Former President Bill Clinton, never one to shy from a controversial issue or reaping a financial reward in pursuing it, will reportedly be paid $300,000 to address a conference in Sydney, Australia, later this month on the unification of Taiwan with mainland China.
And wouldn’t you know, the February 20-23 conference promoted by pro-unification forces in Taiwan and elsewhere will be held at the very same time that President Bush is to visit Beijing, where he’ll be seeking to promote Sino-American cooperation, even with the controversial issue of Taiwan in the background.
For China, bringing Taiwan under mainland rule is the cardinal issue of its foreign policy and the source of repeated disputes with the United States. Under President Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan has repeatedly rejected pressure by Beijing to accept the principle that there is only one China.
According to the China Times in Taipei, the money for Mr. Clinton’s speaking engagement is being paid by William Chhiu, an Australian Chinese businessman who has dealings with Beijing as well as the United States.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is as strong as ever, despite the recent revelation that she suffered a minor stroke last year while celebrating her golden wedding anniversary with husband Dennis on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
“I sat down with her for an hour and a half [last Thursday], what was to have been a very brief meeting about the Reagan Library, and she was as bright, articulate, and had as strong of a presence as ever in her words ‘fighting fit!’” says Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation.
In fact, Mr. Ryan tells this column, the 76-year-old Mrs. Thatcher awoke at 2 a.m. last Wednesday to watch President Bush’s State of the Union address live.
“She’s a huge fan of Mr. Bush’s,” Mr. Ryan says, “and provided me a detailed review of his speech.”
Forgot the wrench
One would never know, glancing at the latest missive from the Democratic National Committee, that the United States came under deadly terrorist attack less than five months ago or, for that matter, that the nation’s commander in chief has made it his No. 1 priority to ensure such scourge never strikes again.
“What a difference a year makes,” the DNC declared yesterday. “Over the course of his first year, President Bush promised Americans that they could have it all: tax cuts, spending on key priorities, protecting Social Security and paying down the debt, all in the framework of a balanced budget, even if the economy weakened.
“However, like many of Bush’s promises, this proved not to be true. The economy is in recession, the tax cut has depleted the federal surplus and the Bush administration is facing a return to deficit spending.”
One of the greatest challenges facing the Bush administration is to prepare the nation for the next attack, which could arrive from space. Cyberspace.
“Our enemies are already targeting our networks,” says Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat. “We now live in a world where a terrorist can do as much damage with a keyboard and a modem as with a gun or a bomb.”
Cyber-terrorists know that, with the push of a button, emergency services police, fire, and ambulances can be paralyzed, power for entire cities shut down for extended periods, telephone lines disrupted, and water supplies poisoned.
Most Americans caught up in the aftermath of September 11 don’t even realize that only a few days later a Pakistani group hacked into two of the U.S. government’s Web services, including one at the Defense Department, declaring a “cyber-jihad” against the United States.
A subsequent series of attacks, dubbed “Moonlight Maze,” were directed at the Pentagon, Energy Department and NASA, resulting in the theft of vast quantities of technical defense research.
Dinner on the Gipper
Ronald Reagan turns 91 tomorrow, and once again Baltimore’s Ropewalk Tavern on South Charles Street is throwing Maryland’s if not the entire nation’s biggest birthday bash for the Gipper.
Last year, Reagan staffers and even a pilot from Air Force One joined other patrons at the tavern and sang “Happy Birthday” to the former president (who was not in attendance). For tomorrow’s celebration, owner Marc McFaul will once again bake a birthday cake, spread out a free buffet, and put all 155 of the tavern’s brews on sale for $2. The party begins at 6 p.m.