The Army Accuses One of Its Own

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As the House Judiciary Committee was preparing to charge the Commander in Chief for having womanized and lied about it, the Army charged one of its former top officers, retired Major General David Hale, for having allegedly engaged in similar behavior. The charges triggered an investigation of Hale, once the Army's deputy inspector general, who's accused of having conducted improper relationships with the wives of four military officers and then making false statements to investigators. The probe could result in a court-martial.

Whatever the factual and moral parallels between the two cases, the two men's fates could be quite different. If so, says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson, a crucial distinction will account for the difference: "The general is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Commander in Chief is not." In our constitutional system, says Thompson, "we have a different way to deal with the President, as we probably should." TIME Washington columnist Margaret Carlson agrees. "There is only one President but thousands of soldiers," she says. One is not as easily dispensable as the other. "Moreover," she adds, "the military is an authoritative institution that relies upon total obedience and discipline." The presidency is a unique political institution that operates in the world of compromise. Of course, that remains to be seen.