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TRAMPING THE 'PATHS OF GLORY'

One day two weeks ago, a summer intern asked me, "Do you feel sorry for Monica Lewinsky?"

My answer might have surprised her. It was: "I don't have any feelings about her. But she sure seemed to have gotten what she sought. Instant publicity. So, too, did that lawyer who never met a talk show he didn't like. But again, I don't have any feelings about her."

Last week I said to the same intern: "It doesn't matter what part of his story people believe. Or the whole thing. The Democrats will believe him and the Republicans won't."

A week since President Clinton's talk has passed, and I still feel the same. You see, I have always believed that people voted for their wallets and refrigerators. Accordingly, I have never bought the message in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

The other day I reviewed my conversation with the young lady and got to thinking of "Paths of Glory" and the Great French Army Mutiny.

Now a man in the front row is asking, "Why would anything remind you of a movie with Kirk Douglas in it?"

Perhaps you have seen "Paths of Glory," a World War I film, on the magic box. In it, Kirk Douglas plays a French colonel who discovers that his general had ordered fire on his own troops. It is definitely an anti-war film and is hailed as a classic. And Douglas put his own money into it.

The movie was based on a true story, and we ran the true story in the man's magazine I used to edit. Of course, I never forgot it and often thanked the Lord I didn't serve in that war where the often French lost what is called "The Flower of Their Youth."

So one day the principal of a school in Amherst asked me to tell his students why our country is disposed to put our dirty linen, like the Mai Lai massacre, into the store window. Of course, I was glad to do it.

During my talk I pointed out that though 50-plus years had passed, the report on the Great French Army Mutiny is still labeled "Too Secret" over there.

Suddenly a young exchange student from France challenged me. She was deeply hurt and seemingly thought I was attacking her country. And I recall thinking, "Too bad we didn't see that spirit over there."

Nowadays the governments of many countries are puzzled by the way we treat our scandals. They are used to hiding them or saying, as the Clinton thing, they aren't worth the bother.

Ask an American combat veteran who was in France, and isn't of French origins, during World War II what he thinks of the French. And stand back. What you will hear is not fair. But it's there.

Or ask, "How would another country have handled the Mai Lai massacre."

And wait for a bitter laugh.