People's worst fears don't often turn into reality. Imagination tends to be direr than the truth. All of which is why the dire means by which the administration apparently planned to deny jobs to Hill Air Force Base ought to be surprising even to the harshest critics.

Those means became evident in recent days when a memo surfaced that clearly outlines the administration's plans to get Lockheed Martin to bid against the team of Hill and Boeing for jobs made available when a base closes in California. The memo instructs the deputy secretary of defense to persuade Lockheed to bid to perform the work in Sacramento.Since then, Republicans have been talking about investigations and subpoenas of all White House communications on the subject, and the phrase "criminal collusion" has been used a time or two. Unfortunately, people wanting to investigate the president have to stand in a long line these days.

Since the memo was released, Defense Secretary William Cohen has done the right thing by ordering an independent outside review of the bid for jobs. Still, Utahns need to watch the process the way a bird watches for pouncing cats.

The administration obviously has little desire to send any of the jobs to Utah, just as it has had little desire to pay any attention to the Beehive State in any other matter. Utah has few electoral votes, and those have gone to Bill Clinton's opponents in the last two elections.

The White House, of course, denies that it was trying to rig the bidding, but the denials ring hollow when compared to the candor in the memo.

Still, it is surprising to learn how candid the administration has been, at least internally, in wanting to deny any benefits to Hill. Congress voted years ago to close bases in California and Texas, but Clinton has managed to dawdle implementing that decision while searching for a way to keep the jobs in those voter-rich states.

Two things ought to come from all this. First, Utah needs to join with other Western states and create a regional primary before the next presidential election. In a world dominated by raw politics, sparsely populated states have little chance to exact promises or garner attention from national politicians. If candidates were forced to come here and court voters, they would be less likely to ignore the state when making important decisions.

Second, Congress should avoid any new round of base-closure decisions until the current administration is out of office. Clinton has shown an unwillingness to follow closure decisions, anyway, so little would be lost by waiting.

In the meantime, Utahns can only hope that the final bidding process for the California jobs will be done fairly.