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Hatch praises and derides Clinton in award speech

While accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Association of Utah, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch took the opportunity to compliment - and criticize - President Clinton.

Hatch urged those gathered at Friday's Asian Pacific Community Benefit Banquet to stand behind the president's decision to strike back at terrorist supporter Osama bin Laden, who is suspected to be involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."The president didn't have any choice," Hatch said. "He did the right thing, even though he knew he'd be criticized as a `Wag the Dog' scenario."

Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he also sits on an intelligence committee that investigated the embassy bombings.

"There are good indications that Osamabin Laden was responsible," he said. "His signature is all over this."

Investigations turned up a "crescendo of evidence that's compelling that he (bin Laden) and his people have killed all these people, and Americans, to boot," Hatch said.

It is now believed bin Laden was also trying to acquire toxic nerve gas, presumably to use against the United States in future attacks.

Hatch credited Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen and others for acting so swiftly against bin Laden's operational infrastructure, calling all of them "very good friends."

In spite of his highly publicized, caustic remarks against the president in recent days, Hatch said the president deserves the support of the nation in his battle against terrorism.

As a parting shot, however, Hatch also addressed the now infamous "jerk" remark, often quoted in local and national media. It was reported that Hatch called the president "a jerk" for shifting part of the Monica Lewinsky-scandal blame to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

" `Jerk' was misunderstood," Hatch said. "I was actually referring to the president's speech - that it was Juvenile, Evasive, Recriminating, and Kakistocratic (an old word meaning `government by the worst')."

The audience roared with laughter and applause.

The award Hatch was given symbolized the Asian Pacific community's appreciation for his "years and years and years of support" to Utah's minorities, said Michael Kwan, chairman of the Asian Association of Utah's executive board of directors.

"Sen. Hatch has been instrumental in assisting the agency in finding funding and federal grants, and assisting in its mission. He is a longtime friend of the AAU," Kwan said. "When we have issues, we can call him and he gives us his time. We know we can go to him."

Hatch seemed equally appreciative.

"The Asian Association has done as much as any community in helping this country prosper, from building railroads, to teaching our kids, to healing the sick, to practicing law.

"Diversity has made this country the greatest country in the world," he said. "Diversity and freedom."