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  xMonday, December 09, 2002

more from the integrity president


This WaPo column points out that Henry Kissinger isn't the only malodorous figure from previous Republican administrations to go to work for the man who vowed to bring integrity back to Washington--Iran-contra rogues Elliott Abrams and John Poindexter are back as well.
You might think that a few of these folks would have had their careers ended by their misdeeds. And you might think that being tough on crime, long a GOP mantra, begins at home. You'd be wrong: On the matter of these men's sordid pasts, the Bush administration has shown an indulgence and permissiveness that would make Dr. Spock blanch.

...Poindexter, Abrams and company are relying on our amnesia to effect their transformations into upstanding citizens worthy of wielding power again. ...In the current crop of Republican retreads, Watergate survivor Kissinger is the exception that proves this rule. Unlike Liddy or Colson, Kissinger had (and still has) a reputation apart from the Nixonian miasma. He is counting on our selective memory: the China opening, not the secret bombing of Cambodia; shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, not the phony peace in Vietnam or his meddling in Chile. He has used his image as a pillar of the foreign policy establishment to shirk accountability for his role in what John Mitchell famously called the "White House horrors." What's unfortunate about the left's hyperbolic "war criminal" taunts is that Kissinger's actions were plenty bad without any embellishment.

Another reminder may be in order: As Nixon's national security adviser, Kissinger (as he admitted in his own memoir) targeted journalists and administration officials to be secretly -- and, the Supreme Court ruled, illegally -- wiretapped.

Why has Bush chosen to resuscitate men with rather unusual résumés? The answer is that he appears not to think they did anything wrong. ...For all the differences between Watergate and Iran-contra, the scandals shared one key aspect: their perpetrators' belief in the virtue of secrecy and White House prerogative at the expense of democratic rules. ...Iran-contra was, at bottom, a purposeful ploy to subvert Congress's will because administration officials judged that they were better suited to the big boys' work of fighting communism and terrorism. [Ed: And, I would repeat, these are the people the current Administration is bringing in to fight the current war on terror.]

Ever since the Florida recount fight, the Bush governance strategy has been to assert that they're in the right and to brook no intimations otherwise. All along, the Bush team has understood that images can be self-fulfilling -- and that the best way to shore up a shaky position is to act as if your legitimacy isn't in doubt. If your decisions are assailed, hang tough, grit your teeth, shrug off the questioners and brazen it out. That attitude has been particularly marked in the waging of the war on terrorism, where the administration's fetish for secrecy and disdain for Congress are eerily reminiscent of -- guess who? -- John Poindexter and Henry Kissinger.

The attempt to rehabilitate the party's scandal-scarred lions must be seen in the context of this governing strategy. If you try something controversial and get away with it, it makes you stronger. The recent appointments -- and the refusal to even acknowledge the legitimate outcry they have occasioned -- are a deliberate demonstration of power, a flaunting of contempt for opposition and dissent, in the expectation that such a show will likely deter, not spur, critics.






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