Tuesday was a sad day - a victory for dictatorship over democracy.
The U.S. Senate went along with the House to pass the Clinton-Gore administration's Permanent Normal Trade Relations bill with China's Communist dictators. Yes, these are the same butchers who have massacred dissidents, thrown Christians in jail and even financed the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign (money since returned after exposure).
It was also upsetting to see the newest appointed U.S. senator - Zell Miller, D-Ga. - dutifully vote "yes" with his party leadership on final passage. True, there were leading Republicans who also voted "yes," but a maverick coalition led by Sens. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Paul Wellstone, D-Wis., is to be commended for battling this travesty to the bitter end.
THIS PNTR legislation, which Bill Clinton will sign into law, gives Beijing's Reds two major benefits:
There will no longer be an annual review - and congressional vote - on whether the Chinese merit what used to be called "most-favored nation" trade status. With passage, mainland China is now be guaranteed the same access to the U.S. markets as our all our Western democratic friends - no matter if the Reds continue to brutalize their own people or threaten to overthrow the free Chinese government of Taiwan.
Beijing's dictators - with congressional blessing - will now become a member of the World Trade Organization, where it will have an equal vote with the U.S. They will also be able to undermine the supremacy of U.S. law through secret WTO tribunals where foreign trade lawyers serve as judges. (This redounds to the benefit of multi-national corporations that have formed partnerships with the Red regime.)
Augusta's own U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., fought hard against PNTR passage. It's shameful Georgia's new senator didn't listen to his colleague Norwood's wise words:
"WE ARE TOLD if we extend normal trade ... we won't have to worry about Red China dropping nuclear bombs on us, because our relationship will be better. Yet every single year since I've been in Congress, China has increased its nuclear arsenal, with technology stolen from us, and increased its threats to use them against American cities if we dare oppose their invasion of our allies."
The Augusta congressman also correctly reminded colleagues that "every year since I've been in Congress, persecution of anyone who believes in a Higher Authority has grown worse."
Senators of conscience, worried that PNTR would ultimately pass, tried to slow the PNTR steamroller - and these included Sens. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C. and Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. There were 20 amendments offered. Passage of just one could have delayed or killed passage.
Sadly, they all failed. Yet one wonders how the average Georgian would feel about the following key amendments:
Amendment 4114 (Wellstone) - This would have simply required the president to certify to Congress that China has taken certain actions with respect to ensuring religious freedom, as recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Miller voted no.
Amendment 4115 (Wellstone) - This required the president to certify before Congress that China would release from jail anyone trying to organize an independent trade union. Miller voted no.
Amendment 4123 (Helms) - This mandated the secretary of Commerce to consult with leaders of American businesses to encourage adoption of a code of conduct for doing business with the Chinese. Miller voted no.
Amendment 4125 (Helms) - This would require the president to certify to Congress that China has taken action to ensure human rights protection. Miller again voted no.
Amendment 4128 (Helms) - This would simply have expressed the will of Congress opposing forced abortions in China. This was the only amendment that came close to passage but, incredibly, Miller voted no.
Miller keeps running TV ads back home touting his "independence" from the Clinton-Gore administration and from his party leader, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Yet don't his votes, on these amendments, show he was their toady?
Various Democrats didn't hesitate to deviate from their party leadership to vote for most of these needed amendments. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., even taunted Miller and other members of his party by imploring: "God gave man freedom of the will. Now why don't you senators exercise that freedom of the will?"
THIS VOTE was Senator Miller's first big test. He could have demonstrated independence and statesmanship by joining a bipartisan coalition trying to hold an aggressive dictatorship at least semi-accountable on everything from human rights to trade. Miller failed the test.