Monday, October 06, 2014

After Watergate

...Americans tired of scandal and muckraking. Perhaps even more importantly, so did the establishment press. The Washington Post and The New York Times adopted policies of studied indifference or overt hostility towards the Congressional committees that revealed layer after layer of CIA and NSA lawbreaking and incompetence.

Glamorous, globe-trotting Henry Kissinger had weathered his own Watergate storm— for bugging reporters and his own staffers— and remained the punditocracy’s beau ideal. He was fresh from his latest triumph in “shuttle diplomacy,” securing a preliminary peace framework between Israel and Egypt, when the indefatigable Otis Pike had the temerity to demand from him a memo by a State Department staffer named Thomas Boyatt that had apparently criticized the CIA’s poor intelligence regarding the crisis in Cyprus, where the U.S. ambassador, Rodger Paul Davies, had been machine-gunned to death the previous August. The Pike Committee’s chief counsel soon received a thundering phone call from the Times’ James Reston: “What the hell are you guys doing down there? Are you reviving McCarthyism?”

This, it turned out, was the administration’s public relations line— Pike was running a “McCarthyite inquisition,” as State Department official Lawrence Eagleburger said in his testimony before the committee. An editorial called “Pike’s Pique” noted that by calling “junior staff officers to testify under oath about what recommendations they made to the policy officials,” the congressman was reintroducing the practices that “almost wrecked the U.S. Foreign Service during the McCarthy period.” Then, since Kissinger forbade such junior staffers to testify, the Church Committee voted to subpoena Kissinger himself— and the Times’ editorialists called that “neo-McCarthyism,” too. Kissinger decided to testify before the Pike Committee the day after General Allen of the NSA, on October 30, though on his own terms: he summarized what he said was the thrust of Boyatt memo, still withholding the actual document from evidence— just the sort of Stennis-style compromise that, when Richard Nixon had proposed it during the crisis of October 1973, had sent tout Washington up in arms.

Perlstein, Rick (2014-08-05). The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (Kindle Locations 10529-10543). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.