In addition to making the false and irresponsible claim that the thefts reported by the Cox committee are not so serious, Clinton and his spinners have argued that they themselves are not really guilty because “everyone does it.” Shame on Democrats who have gone along with this argument, as they did with similar mendacities during the impeachment process. Yes, nuclear spying took place in previous administrations, including Republican. The difference was that previous administrations cared about such leaks and plugged them, and prosecuted the offenders, and did not accept millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from the military and intelligence services of foreign powers that threatened them. Previous administrations did not lift security controls that supplied the thieves with additional vital military technologies — or systematically disarm their own military forces while this was happening. But the Clinton administration has.
One of the key technological breaks China received without having to resort to espionage was the delivery of supercomputers previously banned from export for security reasons. Supercomputers underpin the technology of nuclear and missile warfare, and not only for firing and controlling the missiles. A supercomputer can simulate a nuclear test and is thus crucial to the development of nuclear warheads. But according to a recent Washington Post editorial, “In the first three quarters of 1998 nine times as many [supercomputers] were exported [to China] as during the previous seven years.” This transfer was authorized three years after the spy thefts were detected. What rationale could possibly justify this? What responsible president or administration official at any relevant level in any government would allow the massive transfer of national security assets like these to a dictatorship they knew had stolen their country’s most highly guarded military secrets?
What, in fact, was the reason for the Chinese cash flow to the Clinton-Gore campaign? Was that a payoff? Who in the administration is responsible for the cover-ups, the laxity and the leaks that made the Chinese conspiracy work as effectively as it did? Is there, for example, any connection between this security disaster and the fact that Sandy Berger, the president’s National Security Advisor, was a lobbyist for Chinese companies before being appointed to his post? Or that he and other top Clinton officials responsible for this mess have been left-leaning skeptics of communist threats in the past, and radical critics of American power?
In the immediate handling of this national security disaster, it should be said, a profound disservice has been done to the American people by both political parties. Shell-shocked by Democratic attacks during the impeachment process, Republicans on the Cox committee became complicit in an essential part of the cover-up in the name of bipartisanship. This was the decision to de-couple the spy scandal and the technology transfers from the Clinton money trail to Beijing. This removed a large potential area of conspiracy from the perspective of the report. In all, 105 witnesses to the illegal funding of the Clinton-Gore campaign by people connected to the Chinese military and Chinese intelligence either took the Fifth Amendment or fled the country to avoid cooperating with investigators. They did this with the tacit acquiescence if not active help of the Clinton administration.
Bipartisanship is itself a problem at this stage of the inquiry because the Democratic Party and administration are up to their ears in the entire scandal, and Democrats have in the past shown willingness to put party before country when their president is under attack. Perhaps once the implications of the Cox Report sink in, there will Democrats who will break their lock-step defense of the president to consider the vital security interests of the nation as well.
Thus far the entire debate has taken place in a surreal atmosphere of politics as usual: the partisan defense of the White House, the denial of the real magnitude of the nuclear danger, the political de-coupling of the Chinese plot to infiltrate and influence the Clinton-Gore administration, and the failure even to acknowledge that what is at stake is a probable massive betrayal of the American people’s trust by its national security leadership.
The American people may want to revisit questions they recently disposed of, and to subject them to the light of the unfolding national security drama. Is bad character an impeachable offense? Does reckless behavior and lying under oath indicate a leader is unfit to be commander in chief?
Whatever the answers, and whatever the results of the investigations now in progress, one thing is certain: The already revealed facts will redraw the legacy of this presidency as the most reckless and dangerous in our lifetimes.