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Maybe their motives were suspect - politicians' motives usually are - but Republicans in the U.S. Senate served the public well in their determined, if ultimately futile, attempt to derail this disgusting excuse for a crime bill.

If some Republicans merely wanted to embarrass President Clinton, so what? If others were paying their dues to the National Rifle Association - well, that's the way the game is played in Washington. What mattered was that some of our elected representatives in the Senate actually represented our interests for a change."Some," as it turned out, was another word for "not enough" as a procedural challenge that would have killed the crime bill yesterday was defeated, 61-39. The 39 senators who voted to protect the taxpayers from one more obnoxious piece of legislation are 38 Republicans and one Democrat.

The 61 senators on the other side - those who voted to send the crime bill to the Senate floor for final approval - are 55 Democrats and six Republicans.

Crime bill opponents still threw up roadblocks, but the outcome was inevitable once the procedural vote was taken.

This was immediately hailed as a great victory for Clinton and the Democrats, and maybe it was, since they staked so much political capital on passing a crime bill. But it was no victory for the American people, because this crime bill was, is and always will be a hoax.

The very premise of the crime bill - that the federal government can solve the crime problem in local communities - is a lie.

Never mind the so-called crime prevention programs that Republican senators attacked as pork barrel and social welfare even as the crime bill made its way toward Clinton's desk. Most of that stuff is as phony as a $3 bill, but even the generally acknowledged "tough" provisions of the bill - money for cops and prisons - are overrated and underfunded.

By the time local officials manage to comply with all the federal guidelines and regulations that go along with this $30 billion boondoggle, cities all across America could find themselves faced with the prospect of raising taxes just so they can afford to accept the federal grants authorized by the crime bill.

Clinton and the Democrats seem to think that passing the crime bill will boost their standing with the voters, but the opposite is true. Just as they would rather have no health-care reform than bad health-care reform, voters would rather have no crime legislation than have legislation that throws billions of taxpayers' dollars at the crime problem with absolutely no hope of solving it.

Watch the election returns in November and see how many members of Congress who opposed the crime bill are voted out of office. Here's a prediction: Opponents of the crime bill will fare much better at the polls than those who supported it.