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Posts Tagged ‘DAVID GERGEN’

TRUMP: INCITING VIOLENCE, ESCAPING RESPONSIBILITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2018 at 12:06 am

David Gergen is a longtime Republican who has advised Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He is now a senior political analyst for CNN. 

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.” 

Gergen made that statement on October 24, 2018—the day that pipe bombs were mailed to:

  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former First Lady and United States Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • Billionaire George Soros
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan
  • Former Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz

All of these intended victims had one thing in common: All of them had been brutally and repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump. 

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Donald Trump

Watching coverage of the pipe-bomb mailings on CNN, a viewer might be forgiven for mistaking this thinking this network for Fox News.

One commentator after another said, in effect, “The President doesn’t understand the power of his words—and that they can lead unstable people to violent action.”

On the contrary: Trump thoroughly understands the power of his words. 

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks addressed this issue on the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it.”  

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Donald Trump

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’”

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Trump fully understands the power of threats—and has made liberal use of them against both Republicans and Democrats. 

On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”

Two years later, on August 27, 2018, Trump, meeting with Right-wing Christian leaders at the State Dining Room of the White House, warned of “violence” if Democrats won control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections: “There is violence. When you look at Antifa—these are violent people.”

Trump also understands the value of having subordinates make inflammatory statements that serve his purposes. 

On July 29, 2016, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant and Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”

In short: This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Donald Trump fully understands the constituency that he is trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either. 

He is the ultimate narcissist: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere,” Trump told Playboy magazine in a 1990 interview.

After the bombing attempts, Trump stated: “In these times we have to unify.” But he is by nature a combative divider, not a conciliator. He is a nihilist, appealing to hatred, offering only destruction.

He’s 72, has often boasted of the joys of getting even, and he’s not going to change now.

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

TRUMP: INCITING VIOLENCE, ESCAPING RESPONSIBILITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2018 at 12:18 am

England’s King Henry II became infamous for his quick temper.

It was Henry who screamed, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” And soon afterward, four of his barons rushed to Canterbury Cathedral and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Becket and Henry had been close friends for years. On the battlefield, Becket had routed Henry’s enemies in France.

And Henry had rewarded Becket’s loyalty by appointing him Chancellor of England.

But then Henry decided to negate the expanding power of the Catholic Church by appointing Becket Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was a mistake. The previously worldly Becket took his new duties seriously—and became the church’s foremost defender in England. 

Henry believed it was a betrayal—and never forgave Becket. 

Unable to convict the archbishop on trumped-up charges, Henry gave vent to his rage—and Becket died in a hail of sword-thrusts by the King’s barons.

Fast-forward to 2018—and America’s own version of Henry II (or Henry VIII): Donald Trump.

According to the The New York Times, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed nearly 4,000 tweets at 281 different targets.

Donald Trump

His Twitter assaults often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who played Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Trump clearly didn’t care if some of his 55.3 million Twitter followers decided—like Henry’s barons—to “rid” him of “this meddlesome actor.”  Or the whole “meddlesome cast” of “Hamilton.”

According to an October 16, 2018 story on CNN: Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has directly insulted, attacked or otherwise maligned more than 100 individuals on Twitter. 

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” 

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match. 

And on August 15, 2017, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

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Then there are his “hillbilly Nuremberg rallies,” as comedian Bill Maher put it.

During his 2016 run for the Presidency, Trump said at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” 

And on August 9, 2016,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Thus, Trump encouraged gun fanatics to assassinate Clinton.  

On October 18, 2018, appearing at a rally in Missoula, Montana, Trump celebrated Montana United States Senator Greg Gianforte’s 2017 physical assault on a reporter: “Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” 

From the outset of his campaign for President, Trump gave his opponents—Republican and Democrat—a series of disparaging nicknames. Among these:

  • “Crooked Hillary” Clinton
  • “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz
  • “Psycho Joe” Scarborough

Besides inciting violence against his critics and opponents, Trump has repeatedly attacked their integrity and patriotism. 

Trump mocked the wife of United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz. He claimed that Cruz’s father had been a party to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  

Throughout his run for President, Trump’s followers aimed the chant, “Lock her up!” at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has never been tried for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

At his rallies as President, Trump still encourages his followers to shout this chant.

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”

WHY TRUMP WILL BE RE-ELECTED IN 2020: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 23, 2017 at 12:26 am

On June 20, a friend of mine named Dave wrote Kamala Harris, his United State Senator from California.

A longtime Democrat, he was concerned that the party had declined to the point of political insignificance.

In 2010, Democrats had lost the House; in 2014, they lost the Senate. Then, in 2016, after Barack Obama had held the White House for eight years, they lost it again to Donald J. Trump.

In 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had written a memo entitled: “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” It urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Democrats, for the most part, have failed to craft effective counterattacks on their integrity and ability.

As a veteran writer, Dave wanted to pass on to Harris some specific ways that Democrats could do this.  

“Above all,” wrote Dave, “Democrats should not simply borrow but co-opt a page from the Republican playbook and CONSTANTLY brand Republicans as TRAITORS.

“America’s foremost Intelligence agencies have proven, categorically, that Russian Intelligence agents played a major role in securing Trump’s election.

“And Trump’s firing [FBI Director] James Comey to short-circuit the Russia investigation—as he himself admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt—only proves how much he wants to hide his guilt.” 

On June 21, Harris’ office responded as follows: 

Dear Mr. —–,

Thank you for reaching out to voice your concerns about the workings of our government and the state of our nation. The importance of civic involvement cannot be overstated, and it is an honor to serve as your United States Senator. I have heard your concerns, and my legislative work will continue to be guided by the needs of constituents like you.

I believe that each and every American has the right to education, public safety, and health care. I have dedicated my time in the Senate to fighting for the most vulnerable among us and defending the inalienable rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

It is for this reason that I introduced the Access to Counsel Act, which guarantees legal counsel for those detained while entering the United States, passed a bipartisan resolution condemning ethnic and religious hate crimes, and introduced the Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act, a bipartisan bill to boost federal employment opportunities for the veterans who gave so much to defend our nation.

I am proud of the progress we have made during our time in the Senate. And still, I know our work has just begun.

As a career prosecutor and the former Attorney General of California, I understand that our constitutionally-guaranteed rights must be diligently protected. I will fight to protect these rights, and make sure that our voices not silenced or forgotten.

As your senator, I will spend my time in Congress advocating for every Californian and every American.

Thank you again for reaching out.  If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to visit my website at —.——.——-.— or call my Washington, D.C. office at (—) — —-.

Sincerely,

Kamala D. Harris

United States Senator 

Dave wasted no time in replying to what he considered a thoroughly unresponsive reply:  

On June 20 I sent you an email outlining ways that Democrats can successfully mount attacks on Republicans generally and Donald Trump in particular. 

Your email says better than anything I can why so many people have given up on the Democratic party.

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NOTHING in this email even REMOTELY addresses the issue I raised in mine. It’s boilerplate that could have been sent out to ANY constituent of ANY member of Congress. No doubt I could have told you I was suffering from a poison ivy rash and you would have sent me the same “reply.”

And yours is NOT unique in its “outreach” to constituents. I have seen letters and emails from other Congressional members whom people I know contacted. And those “replies” had NOTHING to do with the subjects those constituents had written about.

Since Trump’s election, Democrats have had FOUR opportunities to upset his agenda via four special elections. The most recent of these occurred on June 20—and, for the fourth time, the Democratic nominee got flushed down the toilet.

So I would think that if someone directly addressed some of the reasons WHY Democrats keep blowing elections, YOU would have had the decency to directly respond to the subject.  But of course you did not.

At the end of your email, you (or, more likely, your staffer) wrote: “If you have additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to visit my website at ——.——-.— or call my Washington, D.C. office at (—) — —-.”

After getting the completely UNresponsive “response” cited above, I do not see any reason to expect that any further emails or letters to you will garner a direct reply to whatever issue I have addressed.

Prepare yourself for a Trump re-election in 2020. The cowardly, Politically Correct approach Democrats habitually take to campaigning will guarantee it.

The tragedy is that, while your party DESERVES to go into the trashcan of history, those who depend on its members for protection against Republican greed and cruelty deserve far better.

WHY TRUMP WILL BE RE-ELECTED IN 2020: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2017 at 11:15 am

David Gergen has served as a White House advisor to four Presidents–three Republican, one Democrat: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

He is now a senior political analyst for CNN.

In addition, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, a member of the D.C. Bar and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  And as if that wasn’t enough, he graduated with honors from Yale and Harvard Law School.

In short, he is a serious man who intimately understands politics from both the Republican and Democratic perspective.

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David Gergen

So when he says the Democrats are in trouble, they should listen closely.

In a June 22 analysis for CNN, Gergen warned that President Donald Trump “could be on his way to re-election in 2020.”

To back up his assertion he cites two defeats Republicans handed Democrats in just one week. At stake: Two vacant seats in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

On June 20, Ralph Norman defeated Archie Parnell in a special election for South Carolina’s 5th congressional district. The seat had been occupied by Republican Mick Mulvaney, who was chosen by President Trump to become the new director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

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Ralph Norman

And, on the same day, Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in another special election for the 6th District of Atlanta, Georgia. The seat became vacant in January, when its Republican holder, Tom Price, became Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Karen Handel

Since Trump took office on January 20, there have been four special elections to fill vacant Congressional seats.  And Republicans have won all of them.

“What’s really important is that Donald Trump has seized the narrative back,” said Gergan during a June 22 appearance on  CNN’s Erin Burnett Outfront, “that he’s doing better with the voters than Democrats think he is.

“It should be a wake-up call for Democrats. It is possible that he could actually get re-elected if Democrats aren’t careful.”

Recently, a Democratic friend of mine, whom I’ll call Dave, came to the same conclusion.  Admittedly, he has never served any President, let alone four of them

But an email exchange with Kamala Harris, his own United States Senator from California, left him angry and despairing. 

Kamala Harris

First, his email to her—sent on June 20:

Democrats are fatally neglecting a key weapon against the Trump abomination: Effective language.

In 1996, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.” 

Such terms have proven highly effective in making Republicans masters of Congress and the White House.

Unfortunately, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or incapable of making language work for them.

Consider what conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said last year about how Donald Trump used language to demolish his political opponents:

“Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works.  It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under. It sticks, and it diminishes.  And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that. 

“And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’ These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.” 

But there ARE exciting words that Democrats CAN use to quickly destroy Trump’s credibility.  It only takes imagination and courage—imagination to create them, and courage to use them.

Let me offer some examples:

Everybody knows that Vladimir Putin is the ONLY politician Trump has refused to attack. In fact, he has formed a Mutual Admiration Society with Putin. Yet Democrats have failed to effectively capitalize on this by fusing the two together.

No longer: “TrumPutin” should be CONSTANTLY on the lips of every Democrat when referring to Trump. It’s easy to remember and say–and it says “traitor” and “dictator” without having to actually use those words.

Republicans should be CONSTANTLY referred to as “RepublicaNazis,” or “Nazi Republicans.” Given Trump’s use of Nuremberg-like rallies, his Nazi-like salutes and demands for personal loyalty from his followers, creating TV ads that drive home this message will be easy.

If you want a more modern term to liken Republicans to dictators, you can use “Republican Guard,” as in: “We are facing a Republican Guard of opposition in the Senate.”

This would establish a subliminal link in the minds of voters between Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard and Republicans holding sway in Congress….

Above all, Democrats should not simply borrow but co-opt a page from the Republican playbook and CONSTANTLY brand Republicans as TRAITORS.

America’s foremost Intelligence agencies have proven, categorically, that Russian Intelligence agents played a major role in securing the Trump’s election.

And Trump’s firing James Comey to short-circuit the Russia investigation—as he himself admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt—only proves how much he wants to hide his guilt.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

The Washington Post was angry.

Its reporters and editors believed they had been stonewalled by the 1992 Bill Clinton Presidential campaign.  

And now that he had been elected President, they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.  

David Gergen, a conservative adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, had been hired by Clinton in 1993 to provide a counterbalancing perspective to his liberal team members.  

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Gergen had served in the Nixon White House during Watergate.  He knew firsthand the political dangers of stonewalling–or merely appearing to stonewall.  

So he advised Clinton: Give the Post the documents. Yes, it will be temporarily embarrassing. But in a little while the bad stories will blow over and you can get on with the job.  

If you don’t hand over the documents, you’ll look like you’re hiding something. The press will raise a stink. The Republicans will demand a Special Prosecutor.  And there will be no end to it.

Clinton agreed with Gergen.  But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.” 

Gergen promised to see her. 

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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Hillary Clinton

Hillary never did.  Finally, two weeks after the canceled December 10 meeting with the Clintons, Gergen got the news he had been dreading: Bruce Lindsay, Clinton’s trusted adviser, would deliver a one-paragraph letter to the Post, essentially saying; “Screw you.”

Events quickly unfolded exactly as Gergen had predicted:

  • The Post’s executive editor, Leonard Downie, called the White House: “Nothing personal, but we’re going to pursue this story relentlessly.”  
  • The New York Times and Newsweek–among other news outlets–joined the journalistic investigation.  
  • Coverage of Whitewater intensified.  
  • Republicans began demanding that Attorney General Janet Reno appoint an independent counsel.  
  • On January 20, 1994–exactly a year after Clinton took the oath as President–Edward Fiske, a former federal prosecutor, was named independent counsel.
  • In August, Fiske was dismissed by a Federal judge who considered him too liberal and replaced with Kenneth Starr, a former solicitor general and federal appeals court judge.
  • Starr unearthed Clinton’s salacious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which culminated in an unsuccessful Republican impeachment attempt in 1998.
  • Starr resigned in 1999, and was replaced by Robert W. Ray.
  • The investigation continued until 2002, but no criminal charges were ever filed against either Clinton.

In his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, Gergen summarizes the meaning of this episode: 

If the Clintons had turned over the Whitewater documents to the Washington Post in December 1993, their history–and that of the United States–would have been entirely different.  

Disclosure would have brought embarrassing revelations–such as Hillary’s investment in commodity futures.

“But we know today that nothing in those documents constituted a case for criminal prosecution of either one of the Clintons in their Whitewater land dealings…

“Edward Fiske and Kenneth Starr would never have arrived on the scene, we might never have heard of Monica Lewinsky (who had nothing to do with the original Whitewater matter) and there would have been no impeachment.

“The country would have been spared that travail, and the President himself could have had a highly productive second term.”  

Gergen blames President Clinton rather than Hillary for refusing to disclose the documents. Voters elected him–not her–to run the government. He–not she–ultimately bears the responsibility.  

Still, his comments about Hillary are telling, considering:

  • That she is likely to win election to the White House this November; and
  • That she continues to reflexively stonewall instead of opt for transparency when facing questions.  

As Gergen puts it: “She should have said yes [to disclosure] from the beginning, accepting short-term embarrassment in exchange for long-term protection of both herself and her husband.  

“She listened too easily to the lawyers and to her own instincts as a litigator, instincts that told her never to give an inch to the other side. Whitewater was always more a political than a legal problem.”  

The same might be said of her lingering credibility problem with the use of a private email server as Secretary of State.

Both of her predecessors, Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, used private servers, and neither has been subjected to Republican inquisition.  

She could have easily avoided the turmoil that has dogged her for years by simply admitting at the outset: “Yes, I used a private server–just like my two Republican predecessors did. Everyone knows government servers are compromised.”  

Instead, she fell back on Nixonian stonewalling tactics–which proved fatal to Richard Nixon and almost fatal to her husband.  

This is, in short, a woman who has learned nothing from the past–her own nor that of her husband.

It’s a safe bet that as President Hillary Clinton will continue to stonewall over matters whose disclosure is embarrassing only in the short-term–thus jeopardizing her tenure as Chief Executive.

SECRECY PAST IS SECRECY PROLOGUE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on August 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

“History can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

So wrote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.  And with history–in the form of a second Clinton Presidency–about to repeat itself, useful lessons may be found by studying the first one.

Since her debut as a potential First Lady in 1992, Hillary Clinton has aroused strong passions–for and against.

David Gergen is one former staffer who has viewed her up close and yet offers a balanced perspective of her strengths and weaknesses.

He did so in his 2001 book, Eyewitness to Power, in which he chronicled his experiences as an adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan–and a Democratic one: Bill Clinton.

In 1993, then a conservative political commentator, Gergen returned to the White House. 

The liberal Clinton, sensitive to criticism on the Right, wanted Gergen’s advice on how to defuse it.

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David Gergen

In December, 1993, Gergen got a call from Bob Kaiser, the managing editor of the Washington Post: “We’re getting the runaround over there on Whitewater and I want you to know about it.”

“Whitewater” encompassed the Arkansas real estate investments of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their associates, Jim and Susan McDougal in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a failed business venture in the 1970s and 1980s. 

A Post reporter had sent a letter to Bruce Lindsay, a trusted Clinton adviser, raising questions about the finances of the Clintons in the years before they came to Washington.

Two weeks had passed, and there had been no reply.  

Gergen assured Kaiser that this was the first time he had heard about the letter: “I’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Gergen and Kaiser shared a Watergate past–Gergen had worked in the Nixon White House, Kaiser at the Washington Post, whose reporting had ultimately brought Nixon down.

Both men, Gergen later wrote, “remembered how destructive the stonewalling of those days had been.” And Gergen respected Kaiser, believing him “fair but tough–and, if misled, very tough.”   

Gergen immediately consulted with Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff. He advised McLarty that a trio of White House officials should visit the Post and find out what the reporters wanted.

McLarty agreed.  

When the White House officials arrived at the Post, they were met by a chorus of hostile reporters.  

They felt they had been stonewalled throughout the 1992 Presidential race. And now they wanted access to a treasury of documents relating to potential irregularities in Whitewater and a gubernatorial campaign.

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The Washington Post

Gergen and Mark Gearan, the White House director of communications, agreed that the best course was to give the Post all the documents it was requesting.  

The next day, Gergen laid out his case to Chief of Staff McLarty:

The Post should be allowed to view the documents and report on them. Then the papers should be made available to the entire White House press corps.  

Yes, said Gergen, a lot of negative stories would probably result. But if Watergate had taught any lesson, it was that it was better to admit mistakes and not try to hide them. Stonewalling only brought on criminal investigations–and potential criminal charges.  

McLarty agreed to set up a meeting with President Clinton where Gergen and Gearan could make their case.

On December 10, Gergen and Gearan were scheduled to meet with President Clinton, his wife, and possibly their lawyers.  

But when the appointed hour arrived, they found that the meeting had been scrubbed.

The Clintons had had their lawyers come in early for a private discussion of the documents, had heard their arguments, and had decided not to discuss anything. They didn’t even want to hear a case for disclosure.

Gergen was furious. He had been hired months earlier with the promise of full access to the President. And now he insisted on it.  

McLarty arranged for him to see Clinton the next morning. 

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Bill Clinton

Gergen laid out three reasons why the Post should be given the documents it wanted.  

First, he believed the paper had tried to be fair in its coverage of the Clintons.  

Second, Watergate proved that it was politically lethal to be accused of a cover-up.

And, third, having won international renown with Watergate, the Post would never back down on Whitewater.

Gergen warned that the Post “would sic a big team of investigative reporters on the White House” and that would lead other news organizations to follow.  

“I agree with you,” said Clinton. “I think we should turn over all of the documents.”  

But there was a catch: He didn’t feel he could make the decision alone. Hillary had been a partner in the Whitewater land transactions.  

“You’ll have to speak to Hillary and get her agreement,” he told Gergen. “If she agrees, we’ll do it.”  

Gergen promised to see her.  

Two days later, Gergen called Hillary Clinton’s office and asked for an appointment.

“We’ll get back to you,” her secretary promised.

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