Hoosier Daddy?

A campaign blog.
April 29 2008 6:19 PM

Hoosier Daddy?

Slate 's Timothy Noah passes along this analysis:

"Right here, over 200 Hoosiers built parts that guided our military’s smart bombs to their targets," Hillary Clinton says in a TV spot currently airing in Indiana. The camera zooms in on a shuttered factory in Valparaiso, Ind., formerly operated by a defense contractor called Magnequench —one of two Indiana facilities the company closed down after it was purchased by a Chinese consortium. Clinton’s voice-over continues:

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They were good jobs. But now, they’re gone to China, and America’s defense relies on Chinese spare parts . George Bush could’ve stopped it, but he didn’t. As your president, I will fight to keep good jobs here and to turn this economy around. ... American workers should build America’s defense.  

Just one little problem. As blogger David Sirota points out , the Chinese consortium’s acquisition of Magnequench occurred way back in 1995 , when Hillary’s husband was president. Before the sale could go through, it had to be approved by an executive-branch panel called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States . Apparently it was, partly in deference to highly implausible promises by the Chinese that the weapons parts would continue to be built in the United States. (The takeover was also greased by participation in the deal by Archibald Cox Jr ., son of the revered Watergate prosecutor and Common Cause chairman , now deceased.) In 2003 the Chinese welshed on its promises and moved production to China, prompting Sen. Evan Bayh, D.-Ind., to ask President Bush to intercede. Apparently Bush had some legal authority to force Magnequench’s return to U.S. ownership, but even Hillary seemed to concede , in a speech two weeks ago in Pennsylvania, that such a move was impractical at that late date. ("Couldn’t do it.") The point is that no such divestiture would have been necessary had Hillary’s husband disallowed the deal eight years earlier.

Hillary’s chutzpah in flagging this issue is compounded by her criticism of the sale on national-security grounds (" They're building up their military. They want to compete with us every step of the way. And we're basically helping them.") In the late 1990s, Republicans in Congress decided that U.S.-approved technology transfers to China under Clinton were creating a disastrous national-security breach, and conservatives tried to stir anxieties about imminent U.S. surrender to the Middle Kingdom to defeat presidential candidate Al Gore in 2000. Now, to win Indiana, Hillary Clinton seems to be saying that the wingers were right all along about that no-good husband of hers.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.