THE WORD FROM WASHINGTON

The Word from Washington "To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."ŚCalgacus, referring to the Romans, ca. 85 A.D....

...Nonetheless, in the press, in Congress, in the intelligence community, and even in the secondary echelons of the State Department and White House the Vietcong insurgency was recognized as a major defeat for the South Vietnamese government and the American presence in South Vietnam...
...So the questions were being framed in the anguished councils of the Johnson Administration...
...It would be encouraging to believe that the President made this an explicit part of Clark Clifford's mission at the Pentagon...
...A hitch as Defense Secretary is short term in duration...
...The do-nothing Board, already graced by the $26,000-a-year presence of Simon McHugh, the husband of Mr...
...Even the saber-rattlers on Capitol Hill seemed to react to the crisis with unaccustomed level-headedness...
...No Democratic President since Truman has failed to appreciate his talents as a master masseur of private interest groups as well as the higher reaches of the Federal bureaucracy...
...Its identity rests on its role of constructive dissent from Administration policies that are not consonant with the principles upon which ADA was founded...
...ADA's forthright action may hit it hardest where it hurts most: its slender treasury...
...How this qualifies him to fill the shoes of Robert S. McNamara is still something of a mystery here...
...The cabal that we kindly call "the intelligence community" continues to operate with a minimum of supervision and control, and each day threatens to embroil the world in new crises...
...This is our last great chance for political resistance to the most unpopular war of our history," said Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., a founder and former chairman of ADA, in presenting his pro-McCarthy resolution...
...For he surely must be wise in the ways of the generals and aware of the profound political dangers of military tunnel vision, particularly in an election year...
...For want of a better clinical term it might be described as a reverse credibility gap...
...Did the attack by Vietcong guerrillas not fail...
...A particularly ominous mood of political alienation gripped some of the leading figures of the Administration in the wake of the Vietcong assault on the cities last month...
...Roche left the organization in spirit long before this month...
...If you're going to play in the pig pen," said a high official of the Government of the United States, "you're bound to get spattered with mud...
...It was in this emotional context that one prominent Administration spokesman angrily countered the questions of newsmen during a "background" meeting with the query: "Whose side are you on...
...However, a New York Times survey of nine other labor union officials who sit on the ADA board indicated that most of them, including Walter P. Reuther, would retain their positions...
...By this we mean the disbelief of the President and some of his principal foreign policy advisers in what the major news media were reporting from Vietnam...
...The circle of believers is narrowing and the ranks of the disbelievers are growing...
...They are I. W. Abel of the United Steel Workers of America, Louis Stulberg of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and Joseph A. Beirne of the Communication Workers of America...
...Did not the Vietcong fail to foment a general uprising and throw out the Saigon government...
...It is for this latter reason that we resist, at this time, the impulse to agonize over Clifford's appointment as Defense Secretary...
...No corporation has been too haughty to retain his services as a middleman in its dealings with Government...
...When the Rauh resolution carried (sixty-five to forty-seven), White House intellectual-in-residence John P. Roche, predictably enough, quit...
...Indeed was not every single VC agent who stormed the embassy compound killed...
...The bitterness and bewilderment in high places is genuine at the refusal of the media to acclaim as a victory what had been officially certified by the Government to be a victory...
...More than all the oratory of the Senatorial doves, more even than the new upsurge of bitter combat in Vietnam, the Pueblo incident has demonstrated the limits of American power in the nuclear ageŚlimits that may be crossed only at the peril of atomic war...
...a law firm is a life-long enterprise...
...And it is about time...
...His description of the meeting as a "political Disneyland" is typical of the heavy-handed invective that Roche has been pouring out as the Administration's pre-eminent hard-boiled egghead...
...It was also an exasperation with the public reaction to what is publicly visible about the progress of the war...
...It is a wise precautionary measure, and one that should have been instituted long ago...
...However, his signal contribution would be to keep a lid on the pressures within the services and the Joint Chiefs to expand the war in an effort to achieve military victory...
...We would be surprised if Clifford sustains the pace of the managerial revolution that McNamara has wrought in the Pentagon with its gospel of cost benefits and rationalization of programming and budgeting...
...The presidents of three labor unions which have supported ADA financially resigned from the organization's board...
...Once we have finished scraping off this latest layer of mud, we might give thought to playing in the pig pen a little less...
...That isn't much money, to be sure, in a $186.1 billion budget...
...But ADA has never prided itself on maintaining a record as a consensus organization...
...Now, if things go wrong, at least the President will be able to sue...
...Behind the official tough talk in Washington there was an instant awareness that the Pueblo affair called for restraint...
...Washington is now afflicted, to a greater extent than ever, with a crisis of mutual disbelief...
...The definition seems made to order for that obdurate vestige of the Joe McCarthy era, the Subversive Activities Control Board...
...It is whether a man whose law firm represented many principal Pentagon contractors can maintain such an impeccable standard of official conduct as to discourage any suggestion of conflicting interests...
...In Washington and across the country, few seemed disposed to walk to the brink of the abyss, and many maintained a healthy skepticism toward the Government's assurances that the Pueblo was on a routine and legitimate mission...
...This can be translated into a much more specific lament: ADA's support for McCarthy will probably cost it the loyalty of the Big Labor representatives who have stayed on the reservation during the internal struggle on Vietnam...
...All this bespeaks maturity, of course, and should be welcomed...
...Clifford has a reputation for legendary fees (aggregating some $2 million a year) and for delivering in behalf of his clients...
...according to Tacitus...
...Observed on a bumper sticker: "Why change horses in mid-swamp...
...It became necessary to destroy the town to save it...
...On the war in Vietnam, Clifford's private reputation is that of a hard-liner who reputedly counseled the President against bombing pauses...
...It is doubtful that Clifford has the qualities of personal abrasiveness and the passion for administrative order to carry out this aspect of the McNamara role...
...A U.S...
...But it's quite a bit for a vestige...
...But if we are learning the hard way to react with prudence, we have not yet learned to avoid provocation...
...In President Johnson's proposed budget for fiscal 1969, which he described as "stringent" and "tight" and which, indeed, wreaked havoc and devastation among many domestic programs, the President managed to find funds for a thirty-three per cent increase in the SACB appropriation...
...The Administration seems determined, however, to keep the SACB from going the way of other degenerate, atrophied, or rudimentary organs...
...Johnson's former secretary, will have $425,000 to fritter away next year, and will acquire two new staff members in the $17,000-plus bracket...
...Some of the disappointed among those who attended the special February meeting of the board of directors of Americans for Democratic Action said the organization ceased to be a coalition when it voted to support the Presidential candidacy of Senator Eugene J. McCarthy...
...The confrontation on the war in Vietnam has long been building up within ADA...
...In biology, says our dictionary, a vestige is "a degenerate, atrophied, or rudimentary organ or part, more fully developed or functional in an earlier stage of development...
...Potomacus...
...With that philosophical comment he settled down to the delicate and dangerous business of extricating the Pueblo, or at least the eighty-two surviving members of its crew, from the clutches of North Korea...
...President Johnson is said to be deeply vexed, for example, at the failure of the press to put in proper perspective the battle for the American embassy in Saigon...
...Now that a stand has been taken, everyone has been made more honest: Roche as well as Rauh, Gus Tyler as well as Arthur Schlesinger...
...In the murky inner circle of what the late C. Wright Mills might have called The Washington Power Elite, Clark Clifford has always exuded a special glow...
...His questioners had not come from the radical or underground press but rather from some of the nation's most established newspapers and television networks...
...President Johnson asked each member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to signify in writing that the battle of Khesanh would not be another Dien-bienphu...
...It is a grim way in which to begin a Presidential election year...
...Army major, referring to Ben Tre, South Vietnam, on February 7, 1968 {according to the Associated Press...
...On the other hand, it is said that he is a pragmatist who, unlike some other Presidential advisers, has no deep-seated ideological commitment to the war, especially should it become a serious political liability to Lyndon Johnson...
...ADA has declared the war to be the overriding issue before the American nation and its liquidation to be first on the agenda of national goals...
...There is another worrisome question in the Clifford appointment...

Vol. 32 • March 1968 • No. 3


 
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