In over 30 years of working in and watching the ways of Washington, I must say, I have never seen anything quite like it.
According to Senator Jon Kyl, the entire Senate Republican leadership is now opposed to a controversial treaty supported by the President and an implausible alliance of special interests – from the U.S. Navy to Greenpeace. At a joint press conference last Wednesday, he was one of several Senators to declare that, as a result, supporters would be unable to muster the necessary 67 votes for ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). Yet, it seems not one of the “establishment” media organs felt moved to report these momentous political developments.
More extraordinary still is the apparent news-blackout concerning the fact that virtually every Republican presidential candidate (with the surprising, and hopefully ephemeral, exception of Rudy Giuliani) has announced either outright opposition to the Treaty or deep misgivings about its inevitable effect: conferring more power on international organizations at the expense of U.S. sovereignty. Apart from a front-page article in the Washington Times last Friday and postings by an array of on-line news outlets, bloggers and a couple of newsletters, the so-called “mainstream media” have denied the American people virtually any information about LOST’s growing difficulties.
The seemingly deliberate suppression of bad news concerning an accord favored by the elite is being compounded by a similar lack of transparency on the part of the Senate itself. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has scheduled a panel vote on LOST for Wednesday – ignoring a request from one of his colleagues, Sen. David Vitter, for additional hearings and additional testimony from those opposed to the Treaty.
Mr. Vitter recognized the Senate’s need to hear from more than two critics of the Treaty – each of whom were given just seven minutes to provide their oral critique. If anything, that necessity became even more urgent after several of the nine proponents from whom the Foreign Relations Committee took testimony, misled the panel (to put it charitably) about various provisions of LOST and their ominous implications.
It might seem unimaginable that Bush Administration officials, such as Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and State Department Legal Advisor John Bellinger, could get away with dissembling before a Senate committee led by a Democrat who wants to be considered a serious contender for the presidency. Perhaps that is happening because Sen. Biden could not find the time to attend either of the two hearings he called concerning the Treaty. Neither for that matter did the panel’s two other active presidential candidates, Democrats Barak Obama and Chris Dodd. Don’t bother them with the facts. Let’s vote.
Then there is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. It did manage to hold a hearing on LOST, but it was a classified session and only featured official witnesses. Unsurprisingly, all of them supported ratification. What is surprising, though, is Chairman Jay Rockefeller’s uncharacteristic acceptance at face value of representations by executive branch officials like Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. Based on such testimony, Sen. Rockefeller recently signed a letter with GOP Vice Chairman Kit Bond declaring that U.S. adherence to the Treaty would have no negative implications for U.S. intelligence. While there are strong arguments to the contrary, like Mr. Biden, Sen. Rockefeller has no time for a second opinion that might produce inconvenient truths.
As things stand now, the Foreign Relations Committee’s inaccurate and unbalanced record will be the only public one Senators have to go on. Formal requests made by Sen. Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate’s Armed Services and Environment and Public Works committees, asking them to examine the Treaty’s myriad repercussions for matters within their jurisdiction are going unanswered. The same is true of similar appeals made to those and six of the Senate’s other committees with relevant areas of responsibility by the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty (see http://www.rejectlost.org/Letters_to_the_Senate.html).
So, here’s what Senators and their constituents need to know as decision-time looms on LOST: Ronald Reagan rejected the Law of the Sea Treaty twenty-five years ago. We have been able to survive ever since without being a party to it, following Mr. Reagan’s direction – observing its provisions regarding navigation, with which we can live, and not being bound by those hostile to our interests.
The latter involve, among other things, a supranational, UN-affiliated government of the seas with the power to extend its authority to our interior waters, sovereign territory and even our air. There is no justification for haste, let alone stealth, in trying to make such a treaty the “supreme law of the land.”
The Republican leadership, both in Congress and on the presidential hustings, recognizes that what is at stake in LOST amount to defining issues. These leaders learned something from the ugly fiasco that resulted during the elite’s recent efforts to foist immigration “reform” on the American people. Much of the public is deeply skeptical of secretive initiatives that would, similarly: undermine U.S. sovereignty; compromise our constitutional, representative form of government and its exclusive responsibility for regulating our national affairs; and endanger our security interests and economic competitiveness.
As with immigration, it matters not a whit to millions of American voters that President Bush and the establishment elite support such dubious initiatives. In the absence of Senate due-diligence and transparency about LOST, particularly those Senators up for reelection next year flout this pivotal part of the electorate at their peril.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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