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NIXON MUST BE ROLLING IN GRAVE OVER GOP'S STANCE ON CRIME

IT BEING AUGUST 1995, Richard Nixon had to reach way beyond his usual reliable sources.

His once loyal ex-aides had answered his phone call via voice mail: Safire was vacationing, Buchanan was out running for president. Alas, poor Mr. Nixon must have been trying to dial up Len Garment when, mechanics not being his thing, he punched his phone buttons and rang, of all people, me."Good to hear a real voice - I've just used my last quarter. Didn't calls used to be a nickel? Anyway, I've just got a few minutes back here on Earth. What I need is a quick fill on Washington's real political news. The real inside scoop. All the stuff the liberal (expletive deleted) press never gives us - about what it really means."

(Well, I figured I'd let bygones be bygones. I figured I'd just pass along the latest political skinny.)

"Here's what the folks who control the Congress are doing," I began. "They've just had hearings in the House where they gave the federal law enforcement officials all kinds of trouble for having raided a commune of one of those fanatic groups, and the raid got out of control. And 80 people in the commune died in a fire they seem to have started themselves . . . ."

"Those (expletive deleted) Democrats!" Mr. Nixon erupted. "Now they've gone too far! I can hear them now, calling our law officers `pigs' when they are only trying to preserve law and order. Just like the liberal Democrats to take the side of the crazies."

Well, not exactly. I explained that it was his own Republicans who controlled both chambers of the Congress now. And that it was his Republicans who'd been attacking the law enforcement efforts of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI. And . . . .

"Say what?" Mr. Nixon said he was feeling a bit disoriented. He asked how things had gotten turned topsy-turvy. "After all," he added, "I worked hard to put our party on the side of the cops and against the crooks and the crazies. We Republicans are America's true law-and-order party!"

Well, not exactly. I explained that the police have been pleading with the Congress that they are being outgunned on our streets by drug gangs and petty crooks armed with those rapid-fire assault weapons like the Chinese AK-47 and the Uzis. But, I concluded, one party has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the cops . . . .

"Ah-ha! The (expletive deleted) Democrats!" Mr. Nixon boomed. "They'd sell out the cops for the contributions of the far-left Hollywood pansy-power people and the Black Panthers and all of them. This time they've gone too far!"

Well, not exactly. I explained that it was the Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who'd made a secret no-gun-control promise to the big contributing lobbyists of the National Rifle Association.

"But what about our famous Silent Majority? We won their votes years ago on the law-and-order issue. It's our issue and nobody can take it away."

Well, not exactly. The Republicans seem to be giving it away, Mr. Nixon. And in 1996 your old Silent Majority may turn out to be Bill Clinton's secret weapon.