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There was a brief moment when I was two degrees from President Nixon. I met the father of the girl I was dating in 1972; he was a friend of Vice President Spiro Agnew, who, he assured me, was a smart, funny, decent man. I didn't believe him and convinced his daughter to vote for George McGovern, noting that if McGovern won by one vote, she'd be in real trouble.
When the truth came out, as we're often told it often does, my girlfriend's father turned out to be one of the Maryland contractors who had bribed Agnew, which led to Agnew's resignation and jail for the bribers.
A few months later the Congress was considering a binding impeachment of the president and Nixon resigned. The nail in his coffin was not the particulars featured in the bill of impeachment, which included his invasion of Cambodia, but instead was the Watergate break-in, now featured as part of the story of the fake Howard Hughes biography by Clifford Irving, as told in the new movie "Hoax" starring Richard Gere. Nixon, now dead, plays himself.
When the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters became news despite Nixon's toad Ronald Ziegler's dismissal of it as a third-rate burglary, and when it became the linchpin in what became the Watergate scandal (and gave us the suffix "gate" to mean scandal), many of us wondered along with journalists, pundits and politicos, why did Nixon authorize such an insane act? (A similar question resulted from a similar mystery: Why did he tape himself?)
Of course, we have come to know that Nixon was both arrogant and paranoid, suffering delusions of grandeur and bouts of fear that he would not be thought of as great. He hated to be hated as much as Bill Clinton loved to be loved.
Many theories surfaced to explain the burglary. One, advanced in Oliver Stone's "Nixon," was that the Democrats had found out some sensitive information involving Nixon's part in the planning of the US-sponsored invasion of Cuba and how some of those CIA assets were also involved in other nefarious covert operations too explosive to be revealed.
Another was that the Democrats had information in their safe tying Nixon to organized crime through the Teamsters and, again, the CIA; another was that the Democrats' safe had information tying Nixon to Nazi war criminals, some of whom allegedly moved to Orange County and became part of the Republican machine that combined with the Dulles brothers to advance Nixon's political career.
The theory advanced in "Hoax" is that Nixon feared Democrats had damning information about his longtime relationship with Howard Hughes, dating back to Hughes' $200,000 loan to Nixon's brother Donald in 1956, setting Nixon up as Hughes' boy, or one of them, in D.C.
The movie asserts White House aides (unnamed) confirmed this was Nixon's real motivation to order the break-in, but is that true? In a movie about a book written by the man who wrote the fake biography of Howard Hughes, how is truth to be determined?
Truth is a valued commodity in our society, almost as valued as our celebration of rascals who practice romantic outlawry. It is now evident that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice et al lied about almost everything having to do with the war on Iraq, so evident that even Dan Rather and Hillary Clinton are admitting they were fooled. Of course, they could be lying. Isn't it possible, given Rather's historic skepticism and cynicism and Hillary's vaunted knowledge of the way politics and power works, that both of them, and many others, knew all along that the Bush War Machine Players were lying, but chose to go along with it anyway?
It's too bad that Reagan, both Bushes, and Clinton managed to erase the Vietnam-Watergate era cynicism such that they all got away with lie upon lie upon lie—too many to count. If they hadn't managed this, no one would've even considered believing this Bush when he swore to get bin Laden and get to the bottom of the leak that outed Plame then shifted to the Iraq/WMD/Niger Yellowcake/Hussein-Al Qaeda link bullshit.
"Hoax" is a fun movie, a fun story about a rascal, well-acted, well-directed, but not nearly strong enough to enter the pantheon of movies that raise lingering questions and create doubts among a heretofore gullible public.
Therefore it is hoped former CIA Director George Tenet's new book of revelations will convince that gullible public that they were, in the word of Malcolm X, "bamboozled." (This is not the same bamboozled as is in the title of Angela McGlowan's book condemning liberals and celebrating the Republican Party.)
Tenet's book, ghost-written by Irving and Gere and using the title of O.J. Simpson's 1995 book, "I Want To Tell You", is as poetic as the Koran and Eliot's "Wasteland", and reveals much about the inner workings of Bush's White House.
Among his revelations, Tenet argues in the introduction that neither Bush nor Cheney is the Alpha or the Omega, and insists the stories about Bush in college wearing his cheerleader costume, a golden lampshade on his head and a golden sash around his chest, shouting "Don't be afraid, I am the first and the last," don't bear up to scrutiny.
"The CIA investigated these charges and found no evidence," Tenet writes. He does confirm that Bush used to refer to his father as "a sharp two-edged sword," and often criticized his father's failure to take Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War as a failure to know the toil and perseverance of Americans, as evidenced by his father's lack of knowledge of grocery store scanners at check-out counters, along with a failure that lead to "a toleration of evil men."
Tenet writes that Bush often ignored or manufactured intelligence findings in order to perpetuate his agenda of war on Iraq, aware that American soldiers and the American economy would suffer, arguing that Americans should not "be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer." Bush, Tenet reports, declared these sufferings were a test and if Americans passed the test they would be given what Bush referred to as "the Crown of Life," which Tenet took to mean a medal similar to the Medal of Freedom.
Tenet confirmed previously published reports that Bush once declared to Rumsfeld and Rice in the Oval Office that he would vomit on the people who were lukewarm in their support of his efforts.
In what became the most controversial moment of Tenet's service during the build-up to the Iraq War, Tenet's comment to Bush that deposing Saddam would be a "slam dunk", he insists, was taken entirely out of context.
From his book: "When I met with the president, there was a rainbow around his desk, and around his desk there were twenty-four chairs, and in those chairs were twenty-four advisors dressed in dark suits with red power ties and American flag lapel buttons. Cheney, bellicose, reminded me of a lion; Rice, quietly pleasant, reminded me of a calf; Powell, an African-American, reminded me of a White man, and Rumsfeld, restlessly perched at the edge of his seat, reminded me of a flying eagle.
"And Bush said 'I am the man on the white horse. Saddam rides a red horse. He has the power to take peace from the earth.'"
Tenet said Bush asked if he agreed that Saddam had the power to take peace from the earth and Tenet says he replied with an old CIA saying, "Don't damage the oil and the wine," which Bush took to mean that the evidence was apparent, a "slam dunk" but that in actuality, Tenet was suggesting that military action must be taken with forethought.
Near the end of the conversation, Tenet reports that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld took turns describing to him the "Shock and Awe" strategy, Bush saying, "It will be like an earthquake," Cheney saying "The sun will be as black as sackcloth and the whole moon will become red as blood," Rumsfeld saying "The stars of the sky will seem to fall like figs dropping unripe fruit as if shaken by a great wind," Bush saying "Every mountain and island will move out of their places."
Tenet reports Cheney said the first attack would be "hail and fire, mixed with blood. One third of the earth and trees and grass will be burnt up. The second attack will throw mountains into the sea and cause the sea to run red with blood."
He writes Rumsfeld declared "the key to the pit of the abyss was given to him, and he intended to use it, saying what he would say later to the media, 'We know where the weapons of mass destruction are, they're near Tirkut.'"
"And let me tell you," Rumsfeld continued, "when I open that pit of the abyss, there's going to be smoke like smoke from a burning furnace, and the sun and air will be darkened. Our weapons will be like locusts and scorpions seeking out not everyone, only those who reject our seal and bear the mark of Al Qaeda."
At that moment Tenet says Bush signaled Rumsfeld to return to his perch, then turned to him and said, "Saddam is a tyrant, an abomination of the Earth. And I'm the President of the United States, and thus Iraq will be thrown down and I will make all things new. Not that I'm the Alpha and the Omega, but I am the President."
Tenet has announced he is working on another book, a biography of Michael Jordan, tentatively titled "Putting The Ball Through The Hoop From A Height That Allows A Downward Thrust."