As election day draws near, the tone of the campaign rhetoric grows ever more nasty. The current whack being flung at GW by surrogates of the Vice President is that Bush is not ready for prime time presidency.
If this is a veiled attempt to assail George W. Bush on foreign policy grounds, the gall of Al Gore and his cohorts is, once again, astounding in its breadth and scope. At the very same time that suggestions about Bush's experience are dangled before the public in hopes that the uncommitted will bite, a showdown is taking place between the White House and three House committee chairmen. Apparently, the Clinton administration has failed to provide documents on Vice President Al Gore's pair of secret deals with the former Russian Prime Minister. Déjà vu anyone?
Three representatives, Ben Gilman of the House International Relations Committee, Floyd Spence of the House Armed Services Committee and Porter Goss of the House Intelligence Committee, have laid down an ultimatum. If documents surrounding the secret agreements are not turned over, they will be subpoenaed.
Now those famed inventors of the play dough lexicon and the silly putty Constitution have carried their defense strategy to gargantuan heights of absurdity. The allegations are that Al Gore brokered a deal which allowed Russia to sell conventional weapons to Iran sanction-free, that Al Gore gave his blessing to Russia's transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, and that Al Gore kept this information secret from Congress. The Clinton/Gore administration has come up with two reasons why Al Gore's alleged conduct in creating international agreements was actually acceptable.
First, a statute that Gore supposedly violated was one that, coincidentally, he also co-authored. It referred to "advanced" conventional weapons. The administration claims that the weapons transferred to Iran, which included the most sophisticated kind of diesel powered submarine, wake-homing torpedoes, fighter-bombers and antiballistic missile systems, were not advanced enough to be considered advanced.
Second, the administration contends that Al Gore's secret pacts with the former Russian Prime Minister are not really agreements. Rather, they are "understandings."
In interpreting the Constitution through the lens of original intent as exercised for the first one hundred and fifty years of our nation's existence, we see that agreements, pacts or understandings which bind two nations together are called treaties. The Constitution requires that, prior to implementation, treaties must be ratified by the Senate with a two-thirds super majority.
As commander-in-chief, the president's power does encompass some limited international agreements. These types of agreements are a close cousin to executive orders and have been referred to historically as executive agreements. In an urgent situation the president has the power to negotiate a cease-fire or grant a pardon. But the Constitution does not explicitly provide any independent power to the executive branch to make international agreements on its own.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the territory into which the Vice President strayed when he agreed that Russia would not have to pay the required sanctions for selling weapons to Iran. Mr. Gore apparently decided to go even further. He added a second agreement to keep secret Russia's scheme to transfer nuclear technology to Iran under the pretext that Iran intended to build nuclear power plants.
These actions in which the Vice President has allegedly engaged are not only illegal in their violation of the Constitution and their breach of three specific statutes, they appear to signify tremendously poor judgement.
Although the Vice President tries to distance himself from Bill Clinton, they are conjoined twins when it comes to their lack of veracity. They are of but one mind that is seemingly missing a core component. Al Gore presents the same inherent defect as Clinton, that misbegotten ability to contrive laughter, feign tragedy, concoct tales, reinvent self, dodge responsibility and twist truth, all eerily familiar indicators of a figure with no moral center.
Positive international relations cannot be properly sustained without a moral foundation. A situational ethics approach will inevitably lead to the kind of international diplomacy that condones terrorism. The Clinton White House may try to defend Al Gore by stonewalling but, fortuitously, the behavior of the Vice President in dealing with Russia provides a timely window into the soul of the man who is asking to be the leader of the free world.