Rep. Curt Weldon, a moderate Republican who represents the 7th district of Pennsylvania, is in the political fight of his life.
For the first time since he was elected to Congress in 1986, Weldon is facing a well-funded opponent, Vice Admiral (ret) Joseph A. Sestak, who is being backed by the entire Democratic Party establishment, from Hillary and Bill Clinton, to moveon.org
What is it that the Clintonistas and the organized Left find so threatening about Curt Weldon that they are prepared to invest significant national campaign funds in unseat a moderate Republican who was re-elected in 2004 with 59% of the vote?
The answer is simple -- and it's not run-of-the-mill campaign fodder about an incumbent "out of touch" with his constituents.
If there's one thing Curt Weldon is not, it's out of touch with his district just southwest of Philadelphia. A volunteer fire chief, local councilman and Mayor, Weldon has worked hard on behalf of his constituents, sometimes in unusual ways.
Just ask Gail and Rich Bernstein, the parents of 1LT David Bernstein, a U.S. Military Academy graduate killed in action in Iraq on Oct. 13, 2003 who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Lt. Bernstein was 24 when he was hit in the leg by insurgents not far from Saddam Hussein's stronghold, Tikrit. Despite the fact he was bleeding profusely, he instructed his men to care for a group of nearby civilians before taking him to safety.
Before his men could evacuate him, insurgents shot Lt. Bernstein a second time, fatally.
Weldon choppered into the area three months later with other members of Congress, to meet with the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Maj.Gen. Ray Odierno.
"I asked him about his casualties," Weldon recalls. "He said they had a number of killed in action, including a 24-year old Lieutenant who had graduated from West Point. And now that you mention it, Congressmen, he's from Pennsylvania," Weldon recalls him saying.
"That must be David Bernstein," Weldon said.
Odierno was floored. "How could you know that? I've got 30,000 soldiers in my division. How could you know this soldier's name?"
Weldon explained that he remembered Bernstein well, because he had gotten the Pennsylvania native his appointment to West Point.
"And in the back pocket of my jeans," he added, "I've got a three-page letter from his parents, talking about how he had always wanted to be a soldier. They were hoping I might find someone in Iraq who knew him."
The anecdote is typical Weldon. I have heard him tell it twice over the past six months, and each time I have been struck by the simplicity of the tale. There is no embellishment, no theatrics. Curt Weldon loved that young man and it showed.
"In the end," he told airmen and industry representatives at the Air Force Association annual convention in Washington, DC yesterday, "the reason we do what we do is because ultimately it's all about the David Bernsteins."
Over the past twenty years, Weldon has become a leading authority in Washington on defense and security issues.
He knows the defense business well; his job as vice-chair of the House Armed Services committee requires it. But while Weldon has strongly supported military modernization, and has pressed hard to ensure that our troops have the "quality of life they deserve to defend our country," he also realizes today's defense budgets are stretched beyond the breaking point.
In his talk on Wednesday to the Air Force Association, he called on industry to cut development costs on major weapons systems, and to focus on "multi-service" platforms, to help cut procurement costs. That was not the talk of an industry shill.
But these are not the reasons the Clintonistas hate him. Nor is it why the National Democratic Party recruited and funded Sestak to oppose him, and leaned heavily on the Democrat who opposed him in 2004, who had announced his intention to run again this year, to drop out of the race.
It's because Weldon was in the forefront of exposing the Clinton administration's fraudulent denial of the missile threat to the United States in the 1990s, and his relentless exposure of the Clinton sell-off of military secrets to Communist China.
Weldon has been attacked relentlessly for his efforts in both these areas. He was instrumental in getting Congress to review NIE 95-19, the controversial National Intelligence Estimate that concluded that the United States would not face a missile threat from rogue nations until 2010 at the earliest.
Concerned by the Clinton administration's refusal to take national security seriously -- "they were holding hands in the White House and singing kumbaya," he said today -- Weldon introduced an amendment to the 1997 defense authorization bill that funded a blue ribbon commission to independently study the ballistic missile threat to the United States.
Known as the "Rumsfeld commission," after its chairman, Donald Rumsfeld, the panel concluded in July 1998 that countries such as Iraq, Iran, or North Korea could deploy ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States "within five years of a decision to proceed," directly contradicting the CIA's 1995 estimate.
Just days after Rumsfeld unveiled that conclusion, North Korea surprised the world (and the CIA) by test-firing a new multi-stage missile, the Taepo-Dong, which the CIA acknowledged somewhat sheepishly could reach the United States.
Weldon was also instrumental in establishing a Congressional Select committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China, more commonly known as the Cox Committee, and served as one of its nine members.
Their report concluded that transfers of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons secrets to the PRC during the Clinton administration had done "serious harm" to our national security, a conclusion that the bi-partisan panel adopted unanimously.
"The Chinese didn't steal our technology," Weldon said. "We auctioned off our technology to China."
Weldon believes the next serious threat facing the United States is from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), a powerful burst of energy released by a nuclear explosion high in the earth's atmosphere that would cripple our electronic, information, and communication systems, "bringing America to her knees."
EMP was well known during the Cold war, "and we know that the Iranians are studying this," he said.
A Congressionally-funded commission which Weldon helped establish four years ago issued an initial report in 2004, and recently delivered a more detailed, classified report. "The threats have not decreased; they have increased," Weldon said.
He also warned on Wednesday about China's efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons, which he said in five years would be able to disable U.S. military and intelligence assets in space.
The Clintonistas hate Curt Weldon for exposing their total disregard of our national security. But they fear him the most because of Able Danger.
Able Danger was an experimental data mining operation run by the Land Information Warfare Assessment Center (LIWAC) in Fort Belvoir, not far from the Pentagon.
It was part of an experimental program in the late 1990s to collect intelligence on terrorist networks and on illicit Chinese high-technology procurement efforts from open source material.
And that is why the program became such a threat, Weldon believes. "The database included information on Chinese procurement in the United States and the Clinton people didn't want this coming out, because there were a ton of Clinton names in there," he told me.
And on orders from Clinton-era Pentagon officials, that data was destroyed in April 2000, without a backup.
As I reported last week, the Clinton folks and Weldon's opponent are crowing over a recent Pentagon Inspector General report that appears to conclude that the 2.5 terabytes of data contained nothing of significance, and that no political pressure was applied on the Able Danger team members to keep their findings quiet and not to meet with the FBI.
A close reading of the report, however, shows that those conclusions were ambiguous. Weldon accused the IG of having "cherry-picked testimony from key witnesses in an effort to minimize the historical importance of the Able Danger effort."
Following the leak of the IG report - given to the press before it was shared with Weldon, who had requested it - an anti-Weldon website accused him of "wild claims and rants" and called Weldon's pursuit of Able Danger "desparate [sic] fantasies."
Take a look at a list of donors to Weldon's opponent. Is there any surprise that among them can be found Madeleine Albright, former NSC advisors Sandy Berger and Tony Lake, former White House political director John Podesta and former CIA director John Deutch, not to mention Hillary Clinton's Political Action committee?
Who do you think made the decisions that authorized the auctioning of America¹s military secrets to Communist China during the 1990s?
Real watchdogs of the national interest are rare in Congress. Curt Weldon is one of them.
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