WASHINGTON, D.C.: Smelling a witch hunt in the making, Defense Secretary William Cohen called today for a distinction in the sexual misconduct cases that have wracked the military in recent months. "Are we going to say that anybody who has a single blemish in their private life can never be confirmed for something, can never be promoted?" an exasperated Cohen asked editors of The Washington Post. Cohen plans to put that philosophy to work immediately by henceforth refusing to cast aside candidates for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who have committed "minor" indiscretions in their past -- an announcement no doubt wryly appreciated by Air Force General Joseph Ralston, whose own candidacy was recently siderailed by adultery charges. Still, Cohen's call for tolerance must sound sweet indeed to the likes of Sergeant Major Gene C. McKinney, who dismisses as "racially motivated" charges brought Wednesday that he forced a seven-and-a-half months pregnant female sergeant to have sex. Sweet, but perhaps not enough to restore McKinney's professional reputation. For that, McKinney plans to trot out the big brass -- former Defense Secretary William Perry -- to testify for him Thursday.