Since President Bill Clinton left office pretty much the way he entered it — amid a cloud of scandal — leading Democrats and former Clinton administration hacks have begun to jump off the philanderer in chief’s once-crowded bandwagon.

Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes the Democratic Party is dead; even the editor of the very liberal New Republic magazine says naming Clinton bag man Terry McAuliffe as the Democratic National Committee’s leader was a mistake bound to cost the party credibility and supporters, especially as the debate for campaign-finance reform rages in the Senate.

If indeed the Democrats as a party are losing credibility, support and power, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Last week, as the Senate continued debate on campaign-finance reform, Democrats and, to be fair, some Republicans as well, voted down a provision that would ban unions from contributing money gleaned from membership dues to any political party without the permission of the union member.

The “payroll reform” measure got a healthy tongue-lashing by Democrats used to union support; unions traditionally support Democrats for political office many times more than Republican candidates, and on the national level, it has been several elections since most major unions have supported a GOP presidential candidate.

So, you can imagine who screamed the loudest against this measure.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., last Thursday said the payroll protection bill was “clearly” directed “against union activity.”

Of the bill, he whined, “It’s poorly constructed, poorly drafted, and it doesn’t do the job its proponents want it to do.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., always a champion of the leftist nature of union political action, agreed, and complained that the measure — offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — had nothing to do with campaign finance reform.

“That is the purpose, plain and simple, to kill the [overall campaign-finance reform] bill,” he said.

Hardly. If anything, Hatch was acting on instructions from a labor-friendly White House that already recognizes the injustice of forcing workers, through dues, to support political candidates and issues they consider vile and unworthy.

Earlier last week, President Bush — in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, of Mississippi — clearly said he would not sign a campaign-finance reform bill that didn’t contain a “payroll protection” element.

In his letter, Bush said, “no one should be forced to support a candidate or cause against his or her will.”

Amen to that. Sanity comes to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Savor it; relish it; revel in it; soak it in.

Noting that neither unions — which favor Democrats; or corporations — which largely (but not always) favor Republicans; Bush sounded a bipartisan tone when he said, “Both corporations and unions should have to obtain permission from their stockholders or dues-paying workers before spending treasury funds or dues on politics” (my emphasis).

I don’t know about you, but there cannot be a more honest, realistic and genuine aspect to any campaign-finance reform bill other than: “Get the worker’s permission first before you spend his or her dough on any party or candidate.”

The main opponents to this measure are unions and Democrats, so what does that tell you in regard to how both entities really feel about the sovereignty, liberty and individuality of the American worker?

Have we not been treated to decades of Democratic propaganda that portrays the party as the party of “the little-slash-working guy,” even though its leaders are the same “rich, evil white guys” they characterize Republicans as being? Sure we have; we get this tripe all the time.

But as we can see, it ain’t true, is it?

Similarly, union leaders also wax poetic and nostalgic about the “rights of the worker,” but as demonstrated by the opposition to “payroll protection,” actions speak louder than words — as usual.

The “party of worker’s rights” is really the party of “workers forced to support us.” Union leaders ought to change their mantra from “worker solidarity” to “workers solidified to support our causes — no questions asked.”

Makes you think you’re reading a communist propaganda pamphlet, doesn’t it?

I’m no fan of unions — never have been — mostly because I’m no fan of the quasi-socialist approach union leaders take in managing membership.

But, I am a big fan of union workers who, like me, are simply trying to eke out a living for their families in a political environment increasingly dominated by liars, charlatans, phonies and hypocrites who are pretending to be “the common man’s” best buddies, all the while scheming against them.

The rejection of this payroll protection measure is akin to telling union members of all political persuasions to pay their dues and shut up about how they are spent, and on whom.

By insisting on this, many Democrats and union leaders are again demonstrating they are no “friend” of the American worker.

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