None Dare Call it Chatter!

None Dare Call it Chatter!

None Dare Call it Chatter!

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
May 19 1998 2:58 AM

None Dare Call it Chatter!

"It's ludicrous to suggest there was any influence on the determination of U.S. policy on this matter." That was the reaction of Eric Rubin, a National Security Council spokesman, in the New York Times piece exposing fundraiser Johnny Chung as a conduit for campaign contributions from the Chinese military to the Democratic National Committee. It does seem a pretty ludicrous suggestion, at least to Chatterbox. But it should be clear that, in the Chinese branch of the Clinton scandals, the old "no influence" and "no quid pro quo" defenses aren't enough.

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It's one thing for an American politician to say that legal contributions from Americans have no impact on policy decisions. But these weren't legal contributions. They were illegal contributions. They weren't from Americans. They were from a foreign power. A foreign communist power. A foreign communist power that may constitute the most serious threat to America's security in the next century. Imagine that it was 1959, and the Times revealed that the Soviet military had secretly funneled money to the Republicans before the 1956 elections. Nobody would be asking if the money had bought any influence. They would be saying it was treason to simply accept the money, or to know about it and not do anything to stop it. ... When it comes to the $632,000 given to the Democrats by Bernard Schwartz, head of Loral Space and Communications (which benefited from Clinton's easing of restrictions on Chinese launches of U.S. satellites), maybe Clinton can get away with his "no influence" defense. When it comes to Red Chinese money, mere knowledge of the illegal contributions--or maybe even looking the other way despite evidence of those contributions--seems like a high crime or misdemeanor to Chatterbox ...

If a Trie Falls: True, it's hard to believe Clinton knew. But it's less hard to believe he should have known. This is a man who--as aide Harold Ickes' papers, released last year, indicate--paid close attention to the details of fundraising. ... Then there's that weird White House e-mail exchange, after Chung and various Red Chinese officials visited the Oval Office, in which Melanie Darby, an NSC aide, says "these people are major D.N.C. contributors," and adds that "the President's office" knew nothing about them "except that they were D.N.C. contributors" who had been sent over by "the head of the D.N.C." ... And why would the Red Chinese want to contribute money without it being known that they'd done it? They couldn't have thought that a few hundred thousand funneled through Chung was actually going to tip the election in Clinton's favor, right? Even if it was actually a few million, it wouldn't have tipped the balance. ... So if the Chinese wanted influence, they'd presumably want somebody in power to know of their generosity, so that somebody could be grateful. ...

Tom Hanks Can't Save You Now!: Chatterbox thinks it has discovered the real culprit in this China mess, however. The villain is ... NASA! Think about it. Why would American satellite companies be so desperate for launch capacity they would turn to the Red Chinese? Because the capacity wasn't available in the U.S.. But isn't this an area--commercial space launches--where the U.S. should be rights have maintained a big lead? Why didn't it? Because NASA ignored cheap, crude unmanned rockets to pour all its money into the ultra-expensive, inefficient, manned space shuttle, that's why. So U.S. corporations had to turn to China, which inevitably meant helping China perfect its missiles, which meant India felt threatened, which meant .... Take it away, Gregg Easterbrook!

Noble Hillary?: William Safire considers Hillary Clinton's recent endorsement of a Palestinian state a "calculated move by both Clintons to ratchet up the pressure on Israel." The plan, according to Safire, was for Hillary to make her "state" statement, then have it repudiated by the White House as "the uncleared mouthings of some ditzy spouse." But Israel would get the "signal" anyway. ... If Safire's s "calculated signal" theory is true, it means that Mrs. Clinton was willing to damage her reputation as a reliable spokesperson, be humiliated by her husband's press secretary, and risk her standing with American supporters of Israel, all in the cause of Middle East peace. She would be, in this sense, a noble, self-sacrificing stateswoman--even if (like Safire) you think the lean-on-Israel initiative was misguided. ... Chatterbox somehow doesn't think Mrs. Clinton is that heroic, especially these days. Chatterbox thinks the "Palestinian state" business was just a screw-up. ...