- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

When President Clinton infamously told prosecutors that the answer to a question "depended upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is, he established a new nadir for integrity on the part of an elected official. When Mr. Clinton announced on the eve of the Labor Day weekend that he would not be approving the deployment of a missile defense system, however, he plumbed still lower depths of dishonesty in high office.

First of all, it is despicably cynical and offensively manipulative for the president to select a Friday to say nothing of one prior to a long weekend to make a highly controversial public policy pronouncement.The fact that this is the umpteenth time Mr. Clinton has pulled this stunt, the policy equivalent of a hit-and-run accident, does not alter its reprehensibility.

By design, thanks to the congressional recess and impending national holiday, no one of stature was in Washington, ready and able promptly to assail this decision for the cowardly, not to say outrageous, act it was. As the White House calculated in setting up what it insists was a "hastily organized" speech at Georgetown University, no authoritative source was in a position to respond to let alone get the media's attention focused upon the president's myriad misrepresentations.

Not until today will a lawmaker long at the forefront of the fight to defend America, Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican, be able to hold a Capitol Hill press conference where he will release an impressive report detailing the Clinton-Gore team's serial impeding of the development and deployment of effective anti-missile systems. Now that five days have elapsed, will the senator be given "equal time" and publicity for his critique that the president is not faithfully implementing a bill he signed into law in July 1999 legislation that committed the nation to deploy effective national missile defenses as soon as technologically possible?

To be sure, Gov. Bush did decry the president's decision from the campaign trail. His comments were of a general nature, however, and were widely treated in a political, rather than a substantive, vein.

In any event, the Republican standard-bearer failed to note one particularly outrageous aspect of the Clinton action: Its bizarre juxtaposing of the president's decision that America need not be defended right away on the one hand with press leaks on the other to the effect that the White House thought Israel might urgently require such protection.

It turns out the administration is readying such U.S. missile defenses as are available namely, the short-range Patriot anti-missile systems first employed in the Gulf war for emergency deployment in Israel in the face of reported indications Iraq might once again use ballistic missiles against Israel.

Therein lies a further dishonesty. As the Patriots-to-Israel exercise suggests, faced with an unacceptable danger (assuming there really are credible indications of an attack in the offing), the responsible thing for public officials to do is take such steps as they can to mitigate the threat.

Everyone knows Patriot missiles even the upgraded ones that have replaced the originals used with limited success in Operation Desert Storm may not work perfectly. Yet, they are considered to be better to have in place than not in the event people like Saddam Hussein (who is reported to have been stricken with cancer and may wish to go out in a blaze of glory) let their missiles fly.

When it comes to protecting the American people, however, Mr. Clinton is implicitly rejecting this approach. Unlike with Israel, he would have us believe he won't field the missile defenses the United States requires because he lacks "enough confidence in the technology and the operational effectiveness of the entire National Missile Defense system, to move forward to deployment."

In other words, only a perfect system will be useful and none of it could be readied until the entire system has been proven to work perfectly. Trust him.

Rubbish. All the president had to do at present was authorize long-lead-time contracts required to begin construction of a radar in Alaska. The technology in question is well-understood and the radar's exterior design is unlikely to change appreciably as the rest of the system is tested and refined over the next few years.

Arguably, the most dishonest aspect of the Clinton decision, however, was the president's failure to acknowledge the real reason behind it: his desire to accommodate the adamant opposition to the U.S. NMD system being expressed by the Russians and Chinese.

The reason for this flim-flam is as transparent as it is indefensible: Neither the president nor his hand-picked, would-be successor want to be caught giving Moscow and/or Beijing a veto over programs needed to end the nation's vulnerability to missile attack.

Unfortunately, it appears Mr. Clinton is about to compound this betrayal of American security interests yet again: At the United Nations this week, he is expected to endorse a new "Earth Charter" a blueprint for what is, arguably, the most radical diplomatic assault in history on U.S. sovereignty and national security interests. The Charter calls, among other things, for signatories to do nothing less than "demilitarize national security systems" and prohibit the "unilateral deployment of nationwide missile defense by any country."

If the idea of the United States dignifying let alone becoming bound by this travesty were not bad enough, while in New York President Clinton may actually take steps partially to implement the Earth Charter's obligations. Notably, during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he will try very hard to conclude an agreement that will demilitarize much of what is left of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He will also seek to breathe new life into the outdated, obsolete and legally defunct 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, an accord that flatly prohibited unilateral deployment of nationwide missile defenses by its signatories.

In the event Mr. Clinton succeeds in doing such further violence to America's vital interests, one wonders: Will he be sufficiently honest about the odious nature of what he has accomplished to reveal it at some point other than late in a sleepy Friday news cycle during a congressional recess?

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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