The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, November 6, 1996           TAG: 9611060010
SECTION: FRONT                   PAGE: A27  EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Opinion 
SOURCE: Patrick Lackey 
                                            LENGTH:   69 lines


In the waning days of the presidential race just ended, candidate Bob Dole screamed into the wind, ``Where is the outrage in America?''

He meant, of course, the outrage against Clinton.

Greg Raver-Lampman, a former Pilot reporter, believes the outrage was muted because Clinton has turned out to be so much better than his critics said.

CRITICS: Clinton murdered, or had murdered, a string of people in Arkansas and plotted to crash Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's plane to shut Brown up.

TRUTH: Clinton never murdered anybody or had anybody murder anybody. He had nothing to do with Brown's death.

CRITICS: Foster was murdered in Hillary's apartment.

TRUTH: No, he wasn't.

Clinton's critics have exaggerated so wildly and so often that they've lowered the moral bars that Clinton must clear.

MORAL BAR: Kill anyone?

No he didn't, so he clears that bar.

MORAL BAR: Anyone killed in his wife's apartment.

No, there wasn't, so he clears that bar.

Clinton's critics make it easy for him with their crazy exaggerations. Dole said the economy is the worst in 100 years. To counter that, Clinton merely has to show that the economy is better now than, say, the worst week in 1932.

The pattern of exaggeration is repeated over and over - to Clinton's benefit. Horrible allegations are made against him that on closer examination aren't as bad as first thought.

With Watergate, the plot thickened.

After Clinton is accused of some dire deed, the plot thins.

Consider a recent column by Clinton critic Tony Snow.

Assuming that immigrants would vote Democratic, the column said, Clinton's people sped up the naturalization process to make 1 million immigrants eligible to vote. Later in that column, the number became 1.3 million, including ``as many as 130,000 people with criminal backgrounds.'' The column concluded with the lines, ``Goodbye, Ellis Island. Hello, walking-around money.'' Snow's implication is that the immigrants were bribed to vote Democratic.

It may transpire that 500 criminals got into the country that would have been caught except for haste in making immigrants eligible to vote - assuming Snow is right that there was haste. Should we then be outraged over the 500 criminals who got in? Normally we would be, but heck, 500 sounds a whole lot better than ``up to 130,000.'' And weren't the immigrants supposed to have been bribed? If they weren't bribed, but were merely criminals, then things aren't quite as bad as we'd been led to believe, are they?

Whatever the truth turns out to be, it will pale beside Snow's exaggerations.

Come the next Travelgate or Whitewater or, as Dole would say, whatever, Clinton's critics should try something new. They should stroke their chins and say, ``Might be something to that; might not. Can't say yet.''

Then they should dig into the matter, come up with the facts and present them not in outrage but merely as a public service.

If Clinton's critics were really smart, they would declare him a saint and apologize for the mud slung at him.

``Clinton is clearly above reproach,'' they should say. ``How could we have been so wrong?''

Then they should quietly begin to notice and point out a few of his imperfections. Then a few more. And a few more.

That approach would be more effective than accusing Clinton of every crime, imperfection and perversion known to man.

Never say a man kicks babies unless you have videotape. For if it turns out he doesn't, you'll make him look good. Clinton's more excessive critics managed to make him look good for not committing murder. MEMO: Mr. Lackey is an editorial writer for The Virginian-Pilot. by CNB