Newt is back. After a seemingly endless bout of political somnambulance, the speaker is on the offensive again -- moralizing, slashing, burning and taking no prisoners. God bless him.
While the White House verbal assassins, Sidney Blumenthal and James Carville, were busily mowing down Clinton critics, anti-Clinton witnesses and officers of the federal judiciary, the Republicans were AWOL, futilely pursuing the moral high ground. As the tapestry of crimes committed by the Clinton White House unfolded, their silence left the criminals to define the issues by which the public would judge them -- or more likely, let them go.
As revolving messages of the day, the White House spin doctors focused on privacy, leaks and the unseemliness of having a government prosecutor, backed by the federal treasury, pursue an individual from venue to venue in search of a crime. The American public responded to the attacks by giving a 2-1 vote of confidence to the fugitive-in-chief. What else would you expect? It's the American Way: suspicious of government, protective of the individual, generous to a fault. God bless them.
These are all conservative sentiments, by the way -- particularly suspicion of the special prosecutor, which was an invention of the political left and has been used abusively against three recent Republican presidents. Of course, the press took little notice of those abuses, which made the Republican silence in the face of the attacks on Kenneth Starr so suicidal.
But Newt and the Republicans are back. As a result, voices are finally rising above the disinformational din to remind us that this is not just about "sex." What we are talking about are crimes aimed at the very political framework that holds us together as a nation, and may have compromised our national security as well.
Is use of the word "crime" a partisan pre-judgment? Hardly. Clinton's own attorney general has appointed seven different independent counsels to investigate crimes that may have been committed by members of the Clinton administration. In the last several months, 53 witnesses have taken the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination rather than cooperate with congressional committees investigating violations of election laws.
These violations, moreover, are not just of the Nixonian variety, involving domestic obstructions of the election process. They involve the massive intrusion of foreign money ($40 million, according to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah), including funds from a Communist dictatorship that is a factor in the nuclear tension developing in the Indian subcontinent. In addition, according to a count kept by Human Events, a conservative magazine, 23 witnesses fled the country rather than testify to these matters and 18 foreign nationals, currently abroad, have refused to make themselves available to testify. To have 90 witnesses -- many of them friends, close associates and employees of the president of the United States -- defy a congressional investigation of serious crimes is unprecedented in the history of this country.
In New Hampshire last week, while Democrats staged a walkout, Gingrich reminded the state's legislators that the former law partner of the first lady, a close confidant of the president, was forced to resign as third ranking official in the Justice Department because he stole $500,000 from the first lady's law firm. Between resigning and going to jail, without performing any visible service, Webster Hubbell then received $720,000 from a variety of sources, including Vernon Jordan's good friends at Revlon, and a $100,000 payment from the China-connected Indonesian conglomerate, the Lippo Group, whose chief, James Riady, happens to be a great friend of Bill Clinton. Right after receiving these payments, Hubbell failed to deliver on the deal he made with Starr to provide prosecutors with useful information in return for a lenient sentence.
Now, raise your hand if you think these payments were not hush money. Or if you think the president is not lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky; or that the "talking points" suborning perjury from Linda Tripp, as delivered by Monica, did not come from a source linked to the White House; or that the transfer of missile and satellite technology to Communist China, as reported recently by the New York Times, has not the slightest connection to the illegal transfer of millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, some of which came from a representative of the People's Liberation Army.
The accumulated public evidence, along with two years of White House stonewalling, is enough to persuade any reasonable person that the Clinton administration has committed crimes. The attacks on Ken Starr by White House aides not only are obscene, but could constitute obstructions of justice. That Gingrich has finally come to the defense of Starr is good news not only for Starr, but for the preservation of constitutional order.
Still, the culprits and their defenders rely on the pretense that whatever happened was nothing much or nobody's business. While wearing thin, this smoke screen is apparently still serviceable, as a recent Frank Rich column in the New York Times demonstrated. "Of course," he wrote, "Mr. Clinton sought to reassure us that there was no historical parallel between his and Nixon's invocations of executive privilege to stop their aides from testifying about possible White House wrongdoing -- but he did so with an arrogance that could only be called Nixonesque. 'I would also remind you that the facts are quite different in this case,' the President said as he refused to remind us just what those exculpatory facts are."
But instead of asking himself why Clinton refuses to answer this and so many other questions, Rich volunteers one himself: "I would think the facts are different this way. Nixon tried to turn executive privilege into a divine right to cover up unparalleled criminal abuses of presidential power. If Mr. Clinton also has a cover-up in mind, it's to hide perjury and other crimes related to a sexual affair that surfaced in a civil suit a federal judge has already dismissed."
But this is not about Monica Lewinsky. She is to Clinton what income tax evasion was to Al Capone: the only rap the authorities could pin on him. His serious crimes actually parallel Nixon's. Here is the Washington Post's summary of the key article of impeachment against Mr. Nixon in 1974: "The obstruction of justice article approved last night accuses Mr. Nixon of making false statements to investigators, withholding relevant evidence, approving or counseling perjury, interfering with the Justice Department's investigation, approving payment of hush money to Watergate defendants, passing on information about the investigation to his aides who were suspects, making false statements to the American people about White House involvement in Watergate and causing defendants to believe they might receive clemency for their silence." Sound familiar?
As for the crime behind the cover-up, the authorities were never able to pin Nixon on it. It was a criminal subversion of the electoral process, and thus of the very foundation of the republic. But, in this regard, compare Nixon's bungled burglary of the Democratic headquarters with the millions in illegal payments from foreign interests with ties to a Communist superstate that the Clinton operation took (and gave what in return?). Make this comparison and you begin to have a sense of the scale of a constitutional crisis that dwarfs anything that Richard Nixon was said to have created.
And that is why we can be thankful to Newt Gingrich for speaking out, loudly and angrily. For now, we have a system with two party voices instead of one.