It was 1996. The Bill Clinton/Bob Dole/Ross Perot showdown was running at full tilt.
And into the battle Ross Perot tossed this little political grenade:
“I never thought I would live to see a major drug dealer give 20,000 bucks… and then be invited to the White House for a reception. Now keep in mind, you can’t get into the White House unless the Secret Service clears you. This guy had been convicted — arrested twice in the ’80s. It’s in the computer.”
The man in question that Perot was pointing to was one Jorge “Gordito” Cabrera, a twice-convicted felon who was photographed at a Clinton White House Christmas Party hosted by Hillary Clinton. Months later, in April of 1997, this story emerged in the New York Times written by Don Van Natta Jr. The headline:
A Felon’s Donation to Democrats Was Sought in Cuba, Inquiry Says
The story, with bold print supplied by me, read in part:
MIAMI, March 29 — Jorge Cabrera, a drug smuggler who has emerged as one of the most notorious supporters of President Clinton’s re-election campaign, was asked for a campaign contribution in the unlikely locale of a hotel in Havana by a prominent Democratic fund-raiser, Congressional investigators have learned.…
On his return to the United States several days after that meeting, in November 1995, Mr. Cabrera wrote a check for $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee from an account that included the proceeds from smuggling cocaine from Colombia to the United States, said the investigators, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Within two weeks of the contribution, Mr. Cabrera met (the Vice President) Mr. Gore at the dinner in Miami. Ten days later, Mr. Cabrera attended a Christmas reception at the White House, where Hillary Rodham Clinton was the host. At the events, Mr. Gore and Mrs. Clinton posed for photographs with Mr. Cabrera, who has two felony convictions from the 1980’s and is now in a prison here on a drug-smuggling conviction.
And what was the response from the Clinton White House and the DNC? They had no idea of any of this. They would and did give the money back. How this happened was just inexplicable. They couldn’t figure it out.
As it happens, I knew something about how one gets in — or does not get in — to the White House with a controversial background. As Perot made his charges and the White House pretended to innocence, I wrote this column in the Wall Street Journal on October 31, 1996:
How to Get A Drug Dealer Into the White House
In that piece I related my own personal tale of inviting a number of Reagan supporters to fill the audience at an East Room event for a presidential speech. An hour before the event the Secret Service called, said that guest X had a criminal problem in his background and they would refuse X admittance to the White House. I was stunned. This was not something the general public, not to mention myself, would know. I had two choices. Either get a White House superior — in this case that meant someone with clout like… yes… the President himself — to overrule the Secret Service. Or call X myself and withdraw the invite. I chose the second option. In other words, the Secret Service rules — unless directly overruled by the President or someone like the White House Chief of Staff.
What does this have to do with today’s campaign?
The other day the news emerged that Seddique Mateen, the father of Omar Mateen, the Orlando mass murderer of gays at the Pulse nightclub, was, yes indeed, standing behind Hillary in the crowd at her Orlando rally.
Fox reported the story this way:
“The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public,” a campaign official told Fox News. “This individual wasn’t invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event.”
Stop. Stop right there.
This is the exact same formula — make that pattern — that produced the presence of a drug smuggler-contributor in the Clinton White House at a reception hosted by, yes indeed, the very same Hillary Clinton. For those who are unfamiliar with these kind of rallies? There is no way in the political world that Seddique Mateen — the very public father of a mass murderer only weeks ago drenched in wall-to-wall media coverage — could be placed where he was in that rally without both the Clinton campaign and the Secret Service knowing it.
The other day I attended a Trump rally here in Pennsylvania. I was told I would be seated in the Trump equivalent of where all those Clinton supporters were seated — behind the candidate. Upon arrival at a specific entrance not open to the general public I had to check in with the campaign workers who had my name on a list. After their approval, I had to be checked out by the Secret Service. After that a campaign person personally ushered me to my seat — where everyone else in that section had similarly been vetted. Among the other people seated in my area were a state senator, three congressmen, a county party chairman, and any number of people who were involved in the area Trump campaign. To a person we were all known quantities to the Trump campaign.
The point? There is no way on God’s green earth that Seddique Mateen could have gotten within a country mile of candidate Clinton without a sign-off by the Clinton campaign. And just as with the presence of drug smuggler Jorge “Gordito” Cabrera at a Hillary Clinton-hosted White House Christmas party in 1995, once discovered a protestation went out saying the Clinton people had no idea how any of this could have happened.
So… why? Why would the Clinton campaign do this? With Cabrera it was money… a cool $20,000 bucks that was only returned once the Bill Clinton campaign and DNC realized they had been caught out. But what’s in it for the Hillary Clinton campaign? Why quite deliberately let Seddique Mateen — a man the Washington Post quotes as follows — into a VIP section of a Clinton rally?
But in a Facebook video posted early Monday, he said, “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality.”…
In one video, the elder Mateen expresses gratitude toward the Afghan Taliban while denouncing the Pakistani government.
“Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in [the] Taliban movement and national Afghan Taliban are rising up,” he said.
Got it. Seddique’s son Omar, imbued with his father’s views that gays must be punished for their homosexuality, walks into a gay night club and mass murders 49 gay Americans, injuring others. Seddique himself professes his “gratitude” to the Taliban. And after all of this happens, Seddique sashays into the VIP section of a Clinton rally?
If one rules out a dog-whistle to gay-bashers or an attempt to transform the elder Mateen into a sympathetic, poorly understood Muslim — the latter a strand of the philosophy that insists it is wrong to call radical Islam “radical Islam” — then what happened here?
How about plain old fashioned Hillary-style incompetence? The incompetence on display in Benghazi or with the Russian re-set or Syria or the rise of ISIS? Or, to reach further back, with the disaster that was Hillarycare in 1993? Or even the incompetence that thought taking $20,000 from a drug smuggler and then inviting him to a White House Christmas Party hosted by Hillary Clinton would never be noticed?
This is the experience of which the American people are supposed to take note?