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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.

David Gergen World Economic Forum 2013.jpg

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.

JAMES BOND VS. REAL SPYING

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm

James Bond, the legendary creation of novelist Ian Fleming, routinely bedded femme fatales–and sometimes killed them. But he never faced indictment for romancing them.

That’s the difference between Bond and real-world spying.

And David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, should have known this better than anyone.

Movie poster for Thunderball (1965)

In January 2015, the FBI and Justice Department decided to bring criminal charges against Petraeus for sharing–as CIA director–classified information with his then-mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.

FBI agents found classified information on a personal computer Broadwell used–and determined that Petraeus had supplied it.

As an Army General, Petraeus had successfully led U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was thought to be a potential candidate for president.

In 2011, he won appointment to CIA director–which ended abruptly in 2012 with the revelation of his extramarital affair with Broadwell.

Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy

David Petraeus

And Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the CIA, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

So did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counter-terrorism.

Paula Broadwell

Yet they both violated the most basic rules of security.

They exchanged emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers: Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox.”

In this they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.

By doing so, they flagrantly left a cyber-trail of their infidelities. (Broadwell was also married.)

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, who warned: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

More than 500 years ago, in his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned:

Niccolo Machiavelli

…You may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….

Nor were Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

General John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of emails  with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

The scandal began when Kelley began receiving harassing emails from an unidentified woman.  So she complained to the FBI.

The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus. Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

The FBI investigation ultimately led to the discovery of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair.

There are several lessons to be learned from this behavior by Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen and Kelley:

  • They believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011 to become CIA director.

General David Petraeus’ CIA confirmation hearings. His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

In March, 2015, Petraeus agreed to plead guilty in federal court to a charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information.  On April 23, 2015, a federal judge sentenced Petraeus to two years’ probation plus a fine of $100,000

Thus does hubris meet its punishment in Nemesis.

JAMES BOND GONE WRONG

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2015 at 12:23 am

James Bond, the legendary creation of novelist Ian Fleming, routinely bedded femme fatales–and sometimes killed them. But he never faced indictment for romancing them.

That’s the difference between Bond and David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Movie poster for Thunderball (1965)

The Justice Department is deciding whether to bring criminal charges against Petraeus.  The FBI  alleges that, as CIA director, he shared classified information with his then-mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell.

FBI agents found classified information on a personal computer Broadwell used–and determined that Petraeus had supplied it.

As an Army General, Petraeus had successfully led U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and was thought to be a potential candidate for president.

In 2011, he won appointment to CIA director–which ended abruptly in 2012 with the revelation of his extramarital affair with Broadwell.

Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy

David Petraeus

And Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.
  • A Research Associate in the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership Fellows.

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

Paula Broadwell

So did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counterterrorism.

Yet they both violated the most basic rules of security.

They exchanged emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers: Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox.”

In this they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.

By doing so, they flagrantly left a cyber-trail of their infidelities. (Broadwell was also married.)

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, who warned: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

More than 500 years ago, in his masterwork, The Discourses, he warned:

Niccolo Machiavelli

I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.

Nor were Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

General John Allen, the top American commander in Afghanistan, exchanged thousands of emails  with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite.

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

The scandal began when Kelley began receiving harassing emails from an unidentified woman.  So she complained to the FBI.

The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus.  Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

The FBI investigation ultimately led to the discovery of the Petraeus/Broadwell affair.

There are several lessons to be learned from this behavior by Petraeus, Broadwell, Allen and Kelley:

  • They believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011 to become CIA director.

General David Petraeus’ CIA confirmation hearings. His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

Thus does hubris meet its punishment in Nemesis.

IF YOU DON’T WANT IT KNOWN, DON’T WRITE IT DOWN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

Former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is one of the most highly educated men in the United States:

  • Alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–graduating among the top 5% of his 1974 class.
  • General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College class of 1983.
  • Earned an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in International Relations in 1987 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
  • Served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the United States Military Academy
  • Completed a fellowship at Georgetown University.

Paula Broadwell is one of the most highly educated women in the United States:

  • Graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1995, majoring in political geography.
  • Earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver’s Joseph Korbel School of International Studies in 2006.
  • Earned a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2008.
  • A Research Associate in the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership Fellows.
  • Entered the Ph.D. program at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London in 2008.

In addition, Petraeus, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, knew the importance of secrecy in keeping clandestine affairs (military and personal) out of sight.

And so did Broadwell, having earned a reputation as an expert on counterterrorism.

So you have to wonder:

  1. Why, when they embarked on an extramarital affair, did they exchange emails using a cyber trick known to both terrorists and teenagers?
  2. Why, in fact, did they flagrantly violate the First Rule of Conspiracies?

First, the moronically stupid cyber trick:  Sharing a private email account, or “dropbox,” where they composed drafts to each other in order not to directly transmit messages to one another.  Each could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there.  This avoids creating an email trail that is easier to trace.

Second, the First Rule of Conspiracies says: If you don’t want it known, don’t write it down.

The reason for this was eloquently given by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, in his masterwork, The Discourses, more than 500 years ago:

I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting….You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.

Nor are Petraeus and Broadwell the only ones guilty of thumbing their noses at this most basic of precautions.

The top American commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, is under investigation for “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who complained to the FBI that she was receiving harassing emails.

(The emails allegedly came from Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was trying to move in on “her man”–Petraeus.  Apparently, Broadwell didn’t feel similarly threatened by Holly, Petraeus’ wife.)

Although charged with directing American military efforts against the Taliban, Allen found time to exchange 20,000 to 30,000 pages’ worth of emails with Kelley between 2010 and 2012.

For many private-sector employers, reading and sending personal emails on company time is a firing offense.

There are several lessons to be learned for this behavior–none of them flattering to the above-mentioned participants .

  • They all believed they were so privileged–by education, status and/or wealth–that conventional rules of morality didn’t apply to them.
  • They all believed they were so clever they could violate the most basic rule of security and common sense–and get away with  it.
  • They all were so caught up in their illicit passions that they threw caution to the winds.
  • David Petraeus, a highly disciplined man, clearly expected Paula Broadwell to behave in a similarly disciplined manner–and do nothing to compromise their lives.
  • Petraeus felt so confident about the secrecy of his affair he had his wife and mistress present when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2011.  It was there that he won appointment as CIA director
  • Petraeus didn’t imagine that Broadwell suspected another of his admirers–Jill Kelley–of having romantic designs on him.
  • And he was utterly surprised when her harassing emails to Kelley led the FBI to uncover his illicit relationship.

General David Petraeus testifies at his hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee to become CIA director.  With him:  His wife, Holly (in white) and mistress, Paula Broadwell (in black).

So far as is known, Petraeus broke no law–other than the law of common sense.

For that, he has suffered the loss of position, reputation and–possibly–a marriage of 38 years.

NIXON IN 2012

In History, Politics on July 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

The ghost of Richard Nixon wants to be President again.

And it is about to be nominated–again–by the Republican party.

For those who didn’t live through 1968, or those who’ve forgotten what it was like, here’s a brief summary:

  • America was mired in Vietnam, with more than 500,000 troops fighting or dying to prop up a corrupt regime.
  • Antiwar demonstrations shut down college campuses throughout the nation.
  • Civil rights activist Martin Luther King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • Nationwide racial riots broke out in the wake of King’s murder–including in Washington, D.C.
  • The Democratic Convention was marred by a brutal crackdown by Chicago police on antiwar protesters.

And offering himself as the country’s savior: Richard M. Nixon, the Republican nominee for President.

But he was careful to limit his appearances to carefully-screened “test audiences”–making it look, in his TV ads, as though he was facing up to tough questions.

And continuing his longstanding feud against the press, Nixon shut out reporters from the inner workings of his campaign.

Above all, Nixon promised a solution to Vietnam.  He repeatedly claimed that he had “a plan” to end the war “with peace and honor.”  At times he would touch his suit pocket–as though he had a copy of The Plan right there.

But, he added, he couldn’t share that plan until after he became President.  After all, the North Vietnamese would be listening in with the American people.

So the nation–by the narrowest of margins–elected Nixon.  And four more years of bitter, senseless war followed.

So here it is 2012, and Nixon’s spirit is once again running for President.

Like Nixon, Mitt Romney:

  • Has given interviews only in controlled settings–in his case, almost entirely to right-wing Fox News Network.
  • Has promised to “restore American greatness”–but has refused to say publicly which government programs he would cut.
  • Has refused to say which tax laws he would change–despite the fact that, as a multimillionaire with offshore tax havens, he stands to gain by such changes.
  • Has refused to fully answer reporters’ questions about his financial background–such as refusing to release more than two years’ tax returns.

Romney’s penchant for secrecy was most recently demonstrated during his visit to Israel.  He barred reporters from a fundraiser at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel and refused to say why.

Romney’s traveling press secretary Rick Gorka, asked to comment, simply said, “Closed press, closed press, closed press,” as he walked down the aisle of the candidate’s campaign plane during the flight from London to Tel Aviv.

It’s hard to imagine a more blatant example of arrogant disrespect for freedom of the press–and the right of Americans to learn the truth about their would-be leaders.  Unless you cite Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

And it offers a dramatic–and useful–insight into the arrogance and secrecy Americans can expect from Romney should he become President.

Planning to raise campaign money while in Israel, Romney was willing to tell his wealthy American supporters abroad what he would not tell voters at home.

Among these is Sheldon Adelson, an international casino magnate, who’s donated millions to a group–Restore Our Future–backing Romney.

By preying on the gambling habits of millions, he has amassed a fortune estimated by Forbes at $24.9 billion.  This makes Adelson the eighth richest person in the United States.

Donors at the fundraising event–which was expected to raise more than $1 million–were asked to contribute $50,000 or to raise $100,000.

In fact, Romney has been far more candid with his private donors about what he intends to do as President than he has in his public appearances.

At a fundraiser this spring in Florida, he outlined how he might cut government and which deductions he might eliminate as part of his tax plan.  The event was overheard by reporters standing on a public sidewalk.

This harkens back to the administration of George W. Bush–when Vice President Dick Cheney invited oil company lobbyists to rewrite “environmental protection” regulations.

Naturally, the workings of Cheney’s “energy task force” were classified as secret from both the press and public.

In April, 2010, an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico sent millions of gallons of oil pouring into the Pacific ocean.  It was only then that Americans began to learn the true costs of allowing greed-fueled corporations to “protect” the fragile environment.

Similarly, Romney expects Americans to wholeheartedly trust him to create jobs for millions–while his own experience has been in creating only millions of dollars for himself and other wealthy investors.

Meanwhile, he clearly refuses to trust Americans generally with his plans for “restoring American greatness.”

There is a time-tested recipe for determining when a public figure has forfeited trust: It’s when he refuses to answer hard, specific questions.

There can be times–such as in war–when a public official is justified in telling less than the whole truth.

But, short of such an extreme occasion, the rule stands: Don’t trust anyone who won’t give candid answers to candid questions.

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