Editor’s note: Jack Cashill begins writing a weekly column for WND today, and will now appear every Friday.
In April 1993, back before Democrats began to care about port security, first lady Hillary Clinton invited Commerce Secretary Ron Brown to a one-on-one lunch on the balcony of the White House.
The given reason was to talk politics and thank him for his help “fixing” a near scandal that involved Chief of Staff Mack McLarty. But, in fact, Hillary wanted more. She was about to test Brown, to see whether or not he would be a “good soldier.”
According to Brown confidante Nolanda Butler Hill, who “debriefed” him after the balcony lunch, the Clintons had a mission for Brown. They were about to give him the unofficial title “California Czar,” ostensibly to show their commitment to the rebuilding of the California economy after the Los Angeles riots a year earlier.
In reality, as Brown would soon enough realize, the “czar” claptrap was cover for a deeper California assignment.
Unlikely as it now sounds, the Clintons were prepared to approve the sale of the former Long Beach Naval Station to a company wholly owned by the People’s Republic of China – and this just months after Clinton had pilloried Bush Sr. for conducting “business as usual with those who murdered freedom at Tiananmen Square.”
The company was called COSCO, the China Ocean Shipping Company, and it was part of the Chinese navy. Says Hill of Brown’s participation in the proposed sale, “This was his first big water to carry.” It would not be his last. Three years later – 10 years ago next month – Brown was dispatched to Croatia to broker a sweetheart deal between the country’s neo-fascist president and a certain American company known as Enron. Brown never came back.
Despite the Enron connection, the major media have literally invested more energy in the wounding of Harry Whittington than in the dying – and possibly killing – of Ron Brown. The run-up to the 10th anniversary provides one last chance to prod them into action.
From the beginning of the Clinton presidency, Brown understood that water carrying was to be his role. He hated it, and he feared it. Nor was he the only minority in such a role. To be sure, Clinton chose a Cabinet conspicuously designed to “look like America.” This Cabinet included four African Americans: Ron Brown at Commerce, Hazel O’Leary at Energy, Mike Espy at Agriculture, and Jesse Brown at Veteran’s Affairs. It also included two Hispanics, Henry Cisneros at HUD and Frederico Pena at Transportation.
This willful sharing of power with minorities quickly became part of the Clinton myth. Ron Brown learned the hard way, however, just how illusory the myth was. He sensed the depth of that deception with the publication in 1994 of Robert Woodward’s “The Agenda.”
The “agenda” in question was the domestic one embodied in the contentious budget bill of 1993. Woodward tells the story with his typical insider detail about the fierce, if chaotic, struggle between the “investment hawks” and the “deficit hawks” within Clinton’s Cabinet to shape the bill … and with it the Clinton presidency.
What mattered to Brown about the story – what stung and humiliated him, as he told Nolanda Hill – was he seemed to have played almost no part in the contest. Woodward’s book made this clear. There is, in fact, only one reference to Brown, and it is an insignificant one. Brown’s power was chimerical.
In the beginning of the book, Woodward lists Clinton’s nine-member “economic team.” Brown is not on it. Nor is Brown among the 31 Democrats who comprise Woodward’s “cast of characters.” What intrigues the observer about this cast is it looks less “like America” than it does like, say, Idaho.
Of the 31 Democrats listed – 22 of whom are part of Clinton’s official team – not one is a racial minority of any kind. Of the 70 identifiable faces (including repetition) in the photo section of the book, all are white.
And this is the “domestic” team. On the national security front, minorities did not even enjoy the illusion of power. There were no Condi Rices, no Colin Powells, nothing like it.
Blacks and Hispanics in the Clinton administration enjoyed little more than the trappings of power. As Brown learned, the appointment of minorities served largely to appease key voting blocs. Neither he nor the other minorities in the Cabinet were even allowed to pick their own second in command. That person was inevitably a Clinton plant in place to do the administration’s real work.
Time after time, the Clintons exploited the trust of their minority appointees and used them less for information than insulation. This pattern became apparent at the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair. As the president told the story, it was Betty Currie that Monica came to see. It was Bill Richardson who offered her a job at the United Nations. It was Vernon Jordan who chose to intercede for her at Revlon. These interventions cost the three a huge amount of anxiety and some staggering legal bills.
Hillary Clinton was not above a little exploitation herself. In unrelated incidents, it was not Hillary, but her loyal aid Maggie Williams who cleared out Vince Foster’s office after his death and accepted Johnny Chung’s $50,000 donation in the White House. These acts led to huge legal bills for Williams as well.
Hillary Clinton had her own plans for Ron Brown, and those included China. While alive, Brown knew more about the Chinese than he wanted to. After their attempted seizure of the Long Beach Naval Station, says Hill, “He never stopped being afraid.” And Long Beach was just one thing out of many that he knew he shouldn’t have known.
In time, U.S. intelligence sources would learn of Chinese plans to use the naval station as a base for espionage – no surprise there – and Congress would kill the deal. But Congress intervened only after Brown had died. Like the other minorities in the Cabinet, Brown was not just exploitable. He was expendable.
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