The 'Ticker' Ticket Problem

SCHORR, DANIEL

Washington Notebook BY DANIEL SCHORR The 'Ticker' Ticket Problem For a while, starting on May 4, the recession, Iraq, Air Sununu, and even the latest Kennedy scandal were put aside as the...

...Gates is a professional intelligence officer who understands the Soviet government and how to deal with the United States government (mainly by keeping the boss happy...
...The General learned while watching President Bush on television of his having made the basic determination that the occupation of Kuwait "will not stand...
...Having waffled back and forth about banning the use of Iraqi helicopters, he ultimately prohibited "Iraqi fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft" north of the 36th parallel...
...Former CIA Director Richard Helms, who deceived Congress about a covert operation in Chile, said he would accept a fine and suspended jail sentence as "a badge of honor...
...The "ticker" episode obviously created a problem for the ticket...
...He seemed hardly able to use the word "helicopter...
...Stage by stage, the Administration moved from leaving the relief task to international organizations, to air drops of supplies (some of them falling on and killing the intended beneficiaries), to recognizing that it would have to play the leading role in protecting an area of northern Iraq until the UN was willing and able to assume this responsibility...
...On doctor's orders, President Bush promised to slow down...
...Now one looked back at several of the President's abrupt decisions in a new light...
...Caught in a Quagmire In May, too, the quagmire-shunning Bush Administration found itself in a quagmire in northern Iraq...
...Remember that at the end of March a "senior presidential aide" (undoubtedly Chief of Staff John Sununu) told Time magazine, "The only pressure for the United States to intervene is coming from columnists and commentators...
...James Reston, the senior sage of the New York Times, recalled that President Eisenhower once said nothing is more unpredictable than war and more uncertain than human life...
...A cliché was amended to read, "An irregular heartbeat away from the Oval Office...
...The aides did not have the foresight to perceive that once Americans saw the suffering of the Kurds, who perhaps have a special claim on our conscience, the polls would turn and show a majority of us wanting-the soldiers to stay...
...The way it kept shifting ground was quite remarkable: running scared before the devastating scenes of human suffering among the Kurds, always seeming to lag behind the curve of events...
...Judge Webster, chosen by President Ronald Reagan in the wake of Irangate and the adventurism of William J. Casey, and retained by President Bush, performed a role similar to that of Bush himself when he was brought in by President Gerald R. Ford to head the agency after Watergate and the revelation of CIA participation in earlier assassination plots...
...In subsequent meetings, the military leader found his commander in chief restless to press ahead, too eager for action to consider counsels of caution about going to war against Saddam Hussein...
...But the appearance of "straight-arrow" integrity does have its occasional value to the CIA, and certainly to the President...
...Thus, the brief heart flutter served to spotlight not only the issue of judgment concerning the Number Two on the ticket, but the behavior of Number One as well...
...Washington Notebook BY DANIEL SCHORR The 'Ticker' Ticket Problem For a while, starting on May 4, the recession, Iraq, Air Sununu, and even the latest Kennedy scandal were put aside as the nation's heart fluttered with the President's...
...It remains to be seen whether his Presidency, from here on, will be symbolized by something other than "Gotta go now...
...As with most outsiders useful for window-dressing, though, he had not made any great impression on the workings of the CIA, or on the White House...
...In fact, when it came to matters of war and peace, I never knew General Eisenhower to be impatient...
...Some came down, some stayed back, and a few of their leaders even negotiated with Saddam Hussein...
...All that had been my impression before the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease...
...The deputy national security adviser and former deputy CIA director, Robert Gates, would sometimes go around Webster to CIA subordinates...
...Intelligence vs...
...Reston observed that the late President had benefited from his heart attack by deciding to be a patient man...
...Given the record of past betrayal and equivocation, how could the Kurds believe any American President...
...It brought back to stage center the matter of Vice President Dan Quayle, who, in a Time magazine poll a week earlier, was considered unqualified for the Presidency by 67 per cent of voters...
...Having said emphatically that he would not risk a single American soldier, he had 10,000 stationed in Iraq...
...Former President Richard M. Nixon, who now recommends that a "contract" be put out on Saddam, had a Kurdish insurrection organized in 1972 as a favor to the Shah of Iran, and it was scuttled when the Shah came to terms with the Iraqi strongman...
...The President told the Kurds, in so many words, "Come down from the mountains...
...Accountability Soon after the source of the President's health trouble was uncovered, there came the announcement of William H. Webster's resignation as director of the Central Intelligence Agency...
...In the community where deception is a way of life, loyalty to the agency and the craft sometimes count for more than conventional integrity...
...But the health incident raised another question about this Chief Executive who always seemed to be on the podium, on the telephone or otherwise on the moveó symbolized by the television shot of him last August in Kennebunkport, Maine, darting off in his golf cart saying "Gotta go now...
...Webster clashed with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney about how seriously to take the reform efforts of Mikhail S. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union...
...Like most Presidents, he didn't really mean it...
...At this writing it appeared that Gates would be nominated again, with a better chance of confirmation...
...In contrast, the hyperactive President Bush, in two-and-a-half years, has taken America into war in Panama and Iraq...
...Was he an impatient man, an impulsive man and, as it sometimes appeared, a compulsive man...
...Finally, the Administration began to realize the issue had shifted from "involvement" to "compassion...
...President Bush, while offering a safe haven to the Kurds in Iraq, suggested a haven abroad for Saddam, who had presided over their slaughter...
...Gates would be less likely than Webster to give "inconvenient" intelligence estimates to the President, having himself declared in 1989 that "Presidents do not welcome intelligence overestimates undercutting policies based on previous assessments...
...Wasn't it he who so often showed up on camera with a tennis racquet, golf club or fishing rod in his hand, as though posing for Sports Illustrated...
...He was also obliged to revise his relatively optimistic forecast, made in testimony before a Congressional committee, that sanctions would eventually succeed in forcing Iraq to retreat from Kuwait...
...And that a "top White House aide" (undoubtedly the same Sununu) told Newsweek, "A hundred Safire columns will not change the public's mind...
...There is no political downside to our policy...
...Following a particularly stormy period, for example, calling in a respected outsider can help to quiet things down and restore public confidence...
...Still, neither Bush nor Webster made it into the inner core of the outfit, and both apparently lacked any strong influence in the White House...
...The late James J. Angleton, the legendary counterintelligence chief, once told a Senate committee it had not occurred to him that a secret agency had to conform to the President's publicly stated policies...
...One way or another, President Bush seemed determined to return the agency leadership to the "insiders," with somebody a little less concerned about public image, a little more concerned about what the President wants to hear...
...You will be protected...
...Judge Webster said, "We don't cook the books, and he called his intelligence shots the way his analysts saw them...
...Wasn't it he who, fending off queries about taxes while jogging, had joked, "Read my hips...
...The culture of intelligence does not mix well with the process of public accountability...
...He was promoted to deputy director when John McMahon resigned in protest against Casey's involving the agency in Iranian arms deliveries...
...He took America out of the Korean War and refused to get it into the Vietnam War...
...That sometimes put the agency in open conflict with other components of the government...
...Regularity and restraint may look good, yet may not always square with White House requirements...
...Like most Presidents, Bush said that intelligence evaluations should not be tailored to policy considerations...
...If you were a Kurd, would you buy a used promise from an American president...
...Bush had also helped to create his problem by vaunting his good health and boundless energy...
...Having said that he could find no mandate for intervention in United Nations resolutions, the President belatedly discovered one in Resolution 688...
...The Shiites in the south, fleeing into Iran, were less visible on television, ergo less of a problem...
...Nominated by President Reagan to succeed Casey, whose protégé he had become, he withdrew in the face of Senate opposition...
...He helped to prepare Casey's deceptive testimony to Congress, and withheld from Congress what he had learned about the diversion of arms profits to supply the Nicaraguan contras...
...The policy was to speed the return of American troops, which polls indicated was the overwhelming desire of the American public...
...Since then, despite the reassuring word that George Bush's problem was his thyroid, not his heart, the country has been feeling the political aftershock...
...Bob Woodward's book, The Commanders, had revealed the surprise of General Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the way the President had handled some of the crucial decisions leading up to the war with Iraq...
...He was an "outsider," brought in to help restore the reputation of an agency tarnished by the Iran-contra scandal...
...Director Webster was left outside the White House inner circle...
...So, after having rejected the European Community's proposal to create a protected enclave in northern Iraq, the American government started to establish one...

Vol. 74 • May 1991 • No. 6


 
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