There’s a whole lot of jury tampering going on hither and yon. Whether it’s boosting Senate candidate and current House Judiciary Committee member Charles Schumer’s campaign coffers, or attempting to hornswoggle 34 senators into signing a letter agreeing not to vote for the president’s dismissal should the matter come to trial in the Senate, or the buying off of entire sectors of state and municipal workers with newly-created federal programs, the Clintons’ determination to hold onto power is relentless and broadly-based. It has even become internationalized.
No, I’m not referring to the letter of support for the president from an assortment of tired European and American celebrities which was published recently in Le Monde, but to Radio Liberty. That’s right, taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty has now been drug into the fray courtesy of that agency’s chief, longtime Democratic Party activist Thomas Dine.
Dine quietly took up the leadership reins of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service in the summer of 1997, after having distinguished himself as a no-questions-asked funnel of taxpayer-provided munificence to the Harvard Institute of International Development, USAID’s principal and subsequently disgraced Moscow contractor, by working with other Harvard-connected Clinton appointees in key agencies to ensure the institute a conveyer belt of noncompeted, multimillion dollar grants. After USAID’s Inspector General axed the agency’s relationship with HIID for activities deemed “abusive of the trust of the United States government” in late May 1997, Dine edged his way out the door and into a warm armchair at Radio Liberty.
He has not been idle. In the March 1998 issue of the employee newsletter, Dine gave his mostly emigre and native Russian employees guidance regarding the Clintons’ nemesis, Judge Kenneth Starr. Dine’s two-columns’ worth of detailed advice took particular note of the Independent Counsel’s “clumsy attempt” to secure the testimony of key figures and witnesses connected to the Clinton scandals and even asserted, “Starr appears to have overstepped the line of freedom of speech.” As supporting argument, the author drew employees’ attention to the outrage of Timesman partisan, Anthony Lewis, who wrote days earlier that Starr had “lost sight of the consequences for our constitutional system” his methods might induce.
Understandably, the democratically-inexperienced Russians were slow to catch on that a public prosecutor seeking evidence in a legal proceeding authorized by federal legislation the president himself had signed was, in fact, anti-constitutional activity. However, well-versed as they are in the Leninist principle of “Ask no questions; dead men can’t answer anyway,” the Russians hesitated to comment publicly.
Besides, the intervening six months marked a busy time on the Russian front. Over the summer, the ruble halved in value, prices doubled, the bond market defaulted, investors fled, creditors howled and shelves emptied. Remarkably, the swirl of catastrophic event brought focus to the collective mind of Radio Liberty’s staff.
On Sept. 14, the New York-based Boris Paramonov, a man justifiably admired for his usual commentary on Russian religious philosophy, gave Dine’s March directives a shot by first referencing Torquemada as a suitable comparison for Judge Starr while characterizing the investigation’s consuming sordidness as “pulp fiction.” Paramonov even suggested that the Roman spectacle of gladiators slaughtering one another would somehow be better than today’s “puppet theater”!
From Paris on Sept. 24, Arkady Vaksberg weighed in with support for the glitterati’s letter published that very day by stating that Americans would have to resign themselves to abiding by Article 18 of the General Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “No one has the right to invade a person’s private life, the life of his family, his dwelling or his correspondence.” International law supersedes the U.S. Constitution, Vaksberg averred, leaving his audience with this final, incomprehensible zinger regarding Starr’s insistence on gaining testimony and documents pertinent to his investigation: “Law is law if an independent investigator and a grand jury insist on a purely legal and not emotional approach to the matter.” (Having no enforceable national laws, it is actually quite understandable that a Russian would find much to value in international law; especially the one cited upon which an entire generation of Soviet dissidents relied.)
His competitive juices now flowing, Paramonov was back on air Sept. 28, proclaiming Starr “an American relic, a Salem witch hunter.” Paramonov proclaimed that aside from Starr’s innate “puritanical rigorism,” the cause of the independent counsel’s zealotry was the result of his having become a celebrity whose every act is informed by the need to feed an insatiable media machine. Inexplicably, Paramonov chose to leave the rich symbolism of America’s first “Driveway Celebrity” unexplored. (Next thing you know, carrying out garbage and drinking coffee from a styrofoam cup will be all the rage.)
There is nothing untoward in the fact that Tom Dine should attempt to brief Russian-orientated and native Russian staff in the complexities of his country’s most dramatic and rare constitutional proceeding. But should taxpayer-funded resources be directed to one man’s attempt to curry favor with the increasingly lawless Clinton administration by demonizing a man who is the duly appointed prosecutor of the American people?
Nor is there anything inappropriate about opinion editorials being broadcast over Radio Liberty’s frequency, though U.S. taxpayers might reasonably expect a well-argued opposing view would be broadcast. Alas, Dine has demonstrated about as much regard for competition in the sphere of ideas as he has in the awarding of public grants.
Of course, the Russian listening audience would turn naturally to Radio Liberty for information regarding an American constitutional procedure. But even though Russians are no better constitutional scholars en masse than are Americans, they are world class experts at recognizing political propaganda. Perhaps that is the reason Radio Liberty’s listenership has fallen by a third during Thomas Dine’s tenure, a decline that would surely result in his dismissal were he employed in the private sector.
Concerned Americans however will be heartened to know that it was Izvestia’s longtime Washington correspondent, Vladimir Nadein, who stepped into the breach to champion the U.S. Constitution. Writing in the pages of the venerable Literaturnaya Gazeta, a publication of the Russian state whose operations are independent of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars, in a piece entitled, “The Taming of a Lie,” Nadein chastised those Russians who might think the American shenanigans were mere spectacle. Naiden insisted that there is a “usefulness to recent American lessons. Especially for us.”
After penning a robust defense of the Rule of Law Naiden summed up Clinton’s predicament with a clarity that eludes his American colleagues, “It is not possible to lie to a court under oath. It is also impossible to lie to the nation on television without having to pay for it.”
Overall, Nadein sees much virtue in any society protecting itself from presidential lying. Remarking that the American system works with the long view in mind, Naiden wrote that if the U.S. can get after one president because of lying about a girl, “then another president in another time and place could be dismissed for lying about things like Grozny. In which case, such a man could no longer lie about the ruble. If there is no lying about the ruble, then there is no reason to lie about a program of national salvation.”
Now there’s a thought from a man who some maintain is stubbornly anti-American! And no U.S. taxpayer paid a penny for it. Maybe, just maybe, the Russians are competent to figure things out best for themselves. At least, the U.S. needn’t muddy the waters with the likes of Thomas Dine.
Anne Williamson has written for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Spy magazine, Film Comment and Premiere. An expert on Soviet-Russian affairs, she is currently working on a book, “Contagion: How America Betrayed Russia,” a chapter of which can be read at bookagency.com/oligarchy.html.