This article comes from our electronic archive and has not been reviewed. It may contain glitches.

Because of his past, President Clinton's participation in D-Day commemorations last week came under bitter criticism from some quarters of the American public -- in particular, from many veterans. We understand the criticism, and yet, would argue that if the president had avoided the ceremonies he would have most likely come under attack from many of the same organizations for not paying proper respect. Indeed, how could D-Day be commemorated in full honor without the President of the United States?

For a few days last week, we even thought Bill Clinton did a respectable job of allowing the history and the veterans to be the focus and not himself. His speech at Omaha Beach last Monday was respectful and brief. His references to God and country were inspiring, his words about D-Day veterans moving. We wondered if maybe this man, who had earlier in life protested against the United States and written about how he "loathed the military," might have grown up just a little.

And then, as so often happens with this president, news started to leak out that disturbed our hopes.

The first bit of news concerned the picture of Bill Clinton -- which appeared in the Southeast Missourian on both the front and page 11A last Tuesday -- pensively kneeling on the beach at Normandy, arranging stones into a shape of a cross. Most major newspapers and a number of TV stations ran this moving image of the president, caught in a moment of privacy, reflecting on the Great Crusade. Now we learn that the White House staff actually collected the stones and piled them on the beach for Clinton, placing them at the best angle for a pre-set TV camera to film him making the cross with a ship in the background. Out of camera range, the "solitary" president was, in fact, surrounded by a dozen White House aides who were making sure the photo came out according to plan.

One newspaper photographer there, who refused to take part, called it totally "calculated and orchestrated."

"The veterans were used as mere props for Bill Clinton," he went on to say.

Then we learned about a similar incident in Italy, originally reported in the New York Post. After giving a speech at a cemetery there, the president was filmed walking through the grave yard where he noticed a small American flag laying on the ground, apparently fallen from atop the gravestone of an American serviceman. The president picked up the flag and returned it to where it belonged.

Turns out now that a White House aide removed the flag in the first place, in consultation with Mr. Clinton.

None of the above is a crime, of course. And certainly, other presidents have used official functions as photo opportunities. But Bill Clinton's White House has taken this privilege of symbolism to a new extreme, not just encouraging the president to give a speech in front of an historical landmark, but re-arranging the landmark itself. In doing so, Bill Clinton creates an image of reality that isn't true.

Which takes us back to many veterans' protests about Bill Clinton attending ceremonies at Normandy in the first place.

We understand these veterans' anger. When questions were first asked about avoiding the draft, Bill Clinton denied it happened. He even charged those who suggested it as fomenting scurrilous lies. Then he was confronted with a letter, written by himself at the time, explaining why he was going to stay out of the country. It was in this letter he said he loved America, but "loathed the military." To maintain his "political viability," he was in need of seeking a face-saving way of not serving.

Last week, Bill Clinton changed his tune again on avoiding the draft. In answering questions, he admitted he avoided the draft just "like many others of my generation." But he didn't do anything wrong in doing so, he said.

We guess having White House staff place the stones on Omaha Beach and having an aide remove a flag from an American gravestone in Italy, so he can look Christian and patriotic, isn't wrong in Mr. Clinton's book either. But it is in ours.

Deception, Mr. President, when Ike uses it to confuse Hitler and Rommel about where and when the Allied forces will land to reclaim Europe is brilliant. When Norman Schwarzkopf uses it to trick the Iraqis -- to believe we will be conducting a sea-based invasion instead of coming by land -- it is shrewd. But when it is merely to make a man seem something he is not -- before the American people he represents -- that is not only a disappointment, it is wrong.