CLINTON AT HIS WORST
When President Clinton began his address to the nation last night on Haiti, I did not know how he could possibly make a credible argument for invasion. The answer is that he could lie to the American people, from beginning to end, in a propaganda speech that could have been written by Joseph Goebbels. The fact is, our young, incompetent President has done what he has always done when he has painted himself into a corner: He flat, outright lies. It is not enough to say that I think he may have been misled by his advisors into believing what he said last night. Bill Clinton has told the American people what he thinks he had to tell them to get their support for the invasion he has planned. His speechwriters assembled the worst slime that the Haitian propaganda mill hired by Jean-Bertrand Aristide has generated over the last three years and they dumped it into last night's address: Father Aristide, a Catholic priest who runs an orphanage, runs for president in order to save his poor people from the oligarchs. The bloodthirsty, drug-dealing military, who are primarily interested in the rape and murder of Aristide supporters, overthrow him in a coup. Then, when the international community gets the bloodthirsty generals to agree to leave, they violate the agreement, and return to the rape and murder of innocent civilians who yearn for Aristide's return. Here is our President:
Cedras and his armed thugs have conducted a reign of terror, executing children, raping women, killing priests. As the dictators have grown more desperate, the atrocities have grown ever more brutal.
Recent news reports have documented the slaying of Haitian orphans by the nation's deadly police thugs. The dictators are said to suspect the children of harboring sympathy toward President Aristide for no other reason than that he ran an orphanage in his days as a parish priest. The children fled the orphanage for the streets. Now they can't even sleep there because they are so afraid. As one young boy told a visitor, "I do not care if the police kill me because it only brings an end to my suffering."
International observers uncovered a terrifying pattern of soldiers and policemen raping the wives and daughters of suspected political dissidents -- young girls, 13, 16 years old. People slain and mutilated, with body parts left as warnings to terrify others. Children forced to watch as their mothers' faces are slashed with machetes.
These are not little white lies. They are whoppers, and President Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher know they are. Our Ambassador to Haiti, William Swing, months ago cabled his superiors in Foggy Bottom warning them against all these stories of atrocity, arguing they are political inspirations. The CIA has publicly argued that Aristide, who was stripped of his rights to perform the sacraments by the Vatican, is the real terrorist, whose acts of violence against his political opponents in the nine months of his presidency forced the Haitian military to take control of the government. And as I have argued for the last year, it was Aristide who broke the Governor's Island accord, not General Cedras. The President's special emissary to Haiti, Lawrence Pezzullo, was fired earlier this year for trying to persuade the White House to attempt diplomacy with the generals instead of threats.
The President last night said, "We have tried everything -- persuasion and negotiation, mediation and condemnation. Emissaries were dispatched to Port-au-Prince and were turned away." Put aside the fact that Clinton has rejected all calls for a high-level emissary -- Bob Dole months ago suggested Colin Powell, Democrats suggest former President Jimmy Carter. All of Washington knows that one of the President's buddies in Congress, Rep. Bill Richardson [D-NM], went to Port-au-Prince early in August and spent a day with Cedras. He came back with a glowing report on Cedras, the soft-spoken family man, and the possibilities of a diplomatic solution, which the Aristide public-relations machine converted into a dire report on the stubbornness of Cedras in refusing to come out with his hands up. In The New York Times today, we find Rep. Richardson doing his best: "He could have given the most magnificent speech since Pericles, but the case is not strong enough for invasion."
Unfortunately, the President's horror stories did swing public opinion in his favor -- among those who watched the speech -- according to a CNN poll. Even so, the poll indicated the public by a 2-to-1 majority would like him to get congressional approval for an invasion, which the President can't do because he would be voted down by his own party. Will he pull the trigger this weekend, before Congress comes back into session with GOP demands for a vote and the nation demanding one? The rumors are flying that he wants to pull the trigger by Sunday, because there will be great hesitation in Congress to criticize the move when the troops are going in, and that the operation will be a success before anyone can warn of its potential failure. The only thing that might throw a monkeywrench into this plan is the possibility that the U.S. military command will not be ready until next Tuesday to go ahead. This ain't the Normandy invasion, but if the President pushes them prematurely, before they say they are ready, he'd have to answer for the penalties of not having all the electronics gear in synch. The one ship that ran aground is a reminder that our complex military machine is a complex military machine.
There will also be reminders that the "obsolete" M-1 rifles carried by the Haitian military fire real bullets, and these can be fired long after our troops have landed and Port-au-Prince is secured. And the real damage that will be done because of this exercise will only begin when the shooting stops, as it becomes clear what a monstrous mistake we have made by putting this complex military machine in the hands of a kid from Arkansas, who is a champion liar when painted into a corner. He can't hide this from the people. I was a guest on a national radio talk show last night, for 90 minutes taking call-in questions on Haiti. The intensity of the opposition is palpable, with more than one caller demanding the President's impeachment. If I were Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, I wouldn't wait through the weekend to get to the debate, but would ask Majority Leader George Mitchell to call the Senate back into session tomorrow afternoon.
The political damage the President is causing his party is only now becoming clear inside the Beltway, with daily reports of Democratic incumbents believed to hold "safe" seats in November suddenly trailing in the polls. If the Haiti invasion proceeds without the Democratic leadership permitting a prior vote, it will be the rank-and-file Democrats coming home from Washington in body bags this November.
Financial markets plunged today on the Fed's reports of strong advances in industrial production and capacity utilization during August, with utilization of 84.7% at a five-and-a-half year high. Inasmuch as most of the increase in both indicators is isolated to auto manufacturing, some are suggesting that the market reaction is overblown. We don't think so. The Commerce Department reports that business inventories rose in July for the fourth month in a row, even while auto inventories again declined. This fits with our contention that consumers have been smart enough to know the '95 models will have built into them the monetary inflation caused by the Fed's mistakes of the past year. The August production surge assumes that consumption will continue at these high rates for the '95 models despite the price increases and reduced discounts the auto makers plan to pass through to capitalize on the weak dollar. We saw this previously in 1974. It should not take long for the auto industry to observe that the customers who have been buying so briskly in recent months have been shifting inventories to their own garages, to beat price increases, and that inventories on the dealer lots will now expand to catch up with other businesses.