- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2000

Frying Bacon

A senator has lumped Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon in the same crime category as Watergate defendant Charles Colson, who was imprisoned for misusing a political opponent's FBI file.

Mr. Bacon has come under fire for leaking to the media in March 1998 a portion of the confidential personnel file of former Pentagon employee Linda Tripp, who blew the whistle on President Clinton's romantic interludes with Monica Lewinsky.

It was revealed at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General completed its probe of Mr. Bacon within four months of the leak, forwarding its findings to the Justice Department with "sufficient evidence that a crime had been committed," says Sen. James M. Inhofe, a Republican committee member from Oklahoma.

The senator charges, however, that from July 1998 to March 2000 the Justice Department "sat" on the IG's report, "essentially engaging in a cover-up." On March 28, he says, Justice "quietly" returned the report to the Pentagon, declining to prosecute.

Discussing the Bacon leak further this week, Mr. Inhofe says Mr. Bacon, a familiar face inside and outside the Pentagon, should not be permitted to escape responsibility "for an act that so clearly violated the law" (in this case the Privacy Act, designed to protect the rights of government employees).

"It was the same offense for which Colson served in the federal penitentiary," says the senator. "Colson released information from [Pentagon Papers leaker] Daniel Elsberg's confidential file, violating Elsberg's privacy. Bacon released information from Linda's Tripp's confidential file, violating Tripp's privacy."

Mr. Inhofe says he recently received a letter from Mr. Bacon's attorney, William J. Murphy, who says comparing the Pentagon's flack to Mr. Colson is "inaccurate" and "unfair" because their two cases are not "remotely comparable."

Mr. Murphy argues that the court found that Mr. Colson implemented "a scheme to defame and destroy the public image of Daniel Elsberg, with the intent to influence, obstruct and impede the control and outcome" of pending investigations and prosecutions.

Mr. Inhofe, actually, couldn't agree more. Mr. Bacon's action, says the senator, can also be seen as part of "a scheme to defame and destroy the public image of Linda Tripp, with the intent to influence, obstruct and impede the conduct and outcome" of pending investigations and possible prosecutions.

Donkey dump

"I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but what's next, dump the donkey and embrace the elephant?" wonders Republican National Committee Deputy Press Secretary Mark Pfeifle.

He's referring to the Democratic National Committee "stealing" the RNC's idea to produce compact discs for campaign purposes, in the Democrats' case, Sen. John McCain's earlier campaign comments about Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who he's since endorsed.

The RNC recently produced its own CD, "The Best of Al Gore: Hits of the '80s, '90s and Today"

The Republican CD features popular hits such as "I Invented the Internet" and everybody's favorite, "Clinton is One of Our Greatest Presidents."

Who's the dunce?

"I hate to call it a stupid formula because it is in an education bill, but it is really a dumb, stupid formula."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, commenting on an education bill on the Senate floor this week.

Hmong honor

The Senate has rarely seen such an outpouring of respect and admiration not for one of their own, but for a man who would have made as good a senator.

Mike Epstein, a longtime legislative aide and familiar face on the Senate floor who took pride in being a liberal with a capital "L," evoked unprecedented congressional passion in his passing this week at age 63.

A memorial service in the Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol was jammed by a crowd overflowing into the corridor. Alongside Mr. Epstein's family was his boss, Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat.

A dozen senators were in attendance, as were scores of Hill staffers, friends and neighbors from Capitol Hill's Eastern Market community, where Mr. Epstein had his home and favorite watering hole, Tunnicliffe's Tavern.

Then there were a dozen Hmong, refugees from Laos mountain people who fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War. They came to pay their last respects to a man who made their cause his.

Many Hmong are trying to rebuild customs and family ties by resettling in Minnesota. Mr. Wellstone is sponsoring the Hmong Veterans Bill, conveying U.S. citizenship and military pensions to these mountain men who fought with U.S. soldiers.

In military drabs, the Hmong were a moving sight. They opened the memorial service with a sacred Hmong elegy, then presented flowers with a written message of gratitude to their friend, Mr. Epstein.

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