Sunday, January 18, 2009

Whose Violations Of The Constitution?

Reviewing a posthumous book by Peter Rodman -- Kissinger aide, Nixon Center scholar, and Pentagon official under George W. Bush -- former Sen. Gary Hart takes issue with a surprising turn that Rodman took:
Rodman succumbs to the fantasy that the much-maligned permanent government, frustrated at being systematically marginalized by the Nixon-Kissinger duo, colluded to bring down the Nixon presidency. Other presidents may have been "rogues and miscreants," but Rodman finds "in­triguing" the theory that "the demise of Nixon was due to no less than the revolt of the bureaucracy whose power he had striven so assiduously to break in every sphere."

This kind of nonsense seriously under­mines an otherwise worthwhile and instructive book and, by implication, excuses many troublesome abuses in the current administration. It is one thing to insist on presidential authority in foreign policy. It is quite another to casually accept violations of the Constitution in executing that policy.
Fantasy and nonsense? Pretty harsh language, senator. Here's what we know. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Thomas Moorer, who was worried about Richard Nixon's foreign policy initiatives toward China and the Soviet Union, received and poured over documents stolen from the White House by a Navy yeoman. At the FBI, the powerful federal police agency, several officials and agents, worried because President Nixon had appointed an acting director from outside the agency, responded by illegally giving government secrets to reporters in order to undermine an elected President. Thanks to a suggestion from a book editor to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, these Nixon-hunting FBI officials were gathered together under the name of a pornographic movie. But it was more than lawbreaker W. Mark Felt, which means it was, technically, an FBI conspiracy to damage or destroy the President in order to protect the agency's prerogatives and perhaps keep its own embarrassing secrets under wraps.

Secret, extra-constitutional moves against Mr. Nixon by the military and FBI are certainly not the whole story of Watergate, but they're a part of it that has been neglected so far. Too bad Gary Hart wants to cover it up with name-calling.

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