When the history of the Bush era is written, no scandal will impress the reader as more telling of the time and place than the one that has engulfed Curt Weldon, the deposed Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.
To be clear, Weldon is not the perpetrator of this scandal but its victim. To understand how he got embroiled, a quick look back at a nearly forgotten chapter in the annals of the Clinton administration is in order.
In January 1997, the Clinton White House went public with a 332-page report that bore the “Austin Powers”-like title, “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce.” In its unapologetic paranoia, the effort recalled nothing so much as the final days of the Nixon administration.
“What is striking about the document,” observed the Washington Post, “is that it lays down this suspicion-laden theory about how the media works in cold print, under the imprimatur of the White House.” According to the document, here is how “the stream” worked:
First, well-funded right-wing think tanks and individuals underwrite conservative newsletters and newspapers such as the Western Journalism Center, the American Spectator and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Next, the stories are reprinted on the Internet where they are bounced all over the world.
From the Internet, according to the report, the stories go through the right-wing British media, back through the respectable right-wing American press, into Congress, “finally to be covered by the remainder of the American mainstream press as a ‘real’ story.”
A year after its introduction, Hillary Clinton would echo the findings of this report on the Today Show in her self-parodying alarm about a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
The Clintons would not be caught on the defensive again. To neutralize their opposition, they and their cronies have consciously crafted their own communication stream, one that is far less ethical and more effective than anything the right could have ever concocted.
I hesitate to call this a “left wing” conspiracy as there is no real ideology involved. Indeed, some on the hard left have applauded the work Weldon has done in tracking the steps and missteps that led to Sept. 11.
Properly understood, the Clinton communication stream has resulted from a collaboration, not of ideologues, but of well-placed Democratic activists whose motives involve some combination of fear, greed, spite, wishful thinking and lust for power.
These collaborators did not have to rely on Arkansas state troopers to leak private information. They had – and have – allies working within the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department.
They have not depended on the generosity of one millionaire for support, like a Richard Mellon Scaife, but rather on an influential cluster of unscrupulous plutocrats called the Democratic Alliance.
For coordination, they have been able to count on an aggressive and effective George Soros-funded “watchdog” group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.
For influence, they have been able to mobilize much of the Clinton shadow government, especially Sandy Berger and his Stonebridge Group, as well as former president Clinton himself.
But most critical of all, they have had direct access to and cooperation from the media: To be sure, not the American Spectator or the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, but the hugely more powerful voices of the mainstream media, the New York Times, CNN, CBS, NBC and more.
These same media that functioned – and still do – as a firewall in the service of the Clintons serve now as sappers in the undermining of their enemies.
With a willing media to trumpet useful messages, this collaboration has effectively ended any number of Republican careers, most recently those of White House staffer Scooter Libby and congressmen Curt Weldon, Tom DeLay and Mark Foley.
Of the three, only Foley deserved his fate. The Florida Republican had, in fact, sent sexually charged e-mails to male House pages.
Still, neither the Republicans nor the country deserved the highly suspect timing of his outing, just six weeks before the critical 2006 elections.
Worse, the same media that hounded Foley out of office helped re-elect Gerry Studds of Massachusetts seven times after the Democratic congressman had been censured for having sex with an underage male page.
In no case, however, has this collaboration of progressive forces acted with more diabolical efficiency than in that of Weldon. Regardless of any charges that may be filed against him, Weldon committed only one unforgivable crime: Investigating the intelligence failures of the Clinton era.
As to specific counts, Weldon wrote an expos? of the CIA’s performance prior to Sept. 11, “Countdown to Terror”, which won him few friends in that overly politicized agency. (Read Rowan Scarborough’s excellent “Sabotage” to understand the CIA role in the Democratic collaboration).
More provocatively, in June 2005, Weldon revealed that Clinton administration attorneys had intervened to stop the “Able Danger” group in the Defense Intelligence Agency from initiating preventive actions against two of the Sept. 11 terrorists.
Payback began in 2004 when the Los Angeles Times ran a series on members of Congress whose family members lobby or work as consultants.
The Weldon family member in the spotlight was his daughter, Karen Weldon. In 2002, the then 28 year old had co-founded Solutions North America, a business consultancy along with a millionaire entrepreneur named Charles Sexton.
That much said, as the Times also acknowledged, “Congressional ethics rules provide few barriers to the practice. They do not forbid members of Congress from helping companies or others who are paying their relatives.”
The House Ethics Committee, in fact, cleared Weldon of any wrongdoing.
That was not clearance enough for the mischief-makers from CREW. Its executive director, Melanie Sloan, petitioned the Justice Department to investigate Weldon and determine whether the congressman had violated a federal bribery law. This petition, once executed and amplified, would spell the end of Weldon’s career.
Sloan had been recruited just the year before by a pair of wealthy Democratic activists, Norman Eisen and Louis Mayberg. Sloan, then an assistant United States attorney in Washington D.C., saw the potential in their brainchild, signed on and nurtured CREW to life.
In principle, CREW was to function as something of a counterweight to Judicial Watch, the D.C.-based conservative watchdog group. CREW describes itself, in fact, as nonpartisan. Its presumed target – “government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”
In reality, however, CREW has emerged as something of a dirty tricks operation for a truly worrisome cabal known as the Democratic Alliance.
The Alliance even worries the Washington Post. The subhead of an article on the Alliance last year reads, “Some in Party Bristle at Secrecy and Liberal Tilt.”
To join the Democratic Alliance, a prospective “partner” must put up a $25,000 entry fee and annual dues of $30,000. In addition, partners must invest at least $200,000 each year in organizations, like CREW, that the Alliance has endorsed.
The Post quotes Alliance partner and former Loral Space & Communications CEO, Bernard Schwartz, as saying the group offers partners “an array of opportunities that have passed their smell test.”
If Schwartz’s history is at all typical, the Alliance partners could use an operation like CREW to watch their respective backs. In February 1996, after the failure in China of the Long March 3B rocket, Schwartz dispatched a Loral-led review team to review the crash and suggest refinements.
The Cox Committee in the House would later describe Schwartz’s actions as “an unlicensed defense service for the PRC [People's Republic of China] that resulted in the improvement of the reliability of the PRC’s military rockets and ballistic missiles.”
So serious was the offense that in 1998 the Justice Department launched an investigation. Incredibly, while the investigation was in process, Sandy Berger, then the national security adviser, initiated a retroactive waiver for Schwartz that would make prosecution impossible.
In that Schwartz had given $630,000 to the DNC in the 1996 election cycle, the most of any donor, President Clinton approved the waiver, and the case against Schwartz died on the spot.
In December 1997, despite his act of borderline treason, Schwartz celebrated his 71st birthday at the White House with the Clintons. The media chose not to get excited about any of this.
Weldon did. In fact, he traces his targeting by the Clintons and their allies to his investigations of the White House’s self-destructive technology transfers with the People’s Republic. This alone may explain Berger’s active role in his undoing.
Indeed, no congressman was more concerned about national security than Weldon. He has paid dearly for that concern and will keep on paying
Having unseated Weldon, the collaborators now need to justify the unseating and that spells still more woe for Weldon, his family and friends, which I will detail in the columns that follow.