The White House flea market
By Vin Suprynowicz
So long as the economy booms, it appears, the American people don't care about the president's sexual shenanigans, or even whether he and his wife enriched themselves with shady business deals and Dog-Patch double-billing in long-ago Arkansas.
But the latest allegations against this president are of a very different order.
Citing "very stark questions of national security," Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich announced on May 19 the formation of a select committee to investigate charges that after accepting whopping campaign contributions from both sides of the deal ($275 000 from Bernard Schwartz, CEO of Loral Space and Communications -- biggest single contributor to the 1996 Democratic campaign -- and $100 000 from Chinese Red Army Lt. Col. Liu Chaoying, funneling cash through Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung), President Clinton personally overrode his own departments of Justice, State, and Defense, and waived restrictions on export to Communist China of the missile and satellite technology needed to target intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Then, from all indications, the current administration stood by while China illegally re-exported these same technologies to Pakistan -- helping prompt India's nuclear tests last month.
"A President hungry for money to finance his re-election overruled the Pentagon; he sold to a Chinese Military Intelligence front the technology that defense experts argued would give Beijing the capacity to blind our spy satellites and launch a sneak attack," is the way New York Times columnist William Safire chose to sum things up last month. "How soon we have forgotten Pearl Harbor."
If true, these charges would mean the current White House -- Vice President Al Gore was right in the thick of the Chinese money-laundering -- has now sunk to the level of some third world presidential palace, where everyone knows their tin-pot host will sell anything not nailed down to the fastest foreigner with a briefcase full of cash.
Even the president's partisans seem finally to have been rendered speechless. A senior Democratic official told Alison Mitchell of The New York Times that blocking the formation of Mr. Gingrich's new special committee "is not an option," and that "some of our members are pretty spooked."
The White House can't deny it happened. They are reduced to whining that, yes, the president did make major policy changes in favor of the Chinese after the moneys were solicited, but that doesn't mean the president overruled his own secretary of state because of the payoffs.
This is like saying you gave the drug dealer some money around the same time he gave you the gift of the plastic baggy, but that -- heavens! -- certainly no "sale" took place.
Actually, it turns out the president signed waivers allowing China International Trade and Investment Corp. to launch four U.S. satellites on the very day the firm's chairman, Wang Jan, attended one of Clinton's now-famous campaign coffees -- Feb. 8, 1996, the very week China was terrorizing Taiwan with missile tests to protest its first democratic presidential election.
Nor can the president very well claim not to know Lt. Col. Liu, who wrangled a quick visa out of fund-raiser Chung and came to America to have her picture taken with the president on July 22, 1996.
Even the president's attack dogs find themselves caught in the glare of the headlights. Writes Mr. Safire in The Times: "The House's aggressive agent of the Clinton cover-up, Henry Waxman of California, is finally 'troubled' by the prospect of damning evidence he prevented the Burton committee from finding. At least three Democratic partisans who foolishly followed Waxman in blocking the testimony of Asian witnesses may have difficulty explaining their cover-up vote to even more troubled voters in their districts."
It's hard to pretend surprise. Having been as good as told the public doesn't care about a former pilot from Tyson Chicken talking about envelopes full of cash for then-Gov. Clinton, or commodities trades retroactively assigned to Mrs. Clinton to create a $100 000 cattle futures "windfall," why should our Bubba figure some Chinese arms company is any different from the local chicken-packer?
The new scandal does at least present one irony: By October, Mr. Clinton may find himself wishing the public was still feeding on the salacious tales of Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky ... to distract them from his real troubles.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
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