- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

Regarding the disappearance from our Los Alamos nuclear laboratory of those computer hard drives containing nuclear secrets, it is all "much ado about nothing." That is the Shakespearean shrug that the Clinton administration's bright young things employ so often in response to each so-called scandal ginned up by their enemies in the ever-docile press.

Actually, the hard drives are perfectly secure. Bill and Al are using them as Frisbees on the White House lawn. The fellows just wanted us to know of another exciting use for the computer in this New Age.

Just kidding but forget the missing nuclear hard drives. The Cold War is over. And for that matter, forget the missing laptops from the State Department. And, by the way, all that hubbub about the Commerce Department allowing dangerous technology transfers to the Chinese was, well, "much ado about nothing" also. These things happen. Every administration has a security lapse every now and then. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt had Pearl Harbor. Dwight Eisenhower lost a putter at Augusta, back in 1956. Did Congress call for an inquiry?

It is not like the Clinton administration has no interest in security matters or espionage and counterespionage. As Bill and Hillary's old friend and adviser, Dick Morris, pointed out the other day in the New York Post, Bill and Hillary have been employing "secret police" since the 1992 election. They do a very good job of shutting down "bimbo eruptions." As Mr. Morris reports, they have been excellent at keeping tabs on the Clintons' enemies. Just the other day it was reported that Clinton operatives had put together a book on the sex lives of Ken Starr and his henchmen to be published by Disney's Talk/ Miramax until the embarrassed parent company pulled the plug on it.

Maybe now those sleuths whom Mr. Morris calls the Clintons' "secret police" can turn their attentions to Los Alamos. There have been a lot of security lapses there and at State, and at Commerce; and, for that matter, at the White House, where former FBI Agent Gary Aldrich found a dozen or so White House aides worked without security clearances in the first administration. How could they have security clearances? They had arrest records, tax violations, all the kinds of amusing irregularities that a certain kind of adventurous adolescent suffered whilst growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

As I have argued since I became the Boy President's biographer, the Clintons represent a distinct subgroup of the 1960s generation now come of age. During the peace demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s and during the other youthful rebellions, there was a charming slovenliness about them. It is with them today. Compared with the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt, Kennedy or even LBJ, there is not a distinguished mind to be found among the Clintonistas. The Clintons' equivalent of a Brain Trust would be a grand jury witness list or perhaps a police lineup.

The intellectual and moral standards maintained in the White House today are distinctly Third World or Fourth, if there is a Fourth. That is why we Americans can take delight in the recent arrival high on the New York Times' best-seller list of an elegant compendium of learning and sagacity, From "Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life," written by Jacques Barzun. Professor Barzun has an immense historical perspective. He is 92 and as keen-witted as when he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters decades ago. His book guides the reader through five centuries of Western cultural development from Martin Luther to the present with Bill and Al playing Frisbee with those hard drives on the White House lawn.

In his erudition and intelligence, the 92-year-old former professor of history at Columbia University demonstrates my point that Americans of an earlier generation were in intellectual and moral terms hugely superior to the present mediocrities and moral idiots in the White House. "From Dawn to Decadence" chronicles the steady rise in Western cultural development and the precipitous decline that has set in.

I have known Jacques since the late 1970s. When he lived in New York he and a small circle of equally well-stocked minds would allow me to lunch with them. I listened. The extent of their knowledge was astounding. All were university professors from the humanities. They were generalists, knowledgeable in history, literature, philosophy, what was still called government, and the arts, along with a smattering of mathematics and science. Today university professors specialize in areas so narrow and often so ideologically esoteric that their minds are as useless as gall bladders.

Were Mr. Barzun a young man just starting out in the intellectual life, I am not sure he would be able to achieve the high level of learning he has achieved today. To do that, one needs colleagues of equal brilliance for support and debate. What do today's universities turn out? Why, people who think the Clinton administration is another landmark of liberal progress. And who cares about those computer hard drives? No one out there would want our nuclear secrets anyway.



R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the editor in chief of the American Spectator.

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