gutter politics that are far beneath the dignity of the presidency.

Clinton acknowledges that he was one of a group of Oxford students who visited Moscow during a school break in the winter of 1969. Bush hasn't offered any evidence that this visit was anything other than the innocent school trip that Clinton says it was, but he said this week that Clinton should "level with the American people" about it.

Does the president truly mean to suggest that anyone who has ever visited a Communist country automatically has some explaining to do? After all, he spent more than a year of his life in Communist China.

Robert Dornan, R-Calif., the loose-cannon congressman who originally invented this irresponsible slander of Clinton, went so far as to question whether Clinton was "handled" by KGB agents when he was in Moscow 23 years ago. But Dornan admitted that he had no evidence to support such a charge and was merely exercising his unusually febrile imagination.

Apparently, that was still good enough for a president desperately grasping for an issue to turn around his foundering re-election campaign.

The president also said that Clinton should level with the American people on the question of "how many demonstrations he led against his own country from a foreign soil" during the Vietnam War. Clinton has always acknowledged that he participated in anti-war demonstrations while he was in school in England, but does Bush also truly mean to impugn the patriotism of every American who actively opposed our involvement in Vietnam?

Maybe the president is getting ready to produce the evidence that will turn Clinton's college trip to Moscow into the biggest story of this or any other election year. Otherwise, Clinton's communications chief got it right when he called this coy attack "a pathetic ploy by a desperate man."

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