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With new scandals every week and a bevy of congressional probes and independent counsels at work, some in Washington are reporting a feeling of deja vu. Comparisons are increasingly drawn between the travails facing the Clinton administration and the constitutional crisis over Watergate that gripped the nation during 1973-74. As with any comparison of disparate circumstances, both similarities and differences abound.

The core of Watergate involved the misuse of presidential power in an incumbent administration's effort to win another term in the White House. Arguments made by Nixon apologists that previous presidents Kennedy and Johnson had bugged their political opponents -- now established as true -- were unavailing. An opposition Congress confronted in Richard Nixon a bitter partisan antagonist with a 70 percent approval rating who had just won an historic, 49-state landslide re-election. Aided by a liberal news media that scented blood in the water, that partisan Congress formed the wolfpack that brought him down.

Twenty-three years later, with a White House of one party and a Congress controlled by the other, many in Washington believe they detect that familiar aroma. Those who scoff have been quick to dismiss any comparison of the Nixon conspiracies and coverups with the gaggle of wrongdoing known for four years now as Whitewater. The last six months have brought news that is far, far more troublesome. Intelligence intercepts going back at least two years, we now know, revealed an attempt by the Chinese government to influence the U.S. government and the course of our election campaigns.

The crimes and alleged crimes engulfing the Clinton administration: Millions in tax money for establishing a White House computer database for Democratic campaign uses. Illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals. Illegal solicitation of campaign contributions from government property. The possible placement of John Huang as a highly placed spy -- with access to top-secret, classified data -- in a sensitive Commerce Department post, from where he decamped with a presidential blessing to the Democratic National Committee, there to raise millions in illegal cash. And, most incredibly, to do all this while retaining his security clearance after leaving the government payroll.

This isn't petty stuff. This is deadly serious, involving potentially the sellout of the country and the jeopardizing of our trade position and national security. By comparison, Watergate involved a bungled burglary and subsequent illegal coverup. It must be a terrifying time to be in the Clinton White House.