The twilight of the Clinton presidency is here, and it is not a pretty sight. Not that Clinton's underside had ever been entirely hidden. We got our first national glimpse of it in the 1992 campaign, when Clinton, informed (incorrectly) that Jesse Jackson had endorsed an opponent, exploded with a stream of abuse into an open mike.
Unlike Nixon, however, Clinton always had the charm to work his way out of this and other embarrassments. But as his presidency wanes, as his power erodes, as respect for him evaporates, as the legacy he lusts for recedes over the horizon, the charm wears thin and we are left with the real Clinton: bitter, angry and flailing. Never was this more on display than during his extraordinary Oct. 13 and 14 press appearances, called by Clinton to savage the Senate for having voted down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Sen. James Inhofe later documented 36 lies and half-truths that the president managed to pack into an hour-long news conference. A new indoor record. Inhofe can be forgiven for double counting, as when Clinton would tell the same lie at two different points in the press conference. But Inhofe was not far off.
For example, Clinton repeated a lie he had broadcast nationally the night before, asserting that "the heads of our nuclear laboratories" have assured the nation that "we can maintain a strong nuclear force without testing."
In fact, the congressional testimony of the directors of the labs helped sink the treaty. C. Paul Robinson, director of Sandia National Laboratories, was asked by Sen. John Warner how long it would take for computer simulations to replace testing. Answer? "My guess is somewhere in the 10- to 20-year period." Why, SDI will be ready before that!
And, added Robinson: "If the United States scrupulously restricts itself to zero-yield while other nations"--which either don't sign, or sign and then cheat--"may conduct experiments up to the threshold of international detectability, we will be at an intolerable disadvantage."
Clinton warned that the Senate has opened the door to nuclear proliferation: "If we ever get a president that's against the Test Ban Treaty . . . we will have countries abandoning the Nonproliferation Treaty."
Will have? This is hilarious. Under our current president, who is for the test ban, North Korea has blatantly violated the Nonproliferation Treaty and extorted billions of dollars from the United States to remain a nominal signatory to an agreement it openly flouts. Indeed, this is a president who for seven years has presided over the worst proliferation in the history of the nuclear age. When Clinton came into office, Iraq's nuclear program was contained. As we speak, Iraq is developing its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons unmolested and unmonitored.
On Clinton's watch, Pakistan has gone nuclear. India has exploded its first bomb since 1974. And Iran has been acquiring nuclear material from Moscow, with the Clinton administration standing by powerlessly.
Indeed, Clinton's laxity about technology exports and hunger for campaign contributions (including from Chinese agents), has turned the United States into a major proliferator, with high technology and missile guidance going openly to the Chinese while nuclear secrets are stolen under our noses.
Clinton believes that a signature on a piece of paper will stop these developments. Bad enough. Worse is the way he attacks the good faith and patriotism of those who do not share his fantasy.
First he accuses Republicans of betraying their own consciences ("I know that many would have supported this treaty had they been free to vote their conscience"). Then of betraying their children and the nation (they "put the future of our children in peril and the leadership of America for a safer world in peril for some personal pique" and they practiced "partisan politics of the worst kind"). Then he has the chutzpah to denounce the Republicans for ad hominem attacks: "It's been my experience," he says loftily, "that very often in politics, when a person is taking a position that he simply cannot defend, the only defense is to attack the opponent."
If this treaty meant so much to Clinton, the nation and the world, why wasn't he on national television explaining it to the American people before the vote? Instead he goes on national television after the vote to try to turn a substantive division of opinion in the United States Senate into a political football for the 2000 election.
When it was a treaty, he didn't move a muscle. Now that it is a campaign issue, he rises in anger. After seven years in office, he still has the soul of a candidate.
Someone ought to tell him that his campaigning days are over. Tell him, too, that it was not, as he weirdly maintained in his press conference, a "close vote." He lost by 19.