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Good Morning, Vietnam

IN a famous mathematical conundrum, a person walks half the distance to a doorway. Then halfway again and again, ad infinitum. He never makes it through the door.

That, alas, has often seemed to be the predicament of President Clinton half-stepping toward restoring full relations with Vietnam. Realists know it's going to happen. But the choreography has been painfully hesitant.

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Finally a recommendation to cross the threshold has landed on the president's desk. It's time to take the plunge.

A genuine Vietnam War hero, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, has given the president all the GOP conservative cover he needs. Senator McCain, who was tortured during nearly six years as a POW in North Vietnam (and is also son of the commander of Pacific forces during that war), categorically favors renewed relations. So does the meticulously honest Reagan-era chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. John Vessey, longtime prober of missing-in-action reports.

The families of those MIAs deserve sympathy from a grateful nation. They do not deserve to be whipsawed by the handful of politicians trying to stop renewed relations by peddling increasingly vague rumors of hidden MIAs. Neither does America.