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Jewish World ReviewJune 1, 1999 /17 Sivan 5759

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Sending the sheriff away from Dodge City

(JWR) ---- (
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN Democrats and Republicans in Congress is that Democrats come prepared for combat. Republican leaders had no coordinated strategy for dealing with the Cox Committee report about the loss of defense secrets to China. But Democrats were ready to pounce. As the committee's study was hitting the streets, members of the Clinton Party were distributing a five-page "analysis" that argued: 1) the Chinese have been spying on us for years, 2) intelligence experts suspected the loss of nuclear secrets in the Reagan and Bush years, and 3) Bill Clinton, unlike Reagan or Bush, took action against Sino-espionage.

The broadside illustrates the way in which the Democratic Party has mastered the art of political warfare at the cost of its soul. There are few apt parallels between the Clinton presidency and any of its predecessors, especially when it comes to defending national security.

Espionage happens. But what distinguishes the present presidential crew is that it virtually invited foreign governments to nab our most vital defense secrets.

George Bush proposed lifting some export controls on China, but Clinton gave away the store. He stripped the departments of Defense and State of the power to veto the transfer of sensitive ideas or technologies and let the Department of Commerce decide what we should and shouldn't sell. He stood by as former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary discarded the security safeguards employed by previous administrations, including background checks on foreign scientists who visit and work in our nuclear labs.

This is the equivalent of sending the sheriff away from Dodge City, and it is just the beginning. In its quest to conduct a never-ending presidential campaign, the president granted top-secret clearance to former Lippo Group executive John Huang, even though the Secret Service never conducted a background check on the fellow. Huang received dozens of CIA briefings about China -- and often placed phone calls to Beijing within minutes of the intelligence lectures.

The president warmly greeted influence-broker Johnny Chung, who met with the Chinese general responsible for acquiring Western weaponry and received hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with instructions to spend it on Democratic campaigns. The orders reportedly had been approved by Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin.

Significantly, there is no evidence of treason here. Beijing liked Bill Clinton not because he was a traitor, but because he was easy.

In time, our spies began to suspect that something was amiss. They briefed the National Security team three years ago. According to some reports, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger kept the president in the dark about the scandal until after the 1996 elections, and it is unclear how much information he shared with his boss in the intervening months.

Only after the press began describing the nature and extent of the breach did the president issue a directive ordering the Energy Department to restore some of the security measures employed in previous administrations. In the meantime, Berger lied to Congress about what the president knew and when -- and the president lied to the press, saying as late as March of this year that nobody had ever told him of security lapses during his own tenure in office.

The administration also strong-armed potential whistleblowers, including Notra Trulock at the Department of Energy and Dr. Peter Leitner at the Department of Defense, possibly in violation of federal law. Meanwhile, committee sources say the president's team wanted to black out passages that exposed the incompetence of key officials at the departments of Justice, Energy and Commerce.

One wonders wistfully how much better off we would be if the administration were as efficient at keeping secrets from the Chinese as it is at keeping the truth from the public -- or as determined to assess responsibility as it is to evade blame.

It is important to remember several things: It will take China a few years to develop or deploy what it has stolen -- we have time to adjust policies accordingly. Furthermore, we have no choice but to remain economically engaged with the world's most populous nation.

Ironically, the Democratic strategy of denial obstructs progress by deepening distrust between the two powers, hastening an arms race and strengthening anti-trade factions in Congress. This trades short-term political gain for long-term national security.

Here's the simple truth: Team Clinton messed up -- and unless Congress and the White House act quickly to tally the damage and make amends, there will be more bad news to come.


05/28/99: Rosie is the 'Queen' of WHAT!?
05/27/99: Stopping a dictator --- the EPA
05/14/99: Symbolism over substance
05/07/99: Why Kosovo is unique
04/30/99: A blithe acceptance of espionage
04/22/99: Snacking on life-splitting agony
04/15/99: Starr’s last stand?
04/12/99: Combining punishment and proselytism
04/05/99: Now that the ‘honorables’ have returned …
03/29/99: And the senators pressed on
03/25/99: Moronic meddling
03/22/99: Kangas, the Left’s ‘Foster’? More like a diligent nut
03/18/99: Does Forbes have a chance?
03/15/99: Team Clinton aren’t treasonists ...
03/11/99: Blackmun’s burden
03/08/99: The Lewinsky Principle
03/05/99: Buchanan & Ventura’s lure
03/01/99: Open season on women
02/25/99: The birth of political wisdom
02/22/99: Children of optimism
02/18/99: Wake up, Republicans!
02/16/99: Why we feel so good
02/11/99: What exactly does George W. stand for?
02/08/99: Run, GOPers, run?
02/04/99: The languid sigh of waves lapping ashore
02/01/99: Verbal vortex
01/28/99: To be a ‘sell-out’ or an unelectable pol --- that is the question
01/25/99: The apogee of a trend
01/21/99:What my 3-year-old taught me
01/17/99:Don't be fooled, folks
01/14/99: Must a pol be ‘baaaad’ in order to get elected?
01/12/99: Jumpin’ Jack (Kemp)
01/08/99 : Hot air in the Windy City

©1999, Creators Syndicate