Oligarchy Restored

excerpted from the book

Liberty Under Siege

by Walter Karp

Franklin Square Press, 1988, paper





All is well without us: Such is the message from the White House. There is still an "American sound," so the President assures us in his second Inaugural address. "It is hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That's our heritage, that's our song. We sing it still." He sings it again in his State of the Union message on February 6, 1985, sings of a "Second American Revolution of hope and opportunity," is serenaded in turn by the nation's legislators singing "Happy Birthday," is interrupted twenty-eight times by tumultuous, rapturous lawmaker applause. Never mind that the annual budget message-mere untelevised words-warns Congress that this land of "hope and opportunity," this place with "no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect" has grown too poor to afford fair trials for the needy, too poor to aid small businesses, too poor to continue mailing books at reduced rates; too poor to support the independence of local government with the annual program of "revenue-sharing." But not too poor to afford a $29 billion increase in military spending. Eight Americans in ten want the buildup ended now, yet we do not protest against this travesty of "hope and opportunity," this jeering mockery of all that is "decent and fair Public life in America has grown senseless, is not meant to e sense; keeps the people out with its deeply calculated affront to sense.

The Democratic Party must not look "weak on defense," Tip O'Neill announces early this February. To whom? To itself. It must "shed its 'soft-on-defense' image." In whose eyes? Its own. Where is the sense in that? None there is nor meant to be Where is the / sense when the entire national leadership cries up "amity values," while family life decays; white half the mothers of infants are away from home working, more than ever, up 25 percent since the champion of "family values" entered the White House? What sense is there in a "recovery" which leaves America too poor to afford mothers? What sense is there in a public world given over to empty, mendacious cant? "Decentralization" cried up while the local government decays. "Out-of-control spending" decried while the national debt doubles in five years. "Old-fashioned values" praised while the family farm disappears, 180 of them per day during the winter of 1985-86.

What sense does our public life make when the President declares in a speech March 7 that his contra hirelings-perpetrators of rapine and terror, led by a deposed dictator's henchmen-are "the moral equal of our Founding Fathers"? What sense is it meant to make when this truly atrocious scurrility passes scarcely noticed by the nation's leaders? "I can't remember a time in the past fifty years when officials dominated the news as much as they do today," old Reston of the Times remarks this January 27, 1985, or "a period when so much obvious nonsense, even so many distortions of fact have gone by unchallenged, or been discussed with scarcely more than a whisper by the public," so Reston notes fifteen months hence.

We sleep like patients "etherized upon a table," while Power,' which never sleeps, lays siege to the liberties of the people, to the power of the people, to every source of popular strength-before we awaken and return, for return we shall some day some year, some decade.

The freeness of the press comes under brutal ceaseless assault starting on high, spreading far and wide. A too-free press endangers the nation: Such is the theme of high officialdom. "Reporters are always against us," cries the Secretary of State. And who does the Secretary mean by "us," Reagan is asked at a press conference? "Our side, militarily-in other words, all of America." A free press is the enemy of "all of America," cries the Republic's chief magistrate, trying to turn the people into the enemy of their own ancient liberties. The press in its temerity, the press, when it dares disobey the Pentagon, "gives aid and comfort to the enemy," cries Secretary Weinberger, invoking the grim, threatening language of the treason statute. "The press," cries a White House adviser this February, "is trying to tear down America."

Walt Whitman
... "there is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves-and lose their toughness and spirit of defiance."

What the Republic needs we can no longer afford. What liberty requires we are too poor to pay for. Such are the uses of the deliberate deficit, false necessity, the crime of '81. At Reagan's request Congress puts an end to general revenue-sharing, stringless funds given to local governments, "this modest cushion [that] lets city halls decide what their towns need most," says the New York Times, a $4.2 billion annual boon to local independence, local self-government. "Every community had to hold public hearings on how the money would be spent; there could be no discrimination in its use; public audits would show how it had been spent. It was government at its finest .... In fourteen years there was no example of fraud." So one James Cannon, former aide to President Ford, laments when the deed is done. Hard-pressed now are America's towns and villages, deep is the "erosion of local authority," the New York Times observes. Hats in hands, our towns must go to state legislatures, to county governments, to "the private sector or badly needed revenues and services. The subjugation of local government to state party oligarchies, to corrupt county rings, to local plutocracies in the false name of frugality is one more crime within the crime of '8 1, and not the least damaging to liberty in America, nor perhaps the least enduring.

... From Reagan's Department C-It From of Education there had issued forth in 1983 a great donkey's braying about America's failed public schools and a "Nation at Risk," desperately in need of "an educated work force." The braying alarm is not sounded in vain. In dozens of states across the country enthusiastic governors, zealous state legislatures-state party gangs-seize control of the public school curriculum, demean what is left of local control of the schools, another constriction of an ancient local liberty, and take up the cause of "educational reform"-more cant for this canting Reaction. What this Republic needs of its schools is clear as day, has been clear as day for two hundred years. We need schools for citizens, schools that teach all our children "how to judge for themselves what secures or endangers their freedom," as Jefferson long ago advised us.

For why stop at the public schools? The private universities of America provide havens for sedition, forums for the quarrelsome; were hellholes of protest a few years back. Now they shall pay and pay dearly for past temerity. On October 28, 1985, the Secretary of Education, William Bennett, a true stalwart of the Reaction, tells the American Council on Education that government has the solemn duty to protect the "higher education consumer" from lazy professors, slapdash colleges. Do you think your university is "private"? Count the public money in your budget. Do you think you are autonomous by ancient honored tradition? You shall be made "accountable" to government, declares Bennett. You shall serve at Power's behest, in Power's interest. We want standardized national tests for all your "consumers." You shall prove to the satisfaction of Power, says Bennett, that they are making "educational progress," that you are an efficient factory offering a "sound product." Let the state governments enforce this new policy, says Bennett, and state oligarchies leap at the chance. The nation's governors confer on "higher education," call for standardized university testing, objective proof that "learning is taking place,' demand proof of "teaching efficiency ...

... By 1987, universities around the country "are beginning to reform their curriculums and are making plans to measure what their students are learning"-standardized nationwide, Power-pleasing measurements, of course. What is higher education? Oligarchy and its minions will tell us. What is an educated person? Oligarchy and its minions will tell us that, too.

Fear of the Police Power and fear of one another. All through 1985 pictures of "missing children" peer out from the sides of milk cartons, are depicted on posters, billboards, junk-mail advertisements. Lurid tales of children abducted, raped and mutilated fill the magazines, titillate the talk shows-"Stranger-Danger." Take heed, Americans, your children are "at risk, vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and murder." Walk down the streets watchfully, warily, suspecting everyone. Have your child videotaped, cries New York's unwed mayor, Edward Koch, to safeguard him or her. Sign up with Child Find, affiliated to a teachers' union run by A. Shanker of the Democratic Majority; the Present Danger and the onrushing Reaction in general. Subscribe to "Kid Watch" for twenty-nine dollars a year: "We take all your children's data and enter and store this information in the 'Kid Watch' national computer," until such time as the kidnapper strikes. Let the sheriff fingerprint your child; step right up to the sheriff's booth at the county fair. Or purchase special ID cards or make a mold of your child's teeth, should the kidnapper decide to cremate his mutilated body, for "there are sick people out there," says a young mother waiting to videotape her seven-year-old boy. "Child abduction is a nationwide epidemic," she says, for the President says so, has invited the father of a decapitated boy "several times" to the White House in order to say so. Congress says so, too, has passed the Missing Children Assistance Act of 1984, to arouse the public to the danger of child abduction, rape and mutilation, has created the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to disseminate grossly misleading statistics, to disseminate fear and make it official. To propagate a truly cruel lie, for the abducted children "epidemic" is a fabrication of the Reaction's fear-mongers, the Present Danger brought home, exposed as a "national myth" in a prize-winning series of articles in the Denver Post. Why sow fear of neighbors, fear of strangers, in the hearts of the people? The question answers itself: Divide et impera. Are we not more easily ruled, more readily tyrannized, more powerless to act for ourselves, when we shrink in dread from j one another?

Tyranny advances with every tainted breeze of fear that wafts ( over national television. In 1986 a famous athlete dies of an overdose of cocaine, and our national leaders, with one thunderous voice, bray for a "war on drugs." The White House tyrant, ever on the alert to oppress and stifle the people, calls for a "drug-free workplace," calls upon local governments and private corporations to compel their workers to urinate in jars, under watchful inspection, and so be enabled to detect, by examination of the urine specimen, whether they smoked marijuana last weekend at a private party-for the "workplace" is everywhere-"drastically assaulting the privacy, dignity and civil liberties of innocent workers," the New York Times rightly protests. "It reports on a person's off-duty activities as surely as if someone had been present and watching. It is George Orwell's 'Big Brother' society come to life." So a federal judge declares in ruling against a mandatory drug-testing program. It puts lawless police power, unrestricted by constitutional rights, into private corporate hands, creates an instrument of terror and harassment-at the behest of Reagan, our champion of "less government."

In this age of "less government," the Executive compiles vast computerized dossiers on scores of millions of Americans, in violation of the Privacy Act, in the name of "government efficiency"; expands its computerized crime index on the pretext of fighting "white-collar crime." The President's budget office proposes unopposed-an appalling master list of "seriously improper" persons, a national proscription list, pariah list, leper list, created by the 'White House budget office. Go on strike as a teacher despite a no-strike contract, lose your job and default on a veterans' loan, lead a maverick community action group, be a rebellious farmer, quarrel with the bureaucracy at any level of government, and you may fall onto the List, become an official leper, national pariah. No federal agency or state agency or local government, or charitable organization, or school or college or community service, or government contractor, subcontractor, subgrantor, may give you any kind of "federally derived" aid, grant, loan, scholarship, fellowship, subsidy, subgrant, subcontract, or conduct any kind of "transaction" with you, or do any kind of "business" with you without themselves becoming "seriously improper" and falling under the national 'White House proscription list, available by telephone in this age of "less government." By the end of 1985 the Executive has subjected 316,000 government officials, contractors, contract employees, at work or retired-the ever-expanding "handful"-to lifetime government censorship, and censors more than 14,000 books and articles in 1985 alone in this age of "less government" and black Stygian public darkness, born of remorse-, less and unrelenting collusion.

Secretary Shultz to a conference of writers in New York City on January 13, 1986

In this age of an administration "more committed than any in this century in philosophy and in fact to reducing the intrusion of government into the lives, minds and livelihoods of the individual."

"Merger-mania" sweeps over the tyrannized Republic in the fir( year of the "Second American Revolution." In 1985 more than eight hundred public merger and tender offers are made; four times last year's total, almost twenty times the total in 1977. The "mania" or "binge" is the Reaction's child, its fond creation, tirelessly promoted by Reagan's officials, its source of strength the suspension and debauching of the antitrust laws-by formal "guidelines" and informal winks, by assurances to corporate attorneys and corporate boardrooms that the Reaction wants competition weakened-in the name of "economic efficiency"; wants the market weakened-in the name of the "free market"; wants concentration and oligopoly expanded-in the name of "free enterprise" and the "opportunity society."

With the watchful connivance of Congress, the White House I seizes-usurps-still more power over the implementation of laws, still greater control over public information. Reagan's executive order 12498, issued January 4, 1985, bestows on the White House budget office the unheard-of authority to ensure that any government activity that "may influence, anticipate or could lead to the commencement of rulemaking proceedings" be "consistent with the administration's regulatory principles," consistent with its "policies and priorities." Under this new dispensation the will of the President stands supreme over law, shapes the law, implements the law, makes the rule of law a mockery, makes the legislature a mere check and overseer of the presidential will. Henceforth under the new dispensation, no injustice or abuse may be examined by an Executive agency of government, no condition studied, no problem officially scrutinized if a President prefers the reign and rule of darkness. No official information that might question the wisdom of a President's policies can henceforth be collected without his permission. Or, under various other guidelines, directives and budget office usurpations, disseminated to the public without his permission. The White House as secret Legislature, the White House as National Censor, the White House as Ministry of Truth. Such is the new-modeled presidency of the "Second American Revolution." Representative Dingell protests in anger. The new dispensation is "a fundamental threat to the separation of powers embodied in our Constitution." Ralph Nader protests in anger. The new dispensation gives the White House the "policy power of life or death, health or disease, equity or inequity, repair or deterioration, information or ignorance, open or closed government," overwhelming the people, eroding still further our capacity for self-government; another blow struck by the Reaction against sleeping people's power and liberty. For "if once they become inattentive to the public affairs," Jefferson warned a colleague, "you and I, and Congress and assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves." In the deserted Republic the wolves are prowling.

The great task of keeping the plain people stifled falls, as always, to the popular party, and the popular party has been laying its plans well, elaborating and perfecting them with tireless devotion since the 1984 elections.

We must make of ourselves a "centrist" party, a "moderate" party, a "consensus" party, cry the leaders of the popular party in unison, not a single voice raised in audible dissent. We must "shed our ultra-liberal image," cry the party oligarchs after four years of colluding with the Right. We must set ourselves upon "an irresistible course toward moderation," says a "conservative" southern governor. We "will have to swing sharply toward the center of the political spectrum," cries the president of the ubiquitous, tireless Coalition for a Democratic Majority. "We must move in a more moderate centrist direction," says one Nathan Landow, party banker and broker and "liberal" promoter of the 1984 candidacy of poor Walter Mondale. The new party "centrism" is to be established under the guidance of the newly formed Democratic leadership Council ...

... Centrism is a purgative, antidote to "leftism." It calls for the ) purging of noncentrists, of "leftists," of "factions" of "liberal activists" and "special interests" and all bearers of "the new strain of neo-isolationism" until the popular party is free of every last vestige of freeness.

"Centrism" is a victory strategy. We must win back southern white voters to the party fold, say the centrists. We must say nothing and do nothing and be nothing save what will contribute to the great southern white wooing, to the final production of a "centrist presidential candidate who will not offend the political and cultural sensibilities of southern voters."

... Centrism is a new party platform set forth by the new Democratic Policy Commission, packed, as a matter of course, with "centrists" by Kirk, to supply "a broader agenda of the Democratic Party and the nation." Let us have done with "the singular agenda of elite groups," says Kirk, pressing into service Kirkpatrick's great Political Science discovery of 1972: Oligarchy is democratic and democracy is "elitist," for Oligarchy's lies never die, while political truth is strangled every day.

The "broader agenda" of "centrism" demands a "strong defense," demands (as of September 1986) "increased combat strength," demands greater "combat readiness," demands in the post-Reagan era another kind of arms buildup to overcome the grotesque fraudulence of the first one.

Centrism, too, is a grim warning to\ any would-be tribune of the people, any would-be champion of liberty besieged and equality ravaged, that the entire power of the popular party stands united, armed and arrayed against him. Most of all, centrism is a headlong flight from the American people; a ship, a vehicle to carry Oligarchy past the snares and pitfalls that bestrew the path to the "post-Reagan era."

Russia's newest ruler, one Mikhail Gorbachev, is bent upon the domestic reform of his country, bent upon its economic and political revival, wants, therefore, what the overwhelming majority of Americans want, what the Republic desperately needs-an arms control treaty that can end the nuclear arms race. Does the ruling Right in America not demand "deep cuts" in the Soviet arsenal of intercontinental missiles? It does indeed, most ardently, unremittingly, has demanded them for years, has flayed Carter to ribbons for want of "deep cuts" in the SALT II treaty. Has the administration not launched an enormous nuclear buildup, avowedly, for the want of Soviet deep cuts? Is it not planning an "enhanced deterrent" in space in lieu of Soviet deep cuts? Why then, says Gorbachev in 1985, you shall have the deep cuts agreement you so ardently desire, and the price for that grand desideratum, Present Danger goal, Reaganite goal, "Jackson wing" goal is-no price at all: chiefly continued adherence to the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, signed by Richard Nixon, ratified by the U.S. Senate, barring development, testing and deployment of defensive weapons in space, scotching the menace of an endless double arms race, one of the most valuable treaty agreements into which the U.S. ever entered.

The Soviet offer comes down to this: security for U.S. landbased missiles, "enhanced deterrence," thereby, vulnerability's "window" closed, the nuclear arms race effectively restricted at almost no cost whatever. Or consider the alternative: an "enhanced deterrent" in space, an endless arms race, security lost, stability lost, at the cost, perhaps, of one trillion dollars every five years, at the price of our sovereignty, of our freedom, of our public life now faintly stirring. The choice must not be seen and known to the people, or the Right cannot rule from the grave. The choice must be shrouded in darkness, grossly distorted, the people left puzzled, bewildered, confused; public life turned into a demagogic riot, irrational frenzy, insofar as the White House can do it. Led by reckless Casey, presidential "favorite," in alliance with feckless Regan, the President's new chief of staff, Reagan launches a campaign of fear and hatred, alarums and excursions in 1986, desperate to stay the slippage of his power, to halt the flight of the people, before the Damoclean sword of "deep cuts" falls once again, piercing the black heart of the Right.

Let there be blood lust and vengeance, first and foremost, the White House decides in early January.

... Let America stew in fear as well. A second military buildup is needed, cries the truthless demagogue in the White House, so powerful and threatening is Gorbachev's Russia. The defense budget stands at $287 billion now. Not enough, not nearly enough, cries Reagan. We must give $33 billion more to the Moloch this year; a half trillion increase by 1991, for our "security program is in jeopardy," threatened by those who would bring back the hideous age of détente, appeasement and unilateral disarming, the loathsome "decade before 1981," before I, Ronald Reagan, came to save you, when "the Soviets were the only ones racing." So the fear-monger in the White House cries and lies-the very CIA contradicts him-growing coarse and reckless with lies, as power slips from his grasp. "Almost more than a human being can bear," cries poor forgotten Jimmy Carter a few days after Reagan's speech, constrained at long last to protest against a President who says things "he knows are not true and which he personally promised me not to repeat." Promised but repeats again, and then again, and again, and again, with utter contempt for truth, for vows, for honor or decency; caring only to shill for the Right, advance its cause and perpetuate its power. From this regimen of lies shall we ever recover? After this reign of mendacity will public probity ever, return? For "the triumph of demagogies is short-lived," warned the French poet Charles Peguy, "but the ruins are eternal."

The ancient idea of a national interest is being effaced ... Grenada one day, Lebanon another, the Libyan shore, the Persian Gulf, a Berlin dance hall, an Angolan village. America is here, there, everywhere. No sparrow falls but we are there, or might be or could be or should be. Let machete-wielding guerrillas chop off the head of a communist official and America is there supporting them; let them kill pregnant women in a communist-held village and there, too, we shall be proffering arms. A Republic no longer, a vast imperium, rather, spread-eagled, global, ever "in search of monsters to destroy"-and monsters to deployed ...

While the White House "spews out rage and hate, fear and falsehood"-and Reagan's credibility silently, invisibly oozes away-Oligarchy consolidates its gains. Lifts the 1976 ban on covert aid to Angolan guerrillas, a "major victory" for the revived imperium ...

"A new era of American politics" has begun, proclaims Moynihan on November 5, for the electorate is tepid, tractable, apathetic. Their turnout is the lowest since the war year of 1942. A "centrist" electorate truly, which sends several right-wing senators to defeat, gives "centrism" control of the Senate once more, demands nothing, it seems, save centrism. Whatever stirred last January stirs not this November 4. In the House of Representatives scarcely a seat changes hands, scarcely an incumbent loses, scarcely more than fifty House seats are closely contested-officious electoral partisanship has been reduced by the rule of Oligarchy to its lowest level, perhaps, in our modern history. Liberty besieged and equality ravaged have made no mark on the election. Nor has the President's cowardly flight from a conference with Gorbachev, flight from a "deep cuts" proposal, clutching his tyrant's "dream." Nor has the sensational downing of an American cargo plane in Nicaragua this October 5, linking the CIA and possibly the White House to a lawless private war against the Nicaraguan regime. A "vast, secret, bewildering" campaign, the New York Times calls it this October 22. "A new Watergate-type scandal," says a writer in the Los Angeles Times this October 26, about which the electorate seems to care little. "We have exorcised the war, the riots, the rhetoric," cries exultant Moynihan, "and thank God that time is over." Democracy is dead, republicanism is dead, the mad jeering Right, useful but nerve-wracking, is on its way out. Party oligarchy stands supreme, triumphant, unchallenged at last.

The United States has sold weapons to Iran-hated reviler of America-in exchange for the release of a few hostages in Lebanon, "with the personal approval of President Reagan," notes the Los Angeles Times on the sixth, in "marked contrast" to the administration's public policy, in grotesque mockery of "Operation Staunch," the administration's campaign to persuade the world to stop arms shipments to Iran, in violation of the laws requiring the President to notify Congress of such secret deeds; in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1986, which bars, by explicit order of Reagan himself, any sale of arms to Iran, in "marked contrast" to six years of Reagan's railing against "international terrorism," in marked contrast to his bragging vow to give no quarter, pay no ransom, strike no bargains with terrorist nations, of which Iran is one by presidential decree.

"A dreadful mistake," says Senator Goldwater, "probably one of the major mistakes the United States has ever made in foreign policy." A contemptible mistake, the mistake of a vulgar demagogue who thinks the sight of liberated hostages reunited with their families at the White House wipes out for a degraded television electorate all thought of public vows, policies, national pledges. That degraded we are not. The entire country is appalled, shocked, angry, disheartened at the vile dishonorable arms-for-hostages trade. Nor does it rally to the "popular" President's side when he denies making any such trade, when he cries out against the vicious lying press, assails its "utterly false" charges, its distortion of "the facts," its "false rumors and erroneous reports," its "wildly speculative and false stories about arms for hostages and ransom payments." You lie, Ronald Reagan; you lie in your teeth. The whole country knows it, believes it, will no longer deny it in our hearts. "Now the public is questioning Mr. Reagan's honesty," the Los Angeles Times reports on November 18. Four of five Americans polled by the newspaper think Reagan speaks falsely about the arms sale. Four of five Americans believe he has broken the law. Is civic courage returning to America? Are we grown weary at last of our own abject subservience to a demagogue?

For twenty days the arms scandal smolders, sparks and rumbles, and then on November 25, like a volcano long-threatening, it heaves up its boiling innards and spews them forth on the land. This appalling fact the world learns on the twenty-fifth: Money gained in the odious sale of arms to Iran has been diverted by Reagan's National Security Council staff-one Oliver North in particular - to support the private contra war in Nicaragua. Odious traffic for a lawless purpose. So Reagan informs the press in a terse, four-minute announcement, before fleeing the questions of reporters. For there is nothing he can say that will not sink him deeper into lies, crimes and impeachable offenses. The announcement itself creates a sensation "unmatched, perhaps, since the days of the Watergate crisis," the New York Times reports, revealing an "astonishing pattern of lawless activity," the Times also reports. Lawless and worse.

The diversion itself is a serious crime, subject to criminal penalties: "fraudulent conversion of government funds." The diversion, more scandalous yet, reveals what the White House had been desperately concealing for weeks and months: that the "vast, secret, bewildering" network supplying the contras while the law forbids government aid is not purely private at all. It is a White House enterprise, a secret presidential war fought with a White House privy purse, in "flagrant violation of the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution," a congressional report later declares, organized by a privately funded White House government-behold "Project Democracy" at work!-as if a President of the United States had the right to pursue any private scheme he chooses, as long as he has private means to finance it, as if the elected chief magistrate of the American Republic were a monarch with his own royal treasury, his own private retainers, his own royal sphere above and beyond the meddlesome Commons.

"Dictators, not democrats, create private governments, develop private budgets by dunning the wealthy, traffic with profiteers and lie to legislatures. Tyrants, not elected public servants, decide which laws apply to them." So the New York Times rightly, and angrily, puts it. For never in the history of the United States has the constitutional order been so contemptuously ignored, so lightly dismissed, so deeply and dangerously polluted, corrupted, defiled and violated.

What does it mean to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" when a President claims the right not to know, the right to forget, the crimes his highest aides commit in his service? What does the presidential oath mean if a President can secretly declare a crime "important to national security" and order its commission in secret? What does the rule of law mean when a President obeys and disobeys laws at will? What does law itself mean if it stands inferior to the will of a President and a private purse? What does accountable power mean when a President is free to ignore the laws that hold him accountable? What does the U.S. Constitution mean, on the eve of its two hundredth anniversary, if a tyrant can thrive in its bosom?

On November 25, the mad, jeering tyranny of shysters and sharks, protected by Oligarchy for so many years, stands revealed at last to the American people. We do not flinch from the sight; this moment of truth we can bear. Between November 1 and November 30 Reagan's popular esteem in the polls plummets from - 67 percent to 46 percent, the sharpest one-month decline since such polling began a half-century ago. The President cannot save himself; his word is worthless, his "candor" a trick played once too often, far too often. On November 26, Reagan, in desperation, appoints a three-man "special review board" to tell him what his highest aides were doing-ignorance is already his first, corrupt, ignominious line of defense, but it does him no good. Reagan is "covering up," so a majority of Americans believe on November 30. "The public must look to Congress for a solution," warn the editors of the New York Times: Capitol Hill alone can restore popular "confidence" in government.

For the nation's leaders, the fork in the road is cruel and dangerous, the choices bleak: If we form a special investigating committee, if we hold conspicuous public hearings in front of network television cameras, before a citizenry awakened, revived and riveted, will it not inspire the people once more with love of truth and justice, with love of the law and the law's supremacy, with love of oaths and fidelity to oaths-all the grave republican evils of Watergate reviving once more? Would not such a committee inspire in the bicentennial year harsh constitutional demands, high constitutional resolves, severe constitutional reckonings? The danger of such a committee is enormous; failure would be catastrophic; the undoing, the ruination, of all we have fought for, struggled for, all we have lied and betrayed for, lo these ten years and more.

Yet the alternative to a special committee would very likely be worse, warns Senator Moynihan on a television program this Sunday, November 30. "Protracted paralysis, rancor, poison in the air" would be the inevitable result. And something far worse than these: the exposure of the whole mad jeering shyster tyranny, for the Iran-contra scandal is a golden opportunity come at last for many a friend of democracy in Congress, a chance to throw off the thrall of Oligarchy and reveal to a people grown suddenly attentive the true extent and depth of the tyranny of the Right, six years at work besieging liberty and law and the power of the people. If Oligarchy leaves a vacuum, the friends of liberty will rush in to fill it.

On the morning of November 30, Senator Dole, Republican Majority Leader, casts the fateful die. Let there be a Watergate-type investigation of the Iran-contra scandal, he announces on a Sunday news program. There is no safe alternative. "This is critical. It is not going to go away." 'What will the committee investigate? Will it pry pitilessly into tyranny, lawlessness and crime, private 'White House government, secret government, impeachable offenses, guilty knowledge? Let no fatuous friend of liberty mistake the aims of Oligarchy on this historic Sunday, November 30, 1986.

What say you, Senator to Dole's proposal, the New York Times inquires by telephone? The past and future Senate Majority Leader approves. "This is my President. He's in trouble and I don't want to see the presidency damaged." By what, pray tell us? A light shining on tyranny and crime? A light shining from law and the Constitution? 'What says icy, cautious Nunn? "We must, all of us, help the President restore his credibility in foreign affairs. We can't have a crippled President for two years." A crippled Carter for four years mattered not, but the "credibility" of a liar and a tyrant must be "restored," for the people and the Republic must be kept down.

What says lawmaker Les Aspin, perpetual restorer of the "defense consensus"? "Keep it narrow," advises Aspin, a future member of the special committee. Let us not talk largely of large things but triflingly about trifles. "Let's find out, for example, how weapons assigned to the armed forces can be shipped halfway around the world without the Joint Chiefs knowing." Thus speaks Oligarchy on this busy, historic November 30: "Congressional leaders backing the idea of a special committee said they were primarily concerned with resolving the issue and protecting the President's credibility" From what? From truth? From justice? And secondly to "head off a confusing and time-consuming situation in which several panels start separate investigations." And liberty breaks out!

Let Oligarchy and its minions control everything, dominate everything. Be advised, say Democratic leaders on this busy, message-sending Sunday, that the popular party will not tolerate Democrats holding forth in public "like so many apprentice Torquemadas." Let them not cry out in anger during the six months, ten months, however long it takes us to dim the lights, blur the issues and salvage the tyrant.

Mere Walter Mondale sounds like an ancient republican hero in the midst of this villainous chatter. "We are faced here with the profoundest issue that ever occurs in America: the accountability of elected leaders before the law. Without that we have nothing." And we shall be made nothing, if possible, so Oligarchy decrees. And we shall hear no noble republican utterance. Oligarchy decrees that, too. Petty prudence only, if possible. Private government, secret government, privy purse government deprives a President of "the benefit of those with the expertise in the field." Thus Senator David Boren, an Oklahoma Democrat, on the "profoundest issue that ever occurs in America"-and Boren is perhaps the most powerful senator on the Iran-contra committee. The great task facing the committee is "the larger process of reconciliation" between "the intelligence community and Congress," says Moynihan, for the small shall be made "larger" and the large and noble made small.

"I think the center-troubled and disappointed, but not infuriated-will let Reagan be President," William Safire of the New York Times predicts the day after the historic Sunday. While Donald Regan's White House staff sets to work on his latest internal memorandum: "Blame must be put at NSC's door-rogue operation going on without President's knowledge or sanction." While Time magazine this Monday carries the words of the President, wallowing in habitual self-pity, talking of "the bitter bile in my throat these days," and of "the sharks circling" around. While Oligarchy A puts all its immense skill and guile and power to work to save him and keep the Republic degraded, a citizenry suppressed.

In May 5, the Iran-contra committee, part Senate, part House, a two-headed body, at long last begins public hearings over network television.

The baseness and corruption of the committee stuns even the New York Times. "In four days of questioning, the congressional committee investigating the Iran-contra affair never pinned down Robert C. McFarlane on what he told President Reagan about the White House staff's activities in behalf of the Nicaraguan rebels." Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate half of the committee, a Hawaiian Democrat, asks McFarlane whether he had "advised the President on whatever you were doing" for the contras. "Yes, sir," replies McFarlane and Inouye drops the subject-the subject of subjects dropped. McFarlane mentions discussing Colonel North with the President, alleged "loose cannon," supposedly scarcely known to the President. "Once again," notes the New York Times, "Senator Inouye dropped the subject." Questioned by Senator Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican, McFarlane says the President had "a far more liberal interpretation" of his freedom from the laws "than I did." And "Senator Rudman dropped the matter." For the people believe in the supremacy of law. Do we want them to hear over television that the President does not?

... "Ollie" North of the NSC staff inadvertently saves the day for Oligarchy. "Ollie" is no fall guy, he boldly, forthrightly testifies, no scapegoat, no "loose cannon," no "cowboy" running wild. Ollie did only what he was authorized to do-directly by Poindexter, indirectly, he believes, by the President himself. Plucky Ollie is popular with television viewers; little-guy candor shining brightly against the murky evasions of the high and the mighty who have made him their scapegoat. Telegrams pour in upon Congress, in part spontaneous, "in part orchestrated," says Drew of the New Yorker, noting that Western Union offers North telegrams at a discount price. What does the popularity mean? That the Iran-contra hearings have been too "prosecutorial," cries Senator Boren, publicly humiliating the committee's own legal counsel. The American people want no probing and prying, want no truth, want no light, and we shall probe not and bring no light-a "perhaps mistaken interpretation of the public's reaction to North," notes Drew with biting irony.

Poindexter comes next, to tell his transparent lies. He alone decided to divert the funds because "the buck stops here with me," a mere adviser; because profiteering in arms to terrorist Iran is a mere detail of implementation." A lawyer whispers in the admiral's ear; the answers sound like evasions, stink of evasion. "Did you brief the President on the fact that the NSC staff was helping the contras?" "I don't recall a specific conversation that would allow me to answer your question in an affirmative way." What did he and Casey talk about at a critical luncheon when the scandal was erupting November last? The admiral can remember nothing, save that the two ate sandwiches. His entire testimony is "literally incredible," cries Drew. "Admiral Incredible," the New York Times editors call him.

Most of the country suspects that the admiral is a thoroughpaced liar, but not one committee member confirms that dark and dangerous suspicion; let it rot unvoiced in our unhappy hearts. No committee member makes a serious effort to tear Poindexter to shreds, to sum up his lies and falsities. "Though most of the members," notes Drew, "did not believe Poindexter's story, none were willing to explicitly say for the record"-not one: think of Oligarchy's powerful thrall!-"that they didn't, while the President's champions-in Congress and the press-were quick to claim that Poindexter's testimony proved that Reagan didn't know about the diversion." Hear this, fellow citizens: The President has been "exonerated" by his own adviser; the President is truthful, the President is candid, the President is absolved; judge him not by the maxims of liberty; we pronounce him innocent of all charges outstanding.

... The deep, calculated corruption does more than deceive and mislead a people; does more than blur all issues; does more than "almost ignore the President's failure to see that the law forbidding aid to the contras, which he signed, was not faithfully executed," so Reston ruefully notes; does more than gloss over the appalling iniquity of a privately funded White House warmaking machine, which "wasn't much focused on," notes Drew; does more than pretend that a lawless, truthiess tyrant is the honorable victim of a "secret White House junta," so honorable Inouye calls it. "Ollie North put the United States Constitution through a shredder," say Democratic aspirants for the presidency, obligingly scapegoating the tyrant's own scapegoat.

Oligarchy does more than use its power to avert the menace of a popular republican revival on the road to the "post-Reagan era." Day after day in the closing weeks of these appalling hearings, Oligarchy, in its power and temerity, dins a message of deep corruption into our ears. We live in a "dangerous world." Such is the heart of the message. We cannot afford any longer a stringently constitutional President, a finicking oath and "take care" trammels. We are a government of leaders, not of laws, for this is a dangerous world and demands of us---do we not have a "living Constitution"?-a measure of tyranny, a measure of lawlessness, a measure, and more, of private, secret executive power. We cannot afford any longer the strict accountability of Presidents, for were the Iran-contra troubles not born of lack of "trust" between Congress and President, born of "pervasive suspicion" between Congress and President, so the New York Times puts it, born, in a word, of too many checks and balances? Away with these copybook maxims; they are baneful and dangerous in this dangerous world. So Oligarchy preaches, brazenly advancing its cause in the very midst of a menacing scandal. Long live the Empire and the "imperial" presidency. Long live, too, this dangerous world" - so indispensable to the power of the few, so destructive to the power of the people.

Liberty Under Siege

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